Minoan Civilization The Minoan civilization developed on the islands of Crete and Thera, in the Mediterranean Sea. It began about 2500 B.C. and largely disappeared in the 1400's B.C. Historians once thought that the Minoan civilization ended after Crete was devastated by an earthquake, a tidal wave, and volcanic ash after a massive volcanic eruption on the island of Thera. This view is no longer held by most historians, who now speculate that Achaean invaders from the mainland may have destroyed the civilization.

In 1900, the British archeologist Arthur Evans unearthed the palace of the king at the ancient city of Knossos on Crete. Further discoveries on Crete and excavations on Thera beginning in 1967 revealed much about Minoan life and culture.

Frescoes, pottery, and metalwork show that the chief deity of the Minoans was a mother-goddess. Her favorite sacrificial victim was the bull. The national sport was a form of bullfighting. The palace had an intricate arrangement of floors, rooms, and passageways, and a remarkably modern plumbing system, including flushing toilets. The Minoans wrote on tablets in hieroglyphs and in two forms of script: Linear A and, later, Linear B. In 1952, Linear B was found to be an archaic form of Greek. Linear A has similarities to Phoenician.

Minoan civilization was at its height in the century preceding its collapse. Minoan ships dominated commerce on the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean seas; Minoan colonies were founded in Asia Minor. During the 1400's B.C. the Achaeans, who founded the Mycenaean civilization, became dominant on Crete. About 1100 B.C. Mycenaean civilization was ended by the first migration of Dorians, who soon occupied Crete and wiped out the remnants of Minoan culture.