Crete has not always been as we know it today
As you lie on the sandy beach lulled by the waves, or as you
rest in the armchair of your living room, it is hard to imagine
that in reality you are surfing. Yes, indeed, you are surfing!
To be precise you are “surfing geologically”. You
are on top of a gigantic “geologic swell” that moves
slowly, very slowly, tremendously slowly, but it moves. With
it it carries life since it first appeared.
Geologists have estimated that this swell (namely the Earth)
started out some 4.5 billion years ago, that is, long before
life appeared on the planet.
Then it was a fierce fiery swell covered by thick clouds of
nitrogen and helium. Gradually it cooled off, forming lands
here and seas there, but until it cooled off for good, there
was mayhem. On the very spot of the planet that you are now
(or will be soon) sunbathing, there was a deep sea at the time
of creation. 25 million years ago
at the beginning of the Miocene epoch, an incredibly powerful
tectonic upheaval lifted the bottom of the sea to the surface
and, thus, was born - literally from the waves - Aegeis Land,
although no human was then available to call it by that name.
What was then available included huge elephants, deer, hippopotami,
cave dwelling bears and various other beasts roaming undisturbed
wherever they pleased. This Aegeis Land was not flat but full
of jagged ranges and high peaks. The mountains of Crete were
so formed (albeit not in the present shape) 25 million years
Not very deep under the surface of the Earth, the unstable
rocks (known as tectonic plates) were in motion causing tremendous
uplift and subsidence on the fragile crust. During such a geologic
upheaval 12 million years ago, a large part of Aegeis Land sunk
and the sea covered everything but the highest peaks. At that
very distant era only four mountainous masses must have stuck
out of the waters as separate islands, in the area where later
Crete managed to float.
The natural see-saw continued for a long time until about
10000 BC. In the course of these hundreds of slow millennia,
called Pleistocene epoch by geologists, severe climatic fluctuations
created five Ice Ages. Ice, of course, in the form of glaciers,
is nothing more than frozen water and it was formed by immense
amounts of water borrowed from the sea. Consequently, in each
Ice Age, the level of the sea would retreat by 100 to 200 metres!
As a result, the four peaks-islands of Crete were joined together
and in turn they joined the coast of Peloponnese. Next the ice
would melt and everything would be flooded again. After the
last ice age (just 12,000 years ago) and the successive ups
and downs of sea waters, Crete found peace at last; woods covered
the earth, cool water sources sprang out everywhere, a mini
paradise was created ready to welcome the first humans.
It seems that humans were not late in coming to the island.
Unfortunately, the science of palaeontology is not particularly
advanced in Greece and, so, we know very little about the Palaeolithic
inhabitants of Crete. Their oldest confirmed traces date from
10000 BC approximately. After that, circa 2600 BC, an Indo-European
people came from the east and mixed with the natives to form
in tandem the famous Minoan civilisation. Afterwards, circa
1400 BC, Greek tribes came to settle here such as the Achaeans,
to be followed shortly by the Dorians. Then, for short or long
periods came here and settled Byzantines, Arabs, Genoans, Venetians,
Turks, Germans, every man Jack. And now you, lying on the beach,
are travelling carefree on top of the swell. Bon voyage and
|Source of the
information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”,
Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of
Greece, click here.