Pictures of Knossos

Overview of how the Palace/Temple might have looked from the South around 1650 BC (from )
An audience of ladies at some show or ceremony, around the "Tripartite Shrine." The ladies are wearing open-bodiced dresses, as do most ladies in Minoan frescos. Som writers suggest that this fashion might have been no more typical of Minoan dress than are those of women in art pictures of the present day. The Tripartite Shrine is, I believe, in the middle of the left side of the Central Court in the overview picture.
The original main entrance road to the Palace/Temple of Knossos. (Left) Looking away from the Palace past Knossos town buildings. (Above) Looking inward toward the Palace entrance, with the Theatral Area at the end of the left branch of the road..
The bas-relief fresco of the bull beside the narrow main entrance stairway. (Left) The children are coming down the stairs to the Royal Road. (Right) A view from the NE corner of the Palace.
The Labyrinth. (Left) Parts of a multi-story part of the Palace. (Right) The lower floor of the multi-story block at the near right of the overview picture.
The "Theatral Area" at Phaestos.

The Royal Road.

Knossos was not just an isolated palace or temple. It was the central building of a substantial town, much as Mediaeval cathedrals formed the core of their towns, though the Knossos Labyrinth is much bigger thgan any cathedral. It could have housed over a thousand people

From Knossos town, one would have approached the Palace by the old road shown in the top pictures at left, past houses or workshops. It is said to be the oldest road in Europe. Modern tourists, however, approach the Palace by a quite different route, though from the same direction. Now one arrives at the middle of the West side ot the Palace, in what is called the "West Court.".

As the old road approaches the palace, it splits, with the left branch ending at a wide flight of steps or seats called the "Theatral Area." One might assume that ceremonial welcomes would be held at the steps, with the local welcoming party arrayed on the steps. The right branch of the road carries on to an entrance up a flight of stairs past what is now a restored bas-relief fresco of a bull in a landscape into what is known as the Customs House. The road is at the upper left of the hypothetical overview picture.

The Palace of Phaestos has a similar approach road that ends in a rather grander flight of steps or seats, with the entrance to the Palace/Temple up a different set of stairs to the right. Troy, in the same era, also had a similar road, shown in this picture.

The Bull and the other frescos

Another view of the Bull bas-relief, showing the flowing depiction of a tree in the landscape.

The fresco of the Bull is very striking, but it is not the original. All the frescos seen at the actual Knossos site are copies. The originals are in the Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The fresco of the Bull is in deep bas-relief (a contradiction in terms, I suppose), but is very hard to photograph. It is directly beside the entransce stairway, so one cannot approach it face-on--quite apart from the pillars that obscure it--and from the side, one approaches it only very obliquely along what presumably was a balcony alongside the entrance stair.

In the top "reconstruction" picture, the entrance stair is a narrow gap entering the far side of the courtyard, and the bull is just visible at the far left end of the gap. The picture from the NE corner was taken from just off the back-left of the overview.

More frescos. (Left) Dolphins. The circular patterns around the door frames are very delicate, too. (Middle) Carriers of ceremonial vessels. (Above) Bull leaping games. The so-called Throne Room. The stone "Throne" is on the right. Look at the wonderful bird-headed lions lying peacefully among the lilies on the wall! One of the bird-headed lions with its abstract swirl of a shoulder, lying among the lilies on the wall of the Throne Room. Doesn't it look like a pet, despite its surreal form?

A courtyard in the Palace. The pillars are new, the originals having been made of wood.
The artistry of the Minoans was quite amazing, both in the subject matter and in the beauty of form. Look at the dolphins above the doorways, the bull-leaping, or, most particularly, at the surrealist masterpieces of the two bird-headed lions lying happily among the lilies on the wall of the Throne Room. Where else would one find such a swirl of geometric design as if on the skin of such an elegantly executed pet lion--with a bird's head. And what a bird's head, with its copper coils of a crest!

One sees similar artistry in the frescos at Akrotiri, of which I have few pictures (but you can see some here). One thing that is not seen on any of the frescos found so far is any indication of military activity. Also, in common with Ebla, a powerful Syrian commercial and trading centre of a few hundred years earlier, but in contradistinction to most other Mediterranean and Mesopotamian cultures, there is no sign whatever of any statues or monuments to glorify individual humans. Ebla had a governing system in which the "king" was more like a limited-term chairmen of the regional governors. Perhaps the Minoan society similarly had no hereditary monarch, but had an elected temporary chief instead. Since we cannot read the Minoan Linear B tablets, we do not know.

Knossos was a major storage and distribution point for the produce of the region. (Above) Huge storage pithoi. (Right) These rooms would have been deep inside the Palace, where they would have been kept cool.

Knossos was a major centre for the storage and distribution of local produce, as well as of manufactured goods. Produce such a grain or olive oil would have been stored and perhaps transported in these huge storage jars, call pithoi. They were stored deep inside the palace, well away from the heat of the sun, where the temperature would have stayed moderately cool all the time. Notice all the handles for passing ropes through, particularly on the big pithoi in the left-hand picture. Even in the utilitarian pithoi, the Minoan artistry shows through, if one looks at the balanced shapes and the surface decoration.