And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth [was] an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. – Genesis 8:11
What if the Caphtorim (Keftiu), the people of Caphtor (Crete), were really the descendants of Noah? At least this is their lineage according to the Bible. As sensational as this sounds, a little logic dictates that we pay closer attention to what we do know of the world before written history. Why would the Hebrews and early Christians assert such a thing? That is, if there is any factual basis for their religious dogma? We know, already, that there is much fact on which to base these histories. And even if Noah is a metaphoric invention to explain humanity itself, isn’t it reasonable to inquire about such mysteries?
Myths Of Our Origins
Deuteronomy 2:23 reveals that Keftiu vanquished a people called the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as the Philistine city Gaza, and took their place. Accordingly, these people descended from Mizraim, son of Ham, according to Genesis 10:4; repeated in 1 Chronicles 1:1. Emil G. Hirsch, W. Max Muller, in the Jewish Encyclopedia, define Caphtor like so:
The original country of the Philistines before their emigration into Palestine, whence their name, ‘Caphtorim’ (Deut. ii. 23; Amos ix. 7; Jer. xlvii. 4), where they are called ‘the remnant of the island of Caphtor’.
It is interesting to note the connections from Mizraim with the foundation of Egypt, the flood narrative, and the Exodus, followed by the destruction of the Minoan thalassocracy and theories about who the Philistines were. This prehistory study always ends in a nebulous cloud of subjectivity by scholars, but one thing seems certain. The Keftiuan, the Caphtories, and the land the Akkadians called Kaptara, were significant players in these ancient dramas.
Other references refer to these Keftiu immigrants as Cherethites, which in some iterations means “Cretans.” Though there is little evidence to support some of these theories, it is interesting to note that King David’s personal bodyguard was made up of mercenaries who were expert archers, a trait Cretans became famous for when Odysseus arrived at Knossos to accompany Idomeneus of Crete to the coming battle. But this is a huge leap, the suggestion that the real Keftiu migrated to the holy land and ended up guardians of a Hebrew king. Or is it?
It is well known that the use of bows and arrows by Cretan hunters is indicated as early as 2200 BC, from Minoan seals and other icons. A mosaic discovered in Knossos and dated about 1700 BC portrays warriors armed with bows of both simple and double-convex designs (See Wikipedia). Though I’ve not time time or space to get into the circuitous ideas surrounding the Keftiu myth, later on I would like to research Cres, who according to some narratives, was probably the king of the Curetes, who were the mythical caretakers of the young Zeus, supposedly born and reared on Crete.
There’s also the suggestions by Diodorus Siculus, who claimed that Cres was the king of a whole earth-born nation, the Eteocretans (“true Cretans”). The famous translation below from Homer tells us these original Cretans later mingled with immigrants as well.
There is a land called Crete in the midst of the wine-dark sea,
a beautiful and fertile land, seagirt; in it are many
people, innumerable, and there are ninety cities.
Language with language is mingled together. There are Akhaians,
there are great-hearted Eteocretans, there are Kydones,
and Dorians in their three clans, and noble Pelasgians.
Homer, Odyssey, Book 19, line 148
Coveting the Unknown
Of these mysterious Eteocretans, there is still so little known. But many curious coincidences surround this enigmatic “tribe” of Keftiu. I find it interesting that the most important of the Dreros inscriptions disappeared when the Germans were occupying Crete. What might have been the Rosetta Stone for deciphering Eteocretan, and possibly Linear A, the Greek translation portion of these texts, went missing from the museum in Neopoli. Was some German archaeologist trying to hide something? Or, perhaps a German soldier was treasure hunting? Whatever the case, the missing scripts have never been recovered. I’ve dealt with this subject before, concerning the illegal dig at Monastiraki in the Amari Valley, the fascinating J.D.S. Pendlebury, and secrets he may have taken to the grave with him.
In any event, it is surmised that the language of the Praisos and Dreros inscriptions was connected to those spoken during the 2nd millennium BC and written by Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A. The fact that there were never any East Cretan toponyms recorded in the Knossos Linear B tablets (and other evidence), suggests that these “original Cretans” were probably a separate ethnic identity present during Minoan times. This is supported by a report by James Whitley in 1995 entitled From Minoans to Eteocretans: the Praisos region 1200 – 500 BC. Whitley also makes the point that the Eteocretans being a separate ethnicity had nothing to do with their DNA. He contends (correctly, I think) that ethnicity cannot even be signified via language. According to him, these original Cretans viewed themselves to be different/separate, and therefore they were. For me, Whitley’s detailed survey maps are significant for not only Praisos, but for other similar sites as well.
These people had Ancient Praisos as their largest city, but they were later vanquished and run away from the citadel by Hierapytna, which controlled what is now Ierapetra and the narrowest point of Crete. Praisos, which has been largely ignored since first excavations were carried out in the 1880s by Italian archaeologists Halbherr and Mariani, is but one of dozens of Crete sites that deserve another look archeologically. R. C. Bosanquet of the British School at Athens did revisit Praisos, to shed some new light in the early 1900s, but beyond his discovery of more fragments, and the aforementioned work by Whitley, not much else is known from physical culture evidence.
I found one passage in his paper Inscriptions from Praesos rather interesting, as well. Apparently, the initial dig had failed to reveal subsequent Eteocretan slabs containing inscriptions, the first having been presented to the archaeologists by a farmer named Retseb Aga Perdikakes who owned the cliffside adjoining the ancient city. Bosanquet seemed to think that these slabs had been purposely destroyed and cast off the mountainside when the city was destroyed. His paper also brings to light many fragments from Praisos found in buildings kilometers distant from the site, suggesting there are many more extant. There is also evidence that smaller sites around Praisos mirrored (in design and construction) the refuge site (Kipia above Kalamaki) at Karfi (only much bigger), high up on the Lassithi Plateau. Did the Eteocretans retreat to this refuge when Knossos changed hands? How does this jibe, as Keftiu myth or fact?
Finally, one thing about Praisos that stands out for me is the fact that the site is literally in the middle of nowhere. While other Minoan sites are found in relatively remote areas, there is usually some topographical or other geography associated. It’s a place remote enough and fertile enough, to imagine a class of Minoans retreating there. I insert class here because of the possibility that these “Minoans” seeing themselves as so different, surely had other implications. Were they elites? I have not, as yet, found any DNA studies of the subclassifications of early Crete (Caphtor) people. Maybe this would be a fruitful endeavor?
As for my rambling theory here, the question of where these Eteocretans finally ended up comes into the light. We’ve no indication of how many this “ethnic” group represented, but certainly there would have been more than enough to fill Karfi, Praisos, and many other towns. Did the others become the so-called Sea People (Tjeker?)? Legend has it King Teucer left Crete with one third of the inhabitants for destinations unknown. Or, were these people outside the class that would have made them seafarers? As I said several times earlier, there is so little known about them. We must not overlook the words of Homer in our deliberations. For those “great hearted” people he referred to certainly played a major role in Keftiu myth or reality. It’s fascinating to think how these remnants of Keftiu might be the real descendants of Noah. Wait though, I do not want my archaeologist friends to disown me over more insinuations of Keftiu (Caphtor) as Atlantis.
More later, but I must visit the site of Ancient Praisos.