At the passage of the Neolithic, at the Bronze Age in Crete, a civilization that we call Minoan develops. Over the period called ancient Minoan, covering the years 2700 to 2000 BC, strong commercial exchanges will link Crete to Egypt and especially to Anatolia, then in a second time to the Iberian Peninsula, Gaul and even Cornwall (Great Britain). The Minoans will remain in history as the starting point of European civilization and will later bequeath to us magnificent palaces including that of Knossos.
The Bronze Age is the period from 3000 to 1000 BC. This period succeeds the Stone Age and is characterized by the fact that man begins to create copper and tin alloys, in particular for tools and for weapons. The arrival of the Bronze Age differs greatly according to the geographical areas, the exchanges being at this time limited. In Greece, it is estimated that this happened in Crete around 2700 BC, marking the end of the Neolithic and the beginning of the Bronze Age for the Hellenic geographical area. According to Arthur Evans, the archaeologist who discovered the palace of Knossos which we will discuss later, the introduction of metals in Crete would be due to immigration from Egypt. However, this is now strongly contested, other theories, including those of Dr. Ratko Duev, professor at the University of Skopje, rather lean in favor of the settlement in Crete of Hittite colonizers from Anatolia (Turkey) . Current thought defends the idea that the whole region of the Aegean is at that time inhabited by a people designated as pre-Hellenic or Aegean. She also advocates the fact that the spread of the use of bronze in the Aegean Sea is linked to large cultural and commercial movements from the coasts of Anatolia to Crete, the Cyclades and southern Greece. These regions then entered a phase of social and cultural development, marked mainly by the boom in navigation linking Crete to Anatolia and Cyprus.
The development of Crete
By focusing its development on its navy, Crete began to occupy a predominant place in the Aegean Sea. Commercially, it multiplies exchanges with several countries producing raw materials. The Cretans seek copper in Cyprus, gold in Egypt, silver and obsidian in the Cyclades. Ports developed under the influence of this growing activity: Zakros and Palaiokastro on the eastern coast, as well as the islets of Mochlos and Pseira on the northern coast. These four ports became the main trading centers with Anatolia. Zakros and Palaiokastro, due to their strategic position, closer to Anatolia, quickly imposed themselves on the other two, and then constituted the most active centers of the Cretan island. Malia, which is located on the north coast 34 kilometers from Heraklion will be the first village to become what we would call today, a small town. It will later become one of the four major cities of Crete. In the plain of Messara, towards the city today called Matala, things are also moving. Communities of farmers and herders develop. It seems that in Crete, from the end of the ancient Minoan, villages and small towns become the norm. Isolated farms are already very rare, unlike many other parts of the world. On the other hand Knossos at this time still only knows a sub-neolithic civilization, that is to say without metal.
The emergence of Knossos and Phaestos
In Crete, the generalization of the use of bronze has the effect of intensifying the exchanges between the populations and the center of gravity of the island moves. The cities of the center gradually begin to compete with those of the eastern part. A state of affairs reinforced by the arrival of new raw materials, which diverted the attention of the Cretans from Anatolia to the west. For example, tin from the Iberian Peninsula, Gaul or Cornwall arrives on the coasts of Sicily and those of the Adriatic. By mercantile reaction, some cities begin to direct their trade towards these regions. This is how the mouth of the Kairatos, near Heraklion, develops. At this time, a road was built, crossing Crete with Knossos and Phaestos as main stages. These two towns, taking advantage of this route of commercial exchanges which are diversifying and intensifying, logically impose themselves as the new centers of economic attraction of the island. With regard to agriculture, we know from excavations that almost all known species of cereals and legumes were already cultivated and that all agricultural products still known today such as oil, olives, wine and grapes are produced at this time. The Minoans therefore no longer live from hunting and fishing. This allows the island to have numerous and diversified local products serving as currency of exchange against raw materials. We are then around 2000 BC and the Minoans begin to build their first palaces. These constructions bring them into a new period called proto-palatial.