A Land of Prehistoric Roots

By unravelling the thread of time, history can be unpicked and uncovered.

A ruler named King Minos; the Labyrinth where Theseus killed the Minotaur; the birthplace of Zeus – all these myths and legends were fuelled by an advanced civilization. The Minoan civilization emerged about 5.000 years ago and flourished for as many as 12 centuries until about 1500BC.

Today, the island is dotted with magnificent palaces which include a restored Knossos (the most important city state of the Minoans), Phaistos (in which the Phaistos Disc was discovered), Mallia and Zakros. These palaces had been destroyed around 1700BC, when the Minoans had reached their zenith, either by an earthquake or a violent invasion. However the Minoan civilization continued to prosper and the palaces were rebuilt using even more spectacular structures. Wealth and power resulted in confidence to build palaces without defensive walls – a tribute to the naval supremacy of Crete throughout prehistory.

The restorations render a good interpretation of the incomprehensible strata of ruins and reflect their grandeur, thus bringing the majesty of Minoan life a little closer. Elegant frescoes speak of people who approached the subtleties of life and the splendour of nature with an exuberant spirit. Various artefacts, pottery, sculpture and metalwork reveal people who had reached great heights and a distinct degree of self respect. It is not surprising that Crete is considered the cradle of the first European civilization – the great Bronze Age society.

Despite their celebrated legacy, the Minoan civilization remains shrouded in mystery with great archaeological enigmas. What caused the destruction of the palaces? What language was spoken? What is hidden in the Cretan Hieroglyphs inscribed on the Phaistos Disc? All these unanswered questions create an island of enchantment.