War was central to Europe’s first civilisation – contrary to popular belief
A new study has revealed that Europe’s first civilization, known as the Minoan civilization , was characterized by war and was not the peace-loving culture that it was believed to be.
The ancient Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BCE to the 15th century BCE. It is named after King Minos, who was recorded in Greek tradition as a prehistoric king of Crete.
The research was carried out by Dr Barry Molloy of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology who explained that their civilization, which was uncovered just over a century ago, was deemed to be a peaceful society. “In time, many took this to be a paradigm of a society that was devoid of war, where warriors and violence were shunned and played no significant role”, he said.
However, Molloy suspected that the powerful and complex society, which controlled resources and traded with other mighty civilizations, may not have been so peace-loving after all, so he looked for references or evidence for violence, warriors or war, and was surprised to find that it could be found with surprising frequency. In fact, war and warrior identity appears to have been a defining characteristic of the Minoan society.
“The study shows that the activities of warriors included such diverse things as public displays of bull-leaping, boxing contests, wrestling, hunting, sparring and duelling”, said Molloy. “Ideologies of war are shown to have permeated religion, art, industry, politics and trade, and the social practices surrounding martial traditions were demonstrably a structural part of how this society evolved and how they saw themselves.”
Molloy’s research revealed that a large range of weaponry which dominated Europe until the Middle Ages originated in Crete, and a large amount of violence was represented in the symbolic grammar and material remains from prehistoric Crete.
“When we consider war as a normative process that had cross-references and correlates in other social practices, we can begin to see warriors and warriorhood permeating the social fabric of Cretan societies at a systematic level” said Molloy, “understanding the social aspects of war ‘beyond the battle’ is essential if we are to better understand how elites manipulated economics, religion and violence in controlling their worlds”. In this respect it seems that we are not too different from our prehistoric ancestors.