Interesting

Exploring Western Crete's Archaeological Treasures

Exploring Western Crete's Archaeological Treasures

As the cradle of European Civilization and a meeting place of diverse cultures, Crete is a magical island that stands apart in the heart of the Mediterranean sea. Its prominent place in world history dates back to the mysterious and fascinating Bronze Age civilization of the Minoans, who were building lavish labyrinth-like palaces at a time when Athens was just a village. In the Odyssey, Homer describes Crete as a rich land, filled with countless people who speak several languages. The location of this mountainous island, at a crossroad of three continents, has been a natural outpost of consecutive invaders, including the Greeks, Romans, Venetians and Ottomans, who have left their mark on Cretan culture.

Remainders of Crete's extraordinary past are scattered all over the island. Today, travellers come to explore and discover not only its five-millennium old history but also its extraordinary natural beauty and diversity. As I journeyed through the Cretan landscape, I visited its most important ancient sites, including the famous Minoan palaces, but also veered off the beaten track to explore the lesser-known archaeological remains. In this tour of western Crete, I invite you to delve into the long and rich history of this fascinating island.

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The Minoan civilization emerged on the island of Crete in the Early Bronze Age at the end of the third and beginning of the second millennium BCE. It flourished from c. 2000 BCE until c. 1500 BCE with the establishment of centres, called "palaces" by modern archaeologists, that concentrated political and economic powers, as well as artistic activities. Of particular significance was the religious role played by the palaces in the cult of the Mother Goddess. These impressive edifices were built at Knossos and Malia in the northern part of the island, at Phaistos in the south, and Zakros in the east, all sites with a rich agricultural hinterland and direct access to the most important sea routes of the time.

The British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans discovered the first of these palaces in Knossos in 1900 CE and named the people who built them after the legendary King Minos. It was King Monos who, according to tradition, ordered the construction of a labyrinth in Knossos to hold the Minotaur, the mythical half-man, half-bull creature. The Minoan culture spread throughout the entire eastern Mediterranean world and its stunning art and architecture deeply influenced the Mycenaean Civilization (1600 - 1100 BCE) that would succeed it. After the downfall of the Mycenaeans, Crete was ruled by various ancient Greek city-states until the Romans conquered the island in 69 BCE and made Gortyn their capital.

Under Roman rule, Crete re-emerged as a major cultural centre and became the joint province of Crete and Cyrenaica and a centre of early Christianity. When the Roman Empire split into two, Crete was made part of the Eastern empire. It continued to prosper during the Byzantine era until it faced repeated Arab raids and, ultimately, full conquest in the 820s CE.

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Today the central and western parts of the island are blessed with archaeological treasures which include the famous sites of Knossos, Phaistos and Gortyn but also Aptera, Phalasarna and Eleutherna, all with significant architectural remains as compelling evidence of Crete's long and varied history.

KNOSSOS

The archaeological site of Knossos is located just 5 kilometres (3 miles) south of Heraklion and is Crete's most famous historical attraction. The rather extensive early 20th century restorations carried out by Evans bring to life the palace's most significant parts and enable the visitor to appreciate the sophisticated architecture of this extensive and many-storied building complex. Legend has it that Knossos was the residence of the mythical ruler of Crete, King Minos. The Greeks called the palace of Minos 'Labyrinth' and described it as an enormous building with countless rooms and corridors. The first palace at Knossos was founded c. 1900 BCE on the ruins of a much older settlement but was destroyed by an earthquake around 1700 BCE. It was rebuilt on a grander scale on the same site and flourished in the Neopalatial period (1750 - 1430 BCE).

The palace consisted of wings arranged around a central paved courtyard. The two-storey West Wing housed the storerooms, the sanctuaries, the Throne Room and, on the upper floors, the banquet halls. The East Wing contained the private apartments, the workshops and a shrine. Public and private buildings were decorated with frescoes of exquisite artistry and craftsmanship. The remains we see today are mostly those of the second palace, rebuilt after the destruction of 1700 BCE and occupied, with increasing Mycenaean influence, through to 1450 BCE.

The tour of the palace starts from the West Court which is thought to have been a marketplace or the site of public gatherings. From here, a walk along the Corridor of the Procession leads to the partially restored South Propylaea, decorated with copies of parts of the Procession Fresco depicting four male figures (gift bearers) wearing the characteristic Minoan dress.

