Minoan Temples and Tombs

The Minoan civilization flourished in the Mediterranean island of Crete during the mid-second millennium b.c.e. and influenced later developments in the Aegean in various ways. It has been suggested, for example, that orientation practices in early and Classical Greece may derive in part from this more ancient culture. The rich Bronze Age heritage of Minoan Crete includes palaces, villas, and several peak sanctuaries—cult centers where archaeologists have uncovered thousands of clay figurines, apparently votive offerings left by pilgrims. Various solar and stellar alignments noted at peak sanctuaries such as Pyrgos and Petsophas hint at an intimate relationship between these temples and observations of the skies, as well as to the possible use of prominent horizon foresights.

Similar relationships may also have extended to tombs. At Armenoi, a huge Minoan cemetery on the western part of the island, are well over two hundred carefully constructed tombs consistently oriented eastwards within an arc that is best explained as relating to moonrise. Prominent on the skyline in this direction is Mount Vrysinas, a mountain that may well have had strong cultic associations with the moon, since a peak sanctuary located on its summit seems to have been dedicated to a moon goddess.

See also:


Temple Alignments in Ancient Greece. References and further reading

Blomberg, Mary, Peter Blomberg, and Goran Henriksson, eds. Calendars, Symbols and Orientations: Legacies of Astronomy in Culture, 127-134. Uppsala: Uppsala Astronomical Observatory, 2003. Hoskin, Michael. Tombs, Temples and Their Orientations, 217-222. Bognor

Regis, UK: Ocarina Books, 2001. Jones, Donald W. Peak Sanctuaries and Sacred Caves in Minoan Crete: A

Comparison of Artifacts. Jonsered: Paul Astroms Forlag, 1999.

Peatfield, Alan A. D. "The Topography of Minoan Peak Sanctuaries." Annual of the British School at Athens 78 (1983), 273-279.

Ruggles, Clive, Frank Prendergast, and Tom Ray, eds. Astronomy, Cosmology and Landscape, 72-91. Bognor Regis, UK: Ocarina Books, 2001.

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