PalaikastroWritten By Sarah Van Ryn

A site without a palace...

Despite the lack of evidence for a palace at the site of Palaikastro, there was still external influences from Aegean and Mediterranean trade networks. As of yet there has not been any evidence found of a palace but there is plenty of evidence that there were external influences on the material culture of the Minoans who lived there. From looking at their material culture and that of those found in the Aegean and Mediterranean trade networks it will become very clear that there are similarities.

Evidence of specialization...

Most of the bigger sites on Crete like Knossos and Phaistos had palaces where materials were imported to and then they were distributed through out the crafts peoples. This is where most of the evidence of trade can be found at those sites. At the site of Palaikastro there is no evidence of a palace like that. However, there were still people living in this harbor town and they still made material things and traded with neighboring countries.
Regulare pottery kiln
There is evidence of specialization for pottery. A kiln was excavated by Davaras and team in August 1978. This is what he writes about it. The kiln was found not far from Palaikastro on top of a hill over looking the town, the shaft was cut throughsoft rock in the hillside. It has a smooth floor and there is a shelf cut into the rock all around. On one side there is a small arched doorway that was probably used to stroke the fire from the outside while in use. Most of the inside, including around the doorway, was reinforced with bricks and clay. Davaras states that around the the shaft near the arch the wall it strongly burnt.
The kiln is completely like other kilns found dating to the same time period except that its based is slightly lowered in the ground; this could have been for obtaining high levels of heat. Nothing was found in the kiln but pieces of broken cups which later proved to have nothing to to with the kiln. They may have just fallen into the kiln later when it was buried. Davaras found no traces of ash or charcoal on the inside of the shaft or pieces of pottery as one might expect to be lying around. Possibly the rejected pieces from the kiln. However, Daravas is certain this is a pottery kiln and not a metal foundry. Above is an areal view of the kiln. The entrance is on the right and the shaft would be coming straight up out of the circle in the center. The finding of this kiln is evidence that at the site of Palaikastro they were at least making pottery. The lack of pottery to be found around it could just mean that this kiln was a prototype for ones that came later. Next the evidence of influences on their material culture and trade from around the Mediterranean and Aegean trade networks.

Evidence of influence in pottery...

Jug with papyrus. Height 24.5 cm. Late Minoan I (Photograph by Max Hirmer)
The jug on the left is from the site of Palaikstro as stated by Spyridon Marinatos. It is 24.5 cm in height and is from the late Minoan I period. As you can clearly see it has the design of papyrus on it. Papyrus is known to grow in mostly one place. Along the Nile river. The Egyptians used it for all sorts of things. It was used to make boats so they could travel the Nile, it was used to make cordage that was used in daily life and maybe in the construction of monumental architecture, some ancient writers say that the Egyptians may have eaten it and it was definitely used to make paper. For the people living in the town of Palaikastro to know what a papyrus plant looks like they would have had to either go to Egypt or that someone from Egypt came over to their port with it. This is clear evidence that what was happening in Egypt influenced their art.

Papyrus plant

To the right is a picture of what a papyrus stalk looks like. Its easy to see that the design on the jusg looks very similar.


Not only are there influence to be found in the pottery but also in statues like the snake goddess statues that is so famous and figurines like the ones found at Palaikastro.
Women in a chain dance with a lyre player. (Photograph by Max Hirmer)
Here we have a model of three women in a chain dance of some kind with a lyre player as stated by Spyridon Marinatos.This was found at the site of Palaikastro. It is 13.1 cm high, from the Late Minoan III and it is made from clay. There is no way to say if this is a religious pierce or not but it does show that the Minoans were making figurines of people going about their daily lives. It has been painted so you can clearly see they are women; their skirts are similar in design. This is one of few figurines that have been found not of a god or goddess and not of a high ranking person.
Men at work.

The next picture was found at the site of Deir el-Bersha in tomb 10A. Its about 24.3 cm high is made from wood. It shows a brewery and bakery. this picture can be found in the book Arts of Ancient Egypt. It has been painted. The Egyptians used these models as a way to help out people in the after life. While the Minoans did nothing like that it still seemed important to both to depict daily life. The Egyptian model was probably made for someone of high stasis. It is clearly daily life as sculptures for more wealthy people would never depict them working.

