Zechariah 4 – The Candlestick and Two Olive Trees & Lost Cities of Europe: Knossos (3 of 4)

I searched for who invented the toilet and the oldest I found is 1596 A.D. by Sir John Harrington and Thomas Crapper was the first to patent it around 1880.  Yet, not only did they have toilets here, but also in Pompeii and even King David had a toilet.

The most cited seat was found in what is called the House of Ahi’el, on the northeastern slope of the City of David.

It is a typical four-roomed Israelite dwelling from the 8th and 7th centuries BCE, whose name derives from a Hebrew inscription on shard found in the there. The house was large, reflecting the prosperity of the era ahead of the Babylonian destruction in 587-6 BCE, and had an external stone staircase, which led to a second floor.

In a small room, about four and a half feet square, on the ground floor, a limestone toilet seat was discovered embedded in the plaster floor above a plaster-lined cesspit, which reaches eight feet below the floor. The toilet seat was fashioned from a large block of locally available limestone

It’s obvious that errors happen, especially in documents that are written.  So let’s take our attention to the writing of…

Zechariah 4
The Candlestick and Two Olive Trees

1 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,

4:1-14 – the fifth vision.  The Jews are encouraged to rebuild the temple of by being reminded of their divine resource.  The light from the candlestick in the tabernacle/temple represents the reflection of God’s glory in the consecration and the holy service of God’s people – made possible only by the power of God’s Spirit.

2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:

3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.

“Two olive trees” – these stand for the priestly and royal offices and symbolize a continuing supply of oil.  The two olive branches stand for Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel from the royal house of David.

One of the “magazines” or storage rooms at the Palace of Knossos. These pithoi (large jars) were filled with grain, olivesdried fish and other staples. Note the handles on the pithoi, through which ropes were passed so that they could be more easily handled for transportation.

4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?

5 Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.

6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

“Not by might, nor by power’ – Zerubbabel does not possess the royal might and power that David and Solomon had enjoyed.

7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.

8 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.

10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

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.

11 Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?

12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?

13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.

14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.

“Two anointed ones” – Zerubbabel from the royal line of David and Joshua the priest.  The oil used in anointing symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The combination of ruler and priest points ultimately to the Messianic King Priest.

Lost Cities of Europe (3 of 4) 

Knossos

Location: Crete, Greece
Date of Construction: c 1900 B.C.
Abandoned: c 1380 B.C.
Built by: Minoans
Key Features: Central Court, Frescoes, Piano Nobile, Royal Apartments, Lustral Basins, Plumbing and Flushing Toilet

Homer’s Odyssey, generally thought to be a chronicle of the heroes of mighty Bronze Age civilizations, describes Crete as:

“a rich and lovely land, densely peopled and boasting ninety cities [including] a great city called Knossos…”

Until 1900, few scholars believed that Crete had indeed hosted a Bronze Age civilization, let alone one of the complexity and sophistication suggested by Homer, but a few years of intensive excavation proved not only that the ancient epic had been right, but that Knossos was the center of perhaps the first civilization in Europe.

Odysseus and the Sirens, Greek Red-Figure Stamnos Vase, c. 480-460 B.C.

Knossos on Crete was the site of the legendary Labyrinth of the Minotaur, constructed by King Minos and penetrated by the hero Theseus with the help of Minos’s daughter Ariadne.

A mound at a site in northern Crete called Kephala was traditionally identified as the site of Knossos and in the late 19th century, with interest in archaeology mounting and Schliemann making the headlines with his ground-breaking discoveries at Troy, attention turned here.

In 1878 the first attempts at systematic excavation were made by a Cretan antiquarian appropriately named Minos Kalokairinos, but his efforts were limited by the Turkish occupation of the island.

Schliemann himself was keen to excavate the site, but it was not until 1900, with the expulsion of the Turks, that British historian Arthur Evans was able to acquire the site and start digging in earnest.

Evans had been inspired by Schliemann’s discovery of Mycenae, which had pushed back the chronology of civilization in Europe by nearly a thousand years.

And had also become intrigued by evidence for another Bronze Age Mediterranean civilization, in the form of clay seals marked with depictions of marine life, which were alien to Mycenae, Egypt or any other known culture, and that seemed to originate from Crete.

Ruins of ancient Gortyna at Crete island in Greece.

In just five years of archaeology, Evans peeled back the layers of the mound at Kephala to reveal a strange and enormous structure, which he immediately identified as the Palace of Minos himself.

Within were vivid frescoes, tablets inscribed with an unidentifiable language in a strange script, sophisticated plumbing, well-crafted artefacts and treasures of gold and silver – all the trappings of a new and previously unknown civilization, whom Evans christened Minoans after the legendary king.

Knossos Through the Ages

Over a century of archaeology at Knossos and other, similar sites around Crete, has revealed much about the history of the Minoans. The first settlements at Knossos date back to at least c 6000 B.C., with urban civilization developing towards the end of the Early Bronze Age.

