The Minoan human being flourished in the center Bronze period (c. 2000 - c. 1500 BCE) ~ above the island the Crete located in the eastern Mediterranean. With their unique art and also architecture, and also the spread of their ideas through contact with other cultures throughout the Aegean, the Minoans made a far-reaching contribution to the development of western European civilization.

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Labyrinth-like palace complexes, lively frescoes portraying scenes such together bull-leaping and processions, fine yellow jewellery, elegant rock vases, and pottery with vivid decorations of naval life room all certain features that Minoan Crete.

Arthur Evans & Discovery

The excavator Sir Arthur Evans was an initial alerted come the feasible presence of an ancient civilization on Crete by surviving carved seal stones worn as charms by aboriginal Cretans in the at an early stage 20th century CE. Excavating at Knossos indigenous 1900 come 1905 CE, Evans found extensive damages which evidenced the ancient accounts, both literary and also mythological, the a innovative Cretan society and feasible site of the legend labyrinth and palace of King Minos. It to be Evans who coined the term Minoan in reference to this legend Bronze period king. Evans, seeing what he believed to be the expansion and decrease of a unified culture on Crete, separated the island"s Bronze period into three distinctive phases largely based on different pottery styles:

Early Bronze period or at an early stage Minoan (EM): 3000-2100 BCEMiddle Bronze age or middle Minoan (MM): 2100-1600 BCELate Bronze period or so late Minoan (LM): 1600-1100 BCE

The over divisions were subsequently sleek by adding numbered subphases to each group (e.g. MM II). Radio-carbon dating and also tree-ring calibration techniques have helped to additional refine the days so that the beforehand Bronze period now begins c. 3500 BCE and also the late Bronze age c. 1700 BCE. An alternative to this series of divisions, produced by Platon, instead focuses on the events occurring in and also around the significant Minoan “palaces”. This system has four periods:

Prepalatial: 3000 - 2000/1900 BCEProtopalatial: 2000/1900 - 1700 BCENeopalatial: 1700 - 1470/1450 BCEPostpalatial: 1470/1450 - 1100 BCE

Both of these schemes have since been challenged by more modern-day archaeology and approaches to history and anthropology in general which choose a an ext multilinear breakthrough of society on Crete with a more complex scenario entailing conflicts and inequalities in between settlements and which also considers their cultural differences and their obvious similarities.


Minoan palace Settlements

Minoan settlements, tombs, and also cemeteries have been discovered all end Crete but the 4 principal royal residence sites (in bespeak of size) were:

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Minoan palaces exerted some kind of localised control, in particular, in the collection & storage of surplus materials.

At every of these sites, large, complex palace structures seem to have actually acted as local administrative, trade, religious, and also possibly politics centres. The relationship in between the palaces and the power structure within them or end the island together a entirety is not clear as result of a lack of archaeological and literary evidence. It is clear, however, that the palaces exerted some sort of localised control, in particular, in the gathering and also storage the surplus materials - wine, oil, grain, valuable metals and ceramics. Small towns, villages, and farms were spread approximately the are seemingly controlled by a single palace. Roads associated these isolated settlements to each other and also the key centre. Over there is a basic agreement amongst historians the the palaces to be independent indigenous each other up come 1700 BCE, and thereafter they come under the guide of Knossos, as shown by a greater uniformity in architecture and also the usage of linear A writing across various palace sites.

The lack of fortifications in the settlements says a reasonably peaceful co-existence in between the various communities. However, the visibility of tools such as swords, daggers, and arrowheads, and also defensive equipment such as armour and helmets would also suggest that peace might not constantly have been enjoyed. Minoan roads, too, have evidence of constant guardhouses and also watchtowers suggesting that banditry, in ~ least, troubled the unprotected traveller.

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Palace the Knossos
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

The palaces themselves spanned two periods. The first palaces were constructed around 2000 BCE and, following disastrous earthquakes and also fires, rebuilt again c. 1700 BCE. These second palaces endured until their final destruction between 1500 BCE and also 1450 BCE, when again by one of two people earthquake, fire, or possibly invasion (or a combination of all three). The palaces to be well-appointed, monumental structures with big courts, colonnades, ceilings sustained by tapered wood columns, staircases, spiritual crypts, light-wells, extensive drainage systems, huge storage magazines and also even "theatre" locations for public glasses or religious processions.

Depictions of twin axes (or labrys) & the complicated palaces might have linked to provide birth to the legend of Theseus & the labyrinth-dwelling Minotaur.

Reaching increase to four stories high and spreading over several thousand square metres, the complexity of this palaces, the sport of bull-leaping, the praise of bulls as indicated by the visibility throughout of sacred bulls" horns and also depictions of twin axes (or labrys) in stone and fresco might all have linked to provide birth to the legend the Theseus and also the labyrinth-dwelling Minotaur so well-known in later timeless Greek mythology.


