How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

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Dr. Jack Dempsey Dr. Jack Dempsey
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How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

How do Minoans change your view of Western history?  What does it mean that Minoan Crete's many superb achievements predate the Classical Greek world by over 1,000 years?

Consider one or more of Crete's highly advanced aspects---from the reach of their explorations and maritime trade, to their high and relatively peaceful standards of living, without any recognizable "kings"---and, if you will, discuss how it changes your view of what traditional education has always suggested about "the beginnings of Western Civilization."

For example, did "democracy" begin in Athens? Or did it have less obvious forms in the Minoan world? I'd love to know your thoughts on such questions!
Chris Chris
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Re: How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

I think alot depends on whether the original "eto Cretans" that used Linear A were Indo European (presuming the Mycenaeans were Indo European) or whether they were Semitic (from the Levant area) or even Afroasiatic/Egyptian. It would also be interesting to understand whether the 'Pelasgians' who by some accounts were the indigeneous inhabitants of Greece were indeed of the same family as the Etruscans. The Etruscans we know had their own script so if they were a branch of the Pelasgians perhaps the Pelasgians created the first European script.  
Dr. Jack Dempsey Dr. Jack Dempsey
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Re: How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

The older I get the more it seems that a huge important river of our history is completely "off the books." We're all back to the drawing board with the finds of tools at least 130,000 years old in the area of Plakias, Crete---i.e., who was the first indigenous Cretan element, and I think recent DNA studies suggest that Eteo-Cretans have connections also to very early central Europeans. Then confusingly there sure are elements from every part of the compass-dial in Minoan "blood and culture"....And I have always shared your intuition of connections among Pelasgians, Minoans, the many members of the post-Minoan "Sea Peoples" who had linkages through Gi/Pytogyah including Philistines, and then (when Philistines withdraw from the Middle East) the as usual "sudden, mysterious, highly advanced" appearance of Etruscans with so much in common: seagoing skills, social class fluidity, gender equality, celebration of this life, "high tech," building/construction, on and on....Good post!
Chris Chris
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Re: How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

So would I be right in assuming that you think it most likely that the Eto Cretans and the Pelasgians were not 'Indo European'? If I may ask another question; would you call the Theran (Santorini today) culture as 'Minoan' or semi Eto Cretan?
Dr. Jack Dempsey Dr. Jack Dempsey
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Re: How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

First reply is a complete/total GUESS that EteoCretans and Pelasgians were not Indo-European (btw, does "Indo-European" even exist in these discussions anymore?)....Second, wouldn't we have to say that people of Santorini today are Cycladic Greek?
Chris Chris
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Re: How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

I cannot claim to 'know with certainty' either but I would tend to agree with your guess. I would say the myths regarding the Minotaur and Theseus represent the first encounters of the Mycenaenian 'Indo European' people with this - to them - superior (culturally, economically and perhaps in naval matters) Cretan civilisation. Of course they didn't understand the significance of the bull in 'Minoan' culture - a bit like Moses was disgusted with the Israelites building a golden calf while he was receiving the Ten Commandments - the Apis Bull of Egypt is perhaps another similar custom, and so it became a Minotaur and perhaps some form of payment was at first made to the 'Minoans' for trade rights of some such.

Regarding the Cycladic Greek idea I would say that travel is alot easier today than it was 4,500yrs ago so people are able to change their abode alot more easily thus incomers and outgoers happen alot more so no I am afraid I would not class the people of todays Santorini as necessarily 'Cycladic Greek'.  
Dr. Jack Dempsey Dr. Jack Dempsey
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Re: How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

Certainly many of the native-born population of Santorini come from Cycladic (other Greek Island) family groups while many others, as you say, are mixed through migration...and I certainly think they call themselves Greeks!

