|By: Halford W. Haskell, Professor of Classics, Southwestern University, Georgetown,
This event was co-sponsored with the Archaeological
Institute of America, Denver Society
Professor Haskell dealt with the question of what we can know about Crete in the period
of the Trojan War. This is really the question of the relationship between mainland
Greek culture and the Minoan culture of Crete.
Professor Haskell dealt first with evidence from Homer. Homer indicates that
Crete was prosperous and contributed many ships to the expedition under a unified command.
But Homer is writing some 500 years after the event, Professor Haskell points out,
and his evidence has to be taken with care.
Archeology on Crete received a major impetus from Sir Artur Evans who excavated Knossos
and coined the term "Minoan." He discovered the now well-known fact of the
destruction of the palaces by fire. A destruction which we now know cannot be due to
the explosion of Thira to the north, as that explosion is earlier. But the initial
destruction is followed by a new dynasty, and a second destruction.
How to date all of this? A bitter academic controversy broke out over dating of
the Linear B tables, a key to dating the sites. Should those tablets be 15th century
BC or 13th century? Professor Haskell recounted the history of the battle.
New evidence has led to new conclusions. Three assumptions of
the old debate have now been undermined. First, it was thought
that Linear B tablets were only found at Knossos, but tablets have
been found at Hania. It was also thought that none of the
inscribed stirrup jars were to be found at Knossos, but in 1995,
Prof. Haskell found such a jar. Then, it was assumed that
the Linear B tablets were all of one date, however, we now know
them to be from more than one period.
Prof. Haskell sketched out a new scheme. In the earlier period, mainland Greeks
were at Knossos, but as rulers only. In the later period, Knossos had rivals, and
any period of confederation (such as Homer depicts) must have been brief.