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Minoan Trading
Minoan Trading
About Crete - The Minoans - Minoan Trading

Craft and Trade in the Prepalatial Period
The Minoans adopted early techniques for working with stone from their Egyptian contacts. The stone was worked with a wooden drill using wet sand as an abrasive, and the polishing was done with sand as well. The Cretan stone that was used at the time included steatite, stalagmite, alabaster, schist, and serpentine. Examples of such work, including two exceptional pyxis from Zakros and Mochlos, can be seen in the Iraklion Museum.

To make jewellery, the Minoans imported gold from the mines of Sinai as well as from Asia Minor and they used purple amethyst and red carnelian from Cretan mines. They imported copper from Cyprus in order to make daggers. They alloyed copper with tin, which was probably imported from Asia Minor, to make bronze. Silver was probably imported from Sicily or Sifnos. The sealstones in this period were made of soft material such as bone, steatite and ivory introduced from Syria and Egypt.

Craft and Trade in the Old Palace Period
The pottery in the Prepalatial Period often had a polychrome decoration. During the Old Palace Period, a sudden and rapid advance in the designs occurred. The production of the famous Kamares-style pottery, which seems to have originated in Festos but which was initially found in the Kamares Cave on the south side of Psiloritis, spread quickly. Kamares-style pottery is characterized by a variety of abstract spiral and curvilinear designs, dark, mottled colours, and a combination of drawing on the surface of the vase and various relief patterns or even constructions (like flowers). Today it is considered the best ceramic art of the ancient world.

In the Old Palace Period the seals were made using semi-precious stones such as rock crystal, hematite and steatite. The designs were exceptional and they often show aspects of Minoan life and religion. Many seals of the era are displayed in the Iraklion Museum.

Minoan pottery of the Kamares-style has been found in several places outside Crete confirming Minoan influence in the Mediterranean at the time. The Minoans had built a large harbour on the island of Faros in the Nile Delta to facilitate commerce with Egypt.

Craft and Trade in the New Palace Period
In the New Palace Period the trade routes between other places and Crete increased. Minoan trading stations existed in various Aegean Islands such as Kythera, Milos, Kea, Thira, Karpathos, Rhodes as well as in Asia Minor (Miletos), in Syria, and in Egypt (Faros). Cities called Minoa exist in Corfu, Laconia, Monemvacia, Amorgos, Paros, and Sifnos.

The stone designs of the New Palace Period become outstanding, as for example, the steatite bull heads from Knossos and Zakros as well as the alabaster lionĘs head from Knossos that are displayed in the Iraklion Museum. Stone vases with carvings show detailed and complex designs. An example is the famous black steatite Harvesters Vase and other vases from Agia Triada which show a complex design in relief of harvesters in celebration processions following musicians and singers. Another rhyton from Agia Triada shows a number of athletes performing bull fighting, boxing, wrestling, and jumping. An egg-shaped rock crystal rhyton from Zakros with a rock crystal neckring and a handle of rock crystal stones is an exceptional work of art from this period. They are all displayed in the Iraklion Museum.

Work in ivory was also of exceptional quality. A statuette displayed in the Iraklion Museum, known as the Acrobat of Knossos, shows a boy executing a somersault over a bull. A superb chryselephantine statuette of a young male, known as the Palaikastro Kouros, is displayed in the Sitia Museum. Such quality in sculpture does not appear in the Greek world for another thousand years.

In the New Palace Period a technique (faience or fagentiani) was developed to give a glazed surface with different hues to pottery designs. The technique used a mixture of sand and clay with some resinous substance and with metal oxide and alkali for colour. The famous Goddess with the Snakes as well as a cow and a wild goat suckling their young were made with this method and they are displayed in the Iraklion Museum.

Wall painting for internal decoration was very advanced and it was used extensively during this period. The themes and motion expressed in the frescoes gave a feeling of joy and life. The paintings were deliberately two-dimensional and avoided emphasis on depth. Often the theme is nature, plants, animals and marine life.

Sometimes parts of religious ceremonies and athletic activities such as bull fighting, are presented. Miniature frescoes of this period show human figures on a very small scale. The artists often created the shapes of the objects in a mixture of lime and sand, and applied it to the plaster coating of the wall to form a relief, after which the relief was painted. An example of this technique can be seen in the relief of the bullĘs head from the North Entrance of Knossos. Relief construction was not pursued much further after 1600 B.C. The colours of the paintings were produced from minerals or metallic oxides which were inserted in the wet plaster (prepared in layers) and became permanent. When the wall was dry, the painters added additional mineral colours supporting them with unidentified substances. These colours have remained for many thousands of years, right up to the present day.

During the New Palace Period the Kamares-style of pottery gradually gave way to the Floral and the Marine-styles of ceramic decorations. The themes changed from abstract to specific flora or specific marine themes. Examples of themes are: octopus, nautilus, starfish, lily, papyrus and foliage. The colour relation between decoration and surface is now reversed and dark decoration appears on light-coloured background.

Towards the end of the New Palatial Period, after the disaster of 1450 B.C., a new style, called Palace-style, appeared in the only remaining palace, Knossos. Birds appeared in the design for first time. The realistic depiction of the plants, sea creatures, and birds was gradually lost, giving way to more abstract designs, as had been the case with the Kamares-style of pottery. However in contrast to Kamares pottery, Palace-style kept to strict geometric forms. In general, it seems that an anti-naturalistic approach and a return to pure decorative principles dominates this last era of the New Palaces. Clothing during Minoan times can be seen in the wall-paintings in Crete and in Thira, as well as from the various statuettes that have been found, like the Snake Goddess of Knossos. The feminine dress was composed of a skirt with flounces, an apron, and an open bodice leaving the breasts bare. The males of the time wore embroidered kilts.

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