A collection of bronze swords and daggers from the Arkalochori Cave, Crete, belonging to the Late Minoan Era (1700-1450 BC) before the Mycenaean conquest of Knossos (c.1450). (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete).
The Minoan “Prince of the Lilies”. Frescoes like this, regardless of their elegance and splendor, among other evidence led to the earlier incorrect conclusion which was turned into popular belief about the “peace-loving Minoans” (images and comments added by periklisdeligiannis.wordpress.com).
Republication from the University of Sheffield website
Research from the University of Sheffield has discovered that the ancient civilisation of Crete, known as Minoan, had strong martial traditions, contradicting the commonly held view of Minoans as a peace-loving people.
The research, carried out by Dr Barry Molloy of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology, investigated the Bronze Age people of Crete, known by many as the Minoans, who created the very first complex urban civilisation in Europe.
“Their world was uncovered just over a century ago, and was deemed to be a largely peaceful society,” explained Molloy. “In time, many took this to be a paradigm of a society that was devoid of war, where warriors and violence were shunned and played no significant role.
“That utopian view has not survived into modern scholarship, but it remains in the background unchallenged and still crops up in modern texts and popular culture with surprising frequency.
“Having worked on excavation and other projects in Crete for many years, it triggered my curiosity about how such a complex society, controlling resources and trading with mighty powers like Egypt, could evolve in an egalitarian or cooperative context. Can we really be that positive about human nature? As I looked for evidence for violence, warriors or war, it quickly became obvious that it could be found in a surprisingly wide range of places.”
Building on recent developments in the study of warfare in prehistoric societies, Molloy’s research reveals that war was in fact a defining characteristic of the Minoan society, and that warrior identity was one of the dominant expressions of male identity.
Molloy continued: “The study shows that the activities of warriors included such diverse things as public displays of bull-leaping, boxing contests, wrestling, hunting, sparring and duelling. Ideologies of war are shown to have permeated religion, art, industry, politics and trade, and the social practices surrounding martial traditions were demonstrably a structural part of how this society evolved and how they saw themselves.”
Even the famous Mycenaeans, heroes of the Greek Trojan War, took up the Minoan way of war – adopting its weaponry, practices and ideologies. “In fact,” said Molloy, “it is to Crete we must look for the origin of those weapons that were to dominate Europe until the Middle Ages, namely swords, metal battle-axes, shields, spears and probably armour also.”
A paper on the Minoan-originated figure-of-eight shield and the tower shield: here