Emerging From The Labyrinth




This past summer, my wife and I traveled to the island of Crete prior to one of my neurosurgical meetings in Athens.  There, we spent four days touring the island, and learning more of its history.  My wife had studied the classics and ancient civilizations in university, and so she in particular was very excited about the prospects of seeing traces of the Minoan civilization first-hand.  On Crete, we stayed in the beautiful coastal town of Rethymno, and drove to our destinations each day.  One of the highlights for us was visiting the Palace of Knossos, thought to be the capital of Minoan Crete.  The palace is located about ten miles south of the town of Heraklion.


The Minoan civilization on Crete is estimated to have been in existence from 7000 – 1375 BC.  Much of what we know about Knossos and Minoan civilization is derived from the work of Arthur Evans, the famous British archaeologist who was the chief excavator of the palace of Knossos in 1900 AD.  The palace is thought to have been the administrative center for the island, at a time when the Minoans had great outreach and influence across the Mediterranean.  On a blisteringly hot and sunny August day, we toured the grounds of the palace with our guide, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the palatial ruins, the grand staircase, the dolphins wall painting, the throne room, and the theater.  Our imaginations enabled us to envision the progress and prosperity of the Minoan civilization at its peak.  All of us remember the incredible tales from Greek mythology that relate to the ancient civilization of the Minoans.  We can recall the names of King Minos, Daedalos, and Ikaros; and we remember the story of the labyrinth in which the Minotaur concealed itself, and its slaying by Theseus.


Interestingly, over the years Arthur Evans has come under criticism for his recording and interpretation of evidence unearthed at Knossos, and for his modernized repair of structural elements that had long been in a state of deterioration.  Still, Evans will be remembered for his discovery of clay tablets which revealed the “Linear A” written language, presumably of the Minoans, that remains indecipherable to this day.


Many of the treasures found in the excavations of Knossos are now located in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which we visited, including the famous bull leaper statue, the Phaistos Disc, and the Snake Goddess.


While at Knossos, we definitely sensed that we were peering through a window in time where a great civilization had arisen to influence the development of future cultures, empires and countries.  It is often good to reflect on our past through visitations to historical sites such as the Palace of Knossos.



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