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Amnisos  

D. Evely

Minoan site in northern Crete, inhabited c. 3500–c. 1000 bc. The settlement, a harbour town known as a-mi-ni-so in the Linear B tablets, is 8 km east of Herakleion; it fronts a shallow sandy shore and is backed by a coastal plain. Excavations, chiefly by Spiridon Marinatos in the 1930s and by the German Archaeological Institute, Athens, in 1983–5, have focused on the sides of a low hill and on a cave some 500 m inland. The cave was a sanctuary of Eileithyia, a goddess associated with fertility and childbearing, and is mentioned in the Odyssey (XIX.188). Finds cited below are for the most part in the Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.

Traces of occupation dating back to Late Neolithic times (c. 4500–c. 3800 bc) have been found at the cave, which remained a centre of worship even after the Minoan period. A low wall surrounds a stalagmite, which seems to have been a focus of cultic activity; further activity took place outside the cave mouth. A scattering of house remains near by are of uncertain date. Further west, at ...

Article

E. Sapouna-Sakellarakis

[Arkhanes]

Site in northern Crete 15 km south-east of Herakleion. Occupied in Neolithic times, it flourished in the Minoan period (c. 3500/3000–c. 1500 bc). Arthur Evans was the first to excavate in the area after World War I, and work continued from the early 1960s under the direction of Y. Sakellarakis and E. Sakellarakis, who have investigated three major sites. At Turkogeitonia, in the middle of the modern town, were found the remains of a palace built at the start of the Middle Minoan (mm) ib (c. 1900–c. 1800 bc) and destroyed by earthquake c. 1650 bc. The settlement around the palace can also be dated to c. 1900 bc, as can the construction of the peak sanctuary on nearby Mt Juktas, where numerous clay idols—offerings placed within clefts in the rocks—and evidence of bonfires have been found. Around 1650 bc a new palace, one of the most important in Minoan Crete, was built on top of the old one. Finely cut tufa, marble and schist were among the materials used, and its walls were decorated with frescoes (...

Article

D. Evely

[Arkalokhori]

Minoan sacred cave in central Crete, which flourished c. 1650–c. 1425 bc. Situated 33 km south-east of Herakleion, on the west slope of Profitis Elias, a mountain to the east of the modern village of Arkalochori, it was a cult centre throughout the Minoan era (c. 3500–c. 1100 bc). Excavations by Joseph Hazzidakis (c. 1911), Spiridon Marinatos and Nikolaos Platon (1935) uncovered prolific finds despite previous plundering.

The earliest, scanty remains are ceramic and date from the periods Early Minoan i and ii (c. 3500/3000–c. 2200 bc) and Middle Minoan i (c. 2050–c. 1800 bc). Material from Neo-Palatial times (c. 1650–c. 1425 bc) was also found, but a roof collapse severely curtailed worship thereafter. Low walls may have been constructed to give the cave an architectural focus, but all that survive are a passage and a possible cell. Most of the finds are Neo-Palatial metal ...

Article

D. Evely

Minoan site, possibly Palatial, on a ridge at the west end of the Mesara plain in southern Crete, inhabited from c. 3800 to c. 1100 bc. The relationship between this important centre and Phaistos, only 3 km away, during the Neo-Palatial period (from Middle Minoan (mm) iii to Late Minoan (lm) i, c. 1675–c. 1425 bc) is uncertain. Ayia Triada may have been a summer palace, or a wealthy dependent estate, and was perhaps the ‘da-wo’ referred to in the Linear B tablets. Excavation was begun by Frederico Halbherr (1902–14) and has been continued most recently by Vincenzo La Rosa (1977 onwards). For the most part, finds are in the Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.

Neolithic material is known, but is haphazardly distributed. The Pre-Palatial period (from Early Minoan i to mm ia, c. 3500/3000–c. 1900 bc) is represented by localized deposits, wall traces and two tholoi with later, external annexes, most of which are to the north-east of the main site. ...

Article

Gournia  

Gerald Cadogan

Site in eastern Crete, near the northern end of the Ierapetra Isthmus. Set on a low spur overlooking the Bay of Mirabello, it was occupied from Early Minoan (em) ii till Late Minoan (lm) i (c. 2900/2600–c. 1425 bc) and was resettled in lm iiia:2 and iiib (c. 1360–c. 1190 bc). Following the work of Harriet Boyd (later Hawes) in 1901–4, it is the most completely excavated Minoan town in Crete, with a well-preserved system of streets and residential blocks. Finds from Gournia include a clay goddess with upraised arms (lm iiib, c. 1335–c. 1190 bc; Herakleion, Archaeol. Mus.), a bronze figurine of a male worshipper (lm i, c. 1600–c. 1425 bc; Herakleion, Archaeol. Mus.) with hand on chest and hair tresses comparable to those of the ‘Boxing Boys’ fresco from Akrotiri on Thera (...

