July 7, 2019, Heraklion, Crete, Greece — We’d been told earlier that the Mycenaeans were like Vikings, but the much-earlier Minoans of Crete were peace-loving artists. Cretan ‘history’ dates to 7000 BCE, but stone tools found in the area have been dated back 133,000 years.
The Minoans were the first ‘advanced civilization’ of Europe, as described by the Ancient History Encyclopedia: ‘The Minoan civilization flourished in the Middle Bronze Age on the island of Crete located in the eastern Mediterranean from c. 2000 BCE until c. 1500 BCE. With their unique art and architecture, and the spread of their ideas through contact with other cultures across the Aegean, the Minoans made a significant contribution to the development of Western European civilization as it is known today.’
Our guide told us that the Minoans sailed the open seas as far as Great Britain, Greenland, Southern Canada and Michigan. Michigan? One of our YAC singers, who lives in Michigan, wanted to know about: We were told that an ancient sunken ship had been discovered in Michigan and dated to the Minoan period. Apparently, they were there mining copper, according to a www.academia.edu articleabout ‘... the probability that Minoans from Crete were on the Upper Peninsula in Michigan mining float copper from 2450 B.C. to around 1200 B.C., removing between 500,000,000 and 1,500,000,000 pounds of copper and shipping it to their home island of Crete, fueling the Bronze Age in Europe...‘
First we were ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus. Then that was back-dated to Leif Erikson. And now Cretans, more than 4500 years ago? Who knew?
The most famous Minoan, of course, was the half-bull, half-man Minotaur in the labyrinth, but I’ll let you look that one up for yourselves since Greek mythology is so very plot- and character-driven.
Back to current day... we visited the Palace of Knossos, the first palace in Europe, outside Crete’s capital city of Heraklion (pop. 150,000). The first palace complex was built around 2000 BCE but destroyed by an earthquake. The replacement built in 1450 BCE also succumbed to an earthquake and fire. Not much is left of this Minoan HQ, compared to the extensive remains we’d seen the day before at Ephesus, in Turkey. An English-led excavation began here in 1878, when the palace was unearthed. Twenty years later, in 1897, Crete was liberated from the Ottoman Empire.
The restorations are more realistic than those at Ephesus because they reveal the intense colors...
Interior artwork — a fresco under glass...
Another fresco — of a sport called ‘bull leaping’ — with an unavoidable reflected windowed landscape!
The ‘throne room’... the throne is on the right. The restored colors and frescoes are gorgeous.
The remaining exterior remains are quite modern in appearance....modern for a 4500-year-old culture!
After the Palace at Knossos, we visited Heraklion, Greece’s fourth largest city. Due to earthquakes and German bombing during WW II, not many old structures remain...
Being Sunday, most things were closed, so we consoled ourselves with gelato from a place near the four-lion fountain...
Back on the ship, a peacock (and a nap) awaited me before heading off in the evening for Santorini. #