The relative chronology is based on the shapes and decorative styles of pottery found at many sites on Crete and elsewhere.
Arthur Evans began excavating on a hill called tou tseleve he kephala, "the headland of the chieftain", some three miles (5 km) from the north coast of Crete, on March 23, 1900.
The absence of fortifications in the settlements suggests a relatively peaceful co-existence between the different communities.
However, the presence of weapons such as swords, daggers and arrow-heads and defensive equipment such as armour and helmets would also suggest that peace may not always have been enjoyed.
The Minoans, as a sea-faring culture, were also in contact with foreign peoples throughout the Aegean, as is evidenced by the Near East and Egyptian influences in their early art but also in later export trade, notably the exchange of pottery and foodstuffs such as oil and wine in return for precious objects and materials such as copper from Cyprus and ivory from Egypt.
The reasons for the demise of the Minoan civilization continue to be debated.
Minoan settlements, tombs and cemeteries have been found all over Crete but the four principal palace sites (in order of size) were at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and Zakros.
At each of these sites, large, complex palace structures of two or three stories and covering several thousand square metres seem to have acted as local administrative, trade, religious and possibly political centres.
The palaces were well-appointed, monumental structures with large courts, colonnades, staircases, religious crypts, light-wells, drainage systems, extensive storage magazines and even ‘theatre’ areas for public spectacles.
He called the civilization that he discovered there Minoan.
The same scheme was later applied to the Greek mainland and the Cyclades Islands to form a general plan for dating events of the prehistoric and early historic Aegean.
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