Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer

By Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy; Irene S. Lemos | Go to book overview
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30

KNOSSOS IN EARLY GREEK TIMES

J. N. Coldstream

The 'Early Iron Age' of Knossos - or, as I prefer to say, Early Greek Knossos can be defined with unusual clarity, thanks to the dead. This is the entire period of the collective chamber tombs of the North Cemetery, Fortetsa and elsewhere in the Knossos area, from the Sub-Minoan of the eleventh century down to the Orientalising of the seventh. About the lacuna in the Archaic period enough has been said, for the time being (Coldstream and Huxley 1999); but, in this gathering of Aegean prehistorians, it seems more fitting to concentrate on the earlier period and even go back into the twelfth century, in order to understand why Knossos was thereafter to assume a character quite different from the Mycenaean centres of the Greek mainland.

In contrast to the disruption and fragmentation of the mainland sites near the end of the Bronze Age, continuity at Knossos has received much notice: continuity in urban settlement, continuity in cult, and continuity in a preference for collective chamber tombs. In all three respects there were ripples on the surface, but the underlying continuity was not seriously disturbed.

Let us begin with a surprising discovery in the best-preserved habitation site, in the excavations behind the Stratigraphical Museum. There, after an apparent gap in Late Minoan IIIB, new occupation in IIIC includes traces of one - and possibly two - apsidal houses, altogether foreign to Minoan tradition, and suggesting some intrusion from the mainland among the local population. This idea is supported by some (though not all) of the pottery found there: deep bowls of mainland type, globular cooking pots; also babies buried under the floor, in contrast to the invariable Minoan custom of extramural interment. These apsidal houses are suggestive of foreigners coming from somewhere on the periphery of the Mycenaean mainland, rather than from its palatial centres (Warren 1983: 69–71, fig. 40).

Nevertheless, whatever disturbances there may have been near the end of the Bronze Age, they did not apparently cause a mass exodus of Knossians to the peak sanctuary of Juktas, like those to Karphi and other mountain refuges. On the site behind the Stratigraphical Museum, the Late Minoan IIIC structures were followed by no less than four Sub-Minoan building phases (Warren 1983:

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