Minoan civilization (mĬnō´ən), ancient Cretan culture representing a stage in the development of the Aegean civilization. It was named for the legendary King Minos of Crete by Sir Arthur Evans, the English archaeologist who conducted excavations there in the early 20th cent. Evans divided the culture into three periods that include the whole of the Bronze Age: Early Minoan (c.3000 BC–2200 BC), Middle Minoan (c.2200 BC–1500 BC), and Late Minoan (c.1500 BC–1000 BC). Early Minoan saw the slow rise of the culture from a Neolithic state with the importation of metals, the tentative use of bronze, and the appearance of a hieroglyphic writing. In the Middle Minoan period the great palaces appeared at Knossos and Phaistos; a pictographic script (known as Linear A; see Linear Scripts) was used; ceramics, ivory carving, and metalworking reached their peak; and Minoan maritime power extended across the Mediterranean. Toward the end of the period an earthquake, and possibly an invasion, destroyed Knossos, but the palace was rebuilt. During this period there is evidence of a new script (Linear B), at Knossos, an early form of the Greek language that argues the presence of Mycenaean Greeks. Other luxurious palaces existed at this time at Gournia, Cydonia (now Khaniá), and elsewhere. Knossos was again destroyed c.1500 BC, probably as a result of an earthquake and subsequent invasion from the Mycenaean mainland. The palace at Knossos was finally destroyed c.1400 BC, and the Late Minoan period faded out in poverty and obscurity. After the final destruction of Knossos, the cultural center of the Aegean passed to the Greek mainland (see Mycenaean civilization).
See Sir Arthur J. Evans, Palace of Minos (4 vol., 1921–25, repr. 1964); J. D. S. Pendlebury, Archaeology of Crete (1939, repr. 1963); S. Hood, The Minoans (1971); R. H. Simpson, Mycenaean Greece (1982); A. Harding, The Mycenaens and Europe (1984); Y. Hamilakis, ed., Labyrinth Revisited: Rethinking Minoan Archaeology (2002).