Article

J. Lesley Fitton, Keith Branigan, C. D. Fortenberry, Philip Betancourt, Lyvia Morgan, D. Evely, Margaret A. V. Gill, Reynold Higgins, P. M. Warren and Susan Sherratt

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C. D. Fortenberry

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Philip Betancourt

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J. Lesley Fitton, Keith Branigan, C. D. Fortenberry, Philip Betancourt, Lyvia Morgan, D. Evely, Margaret A. V. Gill, Reynold Higgins, P. M. Warren and Susan Sherratt

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Article

Kamares  

D. Evely

Minoan sacred cave in central Crete, which flourished c. 2050–c. 1650 bc. Situated at the west end of the Mesara Plain, beneath the eastern summit of a twin-peaked mountain on the south flank of the Ida massif, around 1700 m above sea-level, the Kamares cave is impressive and remote, and the vast arch of its entrance is visible even from the plain, especially against the snows of winter. It was explored by Antonio Taramelli in 1904 and more extensively by Richard MacGillivray Dawkins in 1913.

The cave descends quite steeply for some 100 m, forming two main chambers; some built walls may have supported terraces. No clear focus of worship has been detected: the finds seem scattered without pattern. The earliest material found is Final Neolithic (c. 4000–c. 3500/3000 bc), although whether this represents habitation or is the result of some religious impulse is undetermined; the same may be true for the scanty Pre-Palatial ...

Article

Karphi  

Gerald Cadogan

Minoan site in Crete. Karphi was a large town on the slopes of a prominent peak about 1250 m high (itself named Karphi, or ‘nail’, after its rocky, knob-like summit), on the north side of the Lasithi Mountains in eastern Crete. It was inhabited in the Late Minoan (lm) iiic (c. 1190–c. 1050 bc) and Sub-Minoan (c. 1050–c. 1000 bc) periods and possibly too for some years in the Protogeometric period (c. 1000–c. 900 bc). The ‘nail’ was probably also the site of a Middle Minoan (c. 2050–c. 1600 bc) peak sanctuary.

The excavations by J. D. S. Pendlebury and others in 1937–9 of much of the settlement (main area 130×130 m; east area 150×70 m) and some of its tombs gave a rare chance to see a large Cretan settlement of the very end of the Bronze Age with many details of its daily life preserved. Although on a high and bleak spot, Karphi seems to have enjoyed a surprisingly sophisticated way of life for a period generally thought to have been one of impoverishment. Finds of pottery, dress pins and other metalware attest to connections with settlements elsewhere in Crete, in the Aegean and even in Cyprus. The finds from the site (Herakleion, Archaeol. Mus.) are predominantly of ...

Article

J. Lesley Fitton

Minoan palace and town in Crete that flourished in the Neo-Palatial period (c. 1650–c. 1425 bc). The smallest of the Minoan palaces, Kato Zakros lies at the edge of a very small fertile plain that opens on to the Bay of Zakros on Crete’s eastern coast. The palace and town seem to have owed their position to the sheltered anchorage afforded by the bay and to have been important as a trading centre, perhaps receiving goods brought by ship to Crete from the East. The unworked elephants’ tusks and copper ingots found within the palace are probably examples of such imports. Excavations carried out in 1901 by D. G. Hogarth, of the British School of Archaeology at Athens, revealed extensive remains of Minoan houses, but it was not until Nicholas Platon began work on the site in 1962 for the Greek Archaeological Society that the palace, and further substantial areas of the town, began to be revealed. Investigation of the site is still continuing. While traces of early buildings show that the town was occupied from the Proto-Palatial period (...

Article

Knossos  

Sinclair Hood

Principal palatial centre of the Minoan civilization in Crete (see fig.). It flourished during the Cretan Bronze Age in the 3rd and 2nd millennia bc and was the home of the legendary king Minos. (For calendar dates of Minoan chronological periods see Minoan, §I, 4.) The site lies c. 1. 5 km from the sea in the middle of the north coast of the island. It is concealed on its seaward side by low rises, and occupies an undulating slope bounded by the so-called Acropolis hill on the west and on the east by the Kairatos stream which runs at the foot of the high limestone ridge of Ailias. In early times the area was more riven by gulleys, and the Kairatos ran in a deeper bed, but during the Roman period the valley began to fill with washed-down debris. Good building stone was quarried from the slopes and summit of Ailias from the Bronze Age onwards, while beds of gypsum, used during the Bronze Age for façades and as veneer on slabs, were exposed on the south edge of the site. The area was well provided with springs in antiquity, and a high water table made the sinking of wells easy. Knossos lies near the centre of one of the largest expanses of fertile land in Crete, well suited to the cultivation of vines and olives....

Article

Kommos  

J. Lesley Fitton

[Komos]

Minoan harbour town that flourished c. 2050–c. 1250 bc, and Greek sanctuary that flourished c. 1025–c. 100 ad, on the Bay of Mesara in southern Crete, some 8 km south-west of the Minoan sites of Phaistos and Ayia Triada. Excavations begun in 1976 by a team from the University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum, under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies, revealed three main areas. At the northern end of the steeply sloping site, on the hilltop, is a group of Late Minoan (lm; c. 1600–c. 1050 bc) houses, while an extensive group of rooms of Middle Minoan date (c. 2050–c. 1600 bc) lies on the central hillside. In contrast to these relatively unpretentious remains, the southern, lower slopes of the hill have revealed buildings on an impressive scale, perhaps with some public or civic function. The earlier of these, Building JT, built in ...

