During a recent excavation at the Minoan palace situated in Archanes, within the Heraklion regional unit of Crete, Greek archaeologists have revealed captivating details about the architectural excellence and ritual practices of the ancient Minoan civilization.
The palace, initially built as a summer retreat for the Knossos kings, has been a subject of excavation by the Greek Archaeological Society since 1966, under the supervision of Yannis Sakellarakis and Efi Sapouna-Sakellarakis.
One of the most significant discoveries from this excavation is the extensive use of gypsum in various architectural elements, providing the palace with a sparkling appearance. Gypsum, derived from the Greek word “gypsos,” meaning “plaster,” was utilized in pilasters, multi-doors, and entrance ways, creating a shimmering effect. This find shows the elite’s penchant for luxurious and visually striking structures.
The palace’s elaborate floors featured pebble floors, mosaic slates, slate slabs bordered by thin mortar bands, and clay slabs. The preserved walls, thinly plastered and adorned with fragments of delicate mortars in red, blue, and black, bore frescoes that will be carefully removed for further study.
The discovery of a Doge of Venice coin and a 1963 US coin, along with fragments of conical cups and earlier “egg cups,” indicated disturbances in the layers, possibly resulting from unauthorized excavation by the house owners above the palace.
The use of gypsum wasn’t the only noteworthy aspect uncovered during the excavation. The identification of a sanctuary within the palace is supported by remnants of stone vessels, including a crystal vessel, a grey/leucolite vessel, an incised steatite vessel, and fragments of obsidian. Of particular significance is the abundance of obsidian, a material not commonly used as a tool in Crete during the YMI period (around 1600 BCE), suggesting a ritualistic purpose for its presence in this location.
In a section believed to be a sanctuary, additional discoveries were made, including parts of microscopic samples of large vessels, sea newt artifacts used for invoking the deity, and larger sea pebbles symbolizing the deity’s marine status.
The importance of Archanes in Minoan civilization was established in the 20th century when Sir Arthur Evans characterized the site as palatial, suggesting it served as a summer palace for the Knossos kings. The recent excavation further supports this notion.
The Greek Ministry of Culture has announced plans for a new Archaeological Museum in Archanes to showcase many of these ancient treasures.