the Frescoes, the Caravanserai, the Unexplored Mansion, the Temple Tomb, the House of the High Priest, and the South Mansion. Knossos was connected to other Cretan centers by paved roads.

Elsewhere in the Mediterranean basin, grand buildings, domestic or otherwise, adhered to a formal axiality of plan that allowed direct and easy movement through them; they seem to have been thought of as maps or patterns on the ground that were simply extruded to form space. By contrast, the Palace of Minos was quite clearly conceived in terms of space. There were intriguing changes in floor level. Some rooms were narrow (perhaps as a result of the building materials used); others were wide with central columns. Some were comparatively low; others soared through two stories. Some were windowless and dim; others were lit from above or through light wells. Some were enclosed; others could be opened by means of movable partitions so that fresh air could circulate. A network of conduits, pipes, and drains supplied running water for bathrooms (there was even a flush toilet in the queen’s apartment)—a sanitation system that would not be seen again in Europe for 4,000 years. This spatial and technological experimentation was enhanced and enlivened by a celebration of color and decoration. Frescoes adorned the gypsum-faced walls with informal, vivacious scenes in an explosion of deep red, ochre, green, and blue. In the gateway there was a procession of marching youths bearing offerings; in the throne room, a frieze of griffins in a forest; and in the queen’s apartment, fish, coral, and frolicking dolphins. Other recurrent themes included the bull and the dangerous Minoan sport of bull leaping. The distinctive downward-tapering Minoan columns, owing their shape to that of the cypress trees of which they were made, were plastered and painted red or black.

The Palace of Minos was partly damaged by earthquakes in about 1600 b.c. and again around 1500. Real disaster struck in the mid–fifteenth century b.c. when Santorini exploded, sending devastating shocks and tidal waves throughout the region. Soon after, Mycenaean raiding parties from the Greek mainland—perhaps Athenians under the legendary Theseus—overthrew Minoan domination of the Aegean. The other palaces were left deserted, but the invaders rebuilt Knossos and occupied it as their seat of government until about 1380 b.c., perhaps even longer. After about 1000 b.c. it was subjugated by the Dorians, and it became a Roman colony in the third century b.c. Surviving as a city well into the Christian era, Knossos later became the see of a bishop. During the Middle Ages it was reduced to a small village named Makrys Toihos.

The Cretan antiquarian Minos Kalokairinos uncovered part of the palace’s west wing in 1878. Many tried to extend the excavations, but because the land was then privately owned they were forced to discontinue. When Crete achieved independence in 1898, its antiquities became state property, and two years later Evans initiated systematic excavation. By the end of 1903 almost the entire palace had been exposed. Work continued until 1912, extending the dig to adjacent areas of the ancient city, and was again resumed in 1922–1931. Evans has been criticized by some scholars for the speculative nature of some of his restoration, the accuracy of which has rightly been questioned. After 1941 responsibility for the excavations passed to the British School of Archaeology, and since 1952 conservation work has continued in conjunction with the Greek Archaeological Service.

Further reading

Castleden, Rodney. 1990. The Knossos Labyrinth: A New View of the “Palace of Minos” at Knossos. London: Routledge.

Graham, J. Walter. 1987. The Palaces of Crete. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Hood, Sinclair, and William Taylor. 1981. The Bronze Age Palace at Knossos: Plan and Sections. London: Thames and Hudson.

Panama Canal


The Panama Canal, completed in 1914, is a 50.7-mile (81.6-kilometer) passageway through the Isthmus of Panama, connecting Cristobal on the Atlantic coast and Balboa on the Pacific at the narrowest point of the landmass of the Americas. By navigating its three locks, each of which raises or lowers them 85 feet (26 meters), ships can move from ocean to ocean in about twenty-four hours; that saves the several days needed to sail the many thousands of miles around South America. The Panama Canal has been