Thursday, November 7, 2013

CRETE: Minoan Ship in Chania

The Lost Empire of Atlantis by Gavin Menzies was one of a half dozen books I read prior to visiting Crete. In it, Menzies makes a fascinating case for his theory that Crete was Atlantis and the Minoans (original residents of Crete) were global traders going as far as Lake Superior in North America in their quest for the components of the bronze that characterized their times.

I still don't know if I believe it (you can check out aspects of his theory on his website, True or not, the book expanded my attitude about ancient ancestors. I had already learned that the Minoans (circa 3500 BCE- 1450 BCE) built magnificent multi-storied 'palaces' and had toilets. Impressive. But traveling half way around the globe using stone circles as navigational tools? It seemed -- it still seems -- unlikely.

Before my friend and I joined the goddess pilgrimage (www.goddess on Crete, we stayed a couple days in Chania (also spelled Hania or Xania) a city that was not on the official itinerary.

Since Neolithic times, Chania has been Minoan, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Turkish, Venetian, and eventually Greek again, depending on who conquered it when. Its crown jewel is the magnificent harbor reinforced circa 1250 CE by the Venetians.

Chania was our first stop on Crete and we were enchanted. We wandered happily around the harbor and old town, taking pictures. On my own, I wandered into the Maritime Museum housed in the old Venetian shipyard.

There, amazingly, was a full-sized recreation of a Minoan sailing vessel. I walked around its exterior, noting the plank benches for 24 oarsmen, the two long poles for steering and the captain's chair, protected by stretched hides.

The reproduction, based on depictions on the walls of Minoan temples, was created for the 2004 Olympics and was actually rowed/sailed from Chania to Athens for the opening ceremonies. Its basic structure was cyprus planks covered with resin and canvas, then whitewashed.

Circumnavigating the ship, I could imagine it circumnavigating the Mediterranean 3,500 years ago. Did a vessel like this actually cross the Atlantic? I cannot say. I can say it moved me across millenia into a deeper appreciation for the aesthetics and technology of a people whose history is recorded only in fragments of splendor.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job, Mim! It's great that you are actually getting the opportunity to see these places. Are ancestors were pretty smart cookies, it seems :)