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The Minoans, considered by many as the first European civilisation, flourished in the islands of the Aegean in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE before eventually disappearing around 1100 BC.  A sophisticated people, both artistically and technologically, they are described as the first literate society in Europe, having left behind an unmatched legacy of unique art and architecture, incredible labyrinth-like palace complexes and fine artefacts. Their mercantile culture led to their presiding over a vast trade network and the grandeur of their civilisation is immortalised in the myth of King Minos and the Minotaur trapped beneath his palace at Knossos. But despite an extended period of cultural growth, Minoan civilisation is abruptly ended around 1550 BC as a result of a powerful explosive event.