Ariadne's Tribe: Minoan Spirituality for the Modern World

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Minoan Jobs: Bronze Age Occupations

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

There are lots of ways to connect with the people of ancient cultures. They were ordinary humans just like us, so they cooked food and used cosmetics and celebrated the changing seasons

They also had jobs. Yep, they Did Stuff every day just like we do. What kinds of occupations did the Minoans have?

We actually know a fair amount about that because archaeologists have dug up the remains of Minoan homes and workplaces and examined their contents. Minoan art - frescoes and seals - also depicts quite a few different occupations. A lot of ancient Minoan jobs sound pretty familiar, really. And others sound interesting enough that I might like to try them out for a few days, just for fun.

As was the case with most of the world in pre-industrial times, there were a lot of farmers in ancient Crete. They grew the wheat, barley, olives, and grapes that were staple crops around the Bronze Age Mediterranean. They also raised cattle, sheep, and hogs (no chickens - they hadn't reached the Med yet). Archaeologists have found the remains of extensive canal systems all over the coastal lowlands of Crete, designed to carry water from the island's rivers to its fields, groves, and orchards. It took a lot of people to grow all the food the Minoans ate.

In the mountains of Crete lived goat-herders who provided food, hides, and other resources for the island's inhabitants. Like the farmers, the herders had their own way of life that revolved around the seasonal activities of their occupation.

And of course, since Crete is an island, there were people around the coast who made a living by fishing. They caught and collected a wide range of seafood, from mahi-mahi to octopus, limpets, sea snails, and squid.

The Minoans were famous as traders, and that's a whole set of occupations right there: merchants who stayed put on Crete, traders who traveled around the Mediterranean, sailors and captains who sailed the boats and ships that carried goods and people around the sea.

What about all the people who lived in the villages, towns, and cities of ancient Crete? Here's a list (not exhaustive, I'm sure, but I've done my best) of other jobs the Minoans had both in the temples and among the lay people, based on archaeological evidence from art, artifacts, and building remains:


administrators in the temples



basket weavers


brewers (beer, mead, wine)

bronze smiths


cattle herders


clergy at the temples, cave shrines, and peak sanctuaries


fresco painters

goat herders


jewelers and gold/silver smiths

leather tanners








seal stone carvers

sheep herders

ship builders

ship owners/captains


stone carvers (they made vases, bowls, libation tables, and more)

stone masons


Like most ancient cultures, young Minoan people probably chose their occupation largely based on what their family did, and they likely undertook apprenticeships to learn their chosen trade.

As you can see, there's quite a variety. Do you see any skills you'd like to learn?

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Laura Perry is a priestess and creator who works magic with words, paint, ink, music, textiles, and herbs. She's the founder and Temple Mom of Ariadne's Tribe, an inclusive Minoan spiritual tradition. When she's not busy drawing and writing, you can find her in the garden or giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.


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