The Minoans, DNA and all.

Starting with the breaking DNA news, and this rather sinks the ‘Black Athena’ theory from Bernal…

DNA sheds light on Minoans

Crete’s fabled Minoan civilization was built by people from Anatolia, according to a new study by Greek and foreign scientists that disputes an earlier theory that said the Minoans’ forefathers had come from Africa.

The new study – a collaboration by experts in Greece, the USA, Canada, Russia and Turkey – drew its conclusions from the DNA analysis of 193 men from Crete and another 171 from former neolithic colonies in central and northern Greece.

The results show that the country’s neolithic population came to Greece by sea from Anatolia – modern-day Iran, Iraq and Syria – and not from Africa as maintained by US scholar Martin Bernal.

The DNA analysis indicates that the arrival of neolithic man in Greece from Anatolia coincided with the social and cultural upsurge that led to the birth of the Minoan civilization, Constantinos Triantafyllidis of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University told Kathimerini.

“Until now we only had the archaeological evidence – now we have genetic data too and we can date the DNA,” he said.

Archeological dates for the colonisation of Crete are about 7,000 BC.

In more detail

The most frequent haplogroups among the current population on Crete were: R1b3-M269 (17%), G2-P15 (11%), J2a1-DYS413 (9.0%), and J2a1h-M319 (9.0%). They identified J2a parent haplogroup J2a-M410 (Crete: 25.9%) with the first ancient residents of Crete during the Neolithic (8500 BCE – 4300 BCE) suggesting Crete was founded by a Neolithic population expansion from ancient Turkey/Anatolia. Specifically, the researchers connected the source population of ancient Crete to well known Neolithic sites of ancient Anatolia: Asıklı Höyük, Çatalhöyük, Hacılar, Mersin/Yumuktepe, and Tarsus. Haplogroup J2b-M12 (Crete: 3.1%; Greece: 5.9%) was associated with Neolithic Greece. Haplogroups J2a1h-M319 (8.8%) and J2a1b1-M92 (2.6%) were associated with the Minoan culture linked to a late Neolithic/ Early Bronze Age migration to Crete ca. 3100 BCE from North-Western/Western Anatolia and Syro-Palestine (ancient Canaan, Levant, and pre-Akkadian Anatolia); Aegean prehistorians link the date 3100 BCE to the origins of the Minoan culture on Crete. Haplogroup E3b1a2-V13 (Crete: 6.7%; Greece: 28%) was suggested to reflect a migration to Crete from the mainland Greece Mycenaean population during the late Bronze Age (1600 BCE – 1100 BCE). Haplogroup J1 was also reported to be found in both Crete and Greece (Crete: 8.3%; Greece: 5.2%), as well as haplogroups E3b3, I1, I2, I2a, I21b, K2, L, and R1a1. No ancient DNA was included in this study of YDNA from the Mediterranean region.

So far the only information I can find on Cretan mitochondrial DNA places them overwhelmingly with the European and Near Eastern populations.


The first settlers introduced cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and dogs, as well as domesticated cereals (wheat and barley) and legumes. The first settlers seem to be aceramic, the first ceramics appeared about a thousand years later. Quite possibly the technology was imported, as it appears in a fairly sophisticated form.

The plain chalice is an example of Pyrgos ware, one of the earliest forms of Cretan pottery. Minoan sites are commonly dated by the style of their pottery.

Minoan ceramics became increasingly ornate. After the Thera explosion and tsunami, marine creatures were frequently used to decorate the pottery.



The Minoans traded extensively with just about everyone in the Mediterranean, and Minoan pottery is often found in Egypt, Cyprus, the Cylades, and Mycenae. 

The Minoan palaces

The palace of Knossos, exterior.

And interior, other images here.

The inside of the palaces also had a flushing toilet and a primitive sort of shower. They were very advanced for the time. The same kind of indoor plumbing was found in Santorini, a Minoan colony

The first Palace was built around 2000 BC and destroyed 300 years later.

On the same site a new Palace was built, more elaborate than the previous, only to be severely damaged from an earthquake one hundred years latter.

During this period we see the development of a series of satellite buildings like the “Little Palace”, the “Royal Villa” and the “South House”. Knossos has now developed into a large city whose population – judged by the adjacent cemeteries – must have not been less than 100 000 inhabitants.

The Minoan civilisation was dealt a serious blow by the explosion of Santorini in 1645 BC. A major Tsunami about 15m high destroyed their fleet and coastal towns, and left them starving and vulnerable to invasion.

The Minoan society itself seemed to matriarchal and not particularly interested in warfare, although they did possess swords and other weapons. Mostly, the worship was of goddesses, carried out by priestesses. There was also the famous bull leaping ritual, depicted in it’s art repeatedly.

The Minoans developed their own writing system, known as linear A (as yet only partially deciphered) and Linear B. The Phaistos disc below is of an unknown script similar to Anatolian Heiroglyphs and Linear A, as yet undeciphered.



