Archaeological excavation in eastern Crete has brought to light an intact chamber tomb from the late Minoan period. Found in the town of Ierapetra in the southeastern part of the Greek island, the tomb housed a larnax coffin, which in turn contained the surprisingly well-preserved remains of two male adults in a bent position.
The discovery was made by the Lassithi Ephorate of Antiquities during a salvage excavation at an olive grove in Rousses, located approximately 800 meters from the Kentri village of Ierapetra. As part of the mission, the team had dug a pit, around 1.2 meters in diameter and 2.5 meters in depth. The archaeologists stated –
A chamber tomb was discovered, dug into the soft limestone of the area. The access to the tomb was made by a vertical shaft, while the entrance was sealed by stone masonry.
According to them, the tomb’s interior was divided into three unlooted chambers. The chamber in the southernmost corner housed a larnax coffin, complete with a cover. A larnax, for the uninitiated, is a type of small closed coffin (or ash-chest) that was used by the Minoans and also during Greek antiquity. Historical records indicate that the first larnakes emerged during the Aegean Bronze Age, as ceramic coffers adorned with octopuses and abstract patterns.
Inside the coffin, the researchers found the skeletal remains of an adult in a contracted position. Among the burial goods uncovered around the coffin were 14 ritual amphorae, a drinking cup and an amphora krater (a two-handled pot with a neck that is narrower than the body), all in an excellent state of preservation.
The chamber towards the northern part of the tomb housed a second larnax, containing the remains of another male adult. Like the first coffin, this one was also found surrounded by ornate vases. Speaking about the findings, the archaeologists added –
According to the ceramic typology, and according to the first estimates, the tomb can be dated to the Late Minoan IIIA-B period, approximately from 1400 to 1200 BC.
What We Know About The Minoan Civilization
Flourishing in the island of Crete between circa 2600 BC and 1600 BC, before vanishing in around 1100 BC, the Minoans were an Aegean Bronze Age civilization that predated the Mycenaean civilization of ancient Greece. As per Greek mythology, the term “Minoan” refers to Minos, son of Zeus and Europe and the first king of Crete. Minos was associated with the Labyrinth, a mythical maze which – some believe – once stood at Knossos.
Often heralded as Europe’s oldest city, Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site in Crete. In fact, the urban character of the site harks back to circa 7000 BC, with the establishment of the first Neolithic settlement in the area.
As for its historical significance, the Knossos Palace with its ‘labyrinth’ of spatial elements (including living spaces, storage rooms and even working areas), was the ceremonial as well as a political center of the Minoan civilization. To that end, it has been estimated that the palace complex and its surrounding urban area boasted a population of around 100,000 at their peak, circa 1700 BC.
According to a research conducted last year, the ancient Minoans and Mycenaeans were genetically quite similar. In terms of available physical evidence (before the study), archaeologists were long perplexed by the enigmatic origins of the Minoans. For instance, the early Minoans used the Linear A syllabic script – which is still undecipherable and conveys a language entirely different from the Greek dialects, unlike the Linear B of the Mycenaeans.
So in a way, the early Minoans were essentially considered ‘non-Greek’ who had a lasting influence on the perceived ‘Greek’ characteristics (like art and military) of the Mycenaeans. However, assessed from the remains of 19 different ancient individuals (from areas comprising what is now Greece, Crete and Turkey), this comprehensive DNA study claimed that both the Bronze Age groups – Minoans and Mycenaeans, migrated from Anatolia, millennia before the advent of Bronze Age in the Mediterranean region.
This doesn’t come as a big surprise, given that earlier Mycenaean artworks, architectural patterns and military arms, circa 1600–1450 BC, were very much similar to the contemporary Minoan styles. During the Minoan period, trade flourished between Crete and other Aegean and Mediterranean settlements. This, in turn, extended the Minoan cultural influence far beyond Crete.
Source/Image Credits: Archaeology News Network