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The largest bronze-age building complex of ancient Crete was probably the centre of Minoan civilisation.
Knossos, palace, antiquity, architecture, building, edifice, history, Crete, Bronze Age, Minoan civilisation, wall painting, fresco, relief, Minotaur, labyrinth, Ariadne, Theseus, legend, myth, Daedalus, Minos, Sir Arthur John Evans, archaeology
The largest Bronze-age building complex of ancient Crete was probably the religious and political centre of Minoan civilisation. The first elements of the building complex were probably built around 2000 BC. At this time the first, square based building was constructed from blocks of stone; but a few hundred years later it was destroyed by an earthquake. Later a larger palace was erected in the place of the previous one, but this building was also destroyed by an earthquake and a fire.
The palace was rebuilt and enlarged again; however, it was destroyed again around 1450 BC. The cause might have been another natural disaster, but some historians think it was an attack by the Mycenaeans. The palace was rebuilt for the third time and took on the form that was reconstructed by Arthur Evans and his team of archaeologists at the beginning of the 1900s.
The palace complex was situated on an area of about 20,000 m². There were no protective walls built around the site. Since the previous structures were not demolished during the periods of reconstruction, a complex system of buildings was created with 1,300 rooms on four levels. The complex was built on the Kephala Hill, with the four entrances facing the four cardinal directions.
The West Wing was used for religious purposes; churches and other religious buildings faced the direction of sunrise at the vernal equinox. Monumental stairs led to the formal halls on the top level, while the bottom level contained store rooms.
The East Wing contained rooms for the aristocracy, guest rooms, servants' quarters, artisans' workshops and store rooms. There were arched terrace gardens on the hillside and a tiled square with tiered seating used for theatre performances in the north-western corner of the palace. The central square measured 1,500 m².
The main building material for the palace was limestone, and walls were covered with carefully prepared alabaster tiles.
Minoan columns were smaller at the bottom and wider at the top, as they were constructed from the trunks of cypress trees, placed upside down. The columns at the Palace of Minos were painted red and featured round capitals. The walls of the most important rooms were decorated with naturalistic frescoes and coloured reliefs. The snapshot-like frescoes were painted in vivid colours, showing aspects of the daily life of the cheerful and pleasure-loving Minoans.
There are several legends related to the palace complex. According to one of these, King Minos did not want to sacrifice a white bull sent to him for that purpose by Poseidon. To punish him, the gods put a spell on his wife, who fell madly in love with the bull. Their offspring was the monstrous Minotaur, a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. King Minos then had Daedalus build a huge labyrinth to hold the Minotaur. The monster was finally killed by the Athenian prince Theseus, with the help of the King's daughter, Ariadne.
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