The Cretan land is full of ancient graves, highlighting the great care of the Cretans for the dead. In the Bronze Age (6000 BC-3500 BC) the simple deposition of dead inside caves was abandoned and use of cemeteries was widespread.
During the Minoan era, in some areas of eastern Crete, including Gournia, Mochlos and Palekastro, the tombs were rectangular and could be used again for the burial of many bodies. At Chrysolakos by Malia, Palekastro, Arhanes and Platanos, archaeologists identified entire burial buildings, but the most prevalent types of tombs in Crete were vaulted (tholos) and domed. Large vaulted tombs have been identified at Kamilari, next to the monastery of Odigitria, Koumasa, Maleme, Ahladia, Stylos, Fylaki by Vamos, Margarites, Apodoulou and Gerokambos. Large cemeteries (necropoleis) of the era, with hundreds of tombs have been found at the hill of Fourni by Arhanes and at Armeni by Rethymnon.
During the Roman era, a large number of tombs were carved into the soft limestone that abounds in Crete. The most famous cemetery with carved caves of this season is Matala, where hippies lived in the 70s. Impressive carved tombs are also found at ancient Kydonia (Chania), at Trialonia, at Siderospilia by Prinias and at the lush ravine of Pente Parthenes (ancient Lappa). In particular, the area of Agios Thomas, with the tremendous carved tombs of Gra Mandra, was an important center for the worship of chthonic deities.
The largest cemetery of the Bronze Age (4500 BC-3500 BC) in Greece has been excavated at Agia Fotia by Sitia and is home to 302 graves.
The History of Burial is a very special venue in Heraklion city. It is housed in the two-storey ossuary of the old cemetery of Saints Constantine and Helen in Heraklion, which was built in 1890.
The historic Monastery of Odigitrias on the way to Agiofaraggo hides many treasures. Beyond the monastery itself with such great history and the tower of Xopateras, it conceals another surprise north of the monastery. This is the prepalatial necropolis of Odigitria, named after the monastery, as we still don’t know the name of the town it belonged to.
The prepalatial cemetery Koumasa is located between Loukia and Koumasa. This Minoan archaeological site was first excavated by Stephanos Xanthoudides from 1904-1906 and four graves came to light (three vaulted graves and one rectangular).
The archaeological site of Fourni is located on the homonym wooded hill, 17km south of Heraklion and west of Kato Archanes. To get there (the site is not open, but you could contact the guard), you could walk along the Minoan path starting from Kato Arhanes or drive to the beautiful artificial grove of Fourni.
The ruins of the largest Minoan cemetery in Crete have been discovered in this area with 252 graves from the early Minoan period, 1800 vases and many artefacts buried with the dead.
The beautiful Gorge of Kato Zakros (or the gorge of the Dead) starts in a short distance from Ano Zakros, nearly 100km southeast of St. Nicholas, and ends at Kato Zakros. The beauty of the landscape, the historical importance of the gorge and its accessibility, attract many visitors every year.
The necropolis of Armeni is situated 9km south of the town of Rethymnon, on the main road which leads to the south coast of Crete. The greatest Late Minoan III A-B (c. 1400-1200 BC) cemetery was discovered on a shallow hill called Prinokefalo, which means “hild of the wild oaks”.
The most important of the several tombs found in the surrounding area of Apodoulou is sited at position Sopotakia and has an aisle of 7 meters and a chamber of diameter 3.10 meters. Within the tomb three urns were found (1380-1200 BC).