Archaeology/ Palace Of Kings term paper 8173

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Palace of King Minos at Knossos

Matt Katkocin

Prof. Castora

History of the Ancient World

5 / 6 / 99

Works Cited

Coltrell, Leonard. 1958. The Bull of Minos. New York, NY. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Encyclopedia Americana. 1995. Knossos, pg. 514. Danbury, CT. Grolier Inc.

New Encyclopedia Britanica. 1997. Knossos, pg. 514. Chicago, IL. Encyclopedia

Britanica Inc..

Palmer, Leonard R. 1969. A New Guide to the Palace of Knossos. New York, NY.

Frederick A. Prayer, Publishers.

Starr, Chester G. 1991. A History of the Ancient World. New York, NY. Oxford

University Press.

Wunderlich, Hans Georg. 1974. The Secret of Crete. Translated by Richard Winston.

New York, NY. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc..


Palace of King Minos at Knossos


The Palace of Knossos was the capital for the legendary King Minos. The Palace was at its peak circa 1700 B.C. to 1400 B.C.. Sir Arthur Evans first excavated the palace in 1900. Sir Arthur Evans discovered a palace of great size that proved to be a center of a sophisticated Bronze Age Culture. The first palace at Knossos was built around 2000 B.C. and is thought to have been destroyed in 1720 by an earthquake and was thus rebuilt to become what was later known as the Palace of King Minos at Knossos.

Minoan Culture

From evidence found through archaeology and study, we have a good idea of the ancient Minoans. “The picture of Minoan civilization which we can draw from our evidence is at once fascinating and puzzling” (Starr 105). It can be seen that the Minoans were great and powerful rulers of the seas. The Minoans founded a dominion of the seas, expanding trade throughout the Mediterranean. The Minoan civilization was far ahead of its time. The Minoans engaged in commercial exchange, and were very developed both economically and socially. “Politically, religiously, and culturally the Minoan world thus stands far removed from any civilization which we have thus far seen” (Starr, 104). The Minoans spoke their own language and lived with concern only for themselves rather than that of the surrounding world: “...I have misunderstood


the psychology of the Minoans, who were more concerned with their daily reality that with any cult” (Winston, 105). The Minoans had a love for peace and art; this can be seen by the great sculptures and painting done by Minoan artists. Such murals are of people jumping over bulls or of the famous double axes. “We enter the king’s living quarters by way of the hall of the double axe, named after the Cretan religious symbols scratched into the wall at this point” (Wunderlich, 56). The downfall of the Minoans has been attributed to forces of nature. The forces of a tsunami wiped out the fleet, while volcanic eruptions and earthquakes along with invaders from mainland Greece destroyed the palaces at Knossos. So legendary is the fate of the Minoans that it has been speculated that the Minoans are linked to the story of the disappearance of Atlantis. So little was known of this ancient race of people that Sir Arthur Evans had to name them after his discovery some eighty years ago. “Arthur Evans named Minoan civilization after the legendary first king of Crete” (Wunderlich, 74).


Many legends of the Minoans are still alive today. One of the legends is of the first Minoan king, King Minos, and his stepson the Minotaur. Minos was the son of Zeus and Europa. Minos obtained the throne of Crete with the help of Poseidon. Minos married Pasiphae, the daughter of Helios. Together they had three children, Androges, Ariadne, and Phaedra. A white bull sent to Crete by Poseidon for sacrifice impregnated Pasiphae. The result is the beast, the Minotaur. Because Minos could not kill the beast, he put the Minotaur in the labyrinth made by Daedalus.


Every ninth year, seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls were sent to be sacrificed by the Minotaur. On the third calling, the hero Theseus went to Knossos and with the help of Ariadne, kills the Minotaur. Thus ended the terror of the Minotaur. “The curious Dorians found, in the crumbling ruins of Knossos, a few fragments of the Bull frescos, with youths and maidens, and these may have helped in the development of Minos and the Athenian Captives, and of Theseus and the Minotaur “(Cottrel, 95). King Minos was killed by having boiling water poured on him, and after death, Minos became a judge in Hades (Britannica, 109). “So ‘the Palace of Minos’ may without affront to history well retain the name which Evans gave it, all the more so, because Minos was a Greek King of Greek legend”(Wunderlich, 74). Knossos and King Minos were part of many legends in ancient history and part of much of the literature of that time. “So Homer makes Odysseus describe Crete, in that famous island....”(Cottrell, 58), Homer and other famous authors of that time consistently refered to the legends and magnificence of Crete.

