minoan society

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Minoan Society



A Greece: The Bronze Age Society in Minoan Crete 1. Geographical environment Geographical setting, natural features and resources of Minoan Crete Crete is the largest of all the Greek islands 260 km from east to west width from north to south, is no greater than 60km Sea: provided Cretans with food (fish, octopus, shellfish), safety (needed a navy to attack, a natural wall against invaders) Lack of fortifications suggest they saw the sea as something that would provide them with a natural defence from invaders, this made Minoan settlements very different from the cities of other people during the Bronze Age Crete is very mountainous 3 mountain ranges: Ida range, Mt. Dikte + White Mountains all of which exceed 1800m in height, some reaching as high as 2400m Lower scopes of highlands covered with cypress rees Caves, southern plains Resources: timber (cypress trees), rocks (limestone used for buildings, pathways, courtyards), caves (rituals, refuge, burials, shelter) Coast: good farmland, rich, fertile soil olives, grapes, lemons, pears, almonds, wide range of vegetables Honey! MOUNTAINOUS Mesara plains in the south Animal husbandry cattle, sheep, goats and pigs Diet had a wide variety than most other societies drank beer, milk, wine + ate cheese Significant sites: Knossos, Phaestos, Malia, Zakros, AgiaTriada, Gournia

PALACE HISTORY: The First Palace Period (c. 2000 1700 BC) Bronze Age saw the rise of palatial buildings in Crete First palace seems to have been built at Knossos, then Phaistos Also first palace period built at Malia and Zakros These palaces consisted of clusters of buildings little small blocks of apartments placed around a large, paved courtyard 2 storeys Also had large circular pits placed in open courts communal storage of grain

The Second Palace Period (c. 1700 1450 BC) First Palaces were destroyed in an earthquake c. 1700 BC Grander palaces in the Second Palace Period retained centralcourtyard Buildings completely surrounded by the court Central courts = rectangular and quite large Masonry techniques were much more advanced than those in the earlier periods Large number of magazines or storage rooms E.g. Linear A Minoans stored oil, grains, seeds and wine used for trade or to pay wages

The Third Palace Period (c. 1425 1070 BC) Only palatial buildings at Arkhanes and Knossos appear to have beenreoccupied other palaces were abandoned People living in them were Mycenaeans not Minoans Marked change in the pottery decoration New writing appeared in Linear Blanguage in Ancient Greek Nature of Mycenaean control over Crete is not completely clear donot know why they came or to what degree Minoans participated in their government Mixture of both Minoan and Mycenaean architecture suggests that the two groups became integrated Suddenly, and for no known reason, the last palatial residence was abandoned in c. 1070 BC

Knossos Arthur Evans excavated Knossos in 1900 and 1932 he also instigated reconstruction work (he was also responsible for creating a chronological timeline for Minoan civilization that was based on changing pottery styles) Has been criticised and commended for his work raised controversy about archaeological methods Evans also rebuilt parts of it accuracy is questionable Many parts of the palace restored, concrete and timber frames used Zakros Palace of Zakros located on the east coast of Crete south of Plaikestro Original excavation begun by D.G. Howarth Nikolas Platon resumed excavations in 1961 able to unearth a palace which had not been looted Lateness of its excavation allowed it to be excavated using modern scientific methods Platon proposed a system of relative chronology used by archaeologists for Minoan history based on the development of the architectural complexes Gournia Harriet Boyd was the first American to excavate a Minoan site in Crete In 1900 Boyd visited Knossos and met w/ Evans Investigated the Minoan settlement at Gournia, located in the east-central Crete she excavated from 1901 1905 First woman to supervise a large field crew of 100 workers, first American woman to speak at the Archaeological Institution of America in 1902

2. Social structure and political organisation Homer there were many different peoples living in Crete, no fewer than 90 cities Herodotus states that the Cretans of the 5th century BC were a mixture of the older Cretans and the settlers who arrived after the famine Thucydides said that the Cretan king ruled over all the people in the Aegean and maintained control by the use of his shops ^ Hearsay evidence

