Free Essay On The End Of The Minoan Civilization
The end of the Minoan civilization is one of the greatest mysteries in history and various theories regarding its collapse have been presented. The Minoans lived in the island of Crete that is today part of Greece. Their civilization flourished between around 3000 and 1450 B.C. and was characterized by a number of palaces that served as political and economic centers (Hemingway and Hemingway, 2002). In around 1450 B.C. large parts of the island were destroyed, leading the Minoan civilization to decline, until they were absorbed by the Mycenaeans of central Greece (Hemingway and Hemingway, 2002).
What caused this destruction? The theories that have been proposed are divided into two main categories: those that were caused by natural causes and those that were caused by other humans (Fitton, 2002, 179). One of the most prominent theories of the first division connects the fall of the Minoans with the eruption of the volcano in the island of Thera. The eruption buried the town of Akrotiri and must have been more violent than anything the area had experienced ever before (Rutter, n.d.). Scholars, like Spyridon Marinatos in 1986, claimed that this led to the scattering of thick layers of ash that reached Crete, along with possibly tsunami tides that caused widespread destruction all over the island (Rutter, n.d.). This led to the destruction of all the main palaces with the exception of Knossos, the abandonment of wide areas and the decline of arts, crafts and culture in general (Fitton, 2002, 178).
The human cause for the Minoan decline has also had many supporters over the years. The people who are often seen as responsible for the collapse of the Minoans are the Mycenaeans who settled at Knossos during that period and left their mark on the archaeological record, with tablets written in their script, Linear B, and pottery (Hemingway and Hemingway, 2002). This theory supports that the Mycenaeans invaded Crete, perhaps after a natural disaster, and conquered its lands and inhabitants. This had as a result the destruction of all palaces and prominent areas, except for Knossos, which served as a Mycenaean stronghold (Fitton, 2002, 179).
Which of the two theories sounds most convincing? In my opinion, the second theory that involves a Mycenaean invasion is more probable. To begin with, it explains why Knossos did not get destroyed. Unlike the other palaces it was the only one to still stand for the next few centuries. It is highly possible therefore that the reason it was not destroyed was the fact the Mycenaeans decided to keep it as their base on the island, while leaving all other areas to disintegrate as part of their policy to rule without rivals (Fitton, 2002, 179). The presence of Linear B tablets that have been discovered by archaeologists leaves no doubt that the Mycenaeans were actually there and Knossos remained a prosperous place under them (Fitton, 2002, 179). If a natural disaster of the magnitude of the volcanic eruption at Thera was the only thing to blame for the end of the Minoans, then one would expect Knossos to be part of the destruction. After all, recent scholarship has placed the eruption significantly earlier, in around 1650 B.C. (Rutter, n.d.).
The fact that the Mycenaeans seem to have settled in Crete almost at the same time as the destruction is also a factor that points towards their contribution to it. In fact, there is evidence that the Mycenaean presence in Crete predated the destruction. There is archaeological evidence that it started in around 1500 B.C. (Hemingway and Hemingway, 2002). What followed very soon is what Fitton (2002, 179) calls the ‘Mycenaeanization’ of the island. This too can be seen as evidence that the Mycenaeans at least contributed to the end of Minoan Crete.
One cannot however, rule out any possibility or even a combination of factors that eventually led to the destruction of the Minoans. As already mentioned above a natural disaster and human intervention might both have occurred ending a civilization that still remains a great mystery for historians.
Fitton, J.L. (2002). Minoans. London: The British Museum Press
Hemingway, C. and S. Hemingway. (2002). Minoan Crete. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved from: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/mino/hd_mino.htm
Rutter, J.B. (n.d.). Akrotiri on Thera, the Santorini volcano and the middle and late Cycladic periods in the central Aegean islands. In Aegean Prehistoric Archaeology. Dartmouth College.
Retrieved from: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~prehistory/aegean/?page_id=2
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