Bird Families

They worshiped the bull! »The most developed civilization of the Mediterranean of the Bronze Age (part two)


Last time we only slightly touched the ancient Minoan civilization. Today we will consider it in more detail and, of course, we will start with the chronology, which was proposed by Arthur Evans at the beginning of the 20th century, and then repeatedly refined. In his opinion, there were early, middle and late Minoan periods (the latter already coincided in time with the Mycenaean civilization on the mainland). An alternative chronology of Minoan history was proposed by the Greek archaeologist N. Plato, who divided the history of the Minoan civilization into ... "palace periods".

The Sun rises over Crete, and we continue our story about its ancient Minoan civilization ...

But then Evans managed to clarify the chronological links in the direction of their aging, which was associated with the discovery of objects of Minoan culture in the dated cultural layers of a number of other civilizations, in particular in Ancient Egypt. So, what is the history of the Minoan civilization (from which, by the way, both Greek and Roman civilizations, and all European culture as a whole!) Emerged today?

Modern map of the island.

Early Minoan period (before the Bronze Age, 3650-2160 BC)

The tools of labor of ancient people found in Crete suggest that more than 130 thousand years ago, Neanderthals arrived here by sea (on boats or rafts, most likely). Then, already in the early Neolithic era, people reappear here and they are engaged in carving dwellings in the rocks, which are later used as tombs. Many of these rocky grottoes can still be seen today near the town of Matala.

The exposition of the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion contains many ceramic figurines of "goddesses with raised hands", similar to those found in the lands of ancient Anatolia. (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete)

But where did the Cretans come from then, if people did not live on the island before the Neolithic era? Experts note that the cult images of the bull and the figure of the goddess-"oranta" (a female figure with arms raised up) were known in the east of Anatolia even during the ceramic Neolithic period. In the IV millennium BC. e. in Arslantepe, cylindrical seals appeared, very similar to those that existed among the Minoans, and in the III millennium BC. e. in Beycesultan, a palace was built, the architectural features of which bear a certain resemblance to the Cretan palaces built later.

Orant goddesses from Crete. (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete)

It is believed that the Minoan culture was created by the descendants of the Khalaf culture, and that, in turn, continued the traditions of the ancient Neolithic proto-cities of Anatolia, such as Chatal Huyuk (about which there was a large article on VO), whose inhabitants, yielding to the onslaught of the Sumerian ancestors (Ubaid culture ), moved to the West, and then completely moved to the island of Crete. They adopted the iconic labrys ax and steatite seals from the Khalaf culture. However, there is one ambiguity here. The Khalaf culture lacked navigational skills. It was a purely continental culture.

We continue to inspect the Palace of Knossos and - obviously, what a huge building it was. Today, only a small part of it has been restored, but it also makes a very impressive impression.

Final pre-palace period (Early Bronze Age, 2160-1900 BC)

The culture is developing rapidly. The most ancient Cretan hieroglyphic "Arhanesian writing" appears. The tradition of stamping seals on clay arises and is widely spread, and many prints do not have hieroglyphs. That is, not everyone was literate, but the property relations - “mine is mine, and yours is yours” had already developed. It is possible that this tradition was originally of Middle Eastern origin, but it could have come to Crete and from the territory of mainland Greece, where similar seals were already in use.

In some rooms, the frescoes are preserved, but of course, they are not able to convey the splendor and riot of colors that were here once upon a time.

Early palace period (1900-1700 BC)

The inhabitants of the island begin to build the first palaces. Moreover, construction is being carried out in the central and eastern parts of the island, but in the west, people still cling to old traditions. Archanesian hieroglyphs (that is, from Arhanness) begin to gradually spread to the southern and eastern regions.

Apparently, the conquerors of the island, the Achaeans, were so suppressed by the grandeur of the Palace of Knossos that they did not destroy it, but simply adapted it for their needs.

