Knossos, Crete Island
Knossos was undeniably the capital of Minoan Crete.Knossos was inhabited for several thousand years, beginning with a neolithic settlement sometime in the seventh millennium BC, and was abandoned after its destruction in 1375 BC which marked the end of Minoan civilization.damaged several times during earthquakes, invasions, and in 1450 BC by the colossal volcanic eruption of Thera, and the invasion of Mycenaeans who used it as their capital as they ruled the island of Crete until 1375 BC.Arthur Evans, is the British Archaeologist who excavated the site in 1900 AD.According to Greek mythology, the palace was designed by famed architect Dedalos with such complexity that no one placed in it could ever find its exit. King Minos who commissioned the palace then kept the architect prisoner to ensure that he would not reveal the palace plan to anyone.(then the story of Dedalos & his son Ikaros begins).Knossos is ruled by the dynasty of King Minos & is connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur.To reach Knossos from Heraklion,take a city bus,route to KNOSSOS from the bus station near the port,tickets can be bought in their too.
The Minoan Palace of Knossos is Crete’s premier tourist attraction and lies about 5 km south of the centre of Iraklion along the road to Archanes. A bus service (KNOSSOS) is available from Iraklion main bus station by the port. Official guides are available and it is a simple task to find one taking an English speaking party. An alternative is to wander at random; it’s not hard to find most of the highlights simply by watching where the guided tours are stopping for explanations. A note of caution, try to avoid going on a hot day, as the ruins are short on shelter.
See My Travel Page for more information.
This 3,000 year old palace with sophisitcated artwork and indoor plumbing is mind-blowing.
Read The Moon Maiden by S. V. Peddle. This exciting story brings the enigmatic, ancient world of Minoan Crete back to glorious life in a fast moving tale of love, ambition and betrayal.
The Moon Maiden gets behind the mythology of Knossos and gives flesh and bones back to a long vanished society whose values and thinking seem very different to our own.
Also known as Labyrinth or Knossos Palace,it is the largest Bronze Age Archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilisation and culture.The palace appears as a maze of workrooms,living spaces and storerooms close to a central square,detailed images of Cretan life are provided by images on the walls.Today it is a popular tourist destination situated south of the city of Heraklion and has been substanctially restored by Archaeologist Arthur Evans.The ruins were discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos,he conducted the first excavations of the west wing and a section of the west facade.The palace and city is believed to have supported a population of well over a 100,000 people at some time in history possibly between the 19th and 16th centuries B.C,the site was once destroyed by fire but has since been reconstructed.
The palace is open all year round and the entry fee is 6 euros per adult,children under 18 free.
Opens at 9.30am till 6pm
A visit to Crete would not be complete without a trip to this fantastic historical site.
Only just over a hundred years ago, names such as Knossos and King Minos were just things of myth and legend, but in 1894 Arthur Evans, a British archaeologist, made a discovery that but concrete truth to these stories.
Knossos was the site of the largest and most lavish palace on Crete. His excavations began in 1900 and revealed a huge complex of buildings (13,000 sqm) surrounded by a town large enough for about 12,000 inhabitants. The finds in the Palace and surrounding area point to an extremely wealthy civilization, and the labyrinth-like layout and sacred symbols on walls and pillars pointed directly to the legend of King Minos.
Knossos probably suffered the least amount of earthquake damage throughout its history compared to the other Minoan palaces on Crete, but nevertheless an earthquake in 1375 BC proved its undoing, and the destroyed town and palace was never rebuilt.
I am not one for guided tours, but there are many stories to be told and features to point out as you wonder through Knossos, so if, like me, you do not want to follow a large group around with a guide saying everything in three different languages, invest in a good guide book and do plenty of research into the palaces key features and history before you go. I will briefly point out a couple of the most interesting features now, and you can read a couple of stories about the palace and King Minos in my Culture section.
The first thing to point out is the most important room of any Palace, the Throne Room. The throne room contains stone benches along three of its four walls, with a space in the center of one wall to accommodate the stone throne. The throne was one of Evans' first finds, discovered on this very spot and is probably the oldest throne in Europe. Interestingly, the throne has been used as a model for the chair of the President of the International Court at the Hague. The Griffins painted on the wall on either side of the throne are copies painted during Evans' restoration of originals.
Next door, in the anteroom of the Throne Room, you can see another wooden throne.f This was built by Evans' on the spot where he found a large quantity of charred wood. The stone benches in this room are blackened from the fire which destroyed the palace. In the center or the anteroom is a large stone basin, believed by Evans' to have contained water for the purification of people about the enter the throne room. However, the fact that there is also one in the throne room itself has led some archaeologists to believe it may have contained fish, or simply been a reservoir for drinking water.
