Any member of a non-Indo-European people who flourished (circa 3000–circa 1100 BC) on the island of Crete during the Bronze Age. The sea was the basis of their economy and power. Their sophisticated culture, based at Knossos, was named for the legendary King Minos. It represented the first high civilization in the Aegean area. The Minoans exerted great influence on the Mycenaean culture of the Greek islands and mainland. Minoan culture reached its peak circa 1600 BC and was noted for its cities and palaces, extended trade contacts, and use of writing (see Linear A and Linear B). Its art included elaborate seals, pottery, and, notably, the vibrant frescoes decorating palace walls, which depicted both religious and secular scenes, including goddesses reflective of a matriarchal religion. Palace ruins show evidence of paved streets and piped water. Familiar Minoan art motifs are the snake (symbol of the goddess) and the bull and leaping dancer, also of mystical significance.
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