Excavated by Sir Arthur Evans, for the British School of Archaeology, throughout the early decades of the 20th century, Knossos is amongst the most important archaeological sites in the world.
Evans’ techniques of shoring-up and rebuilding parts of the site have been criticised by many, but were perhaps necessary at the time of the excavation, though it does have the look of a concrete jungle in places, and discovering what’s modern and what’s Minoan can be confusing for the visitor. The gypsum chair in the “throne room” is original, but not the frescoes (you can see some of the reconstructed originals in the archaeological museum) though the “house of the frescoes” is at least 3500 years old, and the site itself dates back to at least 7.000 BC. Knossos was continuously inhabited for the following 9,000 years; there is even a room here where Arab coins have been found, suggesting that a group of ‘Saracens’ may have inhabited the site during their occupation of the island (824-961 AD), which is just about the only evidence remaining of their inhabiting the island. Confusion reigned during the renaissance period as to exactly where Knossos was, with some preferring the site at Gortyna, but by the end of the 18th century, it had become established that this is where the Knossos – as mentioned by Homer – was situated. British travel writers such as Pockocke, Pashley, and Spratt, all identified the site as being here.
The site itself has an area in excess of 20,000 square metres, comfartably the largest of the “palaces’. The finds from here can be found in the Herakleion archaeological museum (see museums), and include fragments of frescoes (with the missing parts of the larger picture, repainted by Piet de Jong during the middle half of the 1900s), double headed axes, snake-goddess sculptures, vases of all shapes and sizes, and the three scripts from Minoan Crete: hieroglyphic, Linear A and Linear B. The vast majority off all Linear B tablets (deciphered as Greek by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick in the 1950’s) found in Crete, come from here. In fact, on the island, other than Knossos, only Chania (probably the site of Minoan ‘Kydonia’) has uncovered fragements of this script, whilst Mycenae, Pylos and Thebes in mainland Greece have yielded examples.