2019 Greek Odyssey – Day 19 Part 2

It is still stinking hot – but we must press on.

We pass through the West Wing (every good building has one) and into the Central Court which is clearly the main focus of activity in the palace – in fact, it is the hallmark of every Minoan palace.

All of the entrances lead to it and all of the important sets of rooms – the throne room, the principal shrine, the royal apartments open onto it.  Measuring approximately 25 x 50 metres it is a huge area but sorry to disappoint, it is thought that the famous bull jumping did not take place here.

On one of the sides is the Throne Room (ground level) – the door on the bottom far left is the entrance – far right is the exit.  It’s name comes from the stone seat found in the room behind the antechamber.  Right and left of the throne are stone benches that are preserved and between them were discovered traces of burnt wooden constructions.  It is only a small area – and difficult to get good photos with everyone pushing and shoving but I did OK.

What is it with people who are touchy feely?  These buildings etc are thousands of years old and people want to touch the doorways, columns etc.  It is all I can do not to say something that would create an international incident.

Above left is part of the stone floor – on the right are the Evans painted columns.  Below is the ‘throne’.  Pieces of the fresco depicting plants and griffins – mythical beasts with a lion’s body and bird’s head were found in the same room.  Evans put a copy of the fresco in it’s place

The stone basin was actually found in a neighbouring corridor and placed here.

To the left, a low partition wall with a column creates a small area like a cistern since it has a sunken floor.  Evans thought that areas with a similar form were used for purification ceremonies and therefore called them ‘Lustral Basins’.  Evans believed that the rooms were used for ceremonies with the main figure being the king in his religious capacity.

We now head for the East Wing Grand Staircase that is on the opposite side of the Central Court.  The East Wing cannot be seen from the Central Court as it is built into the side of the hill on top of which lies the rest of the Palace. It is one of the most interesting parts of the Palace because two storeys have been preserved below the level of the Central Court.

The storeys are connected with one another by means of a system of stairs known as ‘The Grand Staircase’.  It is considered a miracle of architecture.  Discovered during the excavation there is a total of four flights – two for each storey.  The two lower flights are preserved as they were found.

The steps are broad and deep with a gentle incline that makes for an easy ascent.  The Staircase is lit by a large light well and was surrounded by a colonnade of wooden columns. Evans thought that the residential quarters of the Royal Family lay in this part of the site.

The “Hall of the Double Axes” was so named by Evans due to the double axe signs engraved on the walls of the light-well at its rear.

He also thought that it was the place of residence of the King of Knossos.  The central area has openings on three sides and is therefore called a “polythyron” (system with multiple doorways). It has a slab floor and its walls were embellished with gypsum slabs and frescoes.

The area between the “polythyron” and the light-well was used as a reception hall. Traces of a wooden construction were found here. Evans reconstructed a wooden throne at this spot.

We now head for ‘The Queen’s Megaron’ that lies in the Royal Apartments next to the ‘Hall of the Double Axes’.  It is a smaller room with a similar layout and rich decoration so Evans thought that it must have belonged to the Queen. The room is largely restored and at the end of the room, a low partition wall with one column created a small space. It was thought that it was the “Queen’s Bathroom” since pieces of a clay ‘bath’ were found there.

Also found were pieces of the famous Dolphin fresco combining dolphins, fish and sea urchins which is one of Knossos’ most distinctive frescoes.

This fresco is a fabulous example of early Minoan painting, very interesting for its precise representation of the natural world without any human presence.  Located in the so-called ‘Bath Hall’ – where such aquatic motifs were very suitable – the “Fresco of the Dolphins” is an authentic masterpiece known for its undeniable decorative value and for its remarkable effect of movement.

It was restored by the artist Piet de Jong between 1922 and 1930. A replica of the fresco is displayed over the door on the north side of the room. The original reconstructed fresco is on display at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete.

We now head to another easily recognizable site – the North Pillar Hall. Who among you do not recognize this site?

An open air narrow passage linked the Central Court with the North Entrance. It was paved and had a strong inclination towards the north. Right and left were two raised colonnades known as ‘Bastions’.  Evans reconstructed the ‘Bastion’ on the west side. He also placed a copy of a restored relief fresco of a bull here. The wall painting may have formed part of hunting scene.
The passage ends in a large hall with ten square pillars and two columns. The pillars and columns probably supported a large hall on the upper floor. Evans suggested that, due to its position on the seaward side, it was here that the produce of seaborne trade would have been checked when it reached the Palace. It was therefore named the ‘Customs House’.

Our journey is nearly complete as we head for the Theatre and the Royal Road.

This area, situated at the north-west edge of the palace, was called the ‘Theatre’ by Evans because its shape reminded him of later theatres.

It is a platform and rows of steps that form a right angle. At the base of the stairs is the end of a narrow elevated road that crosses a paved court. Evans believed that the court was used for ceremonies watched by the standing viewers.

This paved road linked the Palace to the Little Palace where during excavations Evans discovered the famous Bull’s Head libation vase.  Evans named the road the ‘Royal Road.

This is our last stop before heading back to the bus.  It has been an interesting journey but not enough time to discover more – I suppose that is what you get when you join a large group of fakers.  Yes folks, I was one of those people who trundled behind a guide with a red umbrella stuck up in the air.

If I am lucky to come here again it will be with a private tour for sure.  When we get back to the entrance there is a refreshment shop so of course wanting to be refreshed I buy an icy cold lemon and ginger drink – delicious.  Across the road there are souvenir shops so a small purchase is made of a metal Snake Goddess statue.

We all get back on the bus and then the plans change – because there are many people who are being dropped off at their hotel or close by I am moved to a smaller bus – suits me fine.

Back in Heraklion I am dropped off at the harbour near my hotel but it is only a short walk.

Something to eat, a lovely long shower and then it’s time to pack my bags once again – tomorrow I am off to the fabled island of Santorini – – home of those much publicized sunsets.



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