What I try to show in my novel "Ariadne's Brother" is that while the Minoans were centuries more advanced and world-seasoned than the mainland groups either Indo-European and/or Mycenaean, the latter with their very different world-view, social structure etc. were probably just the right/wrong mixture of envy and headstrong ignorance to make them feel as if they were being "devoured"---i.e., their identities changed into someone/something else---by the pleasures and wonders of their contacts with Minoans. If you look at the Old Testament language it uses the same word for what seemed to be happening to supposed Israelites in Egypt. And, given the many new archaeological studies that characterize Minoans' foreign contacts---their coming to a new place for resources but building, developing and intermarrying, rather than invading/occupying---I suppose one would need a comforting story of a "decadent empire" and "man-eating monster that had to go" to justify to oneself (and to "the people" who likely know better) the greed, needless violence and idiotic waste that was the conquest of Crete. Minoans had been around for 2,000 years, the Mycenaeans take over and last maybe 300---so who had it right? A pleasure to discuss with you!
Chris Chris
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Re: How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

I shall be sure to find your novel and look forward to reading it. The 'truth' of any myth we can never approach by definition almost despite the theories put forward by Robert Graves in his "Greek Myths" books basically identifying the Heruclids with the Dorians. I would suggest that the Old Testament 'devoured' meaning you suggest is common and generally means 'seduced' - such usages of this language are recorded in late Medieval English and French even "devoured by the devil" where 'devoured' meant 'making a deal'. The Cathars are an obvious example so I am inclined to accept your understanding of this 'devouring' of these exotic (and therefore 'bad' - ie our leaders cannot provide you as well and are jealous) Eto Cretans in the eyes of the proto Mycenaeans on the mainland.

The question then becomes that if the Pelasgians were in some way in contact with 'Minoans' - or even related to them as I think you inferred - why did not the culture establish a serious hold on the mainland? Perhaps just a combination of 'bad timings'? That the 'Minoans' were about to when the first Indo European migration arrived? Of course this may well have been the case and from all we know of the eto Cretans they were are trading people rather than a warlike people, though I believe some scholars have suggested cannibalism as a part of their culture, and it certainly seems proven that human sacrifice was part of their culture (which relates more to Phoenician heritage, the later Carthaginians practicing similar rites). Churchill thought Russia was "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" but clearly he never studied Linear A or B or the riddle of ancient Crete.

Similary Sir a great pleasure to discuss such a fascinating topic with someone so well informed as yourself.
Dr. Jack Dempsey Dr. Jack Dempsey
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Re: How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

A very good (but now deceased) scholar Dieter Rumpel made one of the best arguments about the meaning(s) of The Phaestos Disk---an object that I do not normally go near. But, he says it records a small conflict between Minoans and "Achaians" of the mainland over the silver mines at Laurium, close to the area of Athens. (You can probably find this paper via Google, as I'm sure I did.) Perhaps the Minoans were generally content to see their culture borrowed and imitated on the mainland?

As for human sacrifice, in my small opinion, I think there is far too much sensational and careless work about it in the Minoans' regard, producing a general "easy agreement" that this was something normal for them. What we really have is A) the single definite example from Anemospilia in the Middle period, when massive earthquakes were going on, and this with various details suggesting that it was made by the person (not "the victim") voluntarily, like a supreme effort to appeal to "the gods" in a time of great fear. B) The finding of "children's bones with scrape-marks on them" at or near Knossos---To me, this really proves nothing about "cannibalism," since it was very ordinary and respectful practice in those times to remove the "meat" from a dead person's bones as part of special burial practices (called "excarnation"). Furthermore, if the "meat" was consumed, one can argue just as well (based on parallel examples from Native Americans) that consuming it was first of all a way to express the hope that the dead person would live or be reborn among the living again. This I believe explains a lot more of the Phoenician and Carthaginian cases too: their political rivals used this to make them look "bad" without understanding anything about it. But, of course, ignorant journalists who want to stir up blood-based "excitement" (or, try to prove that Minoans "were just as savage as anybody else") make more of this...
Chris Chris
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Re: How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

Thought this might be of interest to you; http://www.shef.ac.uk/news/nr/war-central-minoans-ancient-crete-1.235205 which has links to the main body pdf research.
Dr. Jack Dempsey Dr. Jack Dempsey
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Re: How Do Minoans Change Your View of Western History?

