Sunday, August 3, 2014

Crete: Minoan Palace of Knossos

Just outside the city of Heraklion lies a portal to another world.  This world existed 5,000 years ago, and its king rose to power while the rest of Europe still floundered about in the dark ages.  I was first introduced to the wonders of this, and other ancient civilizations, by my dear friend and college roommate, Krenna.  Krenna had decided to take an Art and Archaeology course as an elective during our undergrad years at Washington University, and to this day I remember the raptures she went into as she came back from each lecture, her head full of temples and relics and unsolved mysteries: ancient scripts we had yet to crack, ancient belief systems that shed light on our own, ancient political dramas and cultural practices, and breathtaking art and architecture.  She started me off on many new fascinations back then with the sheer power of her enthusiasm, and this fascination with the ancient world was one of them: the following year, I too, took a course on Ancient Civilizations, taught by Patty Jo Watson, whose lectures were some of the most memorable in all my years there.

I thought of Krenna a lot as we journeyed back in time to visit ancient Minoa, and how she and my sister-in-law, Meenakshi (who studied Greek and the classics), would love the place. First, we saw the treasures of this age kept in pristine condition in the newly remodeled Archaelogical Museum.

Inspiration for the legend of the Minotaur:
the revered bull

Snake goddess
Prince of Lillies


Ladies in Blue

Queen's bee pendant (gold)

Disc of Phaistos: Its Linear A script has yet to be deciphered

Griffons, symbolizing sky with the head and wings of an eagle,
and earth, with the body of a lion and tail of a snake
Minoan athlete

Bull leaping
Minoan stag beetles. Be still, my heart.

Marine motifs were found on many amphora and pitchers

The next day we toured the actual site, the magnificent Palace of Knossos, excavated by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. As we walked through the ruins, our imaginations sparked and fueled by the colorful stories told by a very talented and well-informed English-speaking tour guide, the place reached through the centuries, grabbed us, and whisked us back to a time of wealth, art, and knowledge when the Minoan civilization flourished at the height of the Bronze Age.  This is a recreation in wood of what the palace is thought to have looked like:

In its heyday, 1500 people were thought to have resided at the palace, including the royal family, priests, leading politicians,  and servants, and 80,000 people lived in the surrounding area. The palace had running water, conduits for waste water, architecture that kept rooms cool in the heat of the summer, a throne room, a treasury, a center for religion, a center for politics, and beautifully painted mural and frescoes throughout.

Throne room

Griffon standing guard

Dolphin frescoes in the Queen's chamber

Bull fresco

Bull fresco detail

Comparing the double axe to the inscription in stone. These symbols
are thought to mark the palace as a holy place.

For a magical journey back in time, visit this amazing place.

No comments:

Post a Comment