Early History and Settlements of the Ancient Minoans

Before the development of Ancient Minoan civilization, the inhabitants of Crete were stone age hunter gatherers, just like all of the other early civilizations. The archaeological evidence shows that people have lived on Crete for at least 8,000 years.

While the Minoans were the first European civilization, they probably came to Crete from Asia Minor or perhaps Northern Africa. Migration from Asia Minor makes a lot of sense because of it's proximity to the island of Crete. However, wind and ocean currents leaving Egypt would have carried emigrants from there almost directly into Crete. Perhaps the Minoans were a mixture of people from Asia Minor and from Egypt.

By about 3,000 BC, the Minoans had learned how to grow things, how to herd animals and how to make pottery . This allowed them to finally settle in one spot and build cities. Around this time, the Minoans also began learning how to use copper and a bit later bronze.

The Ancient Minoan's cities and villages were built in a compact way. Houses were one or two stories and were built very close together. Cities had no heavy protective walls as would have been the case in Ancient Mesopotamia. This is further evidence that the Minoans felt protected by the sea and were relatively unconcerned about invaders. Of course the Minoans developed one of the best, if not the best, navy of the period. While their ships were built mainly for trading, they had to be able to defend against pirate attacks. They most likely had the naval might to stop any invasion before it reached the Cretan shore.

As the Ancient Minoan civilization grew larger and stronger, they began building palaces. Probably the most famous is the palace at Knossos, where the mythical King Minos ruled. Incidently, the name "Minoan" comes from "Minos" and was coined by Sir Arthur Evans, a British archaeologist that did extensive excavations on Crete in the early 20th Century.