2019 Greek Odyssey – Day 19 Part 1

KNOSSOS – In search of The Minotaur

Wednesday – the lovely lady at my hotel has managed to arrange a tour for me to Knossos seeing that my originally planned one had been cancelled.  Still don’t know why, but anyway I bound out of bed with excitement and head for breakfast. I will now let you see what is on offer at this hotel – basically the same at every hotel but it is delicious.

There is always a large selection of pastries, hot and cold foods etc

I usually just stick with the regulars – bacon, cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, fruit and toast.  There is also juice and good strong coffee.

OK – I have eaten enough, it is time to get on the move.  I have to walk back up through the markets to the museum to meet the group at 9am – luckily it is not hot yet.  Waiting, waiting 9am comes and goes – it is nearly 9.45 and still a no show by any group.  All of a sudden I spy a woman at the museum across the road yelling and waving frantically at me.  Apparently the tour also includes a guided tour through the museum – been there done that – so we work out a plan to meet up at 1.30 and I have to keep an eye out for the Blue Bus #5 – Sparrow Tours.  Well, now I have to wander around for 4 hours – but that’s OK. Time to discover a bit of the town.

There is a great view as I walk around the local parks – Heraklion Harbour in the distance.

Across the road back towards the town there is a protest march is being organised – I don’t know what they are protesting but it is peaceful enough –

A couple of signs grab my eye – they are good for a chuckle.  What does ‘Fatto o mano’ mean?  Surely not ‘fat man’ and what on earth is a juicy spoon?

After a nice long wander – I find a nice seat in the shade and wait for my Sparrow Bus.

Here comes the protest march – still nice and peaceful – so that is good.

My Sparrow Bus #5 is here – will be good to get on board and into the air conditioning.  Once everyone arrives it is nearly full so off we go – it is only about a 20 minute drive so not far at all.

We arrive and park the bus – souvenir shops line the other side of the street – the surrounds are very bare and hilly so it will be great to see what is inside the complex. My first impressions as we enter the complex and walk up to the main entrance area are Knossos – a complex in ruins set among rocky hills and desolate landscape.

Time for a little education – Homer is the author – The Odyssey is the reference, There is a land called Crete in the midst of the wine dark sea, a fair land and rich, begirt with water; and therein are many men innumerable and ninety cities.  And all have not the same speech, but there is confusion of tongues, there swell Archaens and there too Cretans of Crete, high of heart and Cydonians there and Dorians of waving plumes and goodly Pelasgians.  And among these cities is the mighty city Cronus (Knossos), wherein Minos ruled, he who held converse with great Zeus and was the father of my father. 

The ancient city of Knossos was the centre of one of the great civilizations of the prehistoric Aegean world. According to legend, the palace at Knossos was the home of King Minos and his daughter, Ariadne. When the British archaeologist Arthur Evans was seeking an identifying label for his discoveries, he chose ‘Minoan’ as the name to describe the people who lived at Knossos.

We enter through the West Court and our first stop is the Kouloures – three large pits with stone lined walls built in 1900-1700BC, their function is not clear.

Maybe used as rubbish dumps for refuse from the palace or just left overs from sacred offerings.  Maybe they were used for storing grain?

In two of them it is possible to see the remains of houses from 3200-1900 BC.  In the New Palace period (1700-1450 BC) they were covered over and went out of use.

The West Court  and West Facade is crossed by the so-called ‘Processional Causeways’, which stand out from the rest of the paving and intersect each other.  One idea is that processions paraded along them during ceremonies.

The West facade of the Palace rises up along one side.  It is constructed of massive gypsum blocks set on a plinth.  In front of the West terrace are two bases – thought to belong to stone built altars.  Settlement remains of the Neolithic and Pre Palatial periods have been found beneath the level of the West Court.

The West House is hard to imagine the grandeur that place once had.

A little bit of colour attracts the eye –

The South House otherwise known as the High Priest’s House has a stone altar with two columns. Around the altar is a ring of stands for weapons, and a base of double axes.

The House of the High Priest lies 300m to the south of Caravanserai. The House of the High Priest is connected to the Temple Tomb.

Even though we do not venture down there on this tour it is interesting –

‘On our Processional Walk’ there are lots of painted columns standing silent sentinel over ruined buildings – but unfortunately no information.

The Processional Corridor was named after the fresco decorating its east wall, depicting a procession of gift-bearers and musicians.  Evans reconstructed the Procession Fresco – and also painted some columns etc. The Minoans painted with plant dyes on the damp plaster which ensured that the dye soaked into the plaster, producing permanent, indelible colours.

The South Propylaeum as we see it today is the result of the restoration work done by Evans including the  ‘Cup Bearer’ fresco.  The wall painting depicts a man holding a libation vase and this is connected with the ‘Procession’ fresco which according to Evans reached here.

The ground-floor walls were thicker and the rooms smaller, with pillars supporting the superstructure. According to Evans, the palace was three to five storeys high. On the upper floors, the pillars were replaced by columns.

-Some places of interest do not have any information boards – bummer.

The Horns of Consecration – is an expression coined by Evans to describe the symbol that represents the horns of the sacred bull – horns of stone or clay were placed on the roofs of buildings.  These much-photographed porous limestone horns on the East Propylaea are restorations.  Evans concluded, after noting numerous examples in Minoan and Mycenaean contexts, that the Horns of Consecration were “a more or less conventionalised article of ritual furniture derived from the actual horns of the sacrificial oxen”

On the left as we come up the staircase are the West Magazines.  Looking down is the start of the corridor that joins eighteen long and narrow store-rooms.

In each storeroom can be seen two rows of large pithoi, used for storing dry materials such as grain. The capacity of the storerooms was about 80,000 litres and it is believed that they held about 400 pithoi, of which 150 remain today. The contents are unknown.  Maybe they held oil, wine, pulses etc.  On the walls of the West Magazines were carved the so-called “mason’s marks”. These are symbols including stars, crosses and the famous Minoan double axe. The blackened walls are evidence of the great fire that destroyed the last palace in 1350 BC.

It is now developing into a searing hot day with lots of water and searching of shade.  Time to take a break – I really was trying to get this into one post but I am failing miserably.  Grab yourself a cool drink – have a rest and then we will take up our own procession through Knossos.

 

 

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