Introducing the Labyrinth!

We started this term’s first lesson by discussing what a labyrinth was and where the idea of a labyrinth originated – the story Theseus, the Minotaur, Ariadne, and Daedalus’ dark and complicated maze.

Archaeologist Arthur Evans had long been obsessed with finding the civilisation behind the labyrinth story; when he uncovered the remains of a vast palace on the island of Crete – at the site known as Knossos – he named the civilisation which had made it the “Minoans” after the legendary King Minos. We talked about the story of King Minos and his son the minotaur, locked up in a labyrinth which had been built by the great designer Daedalus!

The two groups then looked at replicas of artefacts which were discovered, such as vases with octopuses painted over them, a musical instrument, a snake goddess and finally the fascinating (and as yet undeciphered) Phaistos Disk. Members of the classes had very interesting ideas about what this might be recording: some said it was a calendar, others a story, and others a game! If you’re interested in reading more about the Phaistos Disk, here is an informative article about this fascinating artefact: Phaistos Disk

Minoan art. Crete. Phaistos Disc.
Minoan art, Crete, Phaistos Disc, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (2nd millennium B.C.), Side A, Fired clay, It has 45 hieroglyphic characters engraved on both sides, along with mobile elements in spiral arrangement from the outside toward the center, Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. (Photo by Prisma/UIG/Getty Images)

We looked at a script called Linear B, and deciphered some symbols that appeared on the palace walls, next to the image of a double axe, and we also looked at a mural. The mural showed a practice of bull leaping, involving someone doing a somersault over a bull’s back, a sport that was perhaps often practised at the palace and one that sometimes resulted in injury or death.


We explored the possibility that the palace itself was called “labyrinth”, meaning “palace of the double axe”, and how the labyrinth myth may have evolved.

We saw how the floor plan of the building was complex and winding, with lots of rooms, and stairwells letting in light.

We will continue exploring the Minoan Civilisation next lesson!

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