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Minoan civilisation may have used celestial “star path” navigation techniques

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A study published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, suggests that Bronze Age civilisations sailed by the stars using celestial navigation techniques similar to those employed by Polynesian and Micronesian cultures.

The study by skyscape archaeologist, Alessandro Berio, has uncovered new evidence that the ancient Minoan civilisation developed significant nautical technologies to aid in the international sea trade, which is linked to the wealth and expansion of the culture throughout the Mediterranean. Due to its location, reliance on open sea navigation and international trade cycles were at the heart of Minoan culture.

The Minoans were a Bronze Age Aegean civilisation on the island of Crete, which flourished from 2600 – 1100 BC. The term “Minoan” refers to the mythical King Minos of Knossos, a figure in Greek mythology associated with Theseus, the labyrinth and the Minotaur.

The study examined the orientations of the palaces along navigational directions, where the grand rectangular central courts, oriented generally north south on the long axis, are considered the defining architectural characteristic of the Minoan palace construction.

The analysis showed that the axis of the Minoan palaces were oriented toward the rising or setting of important navigational stars, which may have helped sailors to navigate to the bustling commercial destinations in the Levant and Egypt. The orientation of these palaces symbolised Crete’s special relationship with foreign trading hubs and the control that local elites wielded over specific sea lanes.

The study suggests that the Minoans used “star paths”, or linear constellations (known in traditional Polynesian star sailing as kaveinga) to reach cities in the Mediterranean area, many of which have evidence of Minoan artefacts and frescos.

Image Credit : Alessandro Berio

An example of a “star path” is Spica in the constellation of Virgo, which has a direct route connecting Knossos – the largest Minoan palace – to the important trading hub of Sidon (in modern Lebanon).

According to legend, Sidon is the location of Zeus’s theriomorphic transformation into a bull and subsequent abduction of the Tyrian princess Europa. The pair crossed the Mediterranean to Crete, where she gave birth to King Minos, who heralded the beginning of the Minoan civilisation.

Similar to Knossos, the central court at the Minoan trading centre of Kato Zakro’s has an orientation that aligns toward a major Minoan trade contact along traditional navigational stars, while being exactly oriented with the Etesian winds. A rhumb line toward the ancient city of Pelusium (Tel Farama), at the mouth of the Pellusiac branch of the River Nile, was at the constant azimuth, precisely aligned with the central court orientation.

Image Credit : Alessandro Berio

These discoveries demonstrate the sophisticated navigational abilities of the Minoans, which may have included the use of a star compass similar to those found in the Caroline islands, north of New Guinea. It also challenges the commonly-held belief about the limitations of open-sea navigation, mathematics and interregional trade in the Bronze Age.

Further research is needed to fully understand the link between specific Minoan palaces and partner cities, as well as the celestial navigation techniques used by the civilisation.

However, this study provides a fascinating glimpse into the economic and maritime heart of Minoan culture, and the powerful role celestial navigation played in the rise of this ancient civilisation.

The study concludes that the central courts of the palaces were primarily aligned toward important star paths aimed at distant coastal emporia such as Byblos and Sidon. This research has the potential to shed light on the trade networks and cultural exchanges that occurred in the ancient world and indicate the celestial navigation was being utilised a thousand years before the first historical mentions in Homer’s Odyssey.

Header Image Credit : Alessandro Berio

http://maajournal.com/Issues/2022/Vol22-3/9_Berio_22(3).pdf

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Trove of Roman objects linked to feasting found at Ostia antica

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Archaeologists have uncovered a trove of Roman objects linked to ritual feasting at Ostia antica.

Ostia Antica is an ancient harbour town located at the mouth of the Tiber River. The harbour served as the main port for Rome, transporting goods and people from the coast along the Via Ostiensis.

Archaeologists recently excavated the area of Regio I – Insula XV, a “sacred area” or precinct housing several temples and sanctuaries. At the centre is the temple of Hercules,  a 31 x 16 metre monument which dates from the Republican Era.

Excavations have revealed a substantial well situated at the base of the temple of Hercules. Upon draining the well, it was discovered to hold a significant collection of objects dating from the 1st to 2nd century AD.

Among the objects are various ceramics, miniatures, lamps, glass containers, fragments of marble, and burnt animal bones (pigs and cattle). According to the archaeologists, the trove corresponds with ritual feasting associated with cult at the temple.

In a press statement by the Ministry of Culture: “The discovery of burnt bones confirms that animal sacrifices were carried out in the sanctuary, while the common ceramics, also bearing traces of fire, indicate that the meat was cooked and consumed during banquets in honour of divinity. The remains of one or more ritual meals were thrown into the well, the last ones probably when their function had ceased.”

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Culture

Sources : Ministry of Culture

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Labyrinthine structure discovered from the Minoan civilisation

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Archaeologists have discovered a monumental labyrinthine structure on the summit of Papoura Hill in Crete.

The discovery was made during the installation of a radar system in preparation for the construction of a new airport in the area.

According to experts, the structure dates from between 2000 to 1700 BC shortly before or at the start of the palaeopalatial Minoan period.

The Minoan civilisation was a Bronze Age culture that emerged on the island of Crete around 3100 BC. The culture is known for the monumental architecture and energetic art, and is often regarded as the first civilisation in Europe.

Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

The chronology of the Minoans is characterised into three distinct phases – Early Minoan (EM), Middle Minoan (MM), and Late Minoan (LM).

The palaeopalatial structure is part of the MMI – II grouping in the Middle Minoan, a period in which the first palaces were built and saw the development of the Minoan writing systems, Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A.

The structure comprises of 8 concentric stone rings that converge on a central circular building. The entire diameter of the complex measures 48 metres and covers an area of approximately 1800 square metres.

Within the central structure are four designated zones in which radial walls intersect vertically and form a labyrinthine structure. Zones A and B appear to be have the main concentration of human activity, evidenced by the presence of large amounts of animals bones.

According to the experts, this residential area likely had a truncated cone or vaulted appearance and is the first monument of this type excavated in Crete. It can perhaps be paralleled with the elliptical MM building of the Chamezi Archaeological Site, as well as with the so-called circular proto-Hellenic cyclopean building of Tiryns.

The Minister of Culture, said: “This is a unique and highly significant find. Solutions are in place to ensure the completion of the archaeological research and the protection of the monument.”

Header Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

Sources : Greek Ministry of Culture

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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