Knossos and Cosmology

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What accounts for the apparent cultural dominance of Knossos in Crete and its influence elsewhere in the Aegean, even among people who are not Minoan? The influence'of this one site on its neighbors, particularly in the New Palace period, is a well-documented phenomenon of Minoan civilization which appears repeatedly in the material record of Aegean archaeology. It takes many forms which may however be grouped into three general categories of influence: 1) the architectural imitation of the palace at Knossos at outlying palaces and villas in Crete and to a lesser extent at palaces on the Greek mainland; 2) the widespread imitation and acquisition of artifacts manufactured in the palace at Knossos; and 3) the adoption of Minoan costume, which may be Knossian in origin, particularly Minoan ceremonial dress inside and outside Crete.


The Knossos Effects
The first example includes the imitation of overall plans as well as dimensions, documented so well by J. W. Graham 1, but it also includes the imitation of individual rooms and architectural details. Many of the imitated rooms appear to have been shrines. The current excavations at Mochlos, for example, have uncovered a building that served as the main ceremonial center for the LM IB settlement, Building B.2 2. The east wing of this building is built in ashlar masonry and contains two pillar crypts on the basement level, each provided with a window and each with a bench along its north wall. They belong to a well-known type of Minoan shrine complex consisting of a columnar room above a basement crypt 3. Evidence for their religious use was found in a number of ritual objects, which had fallen from the columnar rooms down into the crypts, and in the dozens of conical cups that had been used as lamps which were found outside the crypts, some sitting on a low precinct wall which runs alongside the crypts. One of the first examples of this type of shrine complex is located at Knossos in the Basement of the Monolithic Pillars; it dates to the MM IA period, and it is here that the type probably originated 4. Other rooms that may have originated at Knossos, the site of the first palace, which were widely imitated elsewhere, are obscured by Neopalatial rebuilding at the site. The lustral basin appears to have been such a room, and W.-D. Niemeier has shown that the Throne

1 2 3 4

J. W. GRAHAM, The Palaces of Crete (1987). J. SOLES and C. DAVARAS, "Excavations at Mochlos, 1990-1991". Hesperia 63:4 (1994). N. PLATON, "Ta M ~ v o ' i ~ Or ~ ~ t a IE~&", r KretChron 8 (1954),428-483; GRAHAM (supra n. l), 138d ~d 140; G. GESELL, Town, Palace, and House Cult in Minoan Crete (1985), 13-15, 26-29, 33; N . MARINATOS, Minoan Religion, Ritual, Image, and Symbol (1993), 87-98. It was also copied in elite tombs at an early date. See J. SOLES, Prepalatial Cemeteries at Mochlos and Gournia (1992),238-239.


Jeffrey S. SOLES

Room complex with its lustral basin, which originated in the Old Palace period according to S. MiriC, served as the model for a similar complex in Quartier Mu at Mallia 5. Architectural details, decorative schemes, and any number of pictorial fresco subjects found at Knossos are also widely imitated elsewhere. M. Wiener has discussed some of these and identified a "School of Knossos" whose architectural features include axial planning of important rooms, pier and door partitions, column bases, ashlar facades, and the use of gypsum from the Gypsades Hill 6 . One of the most important architectural imitations is the triglyph half-rosette frieze, which may have originated, as Niemeier has suggested, from the juxtaposition of throne and incurved altars in the Throne Room. It quickly reappears as a dado on the Tripartite Shrine and spreads throughout Crete. It might be argued that this architectural imitation is simply a Minoan architectural style, were it not that it extends outside Crete...
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