A great staircase then leads to the upper floor of the West Wing, which Evans named Piano Nobile after the architectural term of the Italian Renaissance palazzi. From the upper floor, visitors can look down on the complex of the West Magazines where about 400 giant pithoi (clay jars) that once held oil and wine were stored.

Just below the Piano Nobile lies the Central Court of the Palace. Situated in the centre of the complex, this large opened area would have been ideal for religious celebrations and even for bull games. Some of the most important parts of the palace faced directly onto the court. On its west side was the Throne Room with its alabaster throne (considered the oldest in Europe), benches on each side and porphyrite basin. The walls are beautifully decorated with frescoes of griffins, mythical beasts regarded as sacred by the Minoans. The Throne Room was a chamber built for sacred ceremonials and was part of a larger complex that also included an anteroom and an inner chamber.

To the right of the Throne Room is a three-sectioned room that Evans called the Tripartite Shrine. It was the main sanctuary in Knossos where the famous Snake Goddess statue was found.

Crossing the central court takes the visitor to the East Wing which accommodated the royal quarters. The highlight of this wing is the Grand Staircase and the rooms below it. The Grand Staircase was the largest staircase in the palace and has been described as one of the masterpieces of Minoan architecture. The two lower levels are original while the two upper have been restored.

Down below lies the restored complex of megara that has been identified as the Royal Apartments of the palace. The first of these apartments is the largely restored Queen's Megaron which was adorned with frescoes that today are preserved as copies in their original position. The most striking is the fresco of the Dolphins which decorated the upper part of the north wall. The small adjacent chamber was the queen's bathroom with, beside it, the queen's toilet room.

Adjoining the Queen's Megaron is the King's Megaron, or Hall of the Double Axes as it was named from the presence of this sacred symbol on the wall. The Hall of the Double Axes was a double chamber with inner and outer space.

Walking towards the north section of the palace, visitors pass the workshop area where the excavators found a number of very large storage jars and the House of the Chancel Screen that belongs to the New Palace Period (1700 - 1450 BCE). The north section is dominated on its west side by the North Propylon with a copy of the Charging Bull relief fresco and the Pillar Hall, a large hall with a series of columns and pillars. Nearby lies the completely restored North Lustral Basin.

The last section of the palace is the so-called Theatre. It is a wide paved area extending on many levels and having two wings with low steps enclosing a paved level. It is estimated that the tiers could have held 500 standing spectators who came to watch acrobatic and dance performances.

The city of Knossos spread out around the palace, over a wide area of some 750,000 m², with particularly important monuments and buildings, roads, cemeteries, workshops, quarries and sacred spaces. Located northeast of the Great Palace is the Royal Villa which was built on the east slope of the hill of Knossos. It consists of a ground floor and two other floors, which survive in relatively good condition.

GORTYN

The archaeological site of Gortyn (or Gortyna), the largest in Crete and one of the most fascinating, lies 45 kilometres (28 miles) south of Knossos in the middle of the Mesara plain. The ancient city was an important settlement throughout antiquity and became the capital of the Roman Province Creta et Cyrenaica in the late 1st century BCE. According to tradition, it is where Zeus, in the guise of a bull, brought the princess Europa from her home in Phoenicia. Homer mentions Gortyn in the Iliad as “having walls” and in the Odyssey as the place where Menelaus and his fleet of ships, returning home from the Trojan War, were blown off course to the Cretan coastline. Nowadays, Gortyn is particularly well known for its Law Code, the longest extant ancient Greek stone inscription in Greece.

The ruins of Gortyn are spread out over a two-kilometre long square area, making this archaeological site one of the biggest in the whole of Greece. Sadly, most of the buildings are not easily explored and have been fenced off. The only structure fully accessible is the Odeon with the Law Code of Gortyn.

The 600 lines written in a Dorian dialect and dating to the first half of the 5th century BCE is the earliest law code discovered from the world of the ancient Greeks.

The archaeological site is divided into three parts: the Acropolis, the area north of the road where the most important buildings are located, and the fenced area south of the road. Most people only visit the north side past the ticket gate. However, several more important ancient structures are scattered south of the road, opposite the entrance, as well as towards the Acropolis.

