Time Periods In Minoan Civilization Cultural Studies Essay

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The development of the Minoan civilization can be split into three periods: Early Minoan, Middle Minoan, and Late Minoan, with each period corresponding to the three major periods of the Mycenaean Civilization: Early Helladic, Middle Helladic, and Late Helladic. Early Minoan and Early Helladic cultures were periods of development for both civilizations as they moved on from tools made out of stone to ones made out of metals such as bronze, silver, and gold. The Middle Minoan period or Old Palace period is mostly characterized by new developments in writing such as the Linear A and Linear B hieroglyphic scripts as well as the beginning of the constructions of palaces. However, not much else is known about this period due to the destruction caused by natural disasters. Not much is known about the Middle Helladic period as well, except for Northern invasions which caused a slight change in the cultural and artistic style of the Mycenaeans. The influence of the Minoans begins to appear slightly in this period as well. Lastly, the Late Minoan Period or the second half of the New Palace Period and Post-Palace Period shows the Minoan culture at its best. With the development of a unique religion as well as new and more elaborate palaces, the Minoans flourished as one of the top civilizations of its time. Correspondingly, the Late Helladic period was a prosperous time for Mycenaeans as the Minoan civilization reached its peak. There is evidence of the Minoan culture having a large impact on the Mycenaeans at this time as they started to share the same artistic styles through trade. There were also palaces similar to the ones that the Minoan's are known for during the New Palace Period. The New Palace Period came to a close due to a volcanic explosion destroyed most of the new developments in architecture as well as the invasion of the Mycenaeans. This invasion then led to a "Mycenaeanization" of the Minoan culture and art which furthers the similar qualities of the two civilizations. The later part of the Post Helladic Period matches up with the Post-Palace Period of the Minoans, which was a period of more development in arts and architecture as well as the dispersion of Mycenaean culture. The last stage of the Mycenaean civilization comes to destruction due to either natural catastrophes or invasions, similar to the end of the Minoans. (Biers 1996)

Art and Architecture

Mycenaean art and architecture was heavily influenced by the Minoans during its early stages of development in its style and motifs. Minoan art is characterized mostly by "vivid representations of nature and of religious and court life in many media" (Biers 1996: 29). Biers also states that although Mycenaean art cannot be considered Minoan art, the two act as "a unit, particularly where religious scenes are concerned" (Biers 1996: 66). An example of this lies in the frescoes of both civilizations. There are two categories of frescoes: one that represents nature and one that represents the religious and courtly aspect of the Minoans. Another common theme is images of bull-vaulting, which incorporates both categories of frescoes. The Minoan frescoes usually have "a common style of curvy lines (linear) and some kind of action taking place, creating a sense of depth." (Schhneider 2007: 119-133). An example is the Ayia Triadha sarcophagus fresco (see Figure 1) representing procession; a formal ceremony, and Figure 2, which shows bull-vaulting. Similarly, numerous Mycenaean frescoes illustrate bull-vaulting scenes and procession frescos (see Figure 3) with the same idea of bright colors and curvilinear forms.

Another fundamental similarity lies in the architectural foundations and designs of the palaces which depended on the post-and-lintel system. Minoan architecture always included a "rectangular paved court" that was the "central point of focus" (Biers 1996: 29) which was used for processions and religious purposes. The walls were made out of mostly stone blocks and mud bricks with brightly colored paintings as the frescoes mentioned above. There were several components to a palace with "sectors for storage, workshops (olive oil production, stone carving, pottery making, furniture inlaying), archives, shrines / ritual areas, administrative / court rooms, and luxurious residential areas" (Owen 2000). Each division of the palace had specific designs and characteristics such as

"rambling flat-roofed complexes containing a number of rooms often entered off center, light wells to provide light and air to lower stories, pier and door partitions […], lustral or bathroom areas, hydraulic engineering, porticoes, corridors, and staircases and such construction materials as wood, dressed masonry, mud brick, rubble, and plaster" (Biers 1996: 31).

