Knossos Royal Palaca Tourist Attractions
Five km/3mi southeast of Iráklion (five minutes by bus), near the village of Makritíkhos, is the site of Knossos, once capital of the island, with a royal palace which was excavated and partly reconstructed from 1899 onwards by British archeologists led by Sir Arthur Evans (1851-1941).The extensive complex laid out on four levels on the hill of Kefála, partly of two and partly of three stories, was several times destroyed, probably by earthquakes, and subsequently rebuilt. Three phases can therefore be distinguished, the First Palace (ca. 2000-1800 B.C.), the Second Palace (ca. 1800-1700) and the Third Palace (ca. 1700-1400). The remains now visible belong mainly to the Third Palace, built after 1700, which was altered and extended in later centuries but is still substantially in its 16th century state.The complicated layout of the palace suggested that this was the legendary Labyrinth of King Minos, a suggestion supported by the fact that the double axe (labrys), the symbol of Minoan Crete, featured in the decoration of the palace.The palace is entered from the West Court (on the left, remains of a "theatral area"). Continuing along the Processional Corridor (named after the frescoes which decorate it), through the monumental South Propylaia and along a long corridor flanked by store-rooms containing large storage jars, we come into the spacious Central Court, in which bull-leaping games (as depicted in representations in the Archeological Museum, Iráklion) may have been held.On the west side of the court are the Grand Staircase and the Throne Room (with a stone throne; ca. 2000 B.C.), and on the east side are domestic offices, workshops and rooms with baths and lavatories (flushed by water). Adjoining the Hall of the Double Axes (after the double-axe symbols on the pillars) are the King's Megaron and Queen's Megaron. The numerous frescoes are copies (originals in the Archeological Museum in Iráklion).Around the palace is the site (still largely unexcavated) of the Minoan city of Knossos, which may have had as many as 100,000 inhabitants. Among the remains which have been excavated are a number of villas and the Little Palace (200m/220yd northwest).