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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Crete

The reason for demise of Minoan culture, a fall so sudden it is believed to have involved a catastrophe.

Answer: i have no answer, but im trying to get as many answers as possible this is a real history riddle, and it remains unanswered. The fall of the Minoan Crete remains one of the great mysteries of history!

1 comment:

Eric Ebel said...

I'm assuming you want to know about the wave of destructions which spread over the island at the end of Late Minoan IB (LMIB). (That's a time period based on pottery styles.)

There are three basic possibilities: (1) natural isaster, (2) foreign invasion, and (3) internal revolt. I subscribe to the last, as much by process of elimination as anything else.

The "natural disaster" that most people think of is the eruption of the volcano on Thira/Santorini. As has often been pointed out, however, the date is all wrong. The destruction layer at Akrotiri shows a destruction during LMIA, but the destructions on Crete occurred at the end of LMIB, at least 50 t0 75 years later, during which the culture on Crete was still going strong; more recent dates for the eruption, in the 1620's BCE, don't fit estimates of the LMIB horizon around 1500. (The dating, however, is endlessly controversial.) Also, destructions took place high in the hills, well beyond the reach of any tsunami; and tsunamis, of course, don't start fires.

There is also the possibility of earthquakes. Rackham and Moody, in The Making of the Cretan Landscape, point out that Crete has many little faults, rather than one larger one, so that although there are a lot of earthquakes, they tend not to be terribly widespread. And the Cretan people were used to earthquakes and had previously rebuilt without missing a beat.

That brings us to foreign invasion -- presumably from mainland Greece and perhaps in conjunction with a natural disaster. (Once again, the dating is wrong for the Thira eruption.) There are several problems with this. First, the degree of destruction is completely irrational; virtually all of the elite and administrative installations, except for Knossos and Kommos, are destroyed and, more important, are not rebuilt. Any conqueror wishing to govern and exploit the island will want local centers, so the palaces would have been rebuilt, under new management.

Second, there is no "refuge" activity. In this part of the world, people head for high, defensible ground when there is danger in the low country; we see that in eastern Crete some time before the first palaces and a lot at the end of the Bronze Age, but not in LMII, at the time of the destructions. The logical conclusion is that most people were not afraid of whatever was happening, or at least saw no point in trying to escape.

And third, there was no one in the area with the organizational capacity to carry out the kind of invasion we imagine here. Early Mycenaean Greece was not a unified state and probably could not mount anything more elaborate than a piratical raid; we would see evidence of defensive measures if there were a series of such raids.

This leaves the possibility of an internal revolt. That would account for the level of destruction without rebuilding. Rackham and Moody write -- maddeningly, without citation -- that the "settlement hierarchy" broke down; instead of palaces, towns, "villas," villages, and hamlets -- the trappings of an organized, hierarchical society -- there are only villages. In other words, people dispersed into the basic, self-sufficient units, without much in the way of government over them. The palace at Knossos goes on, and it is assumed that the new rulers were mainlanders -- based on the presence of Linear B tablets in the Greek language -- but the newcomers might have come as rescuers from whatever was happening in the rest of the island.

What would have triggered a revolt we cannot yet say. There may have been a religious revival, a disturbance in trade routes, a tax increase -- pretty much anything.

Anyway, that's as much as I know. Anyone have more?