[knoˈsos]), also known as
Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site
on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square. Detailed images of Cretan life in the late Bronze Age are provided by images on the walls of this palace. It is also a tourist destination today, as it is near the main city of Heraklion and has been substantially restored by archaeologist Arthur Evans.
The city of Knossos remained important through the classical and Roman periods, but its population shifted to the new town of Chandax (modern Heraklion) during the 9th century AD. By the 13th century, it was called Makryteikhos 'Long Wall'; the bishops of Gortyn continued to call themselves Bishops of Knossos until the 19th century. Today, the name is used only for the archaeological site situated in the suburbs of Heraklion.
The ruins at Knossos were discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos, a Cretan merchant and antiquarian. He conducted the first excavations at Kephala Hill, which brought to light part of the storage magazines in the west wing and a section of the west facade. After Kalokairinos, several people attempted to continue the work, and Heinrich Schliemann had previously showed an interest but it was not until March 16, 1900 that archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, an English gentleman of independent means, was able to purchase the entire site and conduct massive excavations.
The excavation and restoration of Knossos, and the discovery of the culture that he labeled Minoan, is inseparable from Evans. Assisted by Dr. Duncan Mackenzie, who had already distinguished himself by his excavations on the island of Melos, and Mr. Fyfe, the British School at Athens architect, Evans employed a large staff of local laborers as excavators and within a few months had uncovered a substantial portion of what he named the Palace of Minos. The term 'palace' may be misleading: in modern English, it usually refers to an elegant building used to house a head of state or similar. Knossos was an intricate collection of over 1,000 interlocking rooms, some of which served as artisans' workrooms and food-processing centers (e.g. wine presses).
It served as a central storage point, and a religious and administrative center. The throne room that was discovered was repainted by a father-and-son team of artists, both named Émile Gilliéron, at Arthur Evans' command. Evans based the recreations on archaeological evidence, but drew criticism from some quarters, because some of the best-known frescoes from the throne room are believed to be inventions of the Gilliérons.
The site has had a very long history of human habitation, beginning with the founding of the first Neolithic settlement circa 7,000 BC. Over time and during several different phases that had their own social dynamic, Knossos grew until, by the 19th to 16th centuries BC (during the 'Old Palace' and the succeeding 'Neo-palatial' periods), the settlement possessed not only a monumental administrative and religious center (i.e., the Palace), but also a city with a population of up to 100,000. The site was destroyed by fire but has been reconstructed.
Crete and designed by the legendary artificer Daedalus to hold the Minotaur, a creature that was half man and half bull and was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus.
"Labyrinth" may have come from labrys, a word that refers to a double, or two-bladed, axe. Its representation had religious and probably magical significance. It was used throughout the Mycenaean world as an apotropaic symbol: the presence of the symbol on an object would prevent it from being "killed". Axes were scratched on many of the stones of the palace. It appears in pottery decoration and is a motif of the Shrine of the Double Axes at the palace, as well as of many shrines throughout Crete and the Aegean.
The first written attestation of the word 'labyrinth' is believed by many linguists to feature on a Linear B tablet as da-pu2-ri-to-jo po-ti-ni-ja, 'lady of the Labyrinth', which makes the etymology connecting it to labrys less likely. Whatever the word's ultimate origin, it must have been borrowed by the Greeks, as the suffix labyr-inthos uses a suffix generally considered to be pre-Greek.
The location of the labyrinth of legend has long been a question for Minoan studies. It might have been the name of the palace or of some portion of the palace. Throughout most of the 20th century the intimations of human sacrifice in the myth puzzled Bronze Age scholars, because evidence for human sacrifice on Crete had never been discovered and so it was vigorously denied.
The practice was finally confirmed archaeologically (see under Minoan civilization). It is possible that the palace was a great sacrificial center and could have been named the Labyrinth. Its layout certainly is labyrinthine in the sense that it is intricate and confusing.
Many other possibilities have been suggested. The modern meaning of labyrinth as a twisting maze is based on the myth.
Several out-of-epoch advances in the construction of the palace are thought to have generated the myth of Atlantis.
The great palace was gradually built between 1700 and 1400 BC, with periodic rebuildings after destruction. Structures preceded it on Kephala hill. The features currently most visible date mainly to the last period of habitation, which Evans termed Late Minoan. The palace has an interesting layout , the original plan can no longer be seen due to the subsequent modifications. The 1,300 rooms are connected with corridors of varying sizes and direction, which differ from other contemporaneous palaces that connected the rooms via several main hallways.
The 6 acres (24,000 m2) of the palace included a theater, a main entrance on each of its four cardinal faces, and extensive storerooms (also called magazines). Within the storerooms were large clay containers (pithoi) that held oil, grains, dried fish, beans, and olives. Many of the items were processed at the palace, which had grain mills, oil presses, and wine presses. Beneath the pithoi were stone holes that were used to store more valuable objects, such as gold. The palace used advanced architectural techniques: for example, part of it was built up to five storeys high.
source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knossos
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