October 10, 2004

Atlantis Found?

Today Janet, Stacey and I explored the ruins of Knossos, the focal point for the ancient Minoan civilization that pre-dated classic Greek civ by a few thousand years. The guide whose services we used spoke of the culture and social structure of the Minoans with gusto and pride that exceeded your typical tour guide (and we've experienced a lot of 'em at this point!)....and with good reason. Though the site itself was not as impressive as Giza or most of the temples we'd seen in Egypt (or Angkor Wat in Cambodia) the background on the Minoans made the experience pretty darn impressive.

Minoans -- whose civilization dated from 6,000 BC (!) to ~ 1500 BC -- were a matriarchal society, and while my first inclination is to crack the standard joke about women in charge, it sure sounded Utopian to these ears. Their religion was monotheistic, worshipping Gaea (mother earth), therefore women were held in high regard as the givers of life. However, men were not as they would have in a civilization like the Amazons...they were treated as equals, playing to their strengths (literally) in the field and in defense of the palace at Knossos. Minoans had an incredibly advanced justice system, much of which the Greeks borrowed and even the War Crimes court at the Hauge actually takes the architecture found at Knossos:

The original courtroom...the plaintiff faced the judges with light shining into his face so the Queen could discern whether he/she was telling the truth from his/her facial expressions

As Crete has always been susceptible to earthquakes (the tectonic plates of Asia, Europe and Africa meet beneath it) the Minoans also developed an incredibly advanced quake-proofing within their architecture...rather than layer upon layer of stone they buffered their 3-6 storied palace (which btw was 23,000 sq meters...HUGE) with three layers of would to absorb the weight of the stone as it resettled:

Minoan civilization may also be credited with indoor plumbing on all 6 stories, a surprisingly complex air conditioning mechanism, having discovered the links between color and mood and even bested the Greeks (and any ancient civilization for that matter) by developing a method of flight...think Icarus (paragliding). There were unparalleled at the arts, developing a technique for carving pottery out of stone so hard today's archaeologists are still unsure how they accomplished the feat.

But perhaps most impressive to yours truly is that this society existed without war: perhaps not surprising when taking the testosterone out of the ruling class. We could stand to learn a few things, no?

Unfortunately for the Minoans, the eruption of Santorini in 1500 BC put an end to their society and many of the advances it made...the blast's power equated to 1,000 atomic bombs and sent a 700 ft tsunami crashing over Crete (100 km away).

The Palace of Knossos was only discovered 100 years ago, so it's still relatively new when compared to something like Giza, which has been a tourist destination for well over 2,500 years. Whether or not this civilization was in fact what Plato referred to as Atlantis is still being debated, but in the end it doesn't matter...hopefully we'll take some of the Minoan lessons to heart...

Stacey and Janet clowning on the steps of a 4,000 year old theatre

Post dinner we braved the Cretan roads in our four (possibly two) cylinder Suzuki and headed for the quaint town Rethymno:

At ye olde fort

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