Greek Minoan Period

The oldest evidence of inhabitants on Crete are pre-pottery Neolithic farming community remains that date back to approx. 7000 BCE. A comparative study of DNA haplogroups of modern Cretan men showed that a male founder group, from Anatolia or the Levant, is shared with the Greeks. The Neolithic population dwelt in open villages. Fishermen’s huts were built on the shores, while the fertile plain of Messara was used for agriculture.

The Bronze Age began around 2700 BCE in Crete. In the late 3rd millennium BCE, several localities on the island developed into centres of commerce and handwork. This enabled the upper classes to continuously practice leadership activities and to expand their influence. It is likely that the original hierarchies of the local elites were replaced by monarchist power structures – a precondition for the creation of the great palaces. From the Early Bronze Age (3500 BCE to 2600 BCE), the Minoan civilization on Crete showed the promise of greatness.

At the end of the Middle Minoan II (MMII) period (1700 BCE), there was a large disturbance in Crete, probably an earthquake, or possibly an invasion from Anatolia. The palaces at KnossosPhaistosMalia, and Kato Zakros were destroyed. However, with the start of the Neopalatial period, the population increased again, the palaces were rebuilt on a larger scale, and new settlements were built all over the island. This period (17th and 16th centuries BCE, MMIII/Neopalatial period) represents the apex of the Minoan civilization. There was another natural catastrophe around 1600 BCE, possibly an eruption of the Santorini (Thera) volcano. The Minoans rebuilt the palaces, making them even greater than before.

The influence of the Minoan civilization outside Crete has been seen in the evidence of valuable Minoan handicraft items on the Greek mainland. It is likely that the ruling house of Mycenae was connected to the Minoan trade network. After around 1700 BCE, the material culture on the Greek mainland achieved a new level due to Minoan influence. Connections between Egypt and Crete are prominent. Minoan ceramics are found in Egyptian cities and the Minoans imported several items from Egypt, especially papyrus, as well as architectural and artistic ideas. The Egyptian hieroglyphs served as a model for the Minoan pictographic writing, from which the famous Linear A and Linear B writing systems later developed. The German historian Hermann Bengtson has also demonstrated Minoan influence among Canaanite artefacts.

Around 1450 BCE, Minoan culture experienced a turning point due to a natural catastrophe, possibly an earthquake. Another eruption of the Thera volcano has been linked to this downfall, but its dating and implications remain controversial. Several important palaces in locations, such as MalliaTylissosPhaistosHagia Triade as well as the living quarters of Knossos, were destroyed. The palace in Knossos seems to have remained largely intact. As a result, the Dynasty in Knossos was able to spread its influence over large parts of Crete, until it was overrun by Mycenaean Greeks.

The Minoan palace sites were occupied by the Mycenaeans around 1420 BCE (1375 BCE according to other sources), who adapted the Linear A Minoan script to the needs of their own Mycenaean language. It was a form of Greek, which was written in Linear B. The first such archive anywhere is in the “Room of the Chariot Tablets” of the Late Minoan II (LMII) era. The Mycenaeans generally tended to adapt, rather than destroy, Minoan culture, religion and art. They continued to operate the economic system and bureaucracy of the Minoans.

During LMIIIA:1Amenhotep III at Kom el-Hatan took note of k-f-t-w (Kaftor) as one of the “Secret Lands of the North of Asia”. Also mentioned are Cretan cities, such as Ἀμνισός (Amnisos), Φαιστός (Phaistos), Κυδωνία (Kydonia) and Kνωσσός (Knossos), as well as some toponyms reconstructed as belonging to the Cyclades or the Greek mainland. If the values of these Egyptian names are accurate, then this Pharaoh did not privilege LMIII Knossos above the other states in the region.

After about a century of partial recovery, most Cretan cities and palaces went into decline in the 13th century BCE (LHIIIB/LMIIIB). The last Linear A archives date back to LMIIIA (contemporary with Late Helladic IIIA-LHIIIA).

Knossos remained an administrative centre until 1200 BCE. The last of the Minoan sites was the defensive mountain site of Karfi, a refuge site which displays vestiges of Minoan civilization almost into the Iron Age.

Minoan chronology

3650–3000 BCE





2900–2300 BCE


2300–2160 BCE


2160–1900 BCE


1900–1800 BCE


(Old Palace Period)

1800–1700 BCE


1700–1640 BCE




(New Palace Period)

1640–1600 BCE


1600–1480 BCE


1480–1425 BCE


1425–1390 BCE





(At Knossos, Final Palace Period)

1390–1370 BCE


1370–1340 BCE


1340–1190 BCE


1190–1170 BCE


1100 BCE