27 responses to “The Minoans, DNA and all.

  1. There is a point you made in this post that I don’t necessarily disagree with – but am skeptical of. The claim that Minoans weren’t “interested in warfare” may not be entirely accurate.

    Having likely been a naval power due to their location, and particularly trade arrangements (as deduced from archeological finds), it is entirely likely that their military strength came from their fleet. Archeological evidence would have been scarce in that case and would explain how they became vulnerable after the eruption (losing ships in the aftermath).

  2. Jerome A Cook

    The Phaistos disk is not Linear A

  3. Thank you Jerome. You’re correct.

    Dino… ‘not particularly interested’ came from the observations that
    1.They didn’t seem to have much weaponry
    2.They didn’t have a reputation for raiding their neighbours.
    I didn’t say ‘they were completely peaceful’, that would have been silly.

  4. Mathilda, I thought this writeup was rather rich. I agree with your assessment, but parts of my education explored why panoply records were so scarce in Crete.

    I will not consider myself knowledgeable in this area, but, as a fascinating testament to nothing else but popular topics in history, I urge you (and anyone else) to Google the following terms: “bronze age weapons mycenae”.

    That one yields 564 search results whereas same string for “crete” returns 871. A fascinating representation of academic interest – and they go in every direction.

    In short: question of Minoan military strength is a hot topic. Would be nice to see you expand on that in your post.

  5. I have to admit that I only scraped together the historical bit of this blog entry as background for the DNA article (my main focus anthropolgy wise). It’s more my ‘dummies guide to the Minoans’ than an in depth exploration.

    I may have to dig a little deeper into the Minoans because I think the ‘bull leaping’ aspect of Cretan culture may be related to the Anatolian bull worship at Catal Hoyuk. Some of the wall paintings there look like men dancing around/over bulls.

    I’m not averse to being pointed at new information and correcting my blog. Thanks for the pointer.

    I’ll ‘have a google’ when the kids are in bed.

  6. The Minoans have been a passion of mine for many years so I find this very interesting. Regarding the apparent similarity of bull leaping and worship in Bronze Age Crete and Catal Hoyuk, I asked Prof. Hodder about this at a public lecture last year. He didn’t see any connection and noted the two cultures were separated by thousands of years.

  7. Hmm.

    It seems now that the Minoan culture was founded by the Anatolian one, the settlers coming from Turkey originally. There are some paintings on the walls of Catal Hoyuk that look very similar to the bull leaping. Religions can last a VERY long time.

  8. Hello Mathilda,

    I was recently given a 6″ brass statuette of the goddess shown above (with snakes and the owl). Do you know which goddess she is, and the time period the original is from?
    Any info would be great! Thank you.

  9. I don’t think anyone knows her Minoan name, they just call her ‘the snake goddess’. She dates to 1600 BC. There’s a site on her here.
    I hope it helps.

  10. Hi Mathilda,
    The bull leaping of the Minoans was nothing more than a sport – the same as American Rodeo or Spanish Bullfighting.These Minoans were wealthy merchants and had a lot of time for recreation and their young men just did what all young men do right up to the present – impress the girls.Not everything had a religous connotation. I can just imagine a few thousand years from now that some archaeologist declaring that basketball players in the 21st century were offering something to the gods.
    As for the “Snake Goddess”, she seems out of place in the Minoan culture and would seem to be rather from Indian origin. This may well have been a gift or momentoe that some merchant brought back from one of his overseas trips.
    Keep up the good work.

  11. I think you forgot to include the images of the
    dark minoans,and some of the reconstructed skulls found there that resemble none of the
    frescoes.There was some ‘foreign presence’ or
    admixture in Crete.But as no autosomal studies
    have been done we can’t conclude much.I’m mixed race and have european Y-dna and
    Mtdna so haplogroups are no indication of true
    ancestry by any means.

    Interestingly quite a few europeans who have tested with Dnatribes get Turkey as their highest match.A recent one I read had Turkey
    followed next by Crete.I agree very much that
    there was probably a very strong anatolian/turkish root in Crete.

    Minoan Frescoes

    One of the reconstructed skulls

    • There’sa good description of Minoan skulls around- typically mediterranean Caucasoids of varying types- as a whole a group’s DNA hg’s are excellent indictors of their race. I wasn’t actually going into a good coverage of Minoan Frescos on this page, but men are usually reddish and women are standardly white.

      Sorry, none of your links work. Do post the name of the blog so I can find the images.

  12. If I recall correctly, Egypt and the Phoenicians became maritime powers just about the time that the Minoans did. We know that the Egyptians and Phoenicians has extensive African inter-actions. Could the Minoans have had the same?

    • Well some of their freizes do show black Africans on them sometimes, and the Greek graves a few of negro skulls, but the colonists came from Turkey originally.

