Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Minoan Civilization: Proof of Advanced Nature

By Matthew Zuk

Palace of Knossos - Photo by Ken Zuk

The Minoan civilization is one of the most advanced ancient civilizations ever discovered. They are by far the most advanced discovered thus far in Europe (only La Bastida comes close). They were primarily located on the island of Crete. The technological advancements of their structures are at least a thousand years ahead of their time. It is believed that their civilization rose around 2200 BC, not long after the dispersion at Babel. They reached the pinnacle of their power from 1900 to roughly 1400 BC, when they disappeared extremely rapidly (reasons for their demise will be explained in a future blog post). During their time they were the powerhouse of the Mediterranean Sea, and among the most powerful civilizations of the ancient world.[1]

Most Significant Sites

Palace of Knossos

Palace of Knossos throne room - Photo taken by Ken Zuk 

In March of AD 1900, Sir Arthur Evans discovered the Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete. Evans was searching for the oldest civilization in Europe and the origin of various Greek myths.[2] The structure displayed an incredible level of sophistication and was named the Minoan civilization after King Minos. In Greek mythology King Minos was the king of an extremely advanced society. The Palace of Knossos was the first discovery of an advanced ancient civilization in Europe. It was built around 1900 BC[3] and yet its level of advancement was equal to or greater than that of the Romans 1400 years later.


Town of Akrotiri

Perhaps the most significant discovery outside of the Palace of Knossos was a Minoan town called Akrotiri discovered in AD 1966 on the island of Thera (also known as the island of Santorini). This ancient town is evidence that the civilization was not confined to Crete as typically thought, and contains technological achievements that are truly astounding. It was also the first Minoan town complex discovered (other Minoan sites were just palaces).[4]


Palace at Zominthos

Another discovery, first found in the summer of 1982 by Professor Yannis Sakellarakis, has provided even more information on the Minoan civilization. The ruins of a large palace were found in Zominthos, on mount Psiloritis (3894 feet above sea level). The palace ruins were untouched for over 1500 years and cover an area of 17,000 square feet, and had at least two or three floors. Many artifacts have been recovered from this site that have provided additional knowledge about the civilization.[5] These are the three most significant Minoan sites discovered thus far (though there are other sites that have been found on Crete), and provide valuable insight into the nature of their culture.

Advanced Architecture

The Minoan civilization’s architecture demonstrates that they were both advanced and highly sophisticated. The Palace in Knossos, Akrotiri, and Zominthos contain architectural feats that are near unparalleled for their time. These feats include plumbing, drainage, use of light reflection and air, seismic resistance, massive structures, and strategic location.



The Palace of Knosses had an extensive water supply and drainage system throughout the structure.[6] They used terracotta pipes to deliver water to the palace as well as a subterranean drainage system that ran beneath the palace to prevent flooding and to dispose of water.[7]


The town of Akrotiri had the capability to run fresh water into every building, and also had a sewage system throughout the entire town connecting to bathrooms within the buildings, even connecting to the second floors. The toilets of the town had an ingenious design; the waste would fall down a clay pipe to the subterranean sewage system below where water from the town’s drains flushed it into a cesspit. The pipes were designed in such a way that a siphon effect drew the smells down the pipes away from the lavatory. This type of system was at least a thousand years ahead of its time.[8]


The ruins at Zominthos include ceramic water conduits, which were most likely used as a central drainage system.[9]

Lighting and air control:

Central staircase at Knossos - Photo taken by Ken Zuk

Within the structure at Knossos the Minoans used their central staircase to provide light to the inner rooms of the palace, acting as a light well. They also used a system known as peer and door partitioning (rows of pillars holding wooden shutters which could be opened and closed) to control air flow within the inner rooms.[10]

Seismic resistance: 

Example of wooden support beams
 - Photo taken by Ken Zuk

The Minoans also used wooden beams in their walls, doorways, and windows to prevent earthquakes from destroying the building. These wooden beams would absorb the impact and provide support for the walls, thereby preventing any structural damage or collapse.[11]

Massive structures:

The last impressive architectural feat was the fact that they built huge structures for their time. The Palace at Knossos stood four stories high and had 1300 rooms; it is one of the most impressive buildings in the ancient world covering an area of roughly 479,160 feet![12] The ruins at Zominthos indicate it was two to three stories high, with over 45 rooms.[13] The town of Akrotiri also displayed advanced engineering and multi-story buildings; it was also well-organized making it the earliest organized town ever discovered.[14]


Ruins at Zominthos covered by snow

Another evidence of the Minoans advanced nature is the location of where the structure at Zominthos is built. Zominthos is the only Minoan building complex discovered at a high elevation. Through this structure the Minoans have shown their capability to adapt to higher altitude and colder climates and build impressive structures that can withstand the elements. The building was also built in a strategic location to control the surrounding area.[15] The Minoans were originally thought to be peaceful, however recent inquiries have shown that they were actually a warring people.[16]

The Minoans also had the first written language in Europe[17] and a sophisticated code of laws.[18] None of these things evidence that ancient man were dumb brutes, and they all show that ancient man was highly intelligent and civilized.

In summary, the Minoans put forth an impressive list of achievements:

  • Advanced sea-faring knowledge (they sailed to the islands where they were located and then maintained control of said islands, they were the powerhouse of the Mediterranean Sea)
  • Subterranean sewers
  • Water drainage systems
  • Water supply systems
  • Sophisticated waste disposal systems
  • Light control
  • Air flow control
  • Seismic resistant structures
  • Enormous structures
  • Adaptability to higher altitudes
  • Strategic building locations
  • The first written language in Europe
  • Sophisticated law codes

All of these features display a level of advancement that is near unmatched in the ancient world. The Minoan civilization is among the earliest in history and, until recent discoveries in La Bastida Spain, it was the oldest in Europe. This level of advancement is a prime example of ancient man being highly intelligent, and shows that technology was retained by certain civilizations after the dispersion at Babel.

Read more about the Minoans:

Demise of the Minoan civilization.
The Minoans: Rejection of the Creator

[1] History Channel, TV documentary. “Lost Worlds, Season 1, Episode 2: Atlantis.” July 17, 2006.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Sign at the Palace of Knossos site.
[4] (History Channel).
[5] “Excavation History – Interactive Dig Crete – Zominthos Project.” (accessed April 9, 2013).
[6] (History Channel).
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] (“Excavation History”).
[10] (History Channel).
[11] (History Channel).
[12] Powell, Judy. “Layers of mystery – Archaeologists look to the earth for Minoan fate.” (accessed April 9, 2013).
[13] (“Excavation History”).
[14] (History Channel).
[15] (“Zominthos”)
[16] “War was central to Europe’s first civilization – contrary to popular belief – News releases – News – The University of Sheffield.” (accessed April 9, 2013)
[17]“Destruction of the Minoan Civilization.” (accessed April 9, 2013).
[18] Lee, Krystek. “The UnMuseum – The Lost Continent of Atlantis.” (accessed April 9, 2013).

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