The clearest mark of progress from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age in Greece can be found in the dwellings of the people.Civilization, as we define it, first flourished on the island of Crete.The oldest known settlement on Crete was Knossos.During the Stone Age, the Minoans lived in caves and "small communities of rough houses".However, at the height of the Bronze Age, the Minoan Civilization had constructed elegant palaces and dwellings.
The Bronze Age and Minoan Crete
Minoan Crete during the Bronze Age has been identified as the "first high civilization on European soil".Human beings have come to the assumption that progress is a constant state of societal evolution in all its forms: later generations are more tolerant, enlightened, rational, etc.Modern generations do not take entertainment in gladiatorial contests, for example.The Minoan Civilization, divided into three periods (Early, Middle and Late), clearly shows great refinement from the Stone Age.The stunning palaces that sprang up in the Early Period seem to come out of nowhere, the visible symbol of an "elusive but polished urban civilization".
The Bronze Age Decorations
A second marker of progress to be found in Bronze Age Crete are the decorations within these palaces.They were all richly decorated with frescoes, artistically and stylistically different from even the wall paintings of the Egyptians.These Minoan artists had "an enchantment with undulating motion and rhythm". Most art from the Stone Age is a collection of crude Earth Mother figurines and cave paintings of animals.The figure in La Parisienne displays a subtlety and a beauty that is a clear step above the civilization of the Stone Age.
Recovery from the Dark Ages was inevitable. Despite the collapse into anarchy, people instinctual revert back to primitive forms of association, but will rebuild complex societies from this "ground zero." Villages became cities again, and chieftains became kings. Artisans relearned the Bronze Age systems and began to incorporate iron into weaponry and artifacts.
The population levels returned to previous levels for the emergence of a new aristocracy. Thucydides describes this process, after the Trojan War: "the power of Hellas grew, and the acquisition of wealth became more an object, the revenues of the states increasing, tyrannies were by their means established almost everywhere". Herodotus describes the process by which strong men were able to create new empires, using Croesus as his example: "In this way he made himself master of all the Greek cities in Asia, and forced them to become his tributaries". Both historians seem to condemn the autocratic one-man rule of the past, but it was an important stage in securing stability.Once new states emerged from the chaos, they were able to concentrate economic energy into rebuilding.
What was needed was a slow and gradual re-accumulation of wealth in order to rebuild, first a cohesive state, and then the luxuries and public buildings that the previous age had enjoyed. It was a long and slow process, taking centuries, but the Golden Age of Greece eventually arose out of the ashes.