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The bull-leaping fresco of Knossos palace, in Crete, Greece, dated to about 1600 to 1450 BC. The bull was an important animal in Minoan religion and closely related to the great goddess the Cretans worshiped.

Origins of the Mysterious Minoans Unraveled by Scientists

The Minoan people of Crete—Europe’s first high civilization—present a mystery that has long perplexed scholars and inspired much speculation: Where did these people, whose culture and artifacts seemed different than nearby Greeks, come from? Some have speculated variously on North Africa, Syria, Palestine or the Balkans.

Research a few years ago into DNA from teeth taken from Bronze Age Cretan skeletons cleared up the mystery somewhat. American and Cretan researchers showed that ancient Cretans of the Minoan civilization have the closest relationship to both Neolithic and modern Europeans, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Communications .

Luckily for some modern scientists, the ancient Cretans took care in burying their dead and left some remains in an ossuary in a cave. The team, headed by Jeffrey R. Hughey of Hartnell College in California, examined maternal, mitochondrial DNA of people who lived more than 3,600 years ago.

“The first advanced Bronze Age civilization of Europe was established by the Minoans about 5,000 years before present,” the authors wrote in Nature Communications . “Since Sir Arthur Evans exposed the Minoan civic centre of Knossos [in 1900], archaeologists have speculated on the origin of the founders of the civilization. Evans proposed a North African origin; Cycladic, Balkan, Anatolian and Middle Eastern origins have also been proposed. Here we address the question of the origin of the Minoans by analyzing mitochondrial DNA from Minoan osseous [bony] remains from a cave ossuary in the Lassithi plateau of Crete dated 4,400–3,700 years before present.”

People first arrived on Crete about 9,000 years ago, about the same time as the development of agriculture in the Near East and the migrations that brought farming to Europe, the authors wrote. Crete is an island in the Mediterranean Sea situated south of Greece and southwest of Turkey.

Evans named the Minoans after mythical King Minos of Knossos, the ancient people’s capital. Based on similarities in art, burials and the shared practice of wearing codpieces, Evans speculated that they were refugees from Egypt’s Delta after King Narmer conquered northern Egypt about 3000 BC. Over the years archaeologists dug up other artifacts and posited that the Minoans came from various other places.

“Europa and the Bull,” by Noel Desensfans after Guido Reni. The bull was Zeus. Some stories say he raped her, others say she took him and then sacrificed him.

“Europa and the Bull,” by Noel Desensfans after Guido Reni. The bull was Zeus. Some stories say he raped her, others say she took him and then sacrificed him. Their child was Minos, king of Crete. Some mythographers say Minos means “moon man” and all Minoan kings were named that in the 2000 BC era. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Geneticist George Stamatoyannopoulos of the University of Washington in Seattle, along with Hughey and the other researchers, was able to extract mitochondrial DNA from the teeth of 37 ancient Minoans and compared it to 135 ancient and modern populations. The team found the Minoans had 21 mtDNA markers, including six unique to themselves and 15 common in Neolithic, Bronze Age and modern Europeans. None of the ancient Minoans had mitochondrial DNA similar to modern African people.

In sum, the Minoans of Crete were of Cretan and Greek origin, the study says. The ancestors of the Cretans, the team found, likely came from the Near East and Turkey.

The ruins of the palace of Knossos

The ruins of the palace of Knossos (Photo by Lars Larson/ Wikimedia Commons )

“Given that the timing of the first Neolithic inhabitants to reach Crete 9,000 YBP coincides with the migration of Neolithic farmers out of Anatolia, it is highly probable that the same ancestral population that spread to Europe also spread to Crete and contributed to the founding of the early Minoan civilization,” the authors wrote in 2013. “It has been suggested that in addition to agricultural methods, the Anatolian farmers also brought with them the Indo-European language. The current prevailing hypothesis is that the Minoan language was unrelated to the Indo-European family. Alternatively, as suggested by Renfrew, Proto-Minoan was one of the branches derived from the Proto-Indo-European language about 9,000 YBP.”