The first significant monument visible on the north side is the Church of Saint Titus (Hagios Titos) built in the 6th century CE. Saint Titus (1st century CE) was the first Bishop of Crete who was appointed by the Apostle Paul and who undertook the task of disseminating the Christian religion throughout the island.

A few steps away is the Roman Odeum which was built in the 1st century BCE and was later restored under the emperor Trajan in around 100 CE. It was a roofed building used for musical and theatrical performances. Its cavea was supported by a vaulted arcade which sheltered the famous law code discovered in 1884 CE. The 600 lines written in a Dorian dialect and dating to the first half of the 5th century BCE is the earliest law code discovered from the world of the ancient Greeks. The inscription, inscribed in the boustrophedon system of writing (alternate lines in opposite directions), provides important information on the laws of Gortyn and specifically its civil law. The code deals with matters surrounding the family and inheritance laws, adoptions, divorces as well as with crimes against morals (rapes, adultery) and the rights of women and slaves.

The most distinctive monuments on the south side are the praetorium, the residence of the Roman governor of the province, the temple of Pythian Apollo which was the main sanctuary of pre-Roman Gortyn, the sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods dedicated to Isis, Serapis and Anubis. Other remains, although less visible, include a theatre, an amphitheatre, a stadium, a nymphaeum as well as baths.

It is possible to climb up to the hilltop Acropolis. Set against the hillside are the remains of a large theatre. Once at the top you will be rewarded by the magnificent view of the whole area and the archaeological site itself. The Acropolis has some remains of the Archaic Temple of Athena which was converted into a basilica in the 6th century CE.

The finds from Gortyn are on display in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum and the Sculpture Gallery at the site, the most impressive of which is a Roman statue group of Persephone-Isis and Pluto-Serapis with the three-headed dog Cerberus.

PHAISTOS

Phaistos, the second most important Minoan city after Knossos, is located 15 kilometres (9 miles) west of Gortyn. The site was inhabited from the Final Neolithic period (c. 3600-3000 BCE) until the foundation and development of the Minoan palaces. Like Knossos, the palace of Phaistos was laid out around a central peristyle court. It covered an area of approximately 8,000 square metres and extended over three stepped terraces. However, unlike Knossos, Phaistos has not been reconstructed, though the ruins are richly evocative.

The earliest palace at Phaistos was built at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE upon deposits dating from the Neolithic and Early Minoan periods (3000 - 2000 BCE). This early palace was destroyed and repaired on two occasions. After a third destruction about 1700 BCE, the ruins were razed to make way for the construction of the New Palace which was used until 1450 BCE. The ruins of the old and new palace are still preserved. They came to light during the excavations carried out by the Italian archaeologist F. Halbherr in the last two decades of the 19th century CE.

The palace of Phaistos, with its superb architectural composition, is considered to be a typical example of the Minoan palaces. As in Knossos, the nucleus of this large Minoan palace was the central peristyle court around which the rooms were arranged: the storerooms and shrines on the west side, the royal quarters on the north and the workshops on the east.

A visit to the palace begins at the upper level of the West Court which offers imposing views over the whole archaeological site. A stairway leads down to the Theatral Area where spectators would have watched some kind of performance or spectacle, and to circular structures (kouloures) that were used for the storage of grain.

An impressive 15-metre-wide (49 feet) staircase gives access to the monumental West Propylaea which was the principal entrance to the New Palace. The Central Court preserves its original paving and leads to the royal apartments in the north part of the palace.

Phaistos continued to be inhabited in the Mycenaean (1600 - 1100 BCE) and Geometric periods (c. 11th -8th century BCE). In the Archaic period (7th century BCE) a temple, possibly dedicated to the goddess Rhea, was built on the remains from the Old Palace period, in the southern part of the palace. The Hellenistic city was extremely prosperous and houses dating from this period are to be seen in the west court (upper terrace) of the palace. Phaistos’ independence was finally lost when it was conquered in c. 180 BCE by the neighbouring city of Gortyn.

The majority of the findings from Phaistos are kept in the Archaeological Museum of Iraklion. The most important finding is the famous "Disc of Phaistos", a clay disk, dated to between 1950 BCE and 1400 BCE and impressed with a unique sophisticated hieroglyphic script.

