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The Demise of the Minoans

by Madeleine Noa

Prior to classical Greek culture, during the Bronze Age, lived the Minoans, credited as being Europe’s’ first great civilization.  Named after the legendary King Minos, the Minoans were an advanced society made up of highly cultivated artists and extremely intelligent engineers.


Fresco of women from Knossos palace. Photo Credit: cavorite

Research shows the Minoans were primarily mercantilist people, engaged in overseas trade and managed a lucrative maritime empire, dominating the Mediterranean, the Greek Islands, Greece, and expanded all the way out to the Black Sea. A sophisticated group of people, they were also the first Europeans’ to use a written language – known as Linear A, as well as the first to construct paved roads.

Located in the middle of the eastern Mediterranean, at the crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe, was the mountainous island of Crete.  It was here where this magnificent civilization flourished. Archeological evidence shows there was habitation on the islands since the 7th millennium BC.  After the 5th millennium BC we find the first evidence of hand made pottery, marking the beginning of the civilization.  History shows Crete had 90 cities, of which Knossos was the most important one.

Research shows the palaces of the Minoans were destroyed by forces unknown to us in 1700 BC.  There is speculation that the destruction was caused either by a powerful earthquake, or by outside invaders.  Despite the sudden destruction of their palaces, the Minoans continued to flourish.

The end of this thriving culture occurred in the middle of the 15th century, with the destruction of most of the palaces and villas of the countryside, and with the destruction of Knossos in 1375.  Research shows that by this time, the entire island was controlled by the Mycenaean’s and Minoan sites had been abandoned for a long time.

Again, we cannot be certain as to what caused the sudden interruption to the Minoan civilization, however, scholars have pointed to the possible invasion by outside forces, or the eruption of the Thera volcano as likely causes.

The Minoans were a powerful, intelligent civilization.  However, at the height of their power, the Minoans were wiped clean from our pages of history.  For thousands of years the world has wondered how such an advanced culture could disappear so mysteriously.  Their disappearance has been one of the world’s greatest mysteries and has perplexed historians for decades – until now.

Early 20th century knew of the devastating volcano and many conclude that it must have wiped the Minoans civilization away almost instantly.  Then archeologists found clay tablets that proved the Minoan civilization survived for 50 more years after that volcanic eruption.

The discussion over what happened to the ancient civilization of the Minoans has been a favorite topic by many historians.  Recently, a team of scientists began looking for more definitive answers and their findings are casting doubt on previous theories long held by scholars for decades.  Instead, they are unearthing new evidence as to what really happened to the Minoans.

Dr. Floyd McCoy’s Theory

Here we discover Dr. Floyd McCoy’s theory of the Minoan collapse.  A vulcanologist from the University of Hawaii, he has been inspired by volcanoes since his childhood.   Determined to find out if there was a connection between the eruption of Thera and the end of the Minoans on Crete, he has been on a journey gathering evidence from scientists all over the world to answer this question.


Drawing of a Minoan Palace

Floyd McCoy was convinced that a giant wave, or tsunami, was generated as a result of the massive volcanic eruption, and these giant waves battered the northern coast of Crete – but proof was hard to find.

However, in 1997, a young British geologist, Dr. Dale Dominey-Howes of Kingston University found what he believes is firm evidence of a tsunami hitting the island of Crete.  He drilled deep into the mud at an inland marsh on Crete and took the mud back to England with him for analysis.  Analysis of the mud showed it had been deposited layer upon layer, for thousands of years.  A tiny fossilized shell that only lives in very deep sea water was found in the mud.  He felt sure the only way the shells made it into the mud was due to the giant waves washing it inland.  Also found at the same level where the shells were found was a Minoan palace, suggesting the tsunami hit shortly after the palace was built.

In conclusion, Floyd McCoy’s findings have unearthed new evidence and new theories as to what caused the downfall of the Minoans.  His theory is that the volcanic eruption, already classed as one of the most devastating in the last 10,000 years, could have actually been bigger than scientists previously thought.

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  • An eruption of this magnitude can throw up huge amounts of sulfur dioxide. The huge amounts of this gas can alter the climate, thus lowering annual average temperatures by one or two degrees.
  • Summer temperatures could have also dropped even more, suggesting years of cold, wet summers and ruined harvests.
  • The giant waves generated as a result of the eruption destroyed the coasts, coastal villages, and boats at the harbor.
  • Next came summers of ruined harvests.


As a result of all of these natural disasters, the Minoans, stripped of everything, began to see their world differently.  They stopped obeying the priest kings in palaces like Knossos.  This marked the start of a 50 year downfall of the entire Minoan civilization and they were in no position to fight back when the Greeks invaded and took control of the island.

For Dr. Floyd McCoy, he had found his answer to how the eruption of a massive volcano could lead to the downfall of a civilization.  The volcano affected the Minoans in ways only modern science could quantify – they were lethal.

Fall of the Minoan Civilization – BBC:
Ancient-Greece.org – History of Minoan Crete

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