Issues relating to gender and identity of ruler/s Lack of evidence in relation to a Minoan ruler no evidence of: statues, kings names, royal tombs, recognisable iconography Was there a ruler? Was it female or male? Was it a political ruler or a religious one? Was there one or many rulers? WHAT EVANS BELIEVED Evans believed: there was a King because Ancient sources (Homer, Herodotus and Thucydides) spoke of King Minos EVIDENCE Prince of Lilies Fresco, Master Impression seal, Throne at Knossos, Chieftan Cup (AgiaTriada) However Homer was not a historian but a storyteller, Herodotus and Thucydides were POST Minoan civilization, may have not had accurate sources Believed in the stories of Homer, Herodotus and Thucydides assumed that there had been a living King and his name was Minos we cannot know this for certain Master Impression a clay impression on a medallion seal found at Khania showing a large figure of a man above either an elaborate shrine or a palace perhaps the King of Knossos Also holds a staff, represents his role as protector of the site Scholars now accept the idea that Minoans did not have a ruler at all their society was so structured and organised, compared to other civilizations that this may have been possible ^ if this is correct, then Minoans would be distinguished from other Ancient civilizations no reliefs/frescoes/lack of representation of a ruler, but perhaps a priest king? GENDER Most historians today believe that the ruler was female; possibly a priestess EVIDENCE most of the figures depicted in frescoes or seals are female Griffons associated with females, found on the walls on either side of the throne in the Throne Room at Knossos Scholars suggests that the throne was intended for a priestess who dressed as a goddess for religious appearance CAMPSTOOL FRESCO + LA PARISIENNE woman in elegant dress, expensive jewellery, hair and make-up, portrays their power and prestige in Minoan society Goddess found Snake Goddess Quotes: Warren The ruler could have been as much a religious personage as a politician or economist, and is at least as likely to have been female as male THE RULER Consider all the palaces in Crete surely there would be a king living in each? 3 Ancient Greek writers assured that there had been a King Minos However we cannot be sure that Kings even existed in Crete during the Bronze Age Evidence for Kings is uncertain and relies on fresco fragments that were altered by Evans and thus unreliable (Prince of Lilies Fresco) There are no graves of Minoan rulers community burials Throne Room Mycenaean remodelling, but scholars believe its origins are Minoan The throne said to be intended for a female due to its proportions of the butt engraved on the seat Depictions of griffins on either side of the throne fresco, support the idea that this may have been a female ruler symbol for women Scholars suggest that the throne was for a priestess dressed as a goddess Master Impression clay seal found at Khania shows a large figure of a man standing above an elaborate shrine or palace, his size and pose w/ a staff may also represent him as a protector/king Scholars now do not accept the idea that there was a king living in Crete distinguishing Minoans from other civilizations Theocracy: system of government administered by priests or priestesses Palace elite: bureaucracy, priests and priestesses BUREAUCRACY Administrative, economic and religious activities of palaces would have required an extensive bureaucracy great number of inscribed clays suggests that this bureaucracy lasted over a long period of time Pre-Palatial Period Minoan administrative system was developed and used in various palaces/places Pre-palatial period script used was hieroglyphic and approx. 270 items containing this script had been discovered Record seems to list goods received System that was used extended for a time across all of Crete First and Second palace periods Bulk of these records came from palaces Linear A used Relatively large quantity of tablets in this script written form of the Minoan language Linear A has not been deciphered Shows formal contracts had been established throughout Crete in the 1st Palace period Trade was also growing Third Palatial Period After 2nd Palatial period, Mycenaeans took over the Minoan system of administration Mycenaean Greek language was used From Knossos and Pylos archives, we learn that the purpose of Mycenaean administration was to control the textile and bronze industries in particular record taxation amounts Taxes were paid in goods instead of money PRIESTS AND PRIESTESSES Archaeologists and historians have noted a strong interrelationship between religion and ceremony in Minoan palace complexes Ritual areas and cult objects found close to magazines and workshops, as well as clay tablets dedicated and distributed to deities and sanctuaries suggesting that the Minoan government was ruled by a theocracy Appearance: men with distinctive hairstyles wearing long robes and carrying adytons (double axes) featured on seals may be priests Leader of the procession on the Harvester Vase has a distinctive cloak and hairstyle which may be interpreted as evidence of priestly status Female f