Knossos

Knossos is both a place of legend and a place from history. Stories abound about King Minos and the minotaur doomed to roam the labyrinth outside his palace. However, this palace is a very real place on the island of Crete. Today, it’s one of the world’s finest archaeological sites, where a good tour guide can weave stories of fact and myth. The site lies just minutes outside of Heraklion, Crete’s modern port city. Many of Knossos’ visitors began their journey to Knossos at the cruise port; the ancient palace is one of the most popular shore excursions. However you arrive on Crete, a visit to the archaeological site will be sure to fascinate.

Main Architectural Features

Main Architectural Features
Main Architectural Features

Knossos dates to the Bronze Age, a time before Athens settled on democracy and the Romans rose to ascendancy. While the site is not as grand as it was during the height of the Minoan civilization, it is still striking to see in person. The most dominant feature of the archaeological site is the palace, once the center of power for all of Crete. On your tours, you’ll have the chance to see the rooms arranged around a central courtyard, including shrines, the king’s throne room, and banquet halls. Vestiges of a second smaller palace also remain, along with a royal villas and the Caravanserai, which was used as a reception hall. With a walk to the south the palace, you’ll find the temple room, where one of the last kings of Knossos was laid to rest. The site is also home to more mundane reminders of the past, seen in Minoan houses, the theater, and customs house.

Art & Frescoes

Art & Frescoes
Art & Frescoes

If you think that archaeological sites are nothing but sun-drenched white marble, you will be pleasantly surprised with a visit to Knossos. The era when it was built was one of color, still evident today. The walls and sidewalks of the palace were once coated in a red ochre, and some of the color remains. Many of the walls were covered in art, and seeing these recreated frescoes helps you step back into the world where King Minos ruled. Colored in blue, yellow, green, and red, the murals depict animals, mythical creatures, and other examples from early history.

Modern Excavation

With so much to uncover, it is no surprise that the work is not done yet. Even today, archaeologists from prestigious universities spend their summers and sabbaticals studying the ruins of Knossos. If you’re interested in this work, you’ll want to book one of the archaeology tours. A guide can fill you in on the work that’s ongoing to uncover the world of Knossos of the Bronze Age on both walking and driving tours. The major excavations that are visible today were done by British adventurer and archeologist Arthur Evans in the late 19th and early 20th century. Today there is some controversy over both his research and a few partial reconstructions of the palace. What he did was the custom in archeologly at the time, and it is true that the reconstructed poortions of the palace provide extraordinary glimpses into what life was like in this fascinating period.

Other Crete Archeological Sites

Other Crete Archeological Sites
Other Crete Archeological Sites

The palace of Knossos is just one of the places with a connection to the past. Crete has a history that stretches back thousands of years—a history that has not been erased. On the island of Crete, you’ll have the chance to see many other archaeological sites, including Phaistos where the mysterious Phaistos Disc covered with still-undeciphered symbols on both sides was uncovered. Today this disc is on display in the Heraklion Archeological Museum. In addition, a visit to Tylissos will show you an ancient Minoan village as well as many caves. The ruins of Gortys are quite impressive, and this is where, in 1884, inscribed columns were discovered that proved to be the oldest and most complete example of ancient Greek law. Pieces of what is called the Gortyn Code are found in many museums, including the Louvre in Paris The Malia Palace is especially interesting because of its connection to Minoan hieroglyphics, an ancient form of writing. This is also the site where the famous Malia bee gold pendant was discovered, and this fine piece of ancient jewelry is on dispaly in the Herklion Archeological Museum.

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