Knossos

sights / Historic

Lonely Planet review

The ruins of Knossos (k-nos-os ) were uncovered in 1900 by the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. Heinrich Schliemann, the legendary discoverer of ancient Troy, had his eye on the spot, believing an ancient city was buried there, but he was unable to strike a deal with the local landowner in Turkish-controlled Crete.

Intrigued by Schliemann's discovery of engraved seals in Crete, and later pottery finds in Kamares, Evans sailed to Crete in 1894 and set in train the purchase of a share of the Knossos site, which gave him exclusive rights to the excavation. He returned five years later and began digging with a group of Cretan workmen. The first treasure to be unearthed in the flat-topped mound called Kefala was a fresco of a Minoan man, followed by the discovery of the Throne Room. The archaeological world was stunned that a civilisation of this maturity and sophistication had existed in Europe at the same time as the great pharaohs of Egypt. Some even speculated that it was the site of the lost city of Atlantis to which Plato referred to many centuries later, though this is highly disputed.

Evans 'realistic' reconstruction methods continue to be controversial, with both visitors and archaeologists who believe Evans got carried away by his own fantasy. Unlike other archaeological sites in Crete, however, substantial reconstruction helps the visitor to visualise what the palace might have looked like at the peak of its glory.

You will need to spend a few hour hours at Knossos to explore it thoroughly. There is little signage, so unless you have a travel guide, or hire a guide, you may not appreciate what you are looking at. To beat the crowds and avoid the heat, get there early before the tour buses arrive. The café at the site is expensive - you'd do better to bring a picnic along. Note that you can buy a combined ticket for around €10 that also includes entry to the Archaeological Museum of Iraklio.