  13. check out some of the Sumerian translations of Zecharia Sitchin, or to make it easier, since he is so long winded, watch on of my youtube videos on the subject, you will most likely find it enlightening. As for the out of Africa model, 100% nonsense, both as human origins, and racial differenciation is such a short time span. Anunnaki,…

  14. Stumbled across your blog on my crawl across the Net for images for class lectures, nice work!

    Your late Minoan pottery example (the pretty one with the octopus) is published in my textbook as an early Mycenaean example. Textbooks have been wrong in the past, may I ask from where you got the picture?

    • Internet crawl. If I remember right it’s a late expample after the tsunami from santorini totalled the Cretan coastal areas. A lot of their art had octopi and sea life on it after that date.

  15. Hi Mathilda37

    Re: “The Minoans, DNA and all”
    Would you mind if I use a few paragraphs–fully credited to you–for something I am writing about human activity around Northern Africa in prehistoric times.

    I write primarily on religion, and you may check out my site for tone and substance at

  16. …two chthonic groups either end of eurasia,
    basques with neander neighbors and the
    zhuang, largest ethnic group in china, with
    the oldest continual horizon outside of afrika,
    800k bc, both speak nauatl-related languages,
    cf., tzopilotl wordpress/tletl blogspot.
    the zhuang, whose name means, cave living,
    are in a temperate pocket of mountains,
    limestone and rivers on the vietnamese
    border, first settled most likely by early
    out of afrikans if you like that theory, at
    8ook bc, early paleolithic, tools are the same,
    perhaps language also, would be interesting
    to entertain the idea that neander/neandra
    are just a link in the chain of language, that
    the youjiang basin in guanxi zhuang auto.
    region was olduvai, that life, being a duality,
    started there as well as in afrika.
    the zhuang are polythiest, not cold nomads who make fire montheistic, worshipping
    dragons, large rocks, old trees/treow/teotl,
    snakes, birds, ancestors, are great weavers
    and singers, have lots of monkeys=ozomatli,
    day 11/tonalamatl(N)=booksouls, are monogamous and have always lived in their
    province. their creator pair, ome(N)=2=
    home, are muliuja(Zh)=mulier/mujer(sp)=
    moler(sp)=molli(N)=sauce, and, buluotuo=
    orquid, -tao=tlaolli(N)=degrain corn, which
    decoding appears to be the early couples
    division of labor. the birding/pauling enables
    the firedrill bellows flute and music, pursuit
    of flowers by man, and husking of early agri-
    gathering. i believe the word for shovel in
    proto-zhuang is something like coa/coatl(N),
    which is snake, a god of worship of the zhuang,
    we now see means, agriculture, if we keep in
    mind, chicome coatl/7snake, amerindian
    goddess of aq/aqhet(egyptian)=enter/spring=

  17. Correction– Anatolia is not “Iran, Iraq and Syria.” Ridiculous! Anatolia is Turkey a.k.a. Asia Minor.

  18. Anatolia is not Iran, Iraq, and Syria as stated, it is modern day Turkey; and since the Turks arrived only about a thousand years ago, they probably encountered pretty much the same population, that is, Greeks.

  19. Once again researchers jump to conclusions about ancient people’s origins based on modern DNA.

    The fact is that Crete has been politically associated with Anatolia for most of it’s 5,000 year history. During both the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, many people would have migrated to Crete. In fact Cretan Turks are a known ethnic group numbering many hundred thousands.

    Just because DNA of MODERN Cretans match the DNA of Neolithic Anatolians, this does not at all mean that the migration happened during the Neolithic or Bronze Age. All we know is that it must have happened any time during OR after the Neolithic.

    • Once again researchers jump to conclusions about ancient people’s origins based on modern DNA.

      But the ceramics etc also support an Anatolian origin. There’s no evidence at all its from anywhere else.

  20. Gareth’s point is a good one.

    Comparisons of ancient v. modern DNA have shown dramatic differences in Basque, Scandinavian, and Canary Islands studies, for example. There is every reason to expect the same thing where, as here, there is historical evidence of major population displacements in Crete (with the Minoan-Mycenian divide), in Greece, and in Anatolia, most recently in the period during which Greece was part of an Islamic/Ottoman empire from the Middle Ages until 1821, which probably had more genetic impact in all three areas than in North Africa where an Islamic expansion was mostly culture.

    Atypical gene flows due to centuries of Mycenian maritime commerce, and the fact that the Mycenian migration to Minoan territory came largely from one subset of the Greek mainlannd that may not have been representative of Greece generally, also bespeaks particular caution.

  21. Anatolian and Syrian origins the cultural links and ritual bull worship and games depicted at Mari in Syria and those practiced in Anatolia suggest cultural links the Minoans traded with Ugarit and Cyprus and Egypt and they would have sailed around the Anatolian coast also.
    Cultural myths and religion remained the settlers would have retained their own beliefs and religions just as people do today when they are forced or choose to relocate…

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