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.
Traostalos Peak Sanctuary was first excavated in 1963-1964 under Kostis Davaras. Davaras returned in 1978 to continue that work. A rescue excavation from April to October 1995 was led by Stella Chryssoulaki. Along with the usual clay human and animal figurines common to peak sanctuaries, Traostalos has, notably, a female figure with a swollen leg. Other finds at Traostalos include ceramic boats and stone altars.
Petsofas peak is located near Palekastro and above the archaeological site of Roussolakos. In Minoan times here a peak sanctuary was founded where rituals included the deposition of clay figurines of cattle, men and women.
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 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).