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The neopalatial period in minoan Crete

The neopalatial period 1750 B.C.E. and 1490 B.C.E.

The neopalatial period is not uniform: so the new palaces know a first destruction towards 1630/1620, which the recent studies connect with the explosion of Santorin. The characteristics of the new palaces are their propylea, colonnades, staircases connecting the numerous floors, light shaft, rooms in which one or several walls are replaced by a series of doors which we could open or close according to the time of the year.

Gypsum, extracted on the spot to Knossos or Phaistos was of use to the cover of walls. By 1450, palaces are of new destroyed, what marks the beginning of the decline of the minoan civilization. For a long time, the end of the minoan civilization was associated with the Santorini vulcano explosion, which would have bring series of devastating earthquakes, layers of volcanic ashes and a powerful tidal wave which swept all the north coast of Crete, annihilating the minoan fleet.

This theory was advanced in the 1930’s by Spyridon Marinatos who attributed the destruction of the villa of lilies to Amnisos in the explosion of the volcano. If this theory was taken back many a time, it began to be contradicted then almost abandoned to leave 1980s. The archaeologists consider that the explosion of the volcano took place towards the end of the XVIIth century and not by 1450. Furthermore, they admit that the destruction of palaces arises from 3 different disasters intervened in an interval from 70 to 100 years.

The first one, by 1620-1600, due to the explosion of Santorin, had a limited effect, palaces having immediately been repaired. The second by 1520-1500, limited too, had consequence the relinquishment of certain palaces and remains (Galatas, Amnisos, Vathypetros, Sitia).

In neopalatial period, numerous sites are abandoned

Third, more important, had more serious consequences, and numerous important sites were abandoned. All the palatial centers seem to have been destroyed and set on fire, except that of Knossos. In certain villages, as to Myrtos Pyrgou, only the more important houses of the local governors are destroyed while the rest of houses is intact. By ruling out the thesis of the volcanic eruption, other theories are put forward to try to explain the decline of the minoan civilization, as earthquakes, fires, Mycenaean conquest and actions warriors inside and outside of Crete.

For Detorakis, causes are to look within the society and for the Cretan economy. So, according to him, the manufacturing of farm produces and crafts reached its limits and did not satisfy any more the demand. At the same time, the conditions of management of the trade changed further to the appearance of new factors, as for example claiming of the same zones of trade as the inhabitants of continental Greece. On the other hand, a decrease of the stock of raw materials is not to exclude.

The situation which resulted from it had main characteristic the confusion and the destabilization which  led the relinquishment and the destruction of most of the sites. For Tulard, the destruction of the palaces of Phaistos, Aghia Triada and Tylissos could be the last episode of a fight against Knossos.

But in 1400, the capital fall for unidentified reasons during neopalatial period. The palace is plundered and set on fire. The hypothesis of the earthquake is again recurring. Evans saw the cause in a revolt of the minoan plebs against a militaristic trend monarchy. Wace as for him suggested the uprising of the Cretans against a Achean dinasty coming from the continent.

We quote the legend of Theseus as support of the theory of an achean invasion coming from the continent, the death of the Minotaur symbolizing the destruction of the minoan power  by its  ex-vassals. But the decoding of clay tablets of Knossos demonstrated that the Greek language in neopalatial period was already the official language to Knossos and that consequently the ruler, as the palace was destroyed, was achean. The opinion which prevails is that there were not palaces anymore to Knossos in the XIVth century. Even if researchers such as Blegen and Palmer think that the site continued to be occupied by achean kings and that it was destroyed only 200 years later.  The total collapse of Crete follows the fall of Cnossos. Gournia, Pseira, Zacro and Palaikastro succumbed in their turn; Gournia was reoccupied by an Achaean population. There was probably emigration of the former inhabitants to Asia, Cyprus or Palestine. The Egyptian documents stop talking about the Keftiou people. A Nordic race settles on the island.



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