In the period labelled the Middle Minoan, from about 1900 B.C., Minoan architecture began to take shape and large buildings became a feature of settlements. Eventually these grew to become what are today called palace complexes.

The original “labyrinth” was the home of the fierce monster of Greek mythology, the Minotaur. It was a cave with endless tortuous pathways. Anyone who was foolish enough to venture into it would be lost forever, or until eaten by the Minotaur, whichever came first…usually the latter. From this comes the English word “labyrinthine,” meaning endlessly convoluted and complex (like my prose!). The use of the term in anatomic sense means any coiled and convoluted structure.

The mosaic at left shows the slaying of the Minotaur by Theseus. Theseus was vary clever: he knew he’d have to find his way out of the labyrinth, so as he went deeper in search of the monster he unspooled a thread behind him, and after the deed was accomplished, he simply wound it up and followed it home.

At least four major palace complexes have been found on Crete (together with many more lesser and/or suspected ones), with Knossos being the largest.

Archaeologists use the term “palace complex” because these great structures were obviously much more than simply places of residence for kings or chieftains. They are equipped with extensive storage facilities, workshops, public spaces, cult shrines and ritual spaces, as well as what look like banqueting halls, audience rooms and suites of private chambers.

They dominate the settlements of which they are the foci – the palace at Knossos had around 1,300 rooms, while the city around it was relatively small (although estimates of the population vary from as few as 5,000 to as many as 30,000 or even higher).

And it seems likely that they served a variety of functions: government; religious and ceremonial center; storage and distribution point for food and goods surpluses; industrial and craft workshops and residence for the ruling family/class.

The palaces were the center of Minoan life for 600 years, with Knossos lasting the longest. The Old Palace or First Palatial period, from 1900 B.C., was cut short by a catastrophic earthquake that brought widespread destruction, but the palaces were rebuilt grander than before and Minoan civilization reached its apogee during the Neopalatial period.

But around 1450 B.C. fresh disasters struck – probably more earthquakes, but possibly the eruption of Thera.

In the Post-palatial period most of the palaces except for Knossos were abandoned and the evidence from the types of pottery, writing and other cultural artefacts at the site suggests that it had been taken over by the Mycenaeans, the warlike and aggressive power that had been rising on the Greek mainland.

Perhaps they were responsible for the destruction of the other palaces or perhaps they simply took advantage of a post-cataclysm power vacuum.

Grave Circle A at Mycenae aerial view
Homer described the city as “Mycenae, rich in gold” in the great epic poem The Iliad. Certainly the graves at Mycenae were rich in gold grave goods, such as this mask. The splendor of the graves at Mycenae demonstrate the power and grandeur of the Mycenaean kings of that time.

The amateur archeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, went to Mycenae because it was the legendary home of King Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks who went to Troy to fight the Trojan War. He used the text of Pausanias, the second-century A.D. Roman traveler, as his guide. The site was already well-known, but he was the first to dig systematically at the site. He discovered the deep shaft graves which were cut into the rock of the Mycenae acropolis.

Around 1380 B.C. Knossos was destroyed by fire and abandoned altogether, although what caused the fire is unclear. New settlements sprang up during Classical Greek and Roman times, but in the Middle Ages nearby towns supplanted Knossos and only local traditions connected it to the ancient legends.

Thanks to the work of Evans, the excavated and partially reconstructed site has now become Crete’s major tourist attraction, but his legacy is double-edged.

Although his work captured public imagination and made Minoan studies a major theatre of Mediterranean archaeology, his highly personal and subjective interpretation of the site and his often highly speculative restoration have damaged the archaeological record and confused many historical issues.

The Palace
of Knossos

Roughly in the center of Crete’s northern coast (in the suburbs of the modern Cretan capital Heraklion), Knossos was built on a low ridge overlooked by higher hills, in the center of the broad valley of the River Kairatos, about 5 miles from the sea.

In Minoan times the area would have been less arid, the hills covered in oak and cypress and productive farmland in the valley. Significantly, the site was obviously not chosen for its defensibility and on the whole the Minoans seem to have had little to fear from civil strife or invasion.

Their civilization was stable and peaceful, and through trade and their maritime skill it developed into a mercantile empire that spanned the eastern Mediterranean and forged close links with the Egyptians.

Neopalatial Knossos (i.e. the second palace) was dominated by the palace complex. A small city clustered around the palace, while “mini-palaces,” sometimes called villas, dotted the countryside.

The reconstructed Dolphin Fresco from the Queens Megaron. Recent research suggests that the fresco was originally painted on the floor of the room now known as the Treasury. Themes such as the dolphins show the Minoans ’ close relationship with the sea.

The palace itself was vast. The floor area of one of its levels is around 139,000 square feet. Given that most of the palace consisted of at least two, and sometimes up to five stories, the total floor area must have been at least double this.

In all, there were around 1,300 rooms, with multiple kinked corridors, stairways, anterooms and platforms giving a truly labyrinthine dimension.

