The centre of Minoan civilisation and capital of Minoan Crete is sited 5 km southeast of the city of Iraklion and is considered Europe’s oldest city. The Palace of Knossos is located in North Central Crete just south of the outskirts of Heraklion on the Kephala hill. The Palace of Knossos it is the largest of the preserved Minoan palatial centres. The name Knossos survives from ancient Greek references to the major city of Crete.
Knossos flourished for approximately two thousand years. It had large palace buildings, extensive workshop installations and luxurious rock-cut cave and tholos tombs. As a major centre of trade and the economy, Knossos maintained ties with the majority of cities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
This first Palace was destroyed circa 1700 BC. It was rebuilt and destroyed again by fire, this time definitively, in 1350 BC. The environs of the Palace were transformed into a sacred grove of the goddess Rhea, but never inhabited again.
The Palace of Knossos is the monumental symbol of Minoan civilisation, due to its construction, use of luxury materials, architectural plan, advanced building techniques and impressive size.
At other Palace sites, like Phaistos, the old palace suffered a major destruction. The ground was subsequently levelled and a new palace was constructed. This does not appear to have happened at Knossos.
Knossos was hit by a massive earthquake at the end of MM IIIA and this resulted in major rebuilding work. Much of the West part of the palace was levelled and built over while basement rooms on the east side were filled with rubble to create new terraces for building on. So the New Palace effectively dates from MM IIIB. Then, towards the end of MM IIIB another earthquake struck, resulting in more demolition and rebuilding during LM IA. The palace we see today dates largely from this period.
For the visitor today, the area around the ramp which leads to the main palace, immediately exposes the rich strata of ruins that span millennia. To the left of the entrance ramp three large kouloures in the shape of large round pits reveal in their deep bottom the remains of Prepalatial building ruins. The palace of Knossos was the center of administration of the entire island during Minoan times, and its position as such allowed for unprecedented growth and prosperity as witnessed by the plethora of storage magazines, workshops, and wall paintings. The Throne room with its gypsum throne and benches to accommodate sixteen persons, the central courtyard, and the theater, along with the royal chambers paint a portrait of Knossos as a forum of elaborate rituals and extraordinary historical occurrences.