Hello again Chris! Thanks for the link, and yes I've known about Molloy's argument since it appeared in 2013 and of course studied it. My main response is that for all its claims (and he's hardly the first to argue that Minoans had a military and knew war), his work is very top-heavy on social theory and very thin on direct, clearly visible Minoan evidence and examples. As I'm sure you know in general, academics across the anthropological disciplines are very uneasy about any culture that doesn't appear to fit their existing models. Tearing down the apparent exceptions is how young careerists make their bones, and what gets run over every time is the particularity of the culture in question.

The use of the word "utopian" sets up a straw-man into which it's then easy to fire one's arrows of assumptions about another dog-whistle, that derogatory but virtually useless term "human nature." Nobody of any analytical weight has ever claimed that Minoan warriors had "no significant role" in their society: ancient Crete had weapons and places of honor for men of martial skills, they protected their island, their shipping, and their trade-outposts, and they showed great exuberance in competitive sports.

But you have to wait for the violent takeover by mainland Mycenaeans and their full, fortified but very brief "bloom" to see a culture such as Molloy describes. They took virtually everything civilized from Crete: why should it surprise that they adopted Minoan weaponry? You can also look at the best analyses of Minoans' vs. Mycenaeans' behavior in their foreign contacts to see the differences in emphasis: where Minoans came to an island to develop a resource they were not fortified but mixed with/shared cultural traits with the locals over long periods, while Mycenaeans built familiar-style colonies, mixed very little and endured no longer than their home-culture's "stasis" or in-fighting allowed.

Molloy's claim that Minoan bull-leaping and other sports were training for war simply emphasizes what he wants to find in them while ignoring their other dimensions, meanings and purposes. Again, nobody of weight claims that Minoan peacefulness was perfect: what they do show is that violence increased exponentially with Mycenaean presence in Crete, and I suggest the specifics in works of Peter Warren, Jeffrey Soles and Christopher Nowicki on that, plus Driessen/Macdonald's 1997 "The Troubled Island"---all of which run evidentiary circles around Molloy's top-heavy generalizations.

Last for now, Molloy's suggestion of "elite manipulation" of Minoans for war-like purposes may fit neatly into academic assumptions about that chimera they call "human nature," but is miles off the mark in terms of evidence, which cannot show a single example of a domestic Cretan "overlord" or foreign imperialism. Crete's fiercely independent, heterarchic localities leave no such traces: quite the opposite, since there is not a shred of evidence of anything like a familiar "king" or imperial state in Minoan Crete. What we have instead is a loose confederacy of Cretan communities held together by strict limitations on central and individual power, a calendar-based system whereby polities competed in mounting festivals for prestige (like the Native American custom called "potlatch")---what Peter Warren called the use of "traditional practices" (feasting, sports etc.) rather than violence for mutually-beneficial political ends. Go and talk with Cretans of Lasithi Plateau even today, where Minoan DNA has endured most clearly: they know their own inheritance intimately, and will not stand for the dictates of any external force.

For me, the Minoan evidentiary details (it's all about the details) tells us at least one thing about "human nature": that people are good unless they get too much power. What I consider clear is that Minoans understood this---they could see the results of an opposite belief every day in their foreign neighbors, most of all in Egypt---and that they endured so long and so successfully because they devised and lived by their own system accordingly.

It's sad, and damaging to us, that know-nothing journalists are allowed to heap praise and authority onto works like Molloy's because it helps to reinforce the "naturally depraved" assumptions that keep us in place under imperial tyranny. But that is pretty much the game.

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 9:38 PM, Chris [via Ancient Lights] <[hidden email]> wrote:
Thought this might be of interest to you; http://www.shef.ac.uk/news/nr/war-central-minoans-ancient-crete-1.235205 which has links to the main body pdf research.


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