Novodvortsov period (1700-1425 BC)

In 1700, something happens in Crete, and the old palaces are destroyed, and new ones are being erected in their place. In the southern part of the island (Festus), "Linear A" appears, but it replaces the hieroglyphic writing not immediately, but about a century and a half later. With the disappearance of hieroglyphic writing, carved seals, however, do not go out of use, although there are no texts on them. At the same time, their iconography becomes very complex and even pretentious, as if the owners of these seals are trying to boast in this way to each other.

Here is one of those artsy seals. (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete)

At the same time, in Crete, there are also cylindrical seals-rollers, very similar to those used by the inhabitants of Mesopotamia.

Assyrian limestone cylindrical seal and a plaster cast made from it depicting the worship of the god Shamash. (Louvre)

At the same time, the Minoan civilization was dealt a very strong blow by a monstrous natural cataclysm - the explosion of a volcano (which happened between 1628 and 1500 BC) on the island of Fira (today the island of Santorini), which resulted in a strong earthquake, and then so the same catastrophic tsunami, not to mention the layer of ash that covered the fertile land. It is quite possible that it was the death of this island that became the basis for the myth of the death of Atlantis.

Another Mesopotamian find on the island of Crete: a plaque depicting Sumerian winged deities and Gilgamesh armed with a club. (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete)

Previously, it was believed that this eruption led to the total destruction of the Minoan civilization, but archaeological finds in Crete proved that this was not the case, and despite the blow received, the Minoan civilization still survived and existed for at least 100 years. This is proved by a layer of volcanic ash already under a number of structures of this period.

However, this catastrophe led to the decentralization of power in Crete, and each of the Cretan cities turned into an independent political center. Interestingly, when Egyptian sources of this period speak of "keftiu" (that is, the Cretans), they do not mention the rulers of this island, although the rulers of other regions are mentioned in them several times.

Final palace period (1425-1350 BC)

Labrys is the main religious and state symbol of Minoan culture. (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete)

Around 1450 BC many of the island's palaces perished in the flames. And most of them were not rebuilt, although the palace at Knossos was not damaged. What caused these fires? Achaean invasion? For example, Homer names the Pelasgians among the non-indigenous population of the island, but it is unclear how they got to the island: together with the Achaeans or arrived on their own. It is important that the nature of the burials is changing, which means that there is an assimilation of one culture to another, and this new culture comes from mainland Greece.

The Minoans were jewelry makers. This pendant, for example - isn't it perfect itself? (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete)

Earrings, breastplate, chased gold foil ... (Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete)

At the same time, simultaneously with the destruction of the palaces, for some reason, “Linear A” also disappears. Moreover, the paradox is that it was the fires that destroyed these palaces that simultaneously burned the clay tablets, and thus preserved this letter to our time. But then, under the Achaeans, "Linear B" appears, and power is finally centralized. By the way, the same Minos - after whom this civilization is named - according to Greek mythology, was by no means a Minoan, but. Greek!

"Earring with birds" was also inlaid with precious stones in the past! (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete)

At the same time, many of the achievements of the Minoans spread to mainland Greece, that is, we can talk about both the conquest and the interpenetration of the island and mainland cultures.

Post-palace period (1450, at Knossos 1350-1190 BC)

Most scholars are inclined to believe that it was Knossos at that time that became the political center of the new Achaean federation, but then it moved to Mycenae, and on the island, as on the mainland, one common Mycenaean culture was established, which combined both the Minoan and Greek elements.

But this is already the tombstone of the era of classical Greece. Even the untrained eye can see style differences, right? (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete)

Post-Minoan or Sub-Minoan Period (after 1170 BC)

In the XII century BC. e. due to the internal crisis that arose soon after the end of the Trojan War (and this often happened later, even after victorious wars!), the Mycenaean civilization and culture were destroyed during the migration of Dorian tribes from the north. The Cretan letter fell out of use, and the last autochthonous Minoans themselves took refuge from raids from the sea in villages located high in the mountains, such as Karfi, so that their language, like the ancient Minoan cults, existed for quite a long time. Thus, the last texts in the Eteocritian language, already written using the Greek alphabet, date back to the 3rd century. BC e. - that is, a millennium after the disappearance of the great Minoan civilization.