Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


14 November 2011

Orientations of Minoan buildings on Crete may indicate the first recorded use of the magnetic compass

W.S. Downey The Mediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry 11.1 (2011): 9-20.


Archaeomagnetic research has enabled the determination of the secular variation record of the past geomagnetic field and has been used as a tool for absolute and relative dating. The archaeomagnetic secular variation of declination can be used in conjunction with architectural building plan orientation angles (strike directions) to establish, whether or not, a magnetic compass was possibly used to align buildings. Until now, it has been speculative as to, how or why, Minoan buildings were orientated in an approximate North-South direction or at ‘askew’ angles to one another. Here, it is observed, that, the orientation angles, of some significant Minoan buildings on Crete which have been compared to the archaeomagnetic (secular variation of declination) reference curve record (Bulgaria) for that period, are consistent with the possible use of a magnetic compass. Four of the six main Palaces and other significant buildings may have been oriented using this method. This may indicate the first recorded use, by the Minoans of a magnetic compass. These findings have archaeological implications (chronology) and are of significant interest architecturally. They are also relevant to Minoan religious and cult studies and may have implications for Minoan maritime navigation studies.

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