Religion played an important role in Minoan Crete and many activities, and artistic products revolved around religious cult. As evidence in the art of the period, the Minoans deified the natural world and found in it a logical order that allowed man to live in harmony with the natural environment.
Ritual celebrations usually took place in sacred caves, on sanctuaries on mountain peaks, and in the palaces and villas which all had their own sanctuaries. Animal and bloodless sacrifices, along with processions were part of ritual worship of the great female nature goddess, and during these festivities worshipers used music, dance, and prayer to achieve a state of religious ecstasy that put them in touch with the supernatural.
The sacrifice of the bull, and games like the "taurokatharpsia" that revolved around the animal, were central part of the Minoan religious festivals, symbolizing perhaps man's interaction with powerful natural elements, and ultimately his triumph over them through skill and power.
Some of the ritual objects that have been unearthed during excavations around Crete include the bull mask, the double axe, and the bull horns.
Through their interaction with other civilizations of the middle east, the Minoans were aware and utilized the art of metalworking Their skillful jewelry creations adorned the collections of noble palace inhabitants and were even exported around the Mediterranean.
The archaeological museums in Crete present a number of gold artifacts, along with an assortment of copper instruments that date back to 2300 BC. Copper was a much sought after commodity during this time, and it does not appear naturally in Crete. Most likely the Minoans imported copper from Cyprus.
The skill of the Minoan metal smiths was renown in the ancient world, and many artisans worked abroad in mainland Greece and the Aegean islands. The Mycenaeans learned the art of inlaying bronze with gold from the Minoans.
The first written scripts of the Minoans resemble egyptian hieroglyphs. The Phaistos Disk which is now exhibited in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum and dates back to 1700 BC, is an example of such script. Later the emergence of a syllable based script we call Linear A permeates the island. Linear A has not been deciphered yet, so it is difficult to speculate about its content or origin Numerous tablets of Linear A have been found, mostly in palace and villa excavations.
Linear B which was used by the Mycenaeans was the written script used at later Minoan times and was deciphered recently, in 1953. It has been determined by linguists that Linear B is a primitive form of Greek. Most of the tablets found have been translated to contain inventories of goods in storage, and do shed some indirect light into the life of a prosperous society.
The art of the minoans speak of a society of joyous disposition, in touch with their environment, and in awe of the logical order of the natural world. Above all, the unearthed artifacts reveal a people who had developed a high degree of self-respect and a keen eye for observing and adopting to their physical environment.
Visit the Minoan Art Page for more.