Date of Award

Spring 4-27-2023

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


History and American Studies

Department Chair or Program Director

Claudine Ferrell

First Advisor

Bruce O’Brien

Major or Concentration



The Minoan civilization of Bronze-Age Crete has, until recently, been obscured in mythological uncertainty. As a prehistoric civilization, the available evidence for historic analysis is sparse and ambiguous. This paper evaluates the material evidence for ritual activity to chart the religious developments of Minoan Crete. In the earliest periods of their civilization, the Minoans practiced animism, which reflected their ideals towards survival and cooperation. As their prosperity grew due to technological advancements, a social hierarchy formed. The emerging elite employed religion to justify their claim to power by appropriating religion, which culminated in a dual-monotheistic Knossian theocracy. This lasted until a period of Mycenaean occupation on Crete, through which the Mycenaeans established political control through religious syncretism. After the Mycenaean authorities withdrew to the mainland, the Minoans continued to practice polytheism until the ultimate collapse of their civilization. Punctuated by periods of natural disasters, these developments show how religion can be used by the social elite as a tool to accumulate wealth and power.