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While I’m off running around Upper Egypt, I’ve lined up some other travelers to do some guest posts. Today’s article is by Chris Christensen of the Amateur Traveler Podcast, one of the most widely listened to travel podcast on the internet. I was interviewed by Chris on Episode 128 on my experience in Micronesia. Chris is one of the finalists for the 2009 Travel Podcast of the Year on Lonely Planet.
One of the treats of a trip to Crete last Summer was a stop at the ruins of Palace of Knossos on Crete near Heraklion, Greece. Knossos is a ruin from the Minoan civilization which is the oldest civilization in Europe. The palace itself was built between 1700 and 1400 B.C. This is the palace that was reported to be the home of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth according to Roman mythology. But it seems that the Romans may have misunderstood some sort of athletic event involving a bull and a ceremonial double-bladed ax called a labrys.
Or at least that is the story we learned from our English speaking guide. Hiring a guide definitely made visiting Knossos much more enjoyable. We visited in May which is before the crush of tourists and we had not arranged a guide ahead of time. It was fairly simple to sign up for an English speaking guide. We did have to wait while the guide got a group together of sufficient size.
One of the things that became very apparent when you are looking at the site through the eyes of a trained guide is that all is not as it appears. The style of archeology practiced by the English archeologist Arthur Evans when he started to excavate in 1900 would make more modern archeologists cringe. Much of what you see is from Evans imagination as much as from his discovery. He reconstructed a number of things on the site with concrete so that you could see that at least he thought it looked like. He had artists repaint the throne room in a fashion that he thought would have matched the art of the time.
The ruins included a bathtub, a closed sewer system and a flush toilet of a sort. Not all the world has gotten to that level of sophisticated plumbing yet and the Minoans had it over 3 millennia ago.
The ability to walk around structures from a civilization that the ancient greeks considered old is a wonderful treat. It appears that the downfall of the Minoans was the eruption of the nearby island volcano of Santorini. The resulting earthquake shook Crete but even more seriously a tidal wave sunk the Minoan fleet and left them at the mercy of the Mycenaeans.