Minoan civilization
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Minoan civilization

Pronunciation: [minO´un] (key)

ancient Cretan culture representing a stage in the development of the Aegean civilization. It is named for the legendary King Minos of Crete. The culture was divided by Sir Arthur Evans into three periods that include the whole of the Bronze Age: 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 Knossos and Phaestus; a pictographic script (known as Linear A) 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, which argues the presence of Mycenaean Greeks. Other luxurious palaces existed at this time at Gournia, Cydonia (now Khánia), 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 civilization).


See Sir Arthur J. Evans, Palace of Minos (4 vol., 1921–25, repr. 1964); J. D. S. Pendlebury, Archaeology of Crete (1939, repr. 1963); Sinclair Hood, The Minoans (1971); R. H. Simpson, Mycenaean Greece (1982); A. Harding, The Mycenaens and Europe (1984).