All of the Cretan palaces shared the same basic layout and types of feature, but in each case they were arranged in a unique fashion, apparently developing organically with new units added over time.

On the other hand, the way that these additional structures were incorporated seamlessly into the infrastructure of the palace suggests that additions were far from haphazard and must have been planned or allowed for.

The basic arrangement is of four wings in a roughly rectangular arrangement around a central court. The court possibly served as a public area – perhaps similar to a Greek agora or Roman forum – but may also have simply been a device to ensure maximum access to air and light for rooms in the massive complex.

It is clear from the preponderance of features such as light-wells, walls pierced with multiple doorways, multiple windows in upper stories and open colonnades along corridors, that the Minoans were concerned to ensure the best possible ventilation and lighting for as many rooms as possible.

The other possible use of the central court was as the arena for bull-leaping and other ceremonial sports. Decoration and motifs throughout the palace testify to the importance of the bull as a symbol to the Minoans.

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.

Most famously in the context of frescoes showing “bull- leaping” – where young Minoans (both men and women) apparently faced an on-rushing bull and somersaulted between its horns and over its back before landing on their feet behind it.

Whether what would have been an incredibly difficult and dangerous sport actually took place, or was even possible, is unclear. The pictures may be purely fantastical or symbolic. But if it did really happen, the central court would be the obvious arena.

The different wings or blocks around the court seem to have had separate functions. The lower floor of the west wing was mainly devoted to storerooms, known as magazines. These featured stone-lined pits to hold liquids and many large clay jars to hold other goods.

Above these was what Evans called the piano nobile, by analogy with the palazzi of Renaissance Italy. This was an upper story consisting of “halls of state”, possibly used for audiences, receptions or government business.

Also in the west wing were cult rooms – crypt-like rooms with pillars marked with magical or arcane symbols. In particular the double-headed axe blade symbol beloved of the Minoans, and known as a labrys in Greek, from which the word labyrinth is derived, features. These symbols may have been intended to help appease the Earth gods and ward off earthquakes.

The east wing of the palace contained suites of rooms that were apparently residential quarters, including areas dubbed by Evans the “apartments of King Minos”, a bath-room with a lustral basin (a sunken bath thought to have had ritual/religious significance) and a toilet room, with arguably the world’s earliest flushing toilet.

Highly sophisticated plumbing was a major feature of the palace, with aqueducts bringing water and clay pipes carrying away sewage. These pipes were put together using standardized, mass-produced units that tapered along their length to produce a male-female fit giving a waterproof seal – much like modern plumbing components.

The palace of Knossos, exterior.

Although there were entrances to the palace complex from all sides, the access routes through the surrounding city would have delivered visitors to a ceremonial court in front of the west wing, offering a clear view of the palace.

Here the awestruck visitor would be confronted with the vast scale of the complex, while the irregular, broken elevation and skyline of the palace, and the western facade in particular, may have been deliberately intended to confuse the observer and give the impression of a building almost without limits.

Together with the maze of corridors, rooms, halls and stairs within, it is not difficult to see where the legend of the Labyrinth arose.

Beyond the palace there are several other important buildings. Linked to the main palace by the Royal Road is the Little Palace, which may have been built to house members of the royal family.

To the northwest of the palace are the remains of a shallow stepped bowl, assumed to be a theatre of some sort, possibly for religious ceremonies or bull-leaping. Further to the north, towards the sea, is a building Evans dubbed the “customs house”, because it was on the way in from the harbor.

Also in the town is a two-story building with elaborate plumbing and bathrooms known as the caravanserai, roadside inn) because it was assumed to be a guesthouse.

Minoan Mysteries

The Palace of Knossos seems to encapsulate Minoan civilization. According to archaeologist J. C. McEnroe:

And interior;
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.

“Knossos “is a building that may encompass the breadth and depth of its culture more eloquently than any other single building in the history of European architecture.”

Yet despite the evidence of Knossos and the dozens of other sites on Crete, the Minoan civilization remains hedged with mysteries. What were its roots? To what extent was it homegrown?

How much inspiration did it draw from the cultures of Egypt, Assyria and the Levant? Where did the palace model come from? Did it evolve from the accretion of smaller elements or was it the product of a single genius, like the Egyptian Imhotep who designed the first pyramids?

Was Minoan civilization really a peace-loving, non-militaristic, utopian paradise, as suggested by the general absence of weapons or militaristic art? Or was there a sinister underside of human sacrifice, as suggested by some remains found at Minoan cult sites and by the sinister legend of the Minotaur?

Light might be shed on these issues if Minoan language and writing were not also impenetrable mysteries. Clay tablets found at Knossos are inscribed with a script known as Linear A, which seems to encode a language unrelated to any known language and thus impossible to decipher.

The graceful, free-spirited art of the Minoans marks them out from other ancient cultures and makes them the object of enduring fascination. It is ironic that we may never solve the many mysteries surrounding them.

…Zechariah’s authorship.