HAGIA TRIADA

A couple of kilometres to the west of Phaistos are the ruins of the small Minoan settlement of Hagia Triada. This enchanting site encompasses the vestiges of a royal villa and a Minoan town built on the northern slope of a range of hills overlooking the western end of the Mesara Plain.

The villa was built at the end of the Middle Minoan period in c. 1600 BCE and destroyed by fire around 1450 BCE. It had an unusual L shape consisting of a series of buildings on two sides of a courtyard, rather than the four sides of a conventional Minoan palace. However, the finds at the villa as well as its architecture suggest that it performed similar functions to the palaces. The villa contained rooms decorated with frescoes and equipped with wall panels made of alabaster, storage rooms, shrines, workshops, staircases, porticoes, paved courtyards etc.

After its destruction in 1450 BCE, the villa was deserted until the arrival of the Mycenaeans when new buildings were erected over its ruins. An imposing megaron of the Mycenaean type was built in the Postpalatial period (1400 - 1100 BCE).

A ramp running along the northern side of the villa leads to the Minoan town with common residential buildings. Of special interest is a marketplace belonging to the Mycenaean era with eight spacious rooms, probably shops, arranged behind a portico.

To the north-east of the town beyond the fence and closed to the visitors is a necropolis with two tholos tombs. The famous Hagia Triada sarcophagus decorated with funeral scenes was unearthed here.

Lying in the courtyard of the Minoan villa is a Byzantine single-aisled church dedicated to Saint George Galatas. The church is decorated with beautiful frescoes.

ELEUTHERNA

The spectacularly sited archaeological site of Eleutherna is located 25 kilometres (15 miles) south-west of Rethymno near Mount Ida, the highest mountain in Crete on which lies, according to legend, the cave in which Zeus was born. Although Eleutherna has yielded Minoan artefacts dating back at least 4,000 years, it was during the Dark Ages of Greece’s early history that the city flourished (800 – 450 BCE). Numerous significant artefacts from the 8th, 7th and early 6th centuries BCE have been found throughout nearly all of the city. Eleutherna also experienced economic and cultural heydays in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine times. Its surrounding landscapes, rich in olive trees, stone, honey and other plant resources, contributed to the city's economic success.

The site of Eleutherna includes an acropolis, a polis (city), and a necropolis, spreading over an elongated ridge in the olive-tree-dotted foothills of sacred Mount Ida. Unfortunately, most of the site is currently fenced off as it is being excavated. The accessible remains include the ruins on the Acropolis with a Hellenistic tower at its entrance, two rock-cut Roman cisterns as well as of the remarkable stone-built Hellenistic bridge which has survived and is still in a good state of preservation in the valley.

A team of archaeologists from the University of Crete has been excavated the site since 1984, unearthing important archaeological remains, including a necropolis dating back to the period of the Homeric epics (9th - 7th century BCE), as well as Hellenistic and Roman buildings and streets which had been built on top of earlier constructions. The discovery of lavish female burials in the Orthi Petra necropolis of Eleutherna was declared one of Top 10 Discoveries of 2009.

The necropolis has also yielded a number of high-quality grave goods from funeral pyres, cist tombs, and burials in pots from the 9th to the early 6th century BCE. The majority of the funerary practices at Orthi Petra were similar to Patroclus’ cremation described by Homer in the Iliad.

The Museum of Ancient Eleutherna, directly linked to the archaeological site, was inaugurated in June 2016. This beautiful museum is a journey back to the dawn of Greek civilisation and Homer. Thousands of finds are showcased at the museum, shedding light on a long period of history spanning from 3000 BCE to the 14th century CE.

APTERA

The ancient town of Aptera lies on a low hill dominating the Souda Bay, about 13.5 kilometres (8 miles) east of Hania. Archaeological findings suggest that Aptera was founded in the Geometric period (8th century BCE) and reached its peak during the Hellenistic period (4th century BCE) as one of the most important and powerful city-states of ancient Crete. With its two ports, Aptera continued to be an important city during the Roman period and the early days of the Byzantine Empire before being destroyed by two earthquakes in the 4th and 7th centuries and then by the Saracens in 823 CE.

