Palopalatial Period (1900-1700 BC) in Crete

Palopalatial Period (1900-1700 BC)

Around 1900 BC the first grand palaces were built on Crete at Knossos, Malia, Kato Zakros and Phaistos. These buildings indicate that during this era there had been a significant shift of power back to the heart of the island and the appearance of a more ordered but hierarchical society. The positioning of all these citadels occupy strategic locations with both Phaistos and Malia dominating fertile plains whereas Zakros was sited close to the sea and a harbour for trading with the east. Knossos had a strategic position above a plain to the south and west of Iraklion.

This latter settlement, it is thought, was an important religious centre as well as a base for secular power. It was during this time that sanctuaries on top of mountains and caves as centres for cult worship began to develop. Throughout this period large settlements were expanding, particularly around the palaces, whilst outside of the urban areas large villas were being constructed. The existence of these grand palaces is evidence of the growing wealth during this era and the many objects and works of art excavated support this analysis. It was during this period that the characteristic Kamares ware pottery developed. Its name comes from the Kamares cave near to the palace of Phaistos.

It would seem that this cave was a sacred place for the Minoans as excavations have discovered votive offerings and great quantities of such pottery. Two types of design were produced: the sturdier vessels had red, orange and white painted decoration on a dark background and the other was often elaborate, with more complicated patterns on delicate pottery that was eggshell thin. A more exact potters" wheel was developed to make production more efficient and also during this period simple hieroglyphic writing began to be used. One of the most important finds is the Disc of Phaistos, a unique example of the hieroglyphics.

Unfortunately, attempts to decipher it have been unsuccessful as no more examples have been found and there is not enough context for any meaningful analysis. Today, it is exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Iraklion. The settlements around the palaces had sophisticated sanitation systems and a highly developed system of urban planning. The economy was agricultural but also thrived on trading. Many colonies (or trading posts) were set up on several Cycladic islands in addition to the island of Kithira (part of the Ionian island group), Rhodes, the coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and Egypt. There were regular trade links betweens these centres by a fleet of merchant vessels and evidence of this is supported by finds from Crete located in these regions. The end of this period came about in around 1700 BC, probably by an earthquake.