Caves in Crete



Lera Cave at Stavros
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The cave Lera or Pan is formed at the west slopes of the steep mount Vardies, at an altitude of 70m, above the lagoon of Stavros, around 15km north east of Chania. The cave took its name after the chieftain of Cape Akrotiri, Stephanos Leras, who was hiding around the area between 1821 and 1833. Excavations by K. Davaras certified its use from the Neolithic to the Byzantine period, with the important findings being the inscriptions of the Classical period mentioning the worship of god Pan and the Nymphs.

In the background there is the natural spring of water, known as "Lake" (Limni). Its first room is formed by a large plateau covering an area of 12x10 meters; on its right side there are three carved niches where the tributes, statues or the clay plates were placed with some representations. The first chamber of the cave has dimensions 30x20x10m and is divided in the middle by two stalagmite columns. The second chamber has dimensions of about 26x15x10m. Between tall columns, a narrow passage with carved stairs leads to a third room, that is the main worship area of ​​14x18x9 meters with a pond known as Limni (lake). Around the basin with the clear water and at the base of the stalagmites, the Minoans placed their offerings to the Nymph of the cave and the god Pan. There are beautiful columns and stalagmites with an impressive angel wing-like stalagmite.

The choice of Stavros for the shooting of the legendary film Zorbas by Michalis Kakogiannis with Alan Bates and Anthony Quinn in 1963 and 1964 brought the Hollywood taste to the picturesque harbour. The cave Lera then played the role of the lignite mine, and it seems that the men of Anthony Quinn carried out the first excavations. In 1959-1961, the French archaeologist Paul Faure carried out some first informal excavations and in 1966 the was officially excavated. The official excavations revealed many clay figurine heads, female figures seated on a throne, vases parts (some in black), a black clay figurine (about 10 cm) where fingerprints of the creator were still visible, Late Minoan, Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic pottery sherds that reveal the constant use of the cave.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Chania Prefecture
  • Type: With archaeological importance
  • Water: Generally dry
  • Accessibility: Walking

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