Thursday, February 2, 2017

Minoans by Rodney Castleden *****

Since Arthur Evans discovered Knossos on Crete, the Minoans civilization has been a source of wonder and mystery. The defining, or undefining, feature of the Minoan civilization is Linear A. Linear A is the unknown and undeciphered language used by the Minoans. Bronze age languages are often undeciphered, including examples from China and India. Bronze age writing from Egypt and Mesopotamia has been deciphered.

Since there is effectively no written record, archeologists have been free to interpret the evidence as they wish. This is a tradition by Arthur Evans himself with his creative reconstruction of Knossos Palace. Minoans by Rodney Castleden recasts the record interpreting the palaces as temples. Minoan Kingship recasts the record with kings in charge when others have seen a matriarchy.

In addition to his creative interpretations, Castleden provides the best catalog of evidence. The subtitle of Life in Bronze Age Crete is well deserved. If you were to read just a single book about the Minoans, this is the one.

That said, the reader looking for hard facts is often dismayed by the expansive conjectures.

After suggesting that a pair of holes in a bell-shaped object represents either eyes or nipples, conflicting evidence presented. "Several of the objects have four eyes or nipples, instead of the expected two." Rather than allowing that the original interpretation might be wrong, this explanation is offered, "there is probably some additional layer of meaning that has yet to be penetrated."

In Minoan frescos, women and men usually have different color skin - men red and women white. When a woman is found with red skin, the following complicated explanation is proffered.
"This suggests that there was a subordinate caste of priests who were transvestite, who became nominal priestesses...they were probably eunuchs."
Minoan trivia:

The Minoans' main cloth fiber was wool.

The word sandal might be of Minoan origin.

The Minoans had many kinds of jewelry: hairpins, earrings, armbands, bracelets, anklets, collars, and necklaces.

Their oxen were given simple descriptive names...Balck, Dapple, White Nozzle, or Red Rump.

The bull from the bull games might have been domestic.

Spices included: coriander, cumin, fennel, sesame, celery, mint, cress, and safflower. Also pistachio nuts were very popular. Olives and grapes were cultivated in large quantities. Grains were wheat and barley.

The word coriander might also be of Minoan origin.

Tin had to be imported to make bronze.

Seals might have been signature stamps, identity tags, or credit cards. They came in many shapes and were worn around the neck or wrist.

The Minoans had magnifying glasses.

Tuna were available in the spring and fall.

Ships were dragged to the beach when there was no harbor available. An average ship might have 15 rowers on each side.

Minoans had some amber which they probably got from England.

Potidas is the Minoan precursor of Poseidon.

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