Minoan Civilization: Facts, Map & Timeline

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  • 0:01 Who Were the Minoans?
  • 1:25 Crete
  • 1:58 Religion
  • 2:20 Art
  • 3:02 Timeline
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Elam Miller

Jessica has taught college History and has a Master of Arts in History

This lesson explores an old civilization of the ancient Greeks, known to archaeologists and historians as the Minoans. The Minoans were some of the earliest Greeks, and they lived on the island of Crete.

Who Were the Minoans?

Have you ever read the works of Homer, like the Odyssey or the Iliad? We've all heard stories of Greek mythology, but who were the ancient Greeks?

The earliest Greeks were called Minoans. The Minoans were a group of people who lived on the Greek island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea during the Bronze Age. They received their name from Sir Arthur Evans, who was a British archaeologist. He named them after a mythological figure called King Minos, who was the son of Zeus and Europa. In Greek mythology, King Minos constructed a labyrinth in Knossos.

As a people, the Minoans were organized in the trade market. Because of their location, they traded a lot of goods overseas. One of the items they may have traded was tin, which can be combined with copper to make bronze. At the time, the use of bronze for weapons and other items was very popular. This is why the time is called the Bronze Age. Minoans may have traded with surrounding areas like Cyprus, Syria, Egypt, and Mesopotamia.

The civilization existed until its decline around the 11th century BCE after the occurrence of the Trojan War. The Minoans seem to have experienced a long period of peace with little internal conflict. Clashes began with the invasion of the Mycenaeans, a group of people who invaded from the Greek mainland.


Crete is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea. There were many natural harbors nestled in numerous mountain ranges. According to Homer, Crete had many cities. Some of the sites that have been studied by archaeologists are Knossos, Phaistos, Maila, Agia Triada, and Pyrgos. The land was subject to major natural disasters at the time. A volcano at Thera erupted twice during the time of the Minoans. It is also likely that there were earthquakes and tidal waves.


The religious practices of the Minoans generally focused on females. Priestesses often governed rituals honoring goddesses. Major celebrations included a bull dance, which is depicted in many Minoan frescoes, which are a kind of mural painting. The bull was a sacred symbol to the Minoans because of its strength and fertility.


Much of the art from this period has decomposed and is no longer in existence. The surviving pieces of art include pottery and frescoes. Depictions on pottery changed over time. Early pottery contains shapes like spirals, triangles, and crosses. Eventually, pottery changed to show images of nature, like fish and flowers, and, finally, to show flowers and animals.

Many frescoes have been found in palaces. The vibrant murals contain images of rituals and landscapes. Men and women were depicted with differing skin colors. Women's skin was often colored white, while men's skin held a darker red or brown color.


Minoan civilization is divided into several periods:

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