Knossos Palace


Location: Town   

The Minoan Palace of Knossos in Crete, Greece:The Minoan Palace at Knossos is over 20,000 square meters and the largest of all Minoan palatial structures. It was built of ashlar blocks, had many floors and was decorated with really beautiful frescoes. The old palace was built around 2,000 BC but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1700 BC. The newer, more complex palace, was built almost immediately after the first one was destroyed. In the middle of the 15th Century BC, the Achaeans took over the island of Crete and settled in the palace. The palace was once again destroyed by fire in the middle of the 14th Century B.C and henceforth ceased to function as a palatial centre.

The first excavations that brought to light parts of the palace were carried out by Minos Kalokairinos, a Cretan merchant and antiquarian in 1878. Several other people attempted to continue the excavations including W.J Stillman, the American Consul in Greece, M Joubin, a French archaeologist and Arthur Evans, director of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

However, they all had to abandon their efforts as they were unwilling to purchase the area at the extremely high prices that the owners asked for it. Eventually in 1898, when Crete became an independent state, all the antiquities of the island became state property and in 1900, excavations on the site started under the supervision of Arthur Evans.

Legend of Knossos

Legend has it that this palace was the source of the Labyrinth myth. It was a structure that was made by King Minos of Crete, to keep away the mythical creature Minotaur, who was half bull and half man. Eventually the creature was killed by Theseus.

Structure of Knossos Palace

The original layout of the palace cannot be seen anymore because of the subsequent modifications. There are about 1300 rooms connected to each other with corridors of different sizes. The palace had four wings arranged around a central court, each one with its own entrance. The east wing houses, the residential quarters, the workshops and a shrine. At The west wing were the storerooms, shrines, and the repositories, when on the upper floors were the throne room and the banquet halls. The north wing consists of the Customs House with a lustral bin and a stone built theatrical area. At the south wing was the South Propylon which could be said that is the most imposing building.

Liquid management

The palace had three separate liquid management systems, one for supply, one for drainage of rain water and one for drainage of waste water. Aqueducts brought fresh water to Kephala hill which branched to the palace and to the town. Water was given to the palace by gravity feed through terra cotta pipes to fountains and spigots. Sanitation drainage was being done through a closed system leading to a sewer near the hill.

Lighting and heating

The palace was designed in such a way so it could take maximum advantage of natural lighting during the long days of summer. The rooms were built around courtyards in order to give more window openings. The doors of the rooms were polythyra or multi-door to provide more door opening area and the stairs were around light wells and corridors as open porticos wherever possible. Thus the architectural style solved much of the lighting problems. However the ample open spaces must have posed quite a problem for the palace especially during winter. There is no evidence of central heating. It is assumed that each room must have had its own heating system. For heating, they used fixed and portable ceramic hearths as well as fires lit by charcoal.

Red columns

The palace distinguishes for its red columns. While most Greek columns are smaller at the top and wider at the bottom, the Minoan columns are the opposite with a smaller base and a wider top. The columns at the Palace were mounted on stone bases and had round pillow like tops.


The walls of the palace were decorated with many frescoes. The remains however were only fragments and needed reconstruction which was taken over by the artist Piet de Jong.

Throne Room

The Throne Room has an alabaster seat used as a throne and built into the north wall. There are gypsum benches on the three sides of the room with a tub area or lustral basin used for ceremonial purification opposite the throne.

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