Minoan Sites in Crete



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The ROYAL PALACE of KNOSSOS

Location: Approx. 5 km south of Heraklion
The ROYAL PALACE of KNOSSOS - image 1
The ROYAL PALACE of KNOSSOS - image 2
Excavations began when Minos Kalokairinos, a native of the city of Iraklio, began experimental digs in the palace area. However, systematic excavations were not begun until Sir Arthur Evans arrived in 1900. The controversial reconstruction that Evans supervised was deemed necessary because of the extreme depth of the site. The palace was confusing due to its multitude of layers--each period of settlement had been built on top of the previous one. The remains seen today are mainly those of the New Palace Period of around 1700 B.C.



VISITATION OF THIS SITE IS INCLUDED IN THE EXCURSION "KNOSSOS - LASITHI "

The PALACE of FAISTOS

Location: South-central Crete
The PALACE of FAISTOS - image 1
The PALACE of FAISTOS - image 2
Faistos is the second largest Minoan palace after Knossos and has a majestic location overlooking the Mesara Plain. To the west the palace views the imposing Mount Psiloritis. Myths claim that Radamanthis, brother of Minos, founded and ruled Faistos. It was an important religious, administrative and economic centre during Minoan times. During the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods, Faistos was independent, but its previous status was greatly decreased. The city state was defeated in 220 A.D. by Gortyn and destroyed. The first palace, built here around 1900 B.C., was destroyed by an earthquake in 1700 B.C. Afterward, the palace was rebuilt on a grander scale and this second construction is what is seen today.
Archaeologists began excavations here in 1900, at about the same time Evans was working at Knossos. The Italian archaeologist Federico Halbherr headed the Italian Archaeological Mission working at Faistos. His focus and direction of excavation was completely different from Evans' at Knossos and, as a result, reconstruction was minimal.

The MINOAN SITE of MALIA

Location: Near the town of Malia at the north coast of Crete
The MINOAN SITE of MALIA - image 1
Malia is a very important Minoan site that lies on the narrow coastal plain below the Lassithi Plateau on the north coast of Crete. The site is contemporary with Knossos and Faistos and suffered the same fate at the same time. The site was first excavated in 1915 but the major excavations were undertaken in 1922 by the French archaeological school.

The PALACE of ZAKROS

Location: East coast of Crete
The PALACE of ZAKROS - image 1
The PALACE of ZAKROS - image 2
The excavations at the palace of Zakros were only begun in earnest in 1961, by the Greek Archaeologist Nikolaos Platon. Because it had not been previously looted, the site yielded an enormous quantity of treasures and everyday items. Excavations still continue on the hill behind the site.
This is the smallest Minoan palace and was built quite close to the sea. It is believed to have played an important role in trade with Egypt, the Nile Delta, and the Middle East. Ingots of copper imported from Cyprus, elephant tusks from Syria, and gold and precious materials from Egypt were found among the ruins.
The Minoans laid out Zakros in a similar fashion to Knossos and Festos. It had a central paved court with three entrances to the west and an altar in front of the main entrance. Four wings of apartments were in the East Wing. The palace kitchen, the first identified positively at any of the palaces, was in the North Wing. The South Wing was devoted to workshops. The well that served this area still supplies drinkable water. The West Wing, as in all Minoan palaces, was devoted to religion.

The ROYAL PALAST of AGIA TRIADA

Location: South-central Crete
The ROYAL PALAST of AGIA TRIADA - image 1
The ROYAL PALAST of AGIA TRIADA - image 2
During Minoan times a road ran from Faistos to the royal palace of Agia Triada. This palace, or villa, may have been the summer residence of the kings of Faistos, although this remains a mystery. Even the ancient place name remains unknown. The current name comes from a nearby fourteenth century church, Agia Triada. Nonetheless, Agia Triada must have been an important place due to the impressive artworks found here. The famous larnax of Agia Triada, the black steatite vases with farmers, athletes, and the king were found here.
Habitation at the site was continuous from the Neolithic Period until 1897 when it was looted by the Turks and abandoned. The palace itself dates from around 1600 B.C., when the Minoan civilization was at the height of its prosperity. There was extensive rebuilding during the Mycenaean period.
The floor plan of the palace differs from other Minoan architecture in its simple L-shape. Missing are the characteristic central court and lustral basins. In the corner of the L-shape is the courtyard. To the left are the royal apartments, which looked out toward the sea. The treasury and other storerooms were probably in the main section of the "L".
To the north of the site are the remains of the town which surrounded the palace. A row of shops, identical in size and fronted by a covered portico, run in a line down the hill. Across from the shops are the houses of the town. Beyond the shops is the cemetery where archaeologists found the famous Agia Triada sarcophagus.

The MINOAN SITE of GOURNIA

Location: Lassithi prefecture
The MINOAN SITE of GOURNIA - image 1
The MINOAN SITE of GOURNIA - image 2
Archaeologists believe that agriculture, animal husbandry, and handicrafts were the main occupations of the inhabitants. A large number of tools were found on the site. It is of great archaeological value and a refreshing change from the other popular sites, as it shows the practical rather than artistic aspects of Minoan life.
Narrow stone-paved alleys (sloped for drainage), wide enough for pack animals, but not for wheeled vehicles, cross the town and divide the houses that were built with stone and sometimes mud-brick. The houses most certainly were two storied and possibly higher as evidence of stone and wooden staircases were found. The houses are centred on a main square and at the highest point "the palace" was excavated. A shrine was about twenty metres to the north of the palace. It contained a number of terra-cotta figurines as well as religious vessels. Gournia's proximity to the sea and the fact that it is located on the shortest north-south axis of Crete, gave it strategic importance although its area of merely 15,000 square metres may lead visitors to believe otherwise. In ancient times, the sailors preferred to unload their ships there and transfer the cargo to southern Crete via land rather than to sail around the dangerous Akrotirio Sideros. This gave importance to the settlement which was a cramped but bustling town.

The PALACE of EPANO ARCHANES

Location: Archanes, Central Crete
The PALACE of EPANO ARCHANES - image 1
Excavations are being performed in the area under the direction of E. Sakellarakis. Palatial-style buildings were discovered in the location of Turkogitonia within the village of Arhanes (200m east of the clock-tower). The excavations brought to light major discoveries including a large rectangular altar fresco and numerous artefacts. The buildings had an extraordinarily sophisticated architecture and the site is considered to be comparable to the other known Minoan palaces.
In the location of Anemospilia, a Minoan shrine was discovered. The shrine was destroyed in the large earthquake of 1700 B.C. that destroyed the old palaces. The archaeologists believe that a human sacrifice was taking place at the time of the disaster, probably attempting to avert the danger of the quakes.

The PALACE of TYLISOS

Location: South-west of Heraklion
The PALACE of TYLISOS - image 1
The PALACE of TYLISOS - image 2
Tylisos was one of the first Minoan sites to be excavated. Although archaeologists never discovered a palace equal to that of Knossos, they did find three large villas contemporary with the great palaces. Archaeologists offer several theories regarding the site. One of these is that Tylisos was a staging area on the route west towards other Minoan centres.
The three villas are labelled A, B, and C for easier identification. House A is the best-preserved with a court in the centre. A window illumines what remains of the staircase. The storerooms on the north side contain large reconstructed pithari. Several Linear A tablets were also found in this area.
Little of House B survives, except the floor plan, but it contained some of the oldest relics found at this site.
House C is of impressive design and construction. The main room contained a light-well for illumination, and evidence of a drainage system remains.

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