The Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur
The ancient Athenians tell a story about a hero named Theseus. In this story, the city of Athens was required to send young men and maidens to the land of Minos, to the King of Crete. There, the unfortunate youngsters would be cast into the Labyrinth, an underground maze inhabited by a horrible monster, half man, half bull, named the Minotaur. According to the myth, Theseus killed the Minotaur and freed Athens from the cruel tribute of King Minos.
Much like the story of Troy, most people in the modern age considered this tale a complete fabrication. Yet one fello, an explorer and archaeologist named Sir Arthur Evans, was not so certain.
Sir Arthur Evans
In 1900, Sir Arthur Evans began digging on the island of Crete, in a place known as Knossos. In the course of his dig, Evand uncovered a huge complex of interlinking rooms, much like a maze, or a labyrinth. The palace was adorned all around with symbollic bull horns, known as Horns of Consecration. Digging deeper, Evans uncovered a throne room and wall painting of bulls and bull jumpers.
Evans' imagination began immediately leapt to the myth of Thesseus. Everything was there! The interlinking rooms must be the Labyrinth. The bull horns and painting must be where the Athenians got the idea of the Minotaur. The throne room must belong to a king! Evans concluded that this must be the palace of King Minos. He named the people he had disovered Minoans, after this mythical king.
As Evans continued to dig, he found other things, including axe heads and records written on clay tablets. Let us examine Evan's many discoveries.
The Palace System
Let's begin with the palace itself. Knossos is but one of about half a dozen such palaces on the island of Crete. The term 'palace' may be something of a misnomer. A palace implies a private residence for a lord or king. However, the king's quarters make up only a small portion of the whole complex at Knossos, which seems to have been dedicated almost entirely to storage. Analysis of pottery sherds has revealed that these Minoan palaces were, in fact, massive storehouses, where raw food was brought to be processed and stored. In this light, the palace at Knossos seems more like an overgrown silo than a residence for kings.
So, what were the Minoans collecting all this food for? There are two obvious answers: they might have been collecting the food and other goods to store in case of disaster or invasion. They also may have been collecting it for trade.
There is good evidence that the Minoans were first and foremost a trading people. Minoan culture really seems to have taken off in the early Bronze Age, around 2700 BC and quickly spread across the Mediterranean. Archaeologists have discovered Minoan wares all along the Mediterranean coast, from Egypt to Spain. Their most important trade goods seem to have been saffron…