Knossos, also known as the Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and as far as we know today the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square.
Detailed images of Cretan life in the late Bronze Age are provided by images on the walls of this palace.It is also a tourist destination today, as it is near the main city of Heraklion and has been substantially restored by archaeologist Arthur Evans.
The city of Knossos remained important through the Classical and Roman periods, but its population shifted to the new town of Chandax (modern Heraklion) during the 9th century AD. By the 13th century, it was called Makryteikhos ‘Long Wall’. Today, the name is used only for the archaeological site situated in the suburbs of Heraklion.
The palace also includes the Minoan Column, a structure notably different from other Greek columns. Unlike the stone columns characteristic of other Greek architecture, the Minoan column was constructed from the trunk of a cypress tree, common to the Mediterranean. While most Greek columns are smaller at the top and wider at the bottom to create the illusion of greater height (entasis), the Minoan columns are smaller at the bottom and wider at the top, a result of inverting the cypress trunk to prevent sprouting once in place. The columns at the Palace of Minos were painted red and mounted on stone bases with round, pillow-like capitals.
Frescoes decorated the walls. As the remains were only fragments, fresco reconstruction and placement by the artist Piet de Jong is not without controversy. These sophisticated, colorful paintings portray a society which, in comparison to the roughly contemporaneous art of Middle and New Kingdom Egypt, was either conspicuously non-militaristic or did not choose to portray military themes anywhere in their art. Many of the extant images depict young or ageless adults, with few young children or elders depicted. In addition to scenes of men and women linked to activities such as fishing and flower gathering, the murals also portray athletic feats. The most notable of these is bull-leaping, in which an athlete grasps the bull’s horns and vaults over the animal’s back. The question remains as to whether this activity was a religious ritual, possibly a sacrificial activity, or a sport, perhaps a form of bullfighting.
The centerpiece of the “Minoan” palace was the so-called Throne Room or Little Throne Room, dated to LM II. This chamber has an alabaster seat identified by archaeologist Evans as a “throne” built into the north wall. On three sides of the room there are benches made of gypsum. A sort of tub area is opposite the throne, behind the benches, termed a lustral basin, considered to be a place for ceremonial purification.