Monday, 10 September 2012

Cruising to Crete

The second to last island stop on my cruise of the Greek Islands was Crete, the largest of the islands. There are 5000 inhabitants. The port of Heraklion was our first glimpse and we transferred to the archeological site of Knossos.

Knossos was the seat of the legendary King Minos and the main centre of power in Crete.

Knossos is famous for the ruins of the Minoan civilisation which was established there 4000 BC yes, that's 6000 years ago. I was awed by the engineering excellence, the clever architecture and the water management used. Real toilets. Such a tragedy that this technology was lost in antiquity and we all had to rediscover what had once been comonplace.

The first settlement in the Knossos area was established circa 7000 BC, during the Neolithic Period. The economic, social and political development of the settlement led to the construction of the majestic Palace of Knossos towards the end of the second millennium BC.

The first Palace at Knossos was destroyed circa 1700 BC. It was rebuilt and destroyed again by fire, this time definitively, in 1350 BC.

In March 1900 to 1931, Sir Arthur Evans excavated not only the Palace but the whole surrounding area of Knossos. The Palace complex was excavated in only five years, an extremely short time by today’s standards.

Evans restored the Palace with concrete, a technique condemned by modern archaeologists as arbitrary and damaging to the Minoan structure. Excavations continue and a conservation programme is under way to halt the deterioration of the Palace.

This programme has its detractors. In order to give tourists and students something to actually look at they have reconstructed little bits and pieces as they would have looked. Fake wood, concrete, painted columns are like a poor Hollywood film set. WARNING: what you see isn't 'real'. It's fake.

The frescos on the remaining excavations are copies. The originals are in museums. The edges of buildings are not the orignials. It's useful for educational purposes but it's less reqarding than other archeological sites.

JC found it all so tedious and fake that he took to taking photos of stupid things as his personal rebellion. He has a good collection of the following: a pair of jandals being worn, a section of modern spouting, a rubbish bin, a cigarette butt on the ground, an umbrella, a restaurant menu, my backside. I tried to stick with the programme but I too got bored and the effort to try to understand the French commentary of our guide made it all too hard.

In my opinion Ephesus in Turkey, as well as sites in Sicily leave it for dead, except for the fact it is so very ancient. That part is truly hard to grasp- that people thousands of years ago had such a high standard of living had such sophisticated technologies which were more eco than what we usually have now.

Next post focuses on Santorini- the jewel in the cruise, for me.


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