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Knossos (alternative spellings Knossus, Cnossus, Gnossus, Greek Κνωσσός) is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete, probably the ceremonial and political center of the Minoan culture.

Knossos, also known by its romantic name of the Palace of Minos, was discovered by Sir Arthur Evans in 1894. However, the civil war in Crete against the Turks intervened, and it was not until March 16, 1900 that Evans was able to purchase the entire site and conduct massive excavations. Assisted by Dr. Duncan Mackenzie , who had already distinguished himself by his excavations on the island of Melos, and Mr. Fyfe, the British School of Athens architect, Evans employed a large staff of excavators and by June of 1900 had uncovered a large portion of the palace.

The most remarkable finds were the murals that decorated the plastered walls. These sophisticated, colorful paintings portrayed a high civilization who lived in luxury. Their costumes did not resemble any previously known ancient civilization. The women's costumes featured puffed sleeves, narrow waists and flounced skirts. The costumes used a distinctive blue color which indicated sea trade with the Phoenicians. The murals portrayed athletic competitions, possibly of a ritual nature, in which youths performed daring acrobatics on the backs of charging bulls.

The centerpiece of the palace was the so-called Throne Room. This chamber has a dramatic chair built into the wall, facing a number of benches. This room has a tank which it is speculated was used as an aquarium.

Other parts of this extremely large palace include spacious apartments with running water in terra-cotta pipes, flush toilets; long halls with storerooms containing huge ceramic jars used to store grain; a huge amphitheater with tiers of stone steps seating 200, and religious shrines. The palace is about 130 meters on a side and could well have served as the source of the myth of the Labyrinth.

See also: Linear B

Last updated: 11-08-2004 07:27:28