Clues to Minoan Time
Knossos Labyrinth



opyright 2010 Jack Dempsey.  All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Jack Dempsey
jpd37 (at)

All Kourai and Kouroi have a touch of the young sun.
(Greek proverb)


Angela, Cup-Bearer,
who wed me in our 13th year of friendship,

and for

whose first demonstrations prompted these,
and who welcomed all questions.


Chapter 1
Matching Discoveries
Clues to a Knossos Calendric Cycle


Chapter 2
Into the Labyrinth
The Bull-Leap Fresco, & Elements of a Minoan Great Year Calendar


Chapter 3
Sign & Countersign

The Fresco Border’s Lunar/Solar Operations

Chapter 4
Forms of Time
Seasons, X, Great Year & Saros, Relatives

Chapter 5
Astronomy & Sacred Animals
Problems, Politics & Symbols of the Cycle

Chapter 6
Griffin & Labrys
Guides to the Journey Beyond

Chapter 7
Kinship & Cosmology
Great Year Signs & Festivals in New Palace Times

Chapter 8
Calendar & Kingship

A Labyrinth to Contain the Minotaur

Chapter 9
From Crete & Cyprus to Palestine


Homer's Calendar, Classical Curiosities,

The Antikythera Mechanism

& Marshack’s Critical Review

Sources Cited & Suggested


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Central mysteries have endured 100 years of science on Minoan Crete. What if any high calendar functioned there? What did their chief religious symbols mean? And did those questions connect to political power? Calendar House (in 9 chapters and a Coda) brings established research to bear on an overlooked 1972 discovery of answers that Alexander Marshack judged “valid and valuable”---pending more investigation.

With The Thread of Ariadne, C. F. Herberger proposed that patterns in the border of the Toreador or Bull-Leap Fresco from Knossos register a lunar/solar cycle of 8½ years; and, that this cycle and calendar illuminate signs of astronomy in the throne room, Crete’s sacred animals, Labrys the double axe and “horns of consecration.” Calendar House presents functional criteria, experiments and a range of contexts with which you can appraise this cycle, fresco, and Herberger’s discovery for yourself.

Chapter 1 shows that the cycle does exist, and reviews many clues of an “8- or 9-year” Minoan period. The Knossos throne, aligned with Winter Solstice, presents a disc-and-crescent, which in comparative iconography suggests lunar/solar referents. And while a New Crescent Moon does appear on or near Winter Solstice every 8½ years within demonstrable cyclic limits, the throne room also features a Summer Solstice alignment.

So, while ahead we see consistent traits in Early and Middle-period designs, a central Late Minoan calendar might be investigated, anchored to an actual “doubled pair” of events---New Moon at Winter Solstice, and (6 months later) Full Moon at Summer Solstice.

Hence Chapter 2 evaluates the fresco’s contexts, dating, versions, and limitations: its forms, colors, patterns and unique irregularities. Features of its border (rows of crescents and “ticks” like a “1”) match lunar phases and Crete’s writing, and correlate with the above cycle. Also, the asymmetric features and color-variations present a further pattern---doubled pairings, a sign of significance in Minoan iconography. Chapter 3’s calendric anatomy of the fresco then shows how these features’ alternating colors, positions and relations guide daily and cyclic time through the labyrinthine border, including an intercalation-function crucial to a farming calendar.

Further chapters test these patterns in the fresco, and against a range of contexts: Crete’s ecology and recent calendric finds, Egyptian and Near Eastern systems, further astronomy, and remains including the often-wheeled X (a cycle round a doubled pair of points). Do Crete’s most iconic animals---the snake, bull, lion, and griffin---also have recognized aspects consistent with such a calendar? Herberger’s discovery, while much-qualified, holds up under thorough critique.

On these bases, new meanings become visible in the throne room---including relations between lunar/solar cycles and Saros eclipses, which (like the fresco’s operations) involve doubling. What then might be learned of Labrys, and its lunar, solar, stellar place between “horns”? In the midst of catastrophes, was this calendar visible as part of Knossos “propaganda”?

Chapter 9 and Coda explore post-Minoan traces of this astronomy---including the Antikythera Mechanism’s solar, lunar and eclipse cycles, which presently seem (according to the journal Nature) “to have come from nowhere.”





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