The religion of the Minoans stays sketchy, yet details room revealed v art, architecture, and also artefacts. These incorporate depictions of spiritual ceremonies and also rituals such as the putting of libations, do food offerings, processions, feasts, and sporting occasions like bull-leaping. Herbal forces and nature in general, manifested in together artworks as a voluptuous woman mother-earth goddess figure and also male figure holding numerous animals, seem to have actually been revered. Palaces contain open up courtyards for mass gatherings and rooms regularly have wells and also channels because that the putting of libations, as formerly noted. As currently mentioned, too, bulls are prominent in Minoan art, and also their horns are an architectural attribute of palace walls and also a general decorative facet in jewellery, frescoes, and pottery decoration. Dramatic rural web page such together hilltops and also caves often show evidence the cult rituals being performed there.

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Minoan line Goddess, Knossos.
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Material Culture

The sophistication the the Minoan society and the trading capacity is shown by the existence of writing, firstly Cretan Hieroglyphic (c. 2000-1700 BCE) and then straight A scripts (both, together yet, undeciphered), predominantly found on various types of administrative clay tablets. Seal impressions ~ above clay were another important form of record keeping.

A further instance of the culture"s high level of advance is the range and quality of the art develops practised through the Minoans. Pottery finds reveal a wide selection of ship from wafer-thin cups to huge storage jars (pithoi). Ceramics were at first hand-turned yet then significantly made top top the potter"s wheel. In decoration, there was a development from flowing geometric draft in Kamares ware to vivid naturalistic depictions the flowers, plants, and also sea life in the later Floral and Marine styles. Usual pottery shapes include three-handled amphorae, high beaked-jugs, squat round vessels v a false spout, beakers, tiny lidded boxes, and also ritual vessels through figure-of-eight-shaped handles. Stone was also used to produce similar vessel species and rhyta (ritual vessels for putting libations, often in the form of animal heads).

Large-scale number sculpture has actually not survived however there are many figurines in bronze and also other materials. Early types in clay present the dress of the moment with men (coloured red) wearing belted loincloths and women (coloured white) in lengthy flowing dresses and open-fronted jackets. A leaping acrobat in ivory and also the faience line goddess currently mentioned are noteworthy works which reveal the Minoan love of capturing figures in active striking poses.

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Minoan Bull Leaping
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Magnificent frescoes indigenous the walls, ceilings, and floors the the palaces likewise reveal the Minoans" love the the sea and nature and give insights right into religious, communal, and funeral practices. Subjects selection in range from miniature come larger-than-life size. The Minoans were among the earliest societies to paint organic landscapes without any kind of humans present in the scene; together was your admiration the nature. Animals, too, were often illustrated in their herbal habitat, because that example, monkeys, birds, dolphins, and fish. Although Minoan frescoes were regularly framed v decorative borders of geometric designs, the primary fresco itself, ~ above occasion, went beyond conventional limits such as corners and covered number of walls that a single room, neighboring the viewer.

Minoan artists, particularly fresco painters, took their skills to the imperial palaces the Egypt & the Levant.

Aegean Contacts

The Minoans, as a seafaring culture, were likewise in contact with international peoples transparent the Aegean, as shown by the near Eastern and Egyptian impacts in their early on art but also in the later export trade, notably the exchange that pottery and foodstuffs such as oil and also wine in return for priceless objects and also materials such together copper from Cyprus and Attica and also ivory indigenous Egypt. Numerous Aegean islands, particularly in the Cyclades, display screen the qualities of a palace-centred economy and also political framework as seen on Crete when Minoan artists, specifically fresco painters, take it their an abilities to the royal palaces the Egypt and the Levant.



The factors for the death of the Minoan people continue to be debated. Palaces and also settlements display evidence of fire and also destruction c. 1450 BCE, but not in ~ Knossos (which was damaged perhaps a century later). The climb of the Mycenaean world in the mid-2nd millennium BCE ~ above the Greek mainland and the proof of their cultural influence on later on Minoan art and also trade do them the most most likely cause. However, various other suggestions incorporate earthquakes and also volcanic activity with a consequent tsunami. The eruption the Thera (the contemporary island of Santorini) may have actually been an especially significant, although, the exact day of this cataclysmic eruption is disputed and therefore its connection with the end of the Minoan period remains unclear. The most likely scenario was most likely a fatal mix the natural environmental damage and competition for wide range weakening the structure of society, which to be then exploited by invading Mycenaeans. Everything the cause, most of the Minoan sites were abandoned by 1200 BCE and Crete would not go back to the Mediterranean stage of background until the 8th century BCE when it to be colonised by archaic Greeks.

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Editorial ReviewThis post has to be reviewed because that accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.


Bagnall, R.S. The Encyclopedia of old History. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012Davaras, C. East Crete. Hannibal, AthensDavaras, C. Malia. Hannibal, AthensDavaras, C. Phaistos. Hannibal, AthensDavaras, C. The palace Of Knossos. Hannibal, Athens, 2010


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Mark is a background writer based in Italy. His distinct interests encompass pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all worlds share in common. That holds one MA in political Philosophy and also is the posting Director in ~ WHE.