The archaeological site of Malia is located 3km east of Malia, next to the wetland of the area and very close to the beach. It was an important Minoan city and housed the third largest Minoan palace, after Knossos and Phaestus. According to mythology, Sarpedon reigned here, who was brother of Minos and son of Zeus and Europa. Sarpedon was expelled by his brother Minos and then took refuge in Lycia in Asia Minor.
Till 1880, the existence of the city was totally unknown when the land owner of the Chrysolakkos area discovered a few sheets of gold a few meters west of the palace. This gave rise for the excavations in the wider area by gold diggers. In 1915 Joseph Hatzidakis started excavations in the harbor, while in 1921 the French Archaeological School continued the works in Chrysolakkos, where they found one gold jewel depicting bees, which is considered the most important finding of Malia.
The city's name is not known, although it is probable that it was either Tarmaros or Milatos. The city minted its own coins depicting, on both sides, the goddess Athena and two dolphins. Moreover, the town covered an area of 1 square km, with neighborhoods built sparsely around the palace. The first palace was built around 1900BC occupying an area 8800sq.m., but it later destroyed in 1700BC. The palace had two floors with a central courtyard with a rectangular shape and four wings. The most important part was its west side. There were warehouses with many pots and jars, royal rooms, workshops, a weapons room (where the famous royal scepter was found) and altars. The palace was destroyed again in 1450BC, either by an earthquake or by attack.