It is interesting to note that Minos was a son of Zeus and the Phoenician mortal Europa, who gave Europe its name. Some mythographers say Europa was not a mortal but was the Great Goddess of Indo-European religions.

Featured image: The bull-leaping fresco of Knossos palace, in Crete, Greece, dated to about 1600 to 1450 BC. The bull was an important animal in Minoan religion and closely related to the great goddess the Cretans worshiped. (Photo by Jebulon/ Wikimedia Commons )

By: Mark Miller

Comments

"In sum, the Minoans of Crete were of Cretan and Greek origin, the study says. The ancestors of the Cretans, the team found, likely came from the Near East and Turkey."

As the 2013 genetic study says and your quote says, the Minoans of Crete are of Cretan and Greek origin. Perfect. Yet the ancestors of the Minoans are still speculation.
We all know that Crete was inhabited by humans at 130.000 BC, the earliest evidence of sea navigation shows that. And also on mainland Greece and on the islands there are many archaeological sites dated to 3000-11000 BC.

The agricultural revolution stated in the levant/fertile cresent of which Cyprus, Israel, Turkey(anatolia), jordan, syria, lebanon is the core and with direct offshoot to eastern mediterranean (Greece, egypt and, other parts of Anatolia)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levant
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fertile_Crescent

We don't know the depths of economy/trade around the beginning of agricultural revolution. We do know that for instance Obsidian (which can only be found in the Greek island of Milos), is found everywhere in Greece way back in Neolithic times and that sea navigation in Greece (and probably around) goes back many thousands of years,that the ancestors(the Greeks/Cretan Greeks) of the "Minoans" might not even be from Anatolia(Turkey) at all, but from Crete or the rest of Greece. And that the knowledge of new forms of Agriculture and advanced agriculture spread through trade or through knowledge of few.

Presently other poorer parts of the world also has wash machines, cars, mobile phones etc, without anything close to the word migration. When knowledge is spread = not perse equivalent to migration.

And while previously thought that Minoans (because they where so incredibly advanced) automatically originated from Africa, which we now know is not true, as they where of Greek and Cretan origin. The Cretans and Greeks themselves also might not be from the Middle east/Asia Minor, and might just as well be living continuously in Greece far more Millenia back to even before the Agricultural revolution.
Also the fact is that the entire Eastern Mediterranean region at the end of the ice age, had far milder and less problematic conditions than more northern regions(which was severely affected by the iceage). This means that the Eastern Mediterranean is much more suitable to house life, and potential of village size/larger populations all around. Which eventually also supports the idea that Greeks (from 9000 years ago) might not perse originate from Anatolia (Turkey), but that maybe BOTH Anatolians/Greeks share the same ancestry.

Sir, your analysis is so interesting and you seem, to have deep conciousness of what you are saying. The incredible fact is that your analysis, goes against the mainstream theory of the "Indoeuropean" ancestry of the Greeks. Glossological, archaeological and now biological evidence, marks that Greeks were autochtonous people and do share common ancestry with Anatolian civilizations.

We find the bull god myth everywhere.  The Egyptians worshipped bulls, as did the Hebrews and other Semtes like the Phoenicians.  Crete had Bull worship.  

The bull God El comes out of Semite religions.  El forms the part of many names, such as Samuel or Daniel.  Aaron had the golden calf, etc, etc, etc.  The Norse have Thor, the same bull name as the Semites.

We know almost nothing about our actual past,  Everything remains shrouded in myth and mystery.

 

Tom Carberry

Actually they were not worshiped the bull this is a ceremonial event called Taurokathapsia and it was dedicated for Poseidon (Olympian god of the sea and brother of Zeus)... There were also myths like that Zeus was born on Psiloritis mountain (the largest mountain on Cretan island) and several other myths like Europa and Zeus ect. So these things prove that Minoans worshiped Greek Olympian Gods.

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