By the time we reached Crete we had seen many remains and some of the influences of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, not to mention influences of the Ottoman and Venetian the Middle Ages. However, the outstanding museum of Minoan civilization (this is probably not the correct title) on Crete opened our eyes to the accomplishments of a civilization that predated the Greeks and Romans by centuries. The museum holds a large number of astounding items found in archeological excavations of Minoan ruins, and include jewelry, tools, pottery, artwork, and ceremonial artifacts. And it includes a model of the Minoan kings’ palace, as you can see below. Interestingly, the layout of the palace is a bit labyrinthine, and I wonder if this had any link to stories of the Minotaur.

Incomplete model of the Minoan palace.

We tend to think of bronze age civilizations as primitive, perhaps even as poor, subsistence kind of societies, but maybe that reflects my ignorance. The display of gold jewelry along with beaded necklaces made of minerals and semi-precious stones certainly corrected my perspective. These people knew how to make beautiful jewelry and they knew how to work with gold and colorful minerals.

Minoan jewelry.

Minoan pottery was impressive, too. Look at the handles and spouts on the vessels, pitchers, oil lamps, and cups showcased below. We have seen a lot of ancient pottery in various museums, but these products (and others not included here) have the most elaborate designs of any I have seen around the Mediterranean.

Beads and pottery as works of art.

The Minoans knew how to make tools, too. The bronze axe heads and other tools in the showcase below are obvious, but what do you make of the carved stones at the back of the case? These are molds into which the metalworker could pour molten bronze to make hammer heads or axe heads. A different showcase held ingots of copper the Minoans obtained through maritime trade with other nations. I wonder if they bought copper from Solomon?

Utensils from the Bronze Age.

The artwork below was special enough to have its own display case. This is a bee made of gold, measuring perhaps an inch across by a little more than an inch high. Like I said before, these people really knew how to work gold, and how to make beautiful artwork.

Closeup of gold jewelry in the form of a bee.

The clay tablet shown below is four or five inches in diameter, and inscribed with Minoan characters on both sides. Look closely, and you will see that the characters (hieroglyphs) group into what are probably words, and the writing starts in the middle of the disk and continues in a spiral out to the edge of the disk. As of our visit the text had never been successfully analyzed or interpreted, but I read somewhere a few weeks ago that a researcher finally solved the mystery of what it says. Or at least they think they solved it, and they have a paper in peer review.

Unknown hieroglyphs forming unknown words. You can buy a replica for your own study if you want to take up the challenge!

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