When I was a kid my mom used to write my name in permanent marker on the tag inside my jacket so everyone would know it was mine. We monogram pillowcases and purses; we register the serial numbers of electronics with the manufacturer. We sign deeds to homes and titles to cars. There are many, many ways to identify things as 'ours' these days, but have you noticed that they all involve writing?
In ancient Crete, most people couldn't write. Sure, they had a writing system, the famous-but-still-undeciphered Linear A (and a hieroglyphic script to go along with it, also still undeciphered). But as was common in the ancient world, only the scribes and perhaps a few wealthy people knew how to write. Writing simply wasn't necessary for most people in their daily lives. But it was necessary for the big temple complexes - they had to keep track of all the donations people made, how much each plot of farmland and orchard produced every year, and so on. So they wrote things down on clay tablets and probably also on papyrus as well, though none of the perishable papyrus has survived as far as we know (I'm still hoping for a secret cache in a sealed jar somewhere). But the Minoans also did the ancient version of writing your name on your jacket tag: They used seals.
When Sir Arthur Evans uncovered the large building at the center of the ancient Minoan city of Knossos, he dubbed it a palace. After all, the multi-story construction with its intricate stairways, beautiful artwork, and advanced plumbing looked to him like the sort of place a king would live, and he failed to notice the lack of monuments to any ruler, living or dead. In the century or so since Evans dug up the ruins of Knossos, we’ve learned that the big buildings from ancient Crete were actually multi-use complexes similar to the large temples in the Near East at the same time – Sumer and Babylon. (Check out this blog post for details about what was going on nearby and around the world while the Minoans were doing their thing.) These days, archaeologists usually refer to the big Minoan buildings as temple complexes.
Each temple complex centered on the buildings Evans called palaces, but there was more to them than just that. Each one included a set of surrounding buildings and processional ways within the temple grounds. And each temple also owned a great deal of land for crops, orchards, and livestock.
It's Faithful Friday and we've gathered stories on spirituality and religion from around the world. A tribute to Margot Adler, how do we pass along Paganism to the next generation, Lammas, modern atheism and much more. Happy Lammas and enjoy the weekend!
Peg Aloi suggests a fitting memorial for Margot Adler in Central Park, New York City.