Breaking the Chains

Page 10

A common feature of Minoan art was the serpent. It was the symbol of the goddess. Minoan religion was primarily matriarchal. Sir Arthur John Evans applied the term Minoan to the Bronze Age civilisation he discovered on Crete. The term is derived from Minos, a legendary king of Crete. Greek mythology represents Minos as a son of Zeus and Europa. According to one tradition the wife of Minos, Pasiphae, gave birth to the Minotaur. Knossos was the primary centre and capital city of Minoan civilisation, which was notable for its great cities, palaces, and trade throughout the eastern part of the Mediterranean and neighbouring countries. The original population of Knossos probably arrived in Crete during the 7th millennium BC. However, the first palace was not built before 2000 BC. It is thought that the original population came from Anatolia. They founded an agricultural way of life based on wheat crops and livestock breeding. Anatolia lies between the Black Sea, the south-eastern Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean, and the Aegean Sea and Sea of Marmara. Excavations carried out between 1961 and 1965 established that Anatolia was the centre of an advanced culture in Neolithic times.

Some evidence pertinent to early Anatolian cultures was probably lost under the deep deposits of alluvium that devastated the inland and coastal valleys when sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age. Previously it had been thought that, excluding the coastal plain of Cilicia, Anatolia had been uninhabited until the Chalcolithic period. It is now accepted that some sites in Anatolia were occupied as early as 8000 BC. Although these early settlements possessed domesticated barley and wheat, they had no pottery. The dog was the only animal they had domesticated. Some sites were abandoned and reoccupied about a thousand years later by folk of a more sophisticated culture possessing pottery and refined agricultural techniques. One Neolithic settlement that had been occupied from the middle of the 8th millennium until the middle of the 7th millennium BC is known as Catalhuyuk.

Catalhuyuk is near Konya in south central Turkey. The location of the site, on a river prone to flooding, points to the practice of irrigation. Nuts, edible grains, and oil-producing seeds were extensively cultivated. It had long been supposed that the origins of agriculture would be discovered in those parts of the Near East which contained habitats peculiar to the wild ancestors of modern grains, etc. Today it is generally accepted that the people of sites like Catalhuyuk played an important part in the spread of early farming. Metal ores and Mediterranean shell that were locally unavailable suggest developed trade. Some of the buildings at Catalhuyuk may have been religious shrines. Coloured murals reminiscent of Old Stone Age cave paintings decorated the walls, and record that hunting was extensive.

The Bronze Age followed the Chalcolithic period. During the Bronze Age various cultural regions existed in Anatolia: a south-eastern region, a south-western region, a north-western region, and a central region. Anatolians cultivated grapes, produced wine, adopted the wheel, and developed metal working skills. The potter’s wheel was introduced into most regions of Anatolia during the transition to the third phase of the Early Bronze Age. Evidence exists to suggest that Anatolian sites may have been destroyed at the end of the second phase of the Early Bronze Age, and it has been asserted that Indo-European speakers were responsible for the destruction.

Sometime between seven thousand and six thousand BC folk from Anatolia emigrated to Crete. By about three thousand BC Crete was using bronze technology, trading with Egypt, and writing in a hieroglyphic script. The first palace at Knossos was built about 2000 BC. Boats and ships were designed and built by the Cretans - they may have been the first people to build true warships. Minoan warships had a single mast, one level of oars, and a ram. By 2000 BC the Minoans had become the leading maritime power in eastern Mediterranean waters. However, the very first recorded appearance of warships was on the Nile. They were made from bundles of reads.

Egypt and Crete were the first two maritime powers of significance. Work done by German toxicologist Svetla Balabanova appears to demonstrate cross ocean contact between Egypt and the Americas. Ms Balabanova’s tests on mummies revealed traces of cocaine. Plants yielding cocaine could only have been discovered in the Americas. Contact between Egypt and the Americas could explain the resemblance between Feathersnake (Quetzacoatl) of Toltec tradition and the flying serpent produced by the synthesis of Buto and Nekhbet when Egypt underwent unification. In Cretan tradition the serpent denotes the goddess, and, given the contact between Crete and Egypt, it seems reasonable to suppose a measure of congruence between serpent goddess worship in both civilisations. There is no evidence of substance to show that a serpent goddess was worshipped by Anatolians. Latticework bronze disks found in graves beneath Alaca Huyuk suggest a sun-goddess may have been worshipped by some central Anatolians during the Early Bronze Age.