In Minoan civilization, the Bull was considered sacred, and 'Horns of Consecration', a term coined by Arthur Evans, were a common feature of many shrines and temples. One of Knossos most recognizable features is the large limestone reconstruction Horns of Consecration located on the East Propyleia. This symbol also appears on Minoan seals and coffins, often with flowers, axes or 'Bucrania' (The Greek word for Skull of an Ox).
Another of the most famous scenes from Knossos is the West Bastion of the North Entrance Passage. Today, it features three full Minoan columns and a cope of the relief fresco of the Bull in an Olive Grove. Minoan columns are very different from Greek columns. Whereas Greek columns are made of stone, and are narrower at the top than the bottom to give the illusion of height, Minoan columns are made from the trunks of the local Cyprus trees, and are narrower at the bottom than the top as the tree trunks were inverted to stop them from rooting and sprouting.
Entry to the site of Knossos was €6 each in 2008, quite reasonable really given its significance and size.
Most visitors to Crete will have heard of Arthur Evans - a gentleman-scientist from the Victorian/Edwardian era, who was influenced by Schliemann's discovieries at Troy, and wanted to bring and Homer and Greek myth alive himself.
What he unearthed at Knosso is frequently described as 'the oldest civilisation in Europe'. Things aren't so clear cut these days, but at the time, such an early society in this part of the mediterranean ( pre--Roman, pre-Hellenic Greek, pre-Mycenaean), hadn't been conceived of. Evans called this society 'Minoan' after King Minos.
A labyrinth of buildings were unearthed at Knossos. Not, perhaps, King Minos's haunted labyrinth of legend - the 'labys' is the symbol of the double-axe - but nonetheless an extraordinary place with vivid and beautiful frescoes, extraordinary pottery & carving, and an unknown script: Linear B.
The earliest findings went back to 3000 BC; most of the sites ( there were many subsequent excavations by others : at Phaestos, Zakros, Ayia Triadha) were in ruins by 1400 BC. The cause of the destruction may date back to the eruption of the volcano at Thira (Santorini) and subsequent social upheavel.
Evan's work at Knossos is controversial - he heavily 'restored' much of what he found. Nonetheless, the site of Knossos is a remarkable place to visit.; it is unlikely such a place will ever exist again -such restoration is no longer in favour (though Saddam Hussain heavily 'restored' Ninevah!).
My favourite Minoan palace, for its setting, is at Zakros - see my tip on that area. Whichever one(s) you visit, you must also visit the archaeological museum at Heraklion - it will add enormously to your understanding and appreciation of the archaeological sites. The museum's frescoes, sculpture, & the famous and enigmatic 'snake goddesses are quite extraordinary.
There are many other smaller museums at the other major cities- all well worth a visit. You won't find all the exhibits as well labelled as you might wish though - I have seen labels as vague as 'various finds'!
Built around 1900 BC, the original Palace of Knossos was destroyed by an earthquake in about 1700 BC but was soon rebuilt. In its time it was the capital of Minoan Crete and was the largest of the island's palaces with over 1000 rooms, elaborate drainage systems, flushing toilets, and paved roads.
Today what visitors see is a sprawling set of ruins, much of it restored by Sir Arthur Evans between 1900 and 1929. Keep in mind as you walk around that what you're seeing is Evans's interpretation of what the palace may have looked like, so it's hard to say how accurate the restored structures really are.
In addition to seeing Knossos, be sure to visit Heraklion's archeological museum, where artifacts from Knossos and other Minoan settlements are displayed.
The archaeological site of Knossos is sited 5 km southeast of the city of Iraklion.
There is evidence that this location was inhabited during the neolithic times (6000 B.C.) . On the ruins of the neolithic settlement was built the first Minoan palace (1900 B.C.) where the dynasty of Minos ruled.
The palace covered an area of 22,000sq.m, it was multi-storeyed and had an intricate plan. Due to this fact the Palace is connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur.
The "Prince With Lilies" fresco indicate the obvious quality level and the fine sense of exquisitos the Minoans possessed. The excavation of the whole complex of buildings in Knossos and Phaistos gave us the opportunity to marvel an architectural masterpiece with a perfect irrigation and water supply system...
I can imagine what ideas and phantasies the "Prince With Lilies" created in old times,... and still does in today time, *smile* ...
While on Crete don't forget to go to Knossos.
The trick is if you are going by car try to get there before the tour buses or after tour buses.
We came right when the buses started to leave and got the parking spot about one block from the entrance. The traffic on the road is really bad and you don't want to walk any further than that. It is hot, and you breathe fuel exhausts and asphalt. Yuck.
The restaurants across the street from the entrance are EXTREMALLY touristy, so....don't bother eating there....just order your overpriced coffee, orange juice.....or skip it at all. They do have a nice bathrooms thought.
