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Neolithic period in Crete

The first documented human activity in Crete comes from the Pre-ceramic Period (6100-5700 B.C.) and come from the lower levels of the Knossos complex. This period is named as such because of the complete lack of ceramic Artefacts. Most of the findings from this era are small objects and stone tools, as well as ornaments, seeds and skeletal remains of domesticated animals.

The only other information that we have from this period comes from 7 children burials excavated in Knossos. The children are buried in shallow tombs dug under the house floors. Three of the children are newborns while the rest are all under 7 years old. All of the skeletons were in fetal position while their tombs were empty of offerings or other objects.

The Neolithic era in Crete covers the period from 5700 B.C. to 2800 B.C. and is divided into the Early (5700-3800 B.C.), Middle (3800-3500 B.C.) and Late Neolithic (3500-2800 B.C.).

During the Early Neolithic period, the Knossos complex was barely covering an area of 2.2 km2. The fact that all houses were built facing towards the same direction, means that there must have been some kind of urban planning. The walls and the floors are made of clay, while the roofs were flat and made of branches and clay. Fire residues have been found in various parts of the houses. The ceramic containers found from that era in general have wide open necks.

During the Middle Neolithic period civilization gains a foothold in other areas, such as Katsambas and Mitropolis. The Knossos settlement remains of the same dimensions. However, the house building become more complex, while tombs are still found under the floors of the houses. Clay pots and other ceramics are similar to the previous period.

The main characteristic of the Late Neolithic period is the spread of human activity to most of the island. The fact that settlements of that era can be found in all possible topographies shows that the people of that time did not chose their habitats based on any specific criteria. Many caves on the island were being used as homes and as tombs.

The Knossos settlement has significantly increased in size. Several houses from that period have been found in substantial distances from the original location, though its limits are hard to define as big part of it was destroyed during the construction of the first palace. The population Knossos must have reached 2000 people during that period.

It should be noted that the origins of the first inhabitants of Crete have not been conclusively found. It is not known whether they arrived to Crete as settlers from the Cyclades, the Dodecanese or Asia Minor. As the finds from the following periods have not managed to shed any light, the question remains open.