LLR Books

Ancient Greek City Knossos Thrived into the Iron Age

Greg Watry

The ancient city of Knossos, on the Greek Island of Crete, is steeped in mythology. It was the place where King Minos enlisted architect Daedelus to build the labyrinth, a perplexing maze that housed the half-man/half-bull the Minotaur.
Despite the fantastical myths, Knossos was a real place. The capital of the Minoan civilization, the remains of the city lie around 5 km south of the city Heraklion.
Recent fieldwork into the ancient city has revealed that the city not only recovered following the socio-political collapse of the Aegean palaces at the end of the Bronze Age, but that it thrived into the early Iron Age. 
Prof. Antonis Kotsonas, of the Univ. of Cincinnati, will highlight the field research at the 117th annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America and Society for Classical Studies, which is scheduled from Jan. 7-10 in San Francisco.
While scholars have studied Knossos’ Bronze Age remains for centuries, only recently has focus been given to the city’s development in the Iron Age, which it entered around the 11th century BC. Through work with the Knossos Urban Landscape Project, which Kotsonas serves as a consultant on, researchers uncovered antiquities from fields, which covered the remains of dwellings and cemeteries.
“Distinguishing between domestic and burial contexts is essential for determining the size of the settlement and understanding the demographic, socio-political and economic development of the local community,” said Kotsonas. “Even at this early stage in detailed analysis, it appears that this was a nucleated, rather densely occupied settlement extending over the core of the Knossos valley, from at least the east slopes of the acropolis hill on the west to the Kairatos River, and from the Vlychia stream on the south until roughly midway between the Minoan palace and the Kephala hill.”
The identified imports include bronze and other metals, jewelry and adornments, and pottery.
The items recovered from the tombs, according to Kotsonas, provide a glimpse of the wealth of the community, as the dead were often buried with relics signifying status. The new discovery highlights the quality and quantity of imports coming from mainland Greece, Cyprus, the Near East, Egypt, Italy, Sardinia, and the western Mediterranean.
“No other site in the Aegean period has such a range of imports,” said Kotsonas.

The Knossos Urban Landscape Project is documenting and analyzing the development of the site form 7000 BC to the 20th century. 

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