Here is just another example of how the Minoans thought daily life was important. This is a child who is thought to have been playing knucklebones. It was found at the site of Palaikastro but Marinatos says that some say it was not Cretan. This could only prove more that someone was influencing the Minoan material culture enough so that things they made figurines that look completely different from the norm.

Ivory Child. Height 4 cm. Late Minoan I (Photograph by Max Hirmer)

Both the Egyptians and the Cretan were making figurinesand both thought tat the daily life going on around them was important enough to capture in art. Its hard to say who influence who but it is clear that the idea came from somewhere and these two pictures show that at least Palaikstro was in contact with Egypt.

The biggest find yet...

Here we have a jug that was found at the site of Palaikastro. It is late Minoan I and the main pattern as described by Marinatos is of a vine or possibly a tree branch that has been forced into a spiral.
Jug with floral design. Height 24.5 cm. Late Minoan I (Photograph by Max Hirmer)
The next picture on the right is of the famous Marseilles Ewer that was said to have been found in Egypt but that has come into question by some like Merrillees. Merrillees says he believes that if nothing else the pot was only bought in Alexanderia. Is it so hard to believe that possibly the maker of the first pot found at Palaikastro might have moved his shop to a larger, more profitable, place like Egypt? He obiviously had talent and where better to sell such a unique pot with such a beautiful design then Egypt? Egypt has papyrus plants, not such exotic marine life like Crete. These pots are so similar in style it is easy to believe that they came from the same shop. Just take a look at the handles. They are both heavy set. The Marseilles Ewer even has the marine style influence from the Minoan pottery.
Marseilles Ewer. From Aegean coast, Late Minoan IB (Photograph from the Musee Borley, Marseilles)

Lentoid flask. Height 28 cm. Late Minoan I (Photograph by Max Hirmer)

To the left is a lentoid flask with the design of an octopus found at the site of Palaikastro. (photograph by Max Hirmer) It is about 28 cm high and is from the Late Minoan I. It is a wonderful example of the marine style design that the Minoans favored. Looking at this design it is easy to see similarities in the Marseilles Ewer.


Palaikastro was a thriving port. It stood all on its own without a palace to reign over it. People were still doing fine without such obvious inequality staring at them daily. They had specialization which we saw evidence for through a kiln that was discovered there by Davaras and team. He made if very obvious this was a pottery kiln; its locaion to the town makes it still possible to imagine it was used to make pots sold in town and traded across the Aegean Sea. The fact that this kiln was found in a suburb of Palaikastro only lends to the idea that this town was still large enough to have a wide trade network without a palace. Next we looked at how the designs on pots found at the site of Palaikastro were influenced by the Egyptains. The pot with the papyrus plant was found and made in Palaikastro, this means that there must have been some trade outside Crete as the papyrus plant does not grow there. Then the figurines showed us that both the Egyptians and the Cretans thought is was important to depict daily life in sculptures. Who started doing this first? Last we saw the best evidence for external influence yet. Looking at the Marseilles Ewer and the jug found at Palaikastro its hard to say that they do not look a lot a like. Its also hard to say that the Marseilles Ewer was not influenced by Minoan design as it has marine life on it, which an example of was given by the lentoid flask found at Palaikastro.


Davaras, C
1980 A Minoan pottery kiln in Palaikastr, Annual British School at Athens v.75:115-26
Freed, Rita E., with Lawrence M. Berman, Denise M. Doxey
2003 Arts of Ancient Egypt. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts
Knapp, Bernard A.
1992 Bronze Age Mediterranean Island Cultures and the Ancient Near East. The American Schools of Oriental Research: The Biblical Archaeologist, v. 55(3): 112-128
Marinatos, Spyridon, and Max Hirmer
Crete and Mycenea. Harry N. Abrams, INC., New York
Merrillees, R.S.
1972 Aegean Bronze Age Relations with Egypt. Archaeological Institute of America: American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 76(3): 281-294
Ryan, Donald P.
1988 Papyrus. The American Schools Of Oriental Research: The Biblical Archaeologist, vol 51(3): 132-140