Palace of Knossos
A short bus ride from Heraklion Italy lies Knossos, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. This 20th-century reconstruction of the 1,000+-room palace site is largely the interpretation of archeologist, Sir Arthur Evans. Although it may or not be totally historically accurate, it certainly provides a feeling for, in addition to the artifacts of life in this amazing, 3,500-4,000 year-old palace complex. Initially built about 2000 B.C, the first palace was destroyed by an earthquake and almost immediately replaced by a second, larger one in about 1750 B.C. Combining a tour of the reconstructed site with a visit to the Heraklion museum provides a vivid view of the amazing Minoan civilization in the age of King Minos and his successors.
The visit begins in the ceremonial West Court entryway which pays homage to the work and vision of Dr. Evans with his bust. More historically, the area just inside, which is thought to have been the complex’s granary, used to contain the pithi, or large storage jars, most of which are now displayed in the museum. The corridor leading from the granary (aka, the West Magazine) and the South Propylon still contain remnants of the frescos that once graced the walls-those of processions of visitors bringing gifts for and paying homage to the gods.
The Piano Nobile, which is thought to have been the palace’s reception halls and Thone Room (named for a stone throne now represented by a wooden replica) is thought to not be an actual throne room, but instead a room in which guests took ritual baths and possibly the site of religious ceremonies.
It, and the surrounding rooms, which were probably the palace’s primary religious facilities, led to a large (about 25×50 meters) central courtyard surrounded by buildings that likely consisted of three-to-five stories apiece.
The largest and most important of these buildings were probably the Royal Apartments, which were accessed by the Grand Staircase, which provided access to the Hall of the Royal Guard, the King’s Megaron (the largest room in the complex) and the Queen’s Megaron (which still contains her clay bathtub). Although all are decorated with frescoes, the King’s Megaron is also graced with incised carvings of the double axe symbols that, as shown and explained in the museum, were thought to have both religious and royal significance.
The buildings on the East and North ends of the Central Court are thought to have contained a customs house, additional ceremonial bathing and purification facilities and a fresco-lined pillar hall that consisted of 2 columns and 10 square columns that supported the upper floors. Beyond these buildings, a road that was lined with houses leads to another, smaller palace that has not yet been excavated.
The complex also contained paved roads, several housing units and storage facilities and a few workshops (including one for pottery). There are also remnants of a sophisticated plumbing system that prevented flooding, recycled rain water, maintained water pressure and even had flush toilets.
Although many details about the complex, how it was used and what occurred inside remain objects of conjecture, some things are certain. Indeed, much of the reconstruction that has occurred is subject to criticism for unjustified assumptions regarding uses of particular buildings and rooms.
Still, this has not prevented models from being built. The most impressive we have seen is the detailed wooden model displayed in the Archeological Museum.