The Minoan civilisation is known to have prospered during the Bronze Age on the island of Crete, located in the Aegean Sea. Crete is the largest of the Greek islands. The main Minoan industry that drove the economy was trade of tin, copper and bronze tools. It is one of the famous examples of a civilisation that has been discovered to worship a female goddess. Frescos of female goddesses are found to be more extensive than male gods, although there is evidence pointing to worship of male gods too.
The goddesses are portrayed as the Mother Goddess of fertility, sometimes in the form of a snake or a tree or a bull. Some archaeologists have discovered that the Minoan religion is mostly dominated by the goddess Potnia who was given honey as offerings and whose symbol was a double axe. Studies of the goddess-centred civilisation suggest that because of the importance placed on the female, and the elevating of the female status to one of divinity, it is most probable that inheritance is matrilineal.
Not only is there evidence pointing to matrilineality, some archaeologists suggest that the Minoans were ruled by queens. This points very much to a female-dominated society, but it seems that the Minoan civilisation was more of one which was based on gender equality and was characterised largely by its peaceful times.
Although many societies conformed to the male-dominated political scenes of the various communities at that point of time in history, the Minoan civilisation was completely different. Archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes says
"The absence of … manifestations of the all-powerful male ruler that are so widespread at this time and in this stage of cultural development as to be almost universal, is one of the reasons for supposing that the occupants of Minoan thrones may have been queens” (Hawkes, 1968, P. 76)
Even if there is no concrete evidence of the Minoan thrones having been occupied by queens, the frescos and writings suggest that the women were largely involved in politics by taking up positions such as priestesses, functionaries and administrators.
Not only did the political life of the Minoan civilisation include the women, women were highly valued in the economy too. They were skilled craftsmen and entrepreneurs who contributed to the advancement of the economy. The representation of Minoan women translated into freedom granted for the women as men and women were viewed as equals who were intellectually on par.
Not only were they intellectually on par, but they were also viewed as physically on par, as women participated in the same sports that involved men. The one sport depicted the most in the archaeological evidence is bull-leaping. The sport is organised to test one's courage and ability as well as grace and gymnastic skill.
The freedom of women in the Minoan civilisation can be seen largely as well from the way they dress. Just as in Sparta where women could reveal their legs by wearing short skirts, the Minoan women wore robes that were open till their navel, revealing their breasts, showing how proud they were of their femininity. The women also wore bright colours of symmetrical designs, symbolic of how the lives of the women were very vibrant and hardly oppressed.