Archaeologists working on the Greek island of Crete have uncovered artifacts and structures that suggest the ancient city of Knossos was three times bigger and richer than previously thought.
Knossos is believed to be Europe’s oldest city, according to archeologists. It was an epicenter of Aegean and Mediterranean trade and culture, but historians thought that after a solid 600-year run of prominence during the Greek Bronze Age, the city suffered a major decline in the wake of a socio-political collapse around 1200 BC, when Thera’s volcano erupted.
The latest excavations suggest a more positive trajectory, however, extending Knossos economic and political successes well into the Iron Age.
Most of the new artifacts — bronze and other metals, jewelry, pottery and all sorts of status symbols — were recovered from burial sites. The archaeological haul reveals a city that was rich with trade well after the collapse of the Aegean palaces.
“No other site in the Aegean period has such a range of imports,” lead excavator Antonis Kotsonas, an assistant professor of classics at the University of Cincinnati, said in a press release.
The newly unearthed cemeteries also show Knossos was much larger than previously thought.
Kotsonas explains that Knossos, “renowned as a glorious site of the Greek Bronze Age, the leader of Crete and the seat of the palace of the mythical King Minos and the home of the enigmatic labyrinth,” was the prosperous epicenter of Minoan culture.”
Scholars have studied the city’s Bronze Age remains for more than a century, but more recent research has focused on the urban development of the city after it entered the Iron Age – in the 11th century BC – following the Bronze Age collapse of the Aegean palaces.
“Even at this early stage in detailed analysis, it appears that this was a nucleated, rather densely occupied settlement extending over the core of the Knossos valley,” Kotsonas explained, “from at least the east slopes of the acropolis hill on the west to the Kairatos River, and from the Vlychia stream on the south until roughly midway between the Minoan palace and the Kephala hill.”