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Minoans to Markies

December 17, 2011

On Thursday John and I set out for Heraklion to pick up Rosie from the airport.  The sun shone, the sea was as calm as I have seen it and the day was full of promise. 

We stopped first at Gournia, a Minoan town, inhabited from 3000BC till around 1450BC and completely excavated between 1901 and 1904AD.  We payed 2Euros each to enter and were in fact the only visitors.  There was not a lot of background information but in front of us were clear, narrow paths, stairways and very small houses.  In fact, what you see were the rooms underneath the houses.  Up on the small hill is the palace and the courtyard in the centre of the town where people congregated and the market took place.  A shrine indicated religious participation.  It was a working community with storerooms, a bronzesmith, carpenter and potter, although the evidence of their workmanship has been taken to the museums.  The round stone washbasins outside the houses are visible as well as the area where the wine was made. 


You could see what the town looked like and you could not but marvel that 4000 years ago, human beings here had a economic, social and religious life.  It seemed creative and productive. I also was amazed at the work that had been carried out in order that I could see what this settlement looked like.  

In the afternoon we went to the Archaelogical Museum in Heraklion which has been under renovation for many years.  However there is a ‘temporary’ museum which displays the highlights of Crete through the ages – particularly the Minoan period.  This suited John who does not like museums to be too big and half an hour later we had seen the most beautiful jewellery, wonderful pots, frescos showing scenes from life so long ago, a gaming board, a beautifully decorated coffin and some fantastic models of people and animals.  All indicators of an age which had developed a way of economic, social, religious and cultural living that was pretty staggering. And it was so long ago.

We came out of the museum and decided to visit the local Marks and Spencers (being rather amazed that there was such a store in Heraklion). Apparently there is also a Virgin store and the Body Shop, signs of a different age from the Minoans!  John bought a nice sweater from M&S (it is chilly in the evenings) and I found a Christmas pudding that was half the price of the one I had bought in Makrigialos! No I didn’t buy it.  One Christmas pudding is enough. 

We picked up Rosie and she was telling me that her fellow travellers now tend to spend time on their IPads etc to the detriment of talking to people and looking at the country they are visiting. I told her about the visit to Gournia and to Marks and Spencers.  It raised questions for me about the nature of ‘progress’.  It seemed that the Minoans had a pretty well developed way of living.  They didn’t have a Marks and Spencers and they didn’t have the IPad or the mobile phone but they did have the means of making food, wine, houses, furniture, jewellery, of keeping themselves clean. They traded, they were artists and game players and they had specific places to gossip and discuss the issues of the day and they believed in some kind of God. Not bad, I think. Have we really made any progress?



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