Knosos(updated August 4, 2007)
Knosos is the most important archaeological site in Crete. It was the center of the very well-developed Minoan civilization and was one of the oldest cities in Europe. From Knosos King Minos ruled his empire. Knosos is the origin of a large part of Greek mythology. The myth about the labyrinth with the Minotaur and the story of Daidalos and Icarus came from Knosos. At Knosos, reality and mythology come together.
The place where Knosos has been built was inhabited from the beginning of the Neolithic period (5700-2800 to the beginning of our era). At that time it was mainly engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. Also pottery was produced. Men mainly used tools made of stone and bones. During the Bronze Age (2800-1100 to the beginning of our era) metals were used for the first time. During the same period the Minoan culture developed.
At the beginning of the Minoan civilization, the ancient settlements on the site of Knosos were demolished. On top of them the palace was built. The palace was of great importance. It was the center of all activities in the state. Knosos became the big capital of Crete. Around 1700 to the beginning of our era, however, the palace was destroyed (probably by an earthquake). A new palace was built with a surface area of 22 hectares. You currently can visit the remains of is the palace. The palace was decorated according to the criteria of the modern society of that time. There were special rooms for the king, homes for citizens, cemeteries, sacrificial altars and storage. During the height of the Minoan civilization a large number of people lived in the city close to the palace. According to the most realistic estimates about 20,000 people lived in the town which was built on a area of about 750 hectares. The nation was led by King Minos. Whether this is indeed the name of a king or only the name of a position, is unknown.
The palace was again destroyed by a major volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini 1628 years before the beginning of our era. The 100-meter-high tsunami waves, which were caused by the earthquake, destroyed the city. It was the beginning of the end to the Minoan civilization.
The Minoans lived in a nation with a very high civilization. Very beautiful frescoes were made and the many tools they made were very nicely decorated. Moreover, it were very peaceful people. Weapons and protection against enemies were not created. Today, things from the Minoan civilization can still be found, for example, our justice find it's origins in Minoan civilization.
In 1878 the first archaeological research was done at the place where the palace stood. This study was carried out in amateurish way by Minos Kalokairinos, a merchant from Heraklion. Until the remnants of the palace were found people thought it would only exist is myths. Kalokairinos took a number of important properties which he donated to various museums in Europe. A number of other cases he took back home. During the revolution in 1898, these things were destroyed.
Several archaeologists tried to buy the land from the Turkish owners. They also wanted to do important excavations at the site. The Englishman Sir Arthur John Evans eventually succeeded to buy the site after Crete became an independent state in the year 1900. In record pace he groove out the largest part of the palace of Knosos at his own expense. He hired about 100 people to do this. When in 1902 the largest portion of the palace was above the ground he did additional research until 1931 (with a break from 1912 to 1922). Evans also restored a part of the palace. He did that at his discretion. There was not much scientific substantiation for his imaginative constructions. After Evans, a number of other reputable archaeologists made excavations and additional research into the palace of Knosos.
For many people a visit to Knosos does not meet the expectations. It is therefore advisable to you to read about what you are about to see in advance. When you have a little knowledge of what Knosos really is / was then you will find that a visit to Knosos certainly is interesting. It is often complained about how the palace has been restored. Sure, excavations will be carried out otherwise nowadays. In the days of Sir Arthur Evans, the archeology was still in its infancy. It was in that period simply not known how to tackle archaeological. The way Knosos has been restored, however, has contributed to the many millions of people who visit to the palace yearly.
How to get there
The palace of Knosos is within 5 kilometers south of Heraklion and is easy to reach by public transport. There is a bus driving from Heraklion to the palace. This bus runs on a high frequency. The termination point 'Knosos' is displayed on a matrix sign in front of the bus. You can also take a taxi from Heraklion. This is pretty cheap, especially if you travel together with more people (upto 4 per taxi). Of course there are also many organised excursions to Knosos, including Kaliemera Knosos. Here you will be picked up at your hotel and travel to Knosos. In the bus you get to hear a story about the history of the palace. At the site your group will have its own guide. There are also field trips where you visit the archeological museum in Heraklion prior to the visit to Knosos. With a rental car Knosos is accessible from the main road on the island (E75). In Heraklion you'll have to follow road number 99. After a few miles you come to Knosos. When you travel to Knosos on own opportunity, you can hire a guide to give you a tour on the remnants of the palace. In the summer months, it is very busy in Knosos. Only at the end of the afternoon it is reasonably quiet. It can be very hot in Knosos during the summer months. There is virtually no protection against the burning sun.