Most of these characteristics are analogous to the characteristics of Mycenaean palaces due to the strong influence of the Minoans. With the basic idea of a Minoan palace, the Mycenaeans incorporated their culture and lifestyle, which consisted more of war, into their designs. However, after the invasion of the Mycenaeans, Minoan artwork started to show hints of war and military themes. In terms of the structure of the palaces, similar to the central court in a Minoan Palace, the Mycenaean palace had a megaron, which is also known as a central hall. They also utilized large blocks of stones for the walls with painted frescoes similar to that of the Minoans, except with scenes that depicted war (Owen, 2000). In comparing the ground plan of Knossos (see Figure 4) and the ground plan of Pylos (see Figure 5), the similarities in the basic foundation and structure of the palaces are evident. The only difference is that the ground plan of Pylos is less complex. They both have the central court or megaron in as the central point of the palace and have the general shape of squares and rectangular buildings. Another illustration is the throne room of each palace. Figure 6 shows the throne room of Knossos and Figure 7 shows the throne room of Pylos. Both consist of cylindrical pillars consisting of mostly red and black colors, ceilings with patterned designs, and walls with frescoes of nature and animals.


Minoan and Mycenaean pottery underwent several changes in phases throughout the Greek Bronze Age with one influencing the other, therefore creating similar styles and themes of pottery. Minoan pottery in its early stages was characterized by "bright polychrome designs" which shifted "to a more sober black-and-white style with only occasional touches of red and yellow" (Biers 1996: 53-54). There were several major styles in the Late Minoan Periods including the Floral Style, Pattern style, Marine style, and Palace style. A lot of these styles are very stiff and straight with an overall tendency towards symmetry. Similar to the frescoes in Minoan palaces, Minoan pottery reflected the same motifs of nature, religion, and court life. Mycenaean pottery shares the same motifs and stylization as that of the Minoans in that it contains dull colors and represents patterns or marine creatures (Biers 1996: 54, 85). One specific case is the Marine style pottery of an octopus stirrup jar from both civilizations shown in Figures 8 and 9 which demonstrate the similarities in the shape and design of the two.

Religion and Language

Although the religions of both civilizations are not known with total accuracy, both share similar emphasis on certain ideas as shown through their artwork. The Minoans valued the idea of fertility and rebirth, which is why so many of their frescoes and figurines depict females or goddesses (Biers 1996: 26). According to Biers, the two religions are so similar that it is difficult to distinguish some religious art as the Mycenaeans also cherished fertility and believed in different deities, shown through Linear B tablets. Another striking resemblance is the writing system as both civilizations utilized Linear B writing. This time, the Mycenaeans influenced the Minoans as these tablets first originated from mainland Greece (Biers 1996: 28, 64). Both carved out various types of records onto soft clay, which has been helpful in uncovering the past of these two civilizations and their relationship to each other.

Minoan culture and art has directly influenced the Mycenaeans in a way that established two civilizations with similar beliefs and practices in various aspects. The geographical closeness, as well as the constant interaction between the two civilizations had a hand in establishing a general trend in the artistic styles and artifacts that are found today. Through these various associations involving common motifs and similar stylistic developments, the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations became more and more interconnected in the passage of the Greek Bronze period.

Figure 1: Procession, Ayia Triadha sarcophagus Figure 2: Bull-vaulting fresco at Knossos

(http://www.historywiz.com/sarcofagus.htm) (http://senalley.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/the- ancient-history-of-gymnastics/)

Figure 3: Procession fresco, Pylos


Figure 4: Ground Plan of Knossos


Figure 5: Ground plan of Pylos


Figure 6: Throne room of Knossos


Figure 7: Throne room of Pylos


Figure 8: Marine Style Stirrup jar from Kato Zakro


Figure 9: Typical Late Helladic IIC octopus stirrup jar