DNA research is shedding new light on the mysterious ancient Minoan civilization on the island of Crete and their counterparts on the Greek mainland, the Mycenaeans.
The civilizations were Europe’s first literate societies and were the cultural ancestors of later Classical Greece. The Minoan civilization existed from around 2600 to 1100 B.C. and the Mycenaeans existed from around 1700 to 1050 B.C.
The Minoans have long puzzled historians. The civilization created the first European writing system and built vast palace complexes with vibrant art, but seemed to spring up in isolation, experts said.
Clues as to their origins have proved hard to come by. While the ancient palace of Knossos on Crete offers some insight into their society, and the Minoans feature prominently in Greek mythology, their main script, known as Linear A, hasn’t been deciphered.
Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and Harvard Medical School have drilled down into ancient DNA to find answers.
“There is this assortment of hard archaeology, linguistics, and legends that give us some idea about what was going on in Crete during the Minoan period, which has led to many theories about where the Minoans came from,” Dr. Iosif Lazaridis, postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author, told Fox News via email. “But, no hard facts, because the language was unique and unknown and it’s not clear who the relatives of the Minoans were outside Crete.”