Crete is the birthplace of the first European civilization, the Minoan, which flourished between 3000 BC and 1200 BC mainly in Central and Eastern Crete. Even today, the majestic palaces of Knossos, Phaestus, Malia, Zakros, Tylissos, Arhanes, Monastiraki, Galatas, Kydonia and the luxurious mansions at Agia Triada, Zominthos, Amnisos, Makrigialos, Vathipetro and Nerokouros reflect the splendor of the Minoan civilization through architectural, pottery, jewelry and painting masterpieces.
The Minoan fleet, the strongest of its era, as evidenced by several findings in the Mediterranean, brought wealth to Crete from the trade of the famous Cretan cypress and agricultural products. Built in large yards, such as the shipyard of Agii Theodori at Vathianos Kambos, ships were loaded with timber, honey, wine, pottery and olive oil from the ports of Dia, Katsambas, Komos, Zakros, Psira, Mochlos, Niros, Petras, sailing towards all directions of the Mediterranean as far as Scandinavia.
Women were equal to men and took part in all religious ceremonies, in sports, hunting, theater, dance, etc. Masterpieces of building architecture, painting, sculpture and goldsmithing continue to inspire even modern civilization. Linear A and Linear B Scripts remind of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, but they were original Greek scripts. Even today, the disc of Phaestus is one of the most famous mysteries of archeology and deciphering of its symbols remains a riddle.
The worship of deities such as the Mother Goddess of fertility, the Mistress of the Animals, protector of cities, the household, the harvest, and the underworld dominated the religious tradition of the Minoans, who used many caves and mountain peaks as places of worship. Pilgrims from all over the island ascended to the peak sanctuaries of Youchtas and the cave of Hosto Nero to offer their votives, such as Minoan inscriptions or clay idols. Peak sanctuaries were also hosted atop summits Kofinas, Vrysinas, Petsofas, Traostalos, Karfi, etc. The Diktaean, Idaean and Kamares Caves also played a prominent role in the worship of gods.
On the rocky hill Papouri, located northeast of the beach of Tripiti, high above the tavern, we meet the remains of a Minoan settlement. The first excavations were made in 1986-88 by archeologist Antonis Vasilakis. A vaulted tomb of 2800-2000BC was also been found 200m on the south.
Priniatikos Pirgos is a small peninsula that separates the two beaches of Agios Panteleimon Karavostasis upon which an important Minoan settlement has been identified. The settlement has been mapped by the American and Irish Archaeological School. It was inhabited from the Minoan till the Ottoman Era and was highly depended on its harbor. Important findings are kilns for ceramics production.
West of the village Tylisos in Malevizi province rises the mount Pirgos with its peak reaching an altitude of 684m. In this steep peak the archaeologist Stylianos Alexiou in 1963 identified one of the most important Minoan Peak Sanctuaries of Central Crete. Religious figurines and stone horns were found, and a rectangular building measuring 13m x 4.50m came to light. It can be reached by walking about 20 minutes from the nearest parking area that is reached by a rural road.
Rousolakos is located 91km southeast of Agios Nikolaos, right next to the beach of Hiona. Here, the archaeologists have discovered an important town of Minoan Crete covering an area of more than 50 acres, which flourished particularly at the end of the Minoan Age till 1450BC.
Over the hill Patella by Prinias village lies the picturesque chapel of Agios Panteleimon with amazing views towards all directions. It is the site of the Minoan town of Rizinia or Apollonia, which prospered till the Roman period.
Above the village Atsipades of the province St Basil, Rethymno we meet a range of small peaks with the higher being that of Kouroupa. The mountain range of Kouroupa stretches from west to the east separating the villages of the valley of St Basil by the seaside settlements, while defining a different climate. The boundaries of Kouroupa are sharp and are bounded by two long and majestic canyons, Kourtaliotis and Kotsifos. Beyond the peak of Kouroupa there are more smaller peaks, still very beautiful.
The Minoan settlement at ‘Fournou by in Myrtos is a prime example of an establishment of the first phase of the Minoan civilization, before the construction of palaces. The settlement appears to have been founded before 2500 B.C., and had a violent end before 2100 B.C. It was walled, built on a hill, and contained about a hundred rooms in thick array.
At the eastern edge of Pera Galini beach, the small cape of Kefali is formed. The ruins of a Minoan settlement, which is thought to have been an important port in the region, have been discovered there.