How old are the ruins at Knossos?The oldest parts of the ruins of Knossos come from 7000 BCE. From the end of about the 3rd millennium BCE, Knossos grew in importance as the center of a kingdom, which is evidenced by the existence of the large palace complex. The palaces of Crete were almost all destroyed by an earthquake between 1750 and 1700 BCE, but many were rebuilt in a more elaborate style. The palace at Knossos was used until at least 1370 BCE. After a Mycenean invasion in the 14th century BCE, the palace and city were destroyed and abandoned, and the Minoan culture began to slowly disappear from day to day life in Crete. Knossos was resettled around 1000 BCE, and the Greek and then Roman city prospered. The ruins of the buildings from this later phase are close to the ruins of the palace but haven’t yet been extensively excavated.
When and how was Knossos discovered?The Cretan businessman and amateur archaeologist, Minos Kalokairinos, was the first to excavate part of the complex. More professional excavations took place under the watch of English archaeologist Arthur Evans between 1900 and 1914, during which over 215,000 square feet (20,000 square meters) were explored. The reconstructions of the palace which you can still see today date back to Evans, although he was criticized for basing the reconstructed palace on the aesthetics of buildings of the day and descriptions from ancient texts rather than interpreting the remains that he found. The exact use of the site is still a subject of speculation, some archaeologists believe it was the capital city or administrative center, others argue that it was a Necropolis or sacred site.
How is Knossos related to the minotaur’s labyrinth?According to legend, the Minotaur was a man-eating hybrid creature, a combination of a bull and a man, whose birth was the result of King Minos’s disrespect for the sea god, Poseidon. Minos ordered that a huge labyrinth should be built to contain the creature, and once he had defeated Athens in battle, he demanded that the city send 7 virgins and youths to Crete every 9 years, as a tribute to be fed to the Minotaur. The practice was ended by hero Theseus, who defeated the Minotaur with the help of King Minos’s daughter Ariadne before fleeing with her and the hostages to Naxos. The location of the labyrinth is still shrouded in mystery, though according to legends it’s either beneath the palace complex of Knossos or in a cave about 3 hours away.
Will my children enjoy a trip to see Knossos?Although it might be tricky to navigate the uneven paths and steps with a stroller, older children can expect to have a lot of fun exploring the ruins! It’s advised that you take advantage of a guided tour when visiting with kids, as an expert guide will be able to bring the myths and legends to life in a way that will interest the whole family.
How long should I plan for a trip to Knossos?It takes about 2 hours to explore the ruin thoroughly. If you also decide to visit the local archaeological museum, then it’s recommended that you plan in an additional 3 hours. It’s generally advised that you plan about half a day at least for a visit to the largest archaeological site in Crete, plus traveling time, or that you visit on an organized day trip!