II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > D. Classical Greece and the Hellenistic World > 1. The Bronze Age, 3000–1200 B.C.E. > b. The Minoan Civilization
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
b. The Minoan Civilization
c. 3000–2200
 
EARLY MINOAN. Around 2700 the Bronze Age began in Greece, apparently connected with an immigration from Asia Minor. Pottery was still hand-shaped, and settlement size was small. In the mid-third millennium a rapid rise in culture occurred; towns and cities emerged, as well as the first palaces. There was contact with Egypt, and the votive double axes, characteristic of later Minoan religion, appeared. An indigenous Hieroglyphic Script survives on seals and pottery, but it has not yet been deciphered. This earliest civilization in Crete is called Minoan after the legendary King Minos of Knossos.  1
 
c. 2200–1700
 
MIDDLE MINOAN I and II: The Rise of Crete. The great palaces at Knossos, Phaistos, and Mallia were constructed during this period. These stone palaces, built asymmetrically around a large open court, contained large living quarters, storerooms for goods and products, and toilets superior to any in Europe before modern times. A road system connected Knossos with the plain of Phaestus. Wheel-thrown pottery was perfected, and fine examples were made as thin as an eggshell. A new script called Linear A replaced the Hieroglyphic Script, but except for the numeral system and a few pictographic signs, it cannot be read. Conclusions about Minoan culture, particularly government and religion, are necessarily conjectures based on archaeology and later Greek legends. The king was evidently the chief figure in religious worship, and the palace, a seat of religious cults. What appears to be a Mother Goddess, associated with snakes, is widely represented. To judge from wall paintings, the Minoans were devoted to sports, including hazardous bull jumping. Scenes of war are rare, and the towns were at all times unwalled. The Minoan palaces were almost all destroyed toward the end of the period, but whether the destruction occurred through war or natural causes (such as an earthquake) is unknown.  2
 
c. 1700–1450
 
MIDDLE MINOAN III–LATE MINOAN I: The “Thalassocracy” of Minos. The art of Minoan Crete reached a high point in this period, and the earliest wall frescoes appear at this time. In the 18th and 17th centuries, Crete had extensive trade relations with Ugarit in Syria and Byblos in Phoenicia. After 1600, this trade declined, but Minoan influence strengthened over the Cyclades, and there was close contact with Egypt. To what extent these changing trade patterns reflect political events is unknown, but legend has Crete's King Minos founding a sea empire (thalassocracy). Both public and private building reflects great wealth. At the end of this period there was another widespread destruction throughout Crete.  3
 
c. 1450–1125
 
Late Minoan III: Mycenaean Crete. Knossos was the only Cretan palace to be rebuilt, and it was now ruled by Greek-speaking Mycenaeans. Remains in graves and pottery indicate considerable numbers of Greeks moved to Crete. Clay tablets were inscribed with a new type of script, obviously derived from Linear A and known as Linear B. In 1952, Michael Ventris proved that the Linear B texts were written in Greek. They revealed a highly bureaucratic state centered in the palace of Knossos. A rapid decline in Mycenaean Crete came at the same time as that on the mainland.  4
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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