Late Minoan Cemetery

Anne-Marie Bokslag

Haarlem, Netherlands

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Entrance to a tombe on the Late Minoan Cemetery on Crete

The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization which arose on the island of Crete. The Minoan culture flourished from approximately 2700 to 1450 BC; afterwards, Mycenaean Greek culture became dominant on Crete.

The term “Minoan” was coined by the British archeologist Sir Arthur Evans after the mythic “king” Minos. Minos was associated in Greek myth with the labyrinth, which Evans identified as the site at Knossos. What the Minoans called themselves is unknown. It has sometimes been argued that the Egyptian place name “Keftiu” (kaftāw) and the Semitic “Kaftor” or “Caphtor” and “Kaptara” in the Mari archives apparently refer to the island of Crete. In the Odyssey which was composed centuries after the destruction of the Minoan civilization, Homer calls the natives of Crete Eteocretans (“true Cretans”); these may have been descendants of the Minoans.

The Late Minoan cemetery of Armeni is located 8 kilometres south of Rethymno on the road to Spili and Agia Galini. The site has been excavated since 1969 by Yiannis Tzedakis. Over 200 chamber tombs and one tholos tomb have so far been discovered. The chamber tombs are cut into what is quite a hard rock, which explains why they are so well preserved.

The chambers are approached by dromoi which start at ground level and descend to the entrance of the tomb using a ramp and in some cases steps as well. The walls of the dromoi have been cut in such a way that they are closer to each other at the top than they are at the bottom. The entrances were in most cases originally covered by a large stone, which is usually still to be seen next to the entrance. One or two of the larger tombs have a pillar in the centre of the chamber and in at least one tomb, the walls are lined with stone benches cut from the rock when the tomb was being dug.

A Minoan road leads through the cemetery and smaller and larger tombs are kept separate from each other. Among the finds in the tombs were pottery, bronze vessels, tools, jewellery, stone vases and seal stones. Clay larnakes (coffins) decorated with double axes, sacred horns of consecration and scenes of ritual hunting and of bulls were also found. One of the most important finds, however, was the 500 skeletons which gave a wealth of information about the physical appearance of these people, together with their state of health. It would seem that they ate a high-carbohydrate diet but consumed little meat. Although evidence of kilns, presumably used for making the larnakes, was found near the cemetery, there is no evidence in the area of occupation either in Late Minoan III or earlier so it remains a mystery where these people lived.

Canon EOS Digital Rebel
Canon Zoom lens EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 II USM
Exposure time 1/200s
Aperture value f/3.5
ISO 200
Focal lenght 18mm

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