When Arthur Evans excavated Knossos in the early 20th century, animal and plant remains were not routinely kept by archaeologists.
The archaeological teams who worked at Knossos from the 1950s onwards did start to keep things like bones and seeds, realising their potential for revealing information about ancient diets. When some of these bones were restudied by Dr Valasia Isaakidou, she found that deer had been brought to Crete, most probably to be kept in an enclosure near Knossos and hunted.
Looking at the cut marks on other bones even revealed evidence for the method of preparation, cut against the grain of the meat. These were older animals too, eaten after being used for other agricultural activities. Dinner served a similar cut of beef as their main course, as well as a venison starter.
The excavations at Knossos In the 1950s and 1960s also dug down through to the bottom of the hill on which the palace sits. It is an artificial mound, built up by thousands of years of occupation.
The lowest levels were carbon dated to around 7000 BCE and the finds there included bones from the four main domesticated animal species (cattle, sheep, goat and pig) and burnt wheat grains (as with the clay tablets, burning helped preserve them). Bones were sometimes recycled to make eating implements - the exhibition incudes a bone spoon, perhaps the oldest ever found in Europe!
These are still the earliest evidence for the arrival of agriculture in Europe, brought by a group of settlers from somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. They can be seen in the Labyrinth exhibition and are currently being restudied as part of an Oxford University research project AGRICURB.