Minoan civilization

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Minoan civilization

(mĭnō`ən), ancient Cretan culture representing a stage in the development of the Aegean civilizationAegean civilization
, term for the Bronze Age cultures of pre-Hellenic Greece. The complexity of those early civilizations was not suspected before the excavations of archaeologists in the late 19th cent.
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. It was named for the legendary King MinosMinos
, in Greek mythology, king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. He was the husband of Pasiphaë, who bore him Androgeus, Glaucus, Ariadne, and Phaedra. Because Minos failed to sacrifice a beautiful white bull to Poseidon, the god caused Pasiphaë to conceive a lustful
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 of Crete by Sir Arthur EvansEvans, Sir Arthur John,
1851–1941, English archaeologist. He was (1884–1908) keeper of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. From 1900 to 1935 he conducted excavations on the Greek island of Crete, principally at Knossos, and there uncovered the remains of a previously
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, the English archaeologist who conducted excavations there in the early 20th cent. Evans divided the culture into three periods that include the whole of the Bronze AgeBronze Age,
period in the development of technology when metals were first used regularly in the manufacture of tools and weapons. Pure copper and bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, were used indiscriminately at first; this early period is sometimes called the Copper Age.
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: Early Minoan (c.3000 B.C.–2200 B.C.), Middle Minoan (c.2200 B.C.–1500 B.C.), and Late Minoan (c.1500 B.C.–1000 B.C.). Early Minoan saw the slow rise of the culture from a Neolithic state with the importation of metals, the tentative use of bronze, and the appearance of a hieroglyphic writing. In the Middle Minoan period the great palaces appeared at KnossosKnossos
or Cnossus
, ancient city of Crete, on the north coast, near modern Iráklion. The site was occupied long before 3000 B.C., and it was the center of an important Bronze Age culture.
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 and Phaistos; a pictographic script (known as Linear A; see Linear ScriptsLinear Scripts,
forms of Minoan writing. The earliest Minoan writing consisted of pictographs, called Cretan hieroglyphs, which date from about 2000 B.C. The first linear script, Linear A, dates from about 1700 B.C. and was also partly pictorial in nature.
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) was used; ceramics, ivory carving, and metalworking reached their peak; and Minoan maritime power extended across the Mediterranean. Toward the end of the period an earthquake, and possibly an invasion, destroyed Knossos, but the palace was rebuilt. During this period there is evidence of a new script (Linear B), at Knossos, an early form of the Greek language that argues the presence of Mycenaean Greeks. Other luxurious palaces existed at this time at Gournia, Cydonia (now Khaniá), and elsewhere. Knossos was again destroyed c.1500 B.C., probably as a result of an earthquake and subsequent invasion from the Mycenaean mainland. The palace at Knossos was finally destroyed c.1400 B.C., and the Late Minoan period faded out in poverty and obscurity. After the final destruction of Knossos, the cultural center of the Aegean passed to the Greek mainland (see Mycenaean civilizationMycenaean civilization
, an ancient Aegean civilization known from the excavations at Mycenae and other sites. They were first undertaken by Heinrich Schliemann and others after 1876, and they helped to revise the early history of Greece. Divided into Early Helladic (c.
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).

Bibliography

See Sir Arthur J. Evans, Palace of Minos (4 vol., 1921–25, repr. 1964); J. D. S. Pendlebury, Archaeology of Crete (1939, repr. 1963); S. Hood, The Minoans (1971); R. H. Simpson, Mycenaean Greece (1982); A. Harding, The Mycenaens and Europe (1984); Y. Hamilakis, ed., Labyrinth Revisited: Rethinking "Minoan" Archaeology (2002).