In the course of the Bronze Age a sophisticated civilization was born in Crete. Sir Arthur Evans, the first excavator of Knossos, named the civilization Minoan after king Minos, ruler of the seas and legislator, who, according to the legends of ancient Greece, was king of Knossos.

The geographic position of Crete - between the countries where the earliest civilizations flourished - brought the island very early in contact with the East from which the Minoans adopted advanced technical and intellectual achievements. After adapting them to their own weights and measures, they introduced them to the rest of the Aegean world. Thus, Minoan civilization is considered as the first advanced civilization of the prehistoric Aegean region, but also of entire Europe.

The steady evolution of Crete in a power of international radiance and prestige is apparent in the evolution of the Bronze Age settlements. The small Neolithic rural settlements were evolved into organized urban centres and heyday of Minoan civilization was the foundation of the palaces in the most important centres of Crete. The Minoan palaces did not only constitute a new form of settlement organization, they also imposed radical changes to social structures, customs and economic life. Thus, we now speak of palatial society and economy.

In comparison with other early civilizations, Minoan civilization expresses an unprecedented sense of freedom and lightness which is expressed mainly in art and could be attributed to the laxity of the administrative system. However, after a more careful study of the society, we see that specific and probably strict social rules were imposed in Minoan Crete while religion dominated almost every activity and expression.

Minoan civilization covers chronologically the passage from Prehistory to Proto-history and our knowledge on this civilization derives mainly from archaeologic data, at least until the time of archive organization of the palace written tablets. Still these first piecemeal examples of writing are not yet adequate neither appropriate to shed light on all aspects of Minoan civilization. On the other hand, Minoan art bequeathed a large number of articles and representations which offer a lively picture of life in the Minoan period. This is why the remains of Minoan civilization are often compared to an illustrated book with no words, the plot of which modern research is invited to interpret.