Palace of Minos

The legendary Palace of Minos was located in Knossos on the island of Crete. The palace was at its height circa 1700 B.C. to 1400 B.C.. The city of Knossos covered 185 acres, 74 of which were houses, while 5.7 acres were palace (Britanica, 109). The Palace of Knossos had an intricate plumbing system and was a great building with mazes of corridors which later became known as the labyrinths (Encyclopedia Americana, 240). The great architecture of the Minoans was laid out in Minoan feet, about 11-15/16 inches. The palace consisted of large storage rooms,


reception halls, and workshops and stores (Cottrell, 86), along with the sleeping quarters. The rooms on the upper floors were painted very spectacularly with pictures of dancing people, Minoan goddesses, and bull leaping sports. All the halls were accessible by stone staircases that wound their way throughout the palace. The palace had a cave like appearance for the lack of windows in the dark palace (Palmer, 78). The palace at Knossos has been called, “an engineering masterpiece of the Bronze Age” (Encyclopedia Americana, 240).

The palace was a great architectural feat for the Minoans. The Minoans used advanced forms of geometry and scaling of construction. “...We consider the straight lines of so many of the corridors in the palace and the numerous right angles” (Winston, 94). The palace was in a rectangular shape, with a large courtyard at the center. The light that did make it into the palace was brought in through light wells. “The light-well is also a common feature of Minoan architecture...”(Palmer, 89). The north west part of the palace contained the theater area, arsenal, and a treasury house. The west part of the palaces contained the 18 linear tablets, all along a long corridor. A major feature of the west side of the palace was the throne room. Here was where the King’s magnificent gypsum throne was located, just beyond that two steps lead down to the Anteroom (Palmer, 66). To the southwest was the corridor of Procession. In the southern part of the palace were the room of Clay seals and room of Clay signet. The north and northeast part of the palace was made up of rooms and halls along the corridor of the Draughtboard. The east part of the palace was where the Domestic quarter was located.

The Domestic quarter is where the Hall of the Colonnades was located, along with the


Queen’s megaron and Queen’s bath. The Corridor of Painted Pilthos connects the Queen’s toilet with the Queen’s Megaron and bath. Here is found a bath so small, the Queen would probably have to stand to bathe (Palmer, 84). “The Domestic quarter offers a fine example of Minoan drainage” (Palmer, 90). Also located in the Domestic Quarter are a small schoolroom, a treasury, and a pottery store. The King’s quarters and the Hall of the Double axes is also located here in the Domestic quarter. This hall received its name from the mason’s marks visible on the wall (Palmer, 88). The hall, which is 8 meters by 12 meters, is decorated brilliantly with gypsum in the floor and walls. This part of the palace is also especially dark because it contains only five light wells. Though dark, it is the most developed part of the palace.


After looking over all the information and text found in researching the Palace of King Minos at Knossos, one thing became obvious, the palace is a magnificent structure. As a civil engineer in training myself, I am very impressed with what I have learned from researching the Palace of King Minos at Knossos. The Minoans possessed many advanced skills in architecture and engineering. The design of the light wells for ventilation and natural light and the intricate plumbing of the palace are just two examples of their advanced skill. The palace is truly a brilliant work, especially for their time period.

As for the legends of the palace, it seems hard to believe that King Minos existed when he did, and accomplished what he did. The same holds true for the Minotaur and the legend of his roaming the labyrinth. These stories or legends have been related to the Minoans and the palace for hundreds of years, and will remain with them forever, be they true or not.


Layout of Palace at Knossos

(Palmer, 38)


Description of Layout

(Palmer, 39)


Word Count: 1566


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