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Unravelling Minoan Civilisation through Artifacts, Frescos and Ruins

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The ruins of the Minoan Civilisation and a visit to the museum at Heraklion revealed an eclectic mix of wonder and beauty for Sushmita. In the Bronze Age civilisation, the dead were kept in Pithoi, a large ceramic vessel. The author dwells on the ceremony of death with an inward gaze of her own self. In that matriarchal religious order there was a goddess for every aspect of life. Frescoes of bull fight traces its antiquity. The ruins of the palace and its wooden model awakens awe. A report for Different Truths.

A trip to the ruins of Minoan Civilisation, at Knossos, in the island of Crete, Greece, and then to the museum at Heraklion, in Crete, offered an eclectic mix of wonder and beauty. It left everyone in our group of tourists from the world over gasping at their skill and tenacity, be it sport, art or daily living in the Bronze Age.

What set me thinking was their ritual of death. A dead was packed off in a pithos. Pithoi are large ceramic vessels sometimes decorated, inscribed or not at all. They are as tall as full grown humans with a huge base and a large neck. They were mainly used to store and transport olive oil, wine, grains and vegetables and also sometimes used as a coffin.

Looking at what seemed like reconstructed picture of death in a pithos started a soliloquy in my mind. What was true then, so far back during early days of civilisation, holds good even now in the day and age of communication almost as quick as thought itself. That death is such a personal experience, but its rituals are all so community oriented. That only in dying is one liberated and the living hold on to the rituals for the dead. That only in dying does one realise the unity of every living being and in death the nearest kith and kin are sometimes utterly divided over property and other trivial details.

And I know that when I die, whether I am burnt at the pyre, buried in an un-named grave or a marked one or left to rot, I will be the first rays of the sun, the foam on the sea, the golden grain of wheat, the lotus in the marsh, the cricket and the glow worm in the dusk, the twinkling stars far above and also the love in your heart. I shall live again and again and forever.

Bull Leaping

This one’s a fresco lifted from the palace ruins at Knossos of the Minoans. They revered the bull. This was a ceremony in veneration. A matador leapt from the front or even from the back. Sometimes he took the bull by the horn to get a lift from the reflex movement of the bull. Other times he was assisted by two others in the front and back respectively.


A matriarchal religious order is what is believed to be true for the Minoans of the Bronze Age. There seem to be assigned goddesses for different aspects of life and everyday living. The dolls which are the archaeological finds also seem to point at women priests. However nothing can be said with certainty as their script still remains a mystery, indecipherable.

Wooden Reconstruction of Minoan Palace

A wooden reconstruction of the Minoan Palace, at Knossos, housed at the museum at Heraklion. A vast and extensive palace with a place for everything, from sport to storage to merry-making, they had it all. It is believed that the talented architect was Daedalus.

Palace Ruins

The vast palace ruins reveal that it ran into different storeys and half storeys that run into open courtyards. The huge stones used to construct walls keep the place cool even during the summer months when the sun rays beat down furiously.

©Sushmita Gupta

Pix by author.

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