Knossos itself is very tough to walk when hot, so getting there on the afternoon might be the trick.
One of my guidebooks wrote that to do this place justice you need at least a half of a day here! I had 45 minutes! - and saw pretty much everything!
I was at the famed archeology museum in Heraklion, after having queued at the tourist office for info on opening times - and not be told - and had had to wait for the later than expected 11 am opening time of the museum and having bought a combined ticket for the museum and Knossos, to be told that on Mondays Knossos closes at 3pm!
This seemed to be a standard thing in Greece - and in previous locations had had conversations with not too happy about it local business people - popular tourist venues with late opening times and early closing times - in mid summer when days are light until 9pm!
So it meant I had to see the archeology museum in a rush - which ironically I had to be thankful that half the exhibits were not on display as they were renovating the museum! but did get to see some of the famed exhibits that were actually from the Knossos site (and also from Mycenae which I got to visit the next day) - and then pick up my rental car and drive to Knossos. The road signs were not very clear and I ended up miles down the motorway having to turn back - to deal with more unclear directions - and then found I had parked so far down the road that I was wasting precious time when there had been closer parking - and then of all things found that I had left my camera behind!! (which of course I had run all the way back for!).
But with all that both times I appeared at the entrance I was offered to have the services of a guide or join a tour, even with only just under an hour til closing time.
But the signs are informative in both Greek and English and its quite easy to run around the circuit and see all the sights of the site - it did help though asking one of the staff to mark on my map which were the sights I should make sure I do see if I was running out of time.
Which was great in a way as at 3pm when I got back into the car I still had 6 hours of tourist daylight left!
Knossos is the most important archaeological site in Crete. It was the centre of the very well-developed Minoan civilization and was one of the oldest cities in Europe. From Knossos King Minos ruled his empire. Knossos is the origin of a large part of Greek mythology like the myth of the labyrinth with the Minotaur and the story of Daidalos and Icarus.
The place where Knossos 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 farming. Pottery was being produced and Men mainly used tools made from stone and bones. During the Bronze Age (2800-1100 to the beginning of our era) Metal started to be used for the first time and it was during this period that the Minoan culture developed.
At the beginning of the Minoan civilization, the ancient settlements on the site of Knossos were demolished. On top of them the palace was built. The palace was of great importance. It was the centre of all activities in the state and Knossos became the big capital of Crete. Around 1700bc however, the palace was destroyed (probably by an earthquake) and a new palace was built with a surface area of some 22 hectares.
It is this new palace that you see the remains of today. 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 Knossos 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 Knossos.
For many people a visit to Knossos 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 Knossos really is or was then you will find that a visit to Knossos 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 archaeology was still in its infancy. It was in that period simply not known how to tackle archaeological. The way Knossos has been restored, however, has contributed to the many millions of people who visit to the palace yearly.
€6 entry for Adults
You cant go to Crete and not see the Palace of Knossos! Its a must see! Knossos was home to the Minoan Civilization dating back to 3000 - 15000 B.C.! The archaelogical site was dicovered by Sir Arthur Evans, a British Archaelogist in the early 1900's.
Friendly Tip: Its worth getting a tour guide, although make sure to negociate the price of it! Dont take the first offer and dont show too much interest! :)
The Minoan archeological site at Knossos is a must. It is easy to find if you are driving. Keep in mind, it is not necessary to park in the first parking lot you pass. There are many and the first one is a longer walk from the site.
One of the great legends of Ancient Greece (or at least Minoan) - the slaying of the Minotaur (half man, half beast) by Theseus, who was helped by Ariadne to escape the labyrinth. Incredibly, the ruins have only been excavated just over 100 years ago. The excavator of Troy, Heinrich Schliemann suspected that there were excavations to be made in the area, but was constantly rebuffed by the Ottoman authorities to receive the necessary permission. It was left to British archaelogist Sir Arthur Evans to excavate the site from 1900 onwards.
Just 5kms south east of Heraklion in the low lying hills, the Minoan kingdom reached its peak 3000 years ago. The Palace of Knossos reflects this, although at the same time is it surprisingly 'low-key'. Whilst the building is a warren of rooms, corridors, alleys, there's few 'bigger picture' opportunities to comprehend the scale. And whilst the multistorey main buildings and their grandeur are fantstaic to wonder around, much of the excavation has revealed the buildings built into the landscape - not on top of it. Controversially, Evans not only excavated, he also rebuilt some of the buildings! Conjecture maybe, but beleived to be as accurate as anyone else's opinion - but needless to say, it is one of the great archaelogical controversies.
Transport to Knossos is very straightforward - the #2 bus from Heraklion leaves every 10 minutes (east bus station).