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Knossos (alternative spellings Knossus, Cnossus, Greek Κνωσός pronounced [knoˈsos]), also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square. Detailed images of Cretan life in the late Bronze Age are provided by images on the walls of this palace. It is also a tourist destination today, as it is near the main city of Heraklion and has been substantially restored by archaeologist Arthur Evans.

The city of Knossos remained important through the Classical and Roman periods, but its population shifted to the new town of Handaq (modern Heraklion) during the 9th century AD. By the 13th century, it was called Makryteikhos 'Long Wall'; the bishops of Gortyn continued to call themselves Bishops of Knossos until the 19th century.[1] Today, the name is used only for the archaeological site situated in the suburbs of Heraklion.


Discovery and excavation

The ruins at Knossos were discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos, a Cretan merchant and antiquarian. He conducted the first excavations at Kephala Hill, which brought to light part of the storage magazines in the west wing and a section of the west facade. After Kalokairinos, several people attempted to continue the work, and Heinrich Schliemann had previously showed an interest[citation needed] but it was not until March 16, 1900 that archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, an English gentleman of independent means, was able to purchase the entire site and conduct massive excavations. The excavation and restoration of Knossos, and the discovery of the culture he labeled Minoan, is inseparable from the individual Evans. Nowadays archaeology is a field of academic teamwork and scientific prestige, but a century ago a project could be driven by one wealthy and self-taught person. Assisted by Dr. Duncan Mackenzie, who had already distinguished himself by his excavations on the island of Melos, and Mr. Fyfe, the British School at Athens architect, Evans employed a large staff of local labourers as excavators and within a few months had uncovered a substantial portion of what he named the Palace of Minos. The term 'palace' may be misleading: in modern English, it usually refers to an elegant building used to house a head of state or similar. Knossos was an intricate collection of over 1000 interlocking rooms, some of which served as artisans' workrooms and food processing centres (e.g. wine presses). It served as a central storage point, and a religious and administrative centre. The throne room was repainted by a father-and-son team of artists, both named Émile Gilléron, at Arthur Evans' command. While Evans claimed to be basing the recreations on archaeological evidence, many of the best-known frescoes from the throne room are almost complete inventions of the Gillérons.[2] The reconstructions at Knossos have been highly criticized for the fact that they have irrevocably damaged the original remains and have provided a 'reinvented' culture of the original inhabitants of Crete. In fact, very little of the visible site is original and much of the modern reconstruction is indistinguishable from the original remains.[3]

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