Article

Kythera  

Nicolas Coldstream and Ioanna Bitha

[Cythera; Kithira; Ven. Cerigo; anc. Porphyrousa]

Greek island, 32×19 km, immediately south of the Peloponnese. It was credited by Herodotus (Histories, I.cv.3) with the oldest cult of Aphrodite, and its more romantic associations are recalled by Antoine Watteau’s Pilgrimage to the Isle of Cythera (Paris, Louvre). The landscape is rocky, with some fertile valleys. One such valley fed the eastern promontory site of Kastri (i), near the modern village of Avlemon, settled by Minoan Cretans from c. 2500 until c. 1425 bc. The historical Greek (c. 480–323 bc) city state of Kythera moved inland to the Palaiokastro hill and became a Spartan dependency, though with brief interludes of Athenian occupation. Kastri was fortified from c. ad 550 until c. 650 as a refuge against Slav and Avar invasions of Greece. After desertion in the 9th and 10th centuries the island’s mid-Byzantine recovery is attested by the building of numerous frescoed churches, continuing after annexation by Venice (...

Article

Mallia  

J. Lesley Fitton

[Malia]

Minoan palace and town on Crete, which flourished c. 1900–c. 1425 bc. The palace stands on a small, fertile plain on the north coast of Crete, about 36 km east of Herakleion. It is relatively well preserved, and restoration has been kept to a minimum. While it is less elaborate than the Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaistos it is nonetheless impressive. Excavations in the vicinity have revealed extensive remains of the town, while cemeteries have been found between the palace and the sea. The site was first excavated by Joseph Hazzidakis in 1915 and 1919. The French School of Archaeology in Athens took over in 1922, and by 1926 had effectively revealed the whole palace, although their programme of excavation and research continued into the late 20th century. Important finds, including those cited below, are housed in the Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.

Evidence for Early Minoan (c. 3500...

Article

Mesara  

Keith Branigan

Region in southern central Crete that flourished in the Bronze Age. One of the most fertile parts of Crete, this flat alluvial plain is about 50 km east–west, but never more than 10 km north–south, and it is surrounded on the north, east and south by foothills and mountains. It was in and around the Mesara plain in the Early Bronze Age (for discussion of Bronze Age absolute dates see Minoan, §I, 4) that a distinctive culture developed, characterized by small village communities, perhaps composed of extended family groups, who buried their dead in circular communal tombs known as the Mesara type. The wealth of attractively painted pottery, finely carved sealstones and stone bowls, well-made bronze weapons and gold jewellery from these tombs suggest that the Mesara was a prosperous area and that its people were inventive and skilled. Early in the 2nd millennium bc the whole area was presumably dominated by the Minoan palace at ...

Article

Minoan  

J. Lesley Fitton, Keith Branigan, C. D. Fortenberry, Philip Betancourt, Lyvia Morgan, D. Evely, Margaret A. V. Gill, Reynold Higgins, P. M. Warren and Susan Sherratt

Civilization that flourished during the Greek Bronze Age (c. 3500/3000–c. 1050 bc) on the Aegean island of Crete. The term was coined by Arthur Evans and derived from Minos, legendary king of Knossos. The rediscovery of the Cretan Bronze Age civilization was pioneered by Evans’s excavations of the great Minoan palace at Knossos beginning in the year 1900 (see fig.). Although chance finds had been made before, these excavations were the first that systematically recovered remains from the Minoan past. Others soon followed, revealing three further palaces at Phaistos, Mallia and Kato Zakros, as well as towns, country houses and sanctuaries throughout the island (see fig.). The chronological system devised by Evans remains in use, with modifications (see §I, 4 below). There was much cross-fertilization between the Minoan civilization and the Bronze Age cultures of mainland Greece (see Helladic) and the ...

Article

Mochlos  

Keith Branigan

Tiny island off the north coast of Crete on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Mirabello. The island was almost certainly joined to the mainland by a narrow isthmus during Minoan times, when it was the site of an important settlement. The island was explored by the American archaeologist Richard Seager in 1908, but his discoveries have never been fully published. The settlement was apparently occupied from the Early to the Late Minoan period (for discussion of absolute dates see Minoan, §I, 4), but most of the information available concerns the Early Minoan (em) and Middle Minoan (mm) tombs that Seager excavated. Some of these were simple pit graves or burials in clefts in the rock, but at least 20 were built tombs. Some were large and impressively constructed, with different types of stone apparently selected for different parts of the tomb structure. These variations in type of tombs may reflect differences of social status among their occupants, particularly since the grave goods from the larger built tombs are more numerous and of better quality than those from the other burials....