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 Saint 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 Liner 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 Vrysinas, Petsofas, Traostalos, Zhou, Karfi, etc. The Diktaean, Idaean and Kamares Caves also played a prominent role in the worship of gods.
The islet Scoglio de Muflo of the Venetians, which is the island opposite of Mochlos, seems to have been a very important commercial center and port in antiquity till the Byzantine Era. The island, also called Psilos (i.e. Flea) (opposed to a larger island to the west called Psira, i.e. lice) is an archaeological site that still gets excavated.
At position Riza, close to Achladia village N. Platon revealed in 1952 a Minoan Rural Mansion (1600-1550BC). The building occupies an area of 270 sqm and consists of 12 apartments with a main entrance on the east, an entrance hall, kitchen, storerooms and (possibly) a stall.
At the road connecting Piskokefalo and Sitia we meet the remains of an excavated two-storey Minoan mansion. We can still discern the remnants of rooms, stairs and the protective boulders coming from the neighbouring river of Pantelopotamos or the sea.
A particular Minoan farmhouse of elliptical shape has been found at position Souvloto Mouri, near Chamezi village. The farmhouse was excavated in 1902 by Xanthoudidis and its shape has been studied by archaeologists.
Just outside the village Zhou Sitia in 1955-1956 a large Minoan Agrepavlis (Rural Mansion)was excavated with many rooms (rest homes, workshop, living room, furnace, etc). Part of the site has been destroyed by the works for constructing the road.
The very quiet area of Makrigialos with the plain and the sheltered beach could not be ignored by the Minoans, who left important traces of habitation. The main finding is a rural mansion, a miniature Minoan palace in position Plakakia, found in 1971 by Kostas Davaras.
The Minoan villa of Zakros was discovered in 1965 by N. Platon and I. Sakellarakis. It was a rural villa with complete facilities for wine production, very similar to modern ones, and big jars for storing wine. The wine press is exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Sitia.
At the banks of the river Geropotamos, at position Agia Triada, the Minoans built a small palace that was excavated by the Italian Archaeological School at Athens in 1902-1914. This Royal Villa was built in the 16th century B.C. (New Palace period) and was probably used as a summer villa for the king of Phaestus or as permanent residence after the destruction of Phaestus palace in 1450BC.