The French Archaeological School identified the ancient city in 1834 CE and conducted the first excavations in 1862 CE and 1864 CE. The most impressive of the preserved ancient buildings are the two Roman cisterns that served the needs of the city and supplied the facilities of the public and private baths. One can also see the remains of a small 5th century BCE Doric temple dedicated to Artemis and her brother Apollo as well as the preserved ruins of a small theatre. The site is still being excavated.

PHALASARNA

Phalasarna’s ruins are located in a gorgeous area on the west coast of Crete, some 16 kilometres (10 miles) west of Kissamos. Founded by Dorians Greeks around the 7thcentury BCE, the city was one of the most important ports of ancient Crete. From this spot, the Phalasarnians controlled the sea routes towards northern Africa and Italy. They traded with people all across the Mediterranean and had especially close relations with the Spartans and the Phoenicians. The city-state had laws, a complex system of social support, and minted its own silver and bronze coins. However, prosperity did not last long. A state of perpetual war with rival nearby cities-states, natural disasters and sea-level changes weakened and damaged the building and infrastructures of Phalasarna. The citizens turned to piracy and stirred the anger of Rome. The city's destruction probably came with the Romans in 67 BCE who aimed to eradicate piracy in the Mediterranean. In 365 CE, one of the greatest earthquakes in recorded history raised the land 6.5 m out of the sea and turned the harbour into dry land, buried under tons of landfill.

Rescue excavations first took place in 1966 and systematic archaeological research began in 1986 when the harbour was brought to light. The site is entered through a dirt track past olive groves and a large stone 'throne' which has been interpreted as a throne dedicated possibly to Poseidon, since Phalasarna was a maritime city

The scattered remnants include the city's inner harbour which was defended by part of the city wall linked by a number of towers, some of which are still standing. Excavations have also revealed blocks of built quay with bollard holes and mooring stones, workshops, five small terracotta baths and warehouses. More ruins can be seen ascending the Acropolis hill behind.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Heraklion's magnificent Archaeological Museum has reopened after a stunning seven-year makeover. It houses the finest and most important collection of Minoan art and artefacts anywhere in the world. A visit to Knossos and the other sites will be greatly enhanced if you have visited this museum first.

The permanent exhibition in the museum occupies a total of 27 rooms. Besides the Minoan collection, other periods of Cretan history are covered, from the Neolithic to the Greco-Roman period.

There are also archaeological museums in the five principal Cretan towns of Chania, Rethymno, Ierapetra, Kissamos and Sitia.


We went to Kissamos, a small town just a half-hour easy drive from Chania in Crete. Our first is the archaeological museum featuring findings from the western part of Crete, mostly Polyrenia, Falasarna, and other smaller ancient towns of the area.

The museum was founded in 2005, and it is housed in a two-floor Venetian monument that once was hosting the Headquarters of the Governor of the area. On the ground floor, you will basically admire the findings from Ancient Falasarna and Polyrenia which flourished during the Hellenistic period as well findings from the prior Minoan era.


What Makes Crete Ideal for Seniors

Whatever type of experience particularly speaks to you, Crete delivers it. For instance, even if you prefer a comfortable city boutique hotel and comfortable car to backpacking around the island, you can still explore on foot – some of the most spectacular scenery of Europe awaits you in the gorges of Crete, with hikes for every level of stamina.

Are you fascinated by archaeology and history? Crete offers it in abundance – from the treasures of the Minoan civilization, to key sites of the second World War.

What about cuisine? The Mediterranean diet is nowhere more elemental, bold, and delicious than on Crete – this is cuisine that nourishes, body and soul. And the oenophiles will love exploring Crete’s ancient wine tradition and contemporary wineries.

What about music? Experience the joy of a traditional Cretan festival, complete with the finest lyra-playing and dancing you’ll experience anywhere in Greece.

Are you a golfer? Try it with a Mediterranean twist, on some of the most stunning courses of Greece. Last and yet foremost is the eternal fascination of the sea – explore it on a sailing cruise to discover secret coves, or experience some of the finest beaches in all the world.

