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The Palace and the Minoan Settlement of Zakros

  • The Palace and the Minoan Settlement of Zakros
  • The Palace and the Minoan Settlement of Zakros
  • The Palace and the Minoan Settlement of Zakros
  • The Palace and the Minoan Settlement of Zakros
  • The Palace and the Minoan Settlement of Zakros

The first excavation in Kato Zakros was performed by the British D. Hogarth, in 1901. Then, the remains of a Minoan settlement came to the surface, indicating a flourished society. The most important of Hogarth's findings were the about 300 clay stamps on coins, indicating some sort of bureaucratic system of control or a number of commercial affairs. Some of these stamps originate from Knossos, something that indicates the close relationship of Knossos and Zakros, at least during the 15th century BC. In 1962, the Ephore of Cretan Antiquities N. Platon started a new excavation in the valley of Kato Zakros. The Greek archeologist was convinced that this position was "hiding" something more important than a "naval settlement", as it seemed to be the center of a culture, recognized by the ceramic products of the wider region. The excavation results were indeed impressive. The excavations revealed a Minoan palace and a settlement surrounding it, dispersed over the slopes of the two hills of the valley. Important findings came to light during the research of the Minoan tombs, most of which were "sheltered" in natural caves, in the gorge of Zakros -that after the findings was renamed as "the gorge of the dead" ("faraghi ton nekron") - but also in other positions, such as in "Mavro Aulaki" southeast from the gulf and "Spiliara", on the north slope of the valley. The palace of Zakros - as it is preserved today- was constructed during the 16th century BC. It is possible that it replaced an older public building, as indicated by the remains found under the east wing of the palace. Only at this spot it was possible to further excavate, since agricultural acitivity during the 20th century -and before the excavations- had totally destroyed this part of the palace. In terms of architecture, the palace of Zakros has several similarities with the larger palace of Knossos. In Zakrosl like in Knossos, the west wing (the section of the construction west from the central yard) accommodated the chambers of the shrine: the main shrine, next to a ritual room that A. Evans named "Lustral Basin", the treasury of the ritual objects and the majestic chambers of the rituals and the feasts, which in the case of Zakros were located on the ground floor. The placement of the main spaces of storage of agricultural products, of the palace treasury and of other spaces of processing valuable materials at the west wing, reaffirms the theory that the economic management of the Minoan state was in the hands of a powerful ministry. The east wing, like in Knossos, was probably used as the "accommodation area". The other two wings seem to have been of secondary importance. Laboratories were probably located at the south wing, as in some of the chambers valuable processed, unprocessed or semi-processed materials have been found (such as marble, crystals, ivory, ect). At the north wing there was another "Lustral Basin" which was probably connected with the entrance of visitors in the palace. The central gate of the palace was also the end of a cental road leading to the Minoan port. The close relationship and the similarities between Zakros and Knossos might lead to the conclusion that the latter was the metropolis of the former. Most of the buildings that form the Minoan settlement were probably built at the same time as the palace. Many of the buildings have "copied" architecture styles from the palace. Almost all the buildings had two floors with one or two stairways connecting the chambers of the two floors. The study of the ceramics had led to the conclusion that the settlement and the palace of Zakros were completely destroyed in 1450 BC. The destruction was probably caused by some natural disaster (an earthquake or the eruption of the volcano of Thira), as it was deserted for a long time and the palace was never re-constructed. Parts of the settlement were later re-inhabited for a short period of time (1400 -1300 BC), but since then the area never managed to re-establish its old glory.