The Pre-Palatial Period (2,600-1900 BC)
The transition from Neolithic to Early Minoan was related to
increased commercial activity and the arrival of new settlers
from Asia Minor, Egypt and the Cyclades. With these pioneers
came the technique of working with copper and the extensive use
of this metal resulted in further commerce and a growth in
population. The location of the island with its rich, fertile
ground and its lengthy period of peace created the right
conditions for the development of a splendid civilization which
flourished in the ensuing centuries.
The pre-Palatial period divides into three separate stages which follow the Egyptian calendar basing its phases on the change of dynastic rule. During the first stage the substitution of copper was not fully established and stone or clay utensils were still utilised. The pottery of this period, although still handmade, begins to show the progression of style and technique with new shapes and decoration being used. It is at this time that the earliest painted decoration of red or brown stripes on a beige or cream background is noted. Furthermore, the communication with neighbouring areas was still restricted. In the second stage there is a growth of shipping activity and trade in tin for use in the production of copper. In addition, there was an increase in husbandry and fishing. Burial in caves was still the norm but there is evidence of the first built tombs appearing. Remains of such primitive tombs can be seen at Messara, Archanes, Krasi, Agia Photia and at Mochlos where house-like tombs were cut into terraces along the cliff.
Several cities, in strategic sites, developed and expanded at this time. Characteristics of the third stage are the improvements made in techniques of construction and new materials such as gems, ivory and gold are used in the design of artefacts and jewellery. This development of specialist craftwork was a natural outcome of the growth of a more centralised society. Contact with neighbouring areas and beyond increased and evidence of a Minoan colony has been found on Kythera in the southern Peloponnese.
Two sites of this period have been discovered and excavated. The first, Phournou Koriphi near Myrtos seems to be a close-knit settlement with clearly defined living areas, kitchens, workrooms and store-rooms. At Vaskiliki, the second settlement, the plan implies a less close-knit communal arrangement with features such as paved courtyards and internally plastered walls of crimson that seem to suggest the development of more palatial living arrangements associated with the next millennium. .