A 110-foot-long courtyard surrounded by a majestic Minoan building have been found at Sissi on Crete’s northern coast. It was built around 1700 BCE and with its fine plastered floors, the site is similar in size and opulence to other palaces on the island from the same period. But Sissi lacks many typical palace features. It has no storage rooms, no administrative materials, and no industrial areas. A variety of ritual objects have been found, suggesting that it was used for religious purposes more than governmental ones.
Nearby, a tomb of a woman dating to about 1400 BCE has also been found. The lady was buried with an ivory-handled bronze mirror, a necklace of gold beads, and bone and bronze pins which held her clothing. The tomb is typical Mycenaean, making it the first such grave found so far east on Crete. Her grave is contemporary with a Mycenaean-era complex constructed around 1400 BCE and abandoned around 1200 BCE.
THE word labyrinth comes from the Greeklabyrinthos and describes any maze-like structure with a single path through it which differentiates it from an actual maze which may have multiple paths intricately linked. Etymologically the word is linked to the Minoanlabrys or ‘double axe’, the symbol of the Minoan mother goddess of Crete, although the actual word is Lydian in origin and most likely came to Crete from Anatolia (Asia Minor) through trade.
Labyrinths and labyrinthine symbols have been dated to the Neolithic Age in regions as diverse as modern-day Turkey, Ireland, Greece, and India among others. In the Tantric texts of India, the labyrinth is often featured in the design of mandalas while in Britain and Ireland they are pre-figured in the ring-and-cup marks often found in stone work and the famous swirl designs found at sites such as Newgrange.
THE Minoan civilization flourished in the Middle Bronze Age on the island of Crete located in the eastern Mediterranean from c. 2000 BCE until c. 1500 BCE. With their unique art and architecture, and the spread of their ideas through contact with other cultures across the Aegean, the Minoans made a significant contribution to the development of Western European civilization as it is known today. Labyrinth-like palace complexes, vivid frescoes depicting scenes such as bull-leaping and processions, fine gold jewellery, elegant stone vases, and pottery with vibrant decorations of marine life are all particular features of Minoan Crete.
The archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans was first alerted to the possible presence of an ancient civilization on Crete by surviving carved seal stones worn as charms by native Cretans in the early 20th century CE. Excavating at Knossos from 1900 to 1905 CE, Evans discovered extensive ruins which confirmed the ancient accounts, both literary and mythological, of a sophisticated Cretan culture and possible site of the legendary labyrinth and palace of King Minos. It was Evans who coined the term Minoan in reference to this legendary Bronze Age king.
THE art of the Minoan civilization of Bronze Age Crete (2000-1500 BCE) displays a love of animal, sea, and plant life, which was used to decorate frescoes and pottery and also inspired forms in jewellery, stone vessels, and sculpture. Minoan artists delighted in flowing, naturalistic shapes and designs, and there is a vibrancy in Minoan art which was not present in the contemporary East. Aside from its aesthetic qualities, Minoan art also gives valuable insight into the religious, communal, and funeral practices of one of the earliest cultures of the ancient Mediterranean.
The Minoans, as a seafaring culture, were in contact with foreign peoples throughout the Aegean, as is evidenced by the Near East, Babylonian, and Egyptian influences in their early art but also in trade, notably the exchange of pottery and foodstuffs such as oil and wine in return for precious objects and materials such as copper from Cyprus and ivory from Egypt. Thus Minoan artists were constantly exposed to both new ideas and materials which they could use in their own unique art.