Knossos

Knossos or Cnossus (both: nŏsˈəs) [key], ancient city of Crete, on the north coast, near modern Iráklion. The site was occupied long before 3000 B.C., and it was the center of an important Bronze Age culture. It is from a study of the great palace, as well as other sites in Crete, that knowledge of the Minoan civilization has been drawn. The city was destroyed c.1700 B.C. (possibly by earthquake, perhaps by invasion) and was splendidly rebuilt only to be destroyed again c.1400 B.C., possibly by an earthquake, by invaders from the Greek mainland, or both. This marked the end of Minoan culture. The palace was restored by Sir Arthur Evans, the English archaeologist who excavated (1900–35) the site. Based on fragmentary evidence, his reconstructions have proved to be controversial, as have the celebrated Knossos frescoes whose fragmentary remains were extensively restored by artists in the 1920s. Knossos later became an ordinary but flourishing Greek city, and it continued to exist through the Roman period until the 4th cent. A.D. In Greek legend it was the capital of King Minos and the site of the labyrinth. The name also appears as Cnosus and Knossus.

See Sir A. J. Evans, Palace of Minos (4 vol., 1921–35); L. Cottrell, Bull of Minos (1953); L. R. Palmer, A New Guide to the Palace of Knossos (1969); C. Gere, Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism (2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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