The Nature of Crete

This largest of the Greek Islands has extraordinary terrain. That famous jewel-like sea and coastline of an extraordinary array of beaches encircle a treasure of mountains and gorges. Crete’s highest mountain – Mount Ida (also called Mt. Psiloritis) – in the center of the island – reaches close to 2500 meters, and Mt. Spathi of Lasithi is over 2100 meters. The White Mountains dominate the island vistas of Western Crete, grazing the skies at also close to 2500 meters. This landscape makes for some extraordinary drives – going from the north coast to the south through tremendous gorges and mountain passes treats you to some spectacular vistas. Then you glimpse the shimmering expanse of the Libyan sea far below before descending and exploring the less visited secrets of Crete.

For example – after one of the most beautiful drives that Europe has to offer, you’ll find yourself in Chora Sfakion, a sleepy and enchanting fishing village where you can catch the boat to Loutro and Agia Roumeli. What makes them special? You can only reach them by boat (about 20 minutes to Loutro) or on foot. Loutro is a tranquil tiny paradise. Come for a lunch of fish soup from a fresh-caught fish as the waves lap the pebbles. Or stay on the boat to Agia Roumeli – this is where the legendary Samaria gorge leads. It’s 17 kilometers from the top. But if you want just a taste, the last portion is relatively flat and the most dramatic, between the high and narrow walls of the gorge.

The east side of Crete is less explored still. In fact, it’s a wonderful combination. Some of Crete’s most luxurious resorts are in Lasithi. But right nearby is the Sitia geopark, a paradise that covers over 350 square kilometers of unique biotopes and ecosystems, rare flora and fauna, waterfalls, gorges, secret coves, and remote plateaus. A gorgeous drive to the south coast of Lasithi brings you to Ierapetra, for another fantastic boat ride. This one is to Chrissi – a gem of an uninhabited island of white sands, turquoise waters, and rare Lebanese Cypress trees.

The Cuisine and Wines of Crete: A seniors activity

The Mediterranean Diet reaches its finest expression on this extraordinary island. The Cretans are both pleasure-loving and resourceful, and they have had centuries of practice to develop their cuisine. Are you adventurous?

Then you will want to try ‘cochilous’ – wild-gathered snails, cooked in rosemary. Perhaps you’re a carnivore. The meats of Crete are of exceptional quality, raised humanely in the rugged terrain, where the goats and sheep dine on wild herbs that give their meat an extraordinary perfume. Enjoy them with wild foraged greens dressed in extra-virgin olive oil – all local, of course. “Farm to table” is not a fashionable catchphrase in Crete it’s just how things have always been done.

The cheeses, too are extraordinary, from the fresh and tangy mizithra cheese of goat’s milk that tops the barley rusk and tomato “dakos” – soon to be your favorite new meze – to the aged semi-hard graviera cheeses, rich with complexity.

What goes with an aged graviera? A local wine. By local, we actually mean hyper-local, vinted from indigenous grape varieties that are uniquely suited to the uncompromising terrain. Liatiko, Malvasia, Mandilaria, and Kotsifali and just some of the local grape varieties that a new generation of winemakers are growing. Or, an older generation – the monasteries of Crete sometimes also have excellent wineries, perfecting age-old techniques in wonderful surroundings.

Religious Tourism: Visit the Monasteries of Crete

Speaking of Monasteries, they alone are reason enough to come to Crete. While much of the mainland of Greece was under Ottoman rule from the 16th century, Crete had centuries of Venetian presence (the Ottomans came much later). This means that Crete experienced the “Cretan Renaissance” – a time of cultural, intellectual, and architectural flourishing. Monasteries such as the Arkadi Monastery, the Agia Triada Tzagaroli Monastery, the Toplou Monastery, and Moni Preveli – the Monastery of Preveli – are just a few of the dozens of exquisite monasteries on Crete. Here you will also see masterpieces of religious art, as some have extraordinary icon collections.

History and Archaeology in Crete

Crete is fundamental to the narrative and identity of ancient Greece. Zeus grew up here – raised by nymphs in a cave where his mother Hera placed him (to protect him from his ravenous father, Cronos). Myth and history intertwine on this magical island. Over a millennium before the Parthenon was built, the Minoans of Crete were thriving. This advanced Bronze age civilization (3000 – 1100 BC) flourished on Crete, in great palaces.

Knossos – boldly yet beautifully restored by Sir Arthur Evans in the early 20th century – is the most spectacular.

Gortyn – mentioned by Homer – flourished later, in the Hellenistic era (323 – 30 BC), and here are magnificent ruins of early Christianity.

The Venetians too loved Crete – see their spectacular fortifications of Spinalonga island (also worth visiting for fans of Victoria Hislop – this is the inspiration for her work “The Island”).

Closer to the present, many come to Crete to pay their respects to the heroes of the battle of Crete (May, 1941) of WWII. Many ANZAC war soldiers, especially, fought in this crucial battle, a turning point in the war.

Why Seniors choose Crete?

For all its rugged appeal, Crete is also a place to come to spoil yourself. The art of hospitality reaches a stylish apex in Crete’s world-class resorts. Do you want something more intimate? Boutique hotels in historic buildings provide character and creature comforts in equal measure. In addition to all the excellent local tavernas, there are also plenty of fine dining options on Crete, where the local resources of rich seas and land reach new gastronomic heights. Getting around in comfort and safety is also a priority – a quality car rental in peak condition will make navigating those gorgeous curvy roads a pleasure.

The Cretan hospitality for senior travelers

Last but not least – one of the best reasons to come to Crete is the character of the Cretans themselves. Known throughout Greece for their proud and uncompromising character, they also exemplify Greek virtues. You will meet with an authentic welcome and heart-felt hospitality for a genuine sense of encounter, making Crete for seniors an ideal holiday destination.


This gorgeous lagoon and beach is located on the northwestern corner of Crete, at the tip of the westernmost peninsula called Gramvousa. The islets of Agria (“Wild”) Gramvousa and Imeri (“Tame”) Gramvousa are just off the coast of the peninsula. It is a wild and remote location.

How to Get to Balos Gramvousa

This wonderfully remote location is not safe to reach by car. The dirt road is in fact is rough that no car rental companies on the island can let their cars go to Balos. But that does not matter at all – because the most fun way to reach Balos by far is by boat. Boat cruises leave daily early in the morning from the charming port of Kissamos.

Kissamos is a very short drive from the Chania International Ioannis Daskalogiannis Airport. There is a car rental office at Chania Airport so you can start your journey just as soon as you land. If you arrive by ferry to Souda Bay, a car can be brought to meet you. Kissamos is 50 minutes from the airport by car, and just 40 minutes from Souda. You can leave your car in Kissamos, where it will be waiting for you to explore by driving through this fantastic region of Crete.

If you would like to go by KTEL bus service, there are several departures daily from the Ktel station in Chania town.For more information, please check here.

The History of Balos, Gramvousa

This wild part of Crete seems entirely pristine and untouched. The peninsula was called Korykus or Kimaros in the Ancient World. There was once a small city here called Corycus, referred to by Ptolemy and the remains of this city were still visible to a traveler from Florence in the 15th century. There are still the remains of a small Roman town Agnio, at the tip of the cape.

The most interesting ruins are on the islet of Imeri Gramvousa. Here, the Venetians built a fort in the late 15th century, in order to defend the island from invasions by the Ottomans. Even when Crete was surrendered to the Ottomans in the treaty of 1669, this fortress – along with the fortresses of Spinalonga and Souda. They protected Venetian trade routes. The fortress was then captured in 1825 by Cretans dressed as Turks during the War of Independence.They held the fortress, but did not manage to spread to the western region of Crete. Isolated, they turned to piracy. The organized island of pirates and their families had a school, and a church Panagia i Kleftrina – dedicated to the wives of the Klephts – in this case, the pirates. In 1828, the pirate ships were destroyed, and the island was controlled by the British.

What to See and Do Near Balos, Gramvousa

Of course, you will want to start with Balos itself. This is not only one of the loveliest beaches in the world, it is also an important natural habitat, with rare flora and fauna protected as part of the Natura 200 network. Among the marvelous creatures here are the Eleonorafalcon, and cormorants, who nest here in the caves. This is also a habitat for the loggerhead sea turtle- better known as the beloved Caretta-Caretta, as well as the Mediterranean Monk Seal. The vegetation is also splendid, with a rare variety of daisy endemic to Greece and Crete.

Many boat tours to Balos include a stop at imeri Gramvousa for swimming and exploring the ruins of the Venetian fortress.

Kissamos is a lovely modern port town that is tourist friendly but by no means overrun.This part of the island attracts lots of Ecotourism and nature tourism. Here, you’ll find lots of excellent local cuisine in simple tavernas and generally a sense of participating in the everyday life of the Cretans.

Gorgeous Beaches Near Balos, Gramvousa

Besides the fabulous Balos, there are also other very famous beaches in this area. Falassarna, located at the western base of Cape Gramvousa, is 17 kilometers from Kissamos. This is not one but actually 5 beaches in a row.The tow central ones are the most popular, but you can walk to more remote locations. Famous as it is, there is plenty of beach to go around at Falassarna. The central beach is a fully serviced beach, but the more remote beaches are more wild- bring what you need with you. Like Balos, this is an area of protected natural beauty.

Elafonissi – also in the protected Natura 2000 network – is a lagoon, island, and beach. It is famous for its pink sands and the color of the water in its jewel-like lagoon. The island of high dunes of silky white sands is covered in beautiful wildflowers and rare plant species. Although extremely popular in recent years, this preserve is large enough that you can find solitude if you are up to a hike through the gorgeous dunes. This beach offers something for everyone. The protected and shallow waters of the lagoon are wonderful for families, while this part of the coast is known for its winds- windsurfers love the beach on the seaside. Elafonissi is an hour’s drive from Kissamos.

Activities Around Balos, Gramvousa

With such stunning beaches, it would be easy to forget to come inland at all. But you would really be missing out: Western Crete is famous for its fantastic gorges.

One of the most famous gorges in the world (yes- both world-famous beaches and world-famous gorges!) is Samaria. This 16 kilometer hike is truly a life experience, descending from Xyloskala 1230 meters to Agia Roumeli on the coat of the Libyan sea. This glorious hike takes you through varied terrain, with a dramatic narrow canyon towards the end of the hike. This is an all day adventure – for the town of Agia Roumeli is only accessible by boat.

For a lighter, but also very beautiful hike, you can enjoy the Imbros gorge. This dramatic gorge is narrow and steep sided, but not terribly strenuous. The whole of the gorge is 8 kilometers, descending 600 meters. It is also a pilgrimage for some – descendents of WWII Allied soldiers, especially from New Zealand and Australia – come here to remember their ancestors- it was through this gorge that they hiked to leave the island for Egypt.

Cultural Excursions Around Balos Gramvousa

The beach of Falassarna is also an archaeological site. At the north end of the beaches are the ruins of the ancient Greco-roman city of Falassarna – the fortified city of Koutri. The site is open limited hours (check here for more information please).

While you are at Elafonissi, you can visit the Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa, just 5 km away. The monastery, which was built 35 meters high up on rocks with an astounding view, was built in the 17th century. The name means “Golden Step” (“Chryso” means “gold” and “Skalitissa” derives from the word for “Step”). As it is so high on a rick, you need to climb many stairs- legend says that one of these is gold, but only the most devout will be able to see it.

Exploring Western Crete by Car

This wild western edge of Crete is not only full of spectacular destinations and activities, but also full of beautiful drives – it is a wonderful region to explore by car.


Ancient history: 5 archaeological hot spots to visit around the world

It is said that ‘the story of our present is told within the treasures of our past’ – and what a tale the following destinations have to tell. Each one is brimming with archaeological wonders that, with the aid of inspiring guides, will allow you to gain insight into lives and cultures as they were centuries and even millennia ago.

Explore the Old City of Jerusalem, a centre of religion and culture for thousands of years. Wander along the lamp-lit waterfront of Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest cities. Admire the Bronze-age artefacts of Knossos, the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu and the Buddhist cave art of the Dambulla temple…

Old City of Jerusalem, Israel

For over 3,000 years, Jerusalem has maintained a significant place in history. The strategic importance of the city, located as it is within the Judean hills, has meant that many great powers and civilisations have ruled it over the centuries, including Israelites, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Christians, Muslims and Turks – all leaving their own mark. The city’s relatively small size of 1 sq km belies the true magnitude of historical sites within its walls. All three of the main Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – hold Jerusalem sacred in some way. The holy sites within include the Western Wall, the remains of the Jewish Temple the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine where