Later, Minoans used two other scripts, each somewhat different. Most writing appeared on seals or disks.

An Economy Based on Trade

Abundant resources and trade helped Minoans build a prosperous economy. Unlike the early civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotomia, the success of the Minoans was based on trade, not conquest.

Minoan traders set up outposts across the Aegean and beyond. From Crete, they exported timber, food, wine, wool, and many other goods. From Egypt and the Middle East, they brought back cargoes of precious stones, copper, ivory, gold, and silver as well as tin. The nearest tin mines were located in Spain, Britain or Persia, suggesting that Minoan traders acquired goods that had traveled great distances.

The Palace at Knossos

Minoan civilization reached its height, or greatest success, between about 1700 B.C. and 1400 B.C. During this time, Minoan kings built a vast palace at Knossos (NAHS us).

The palace housed rooms for the royal family, banquet halls, and working areas for artisans. It also included religious shrines, areas dedicated to the honor of gods and goddesses. There, ceremonies and rituals were held to please the gods.

Like other early people, the Minoans were polytheistic, worshiping gods who were thought to control the forces of nature. Archaeological evidence shows the importance of a snake goddess. Figures show this goddess holding a snake in either hand. Much later, the Greeks associated the snake with the god of healing. Along with other ancient civilizations, the bull held a place of honor in Minoan religious beliefs.

Minoan Frescoes Show Palace Life

The walls of the palace at Knossos were covered with colorful frescoes, paintings in watercolor done on wet plaster. These frescoes provide evidence of Minoan life. Leaping dolphins suggest the importance of the sea. Some frescoes show young nobles, both men and women, strolling through gardens outside the palace. These images suggest that women appeared freely in public and may have enjoyed more rights than women in most other ancient civilizations.

A startling fresco depicts men and women in a dangerous athletic contest, jumping through the horns of a charging bull. Minoan sculptors also created works showing bull leapers. Scholars think that bull leaping was part of a religious activity

Minoan Civilization Disappears

Archaeologists have found that Minoan palaces were destroyed and rebuilt more than once. But some time around 1400 B.C., palaces were destroyed. Evidence shows fire and sudden destruction.

Scholars do not know why Minoan civilization fell. A volcanic eruption on a nearby island may have rained flaming death or clouds of ash on Knossos. Or perhaps an earthquake destroyed the palace, followed by an immense tidal wave that drowned many inhabitants. However, it is certain that invaders played a role in the destruction of Minoan civilization. These intruders were the Mycenaeans (my suh NEE unz), the first Greek-speaking people of whom we have a written record.

With the destruction of its palaces, Minoan civilization slowly disappeared, surviving only in legend for thousands of years. In the last century, its legacy was recovered as archaeologists revealed its influence on later Western civilization.

Mycenaean Civilization

During prehistoric times, groups of peoples speaking related Indo-European languages moved into Europe and Western Asia. Among them were the Myceneaens who moved into southeastern Europe and the Aryans who migrated into India.

Photo of an ancient settlement’s ruins with modern additions made for walking and standing around the site.

Archaeologists rebuilt these room walls and stairway at the Minoan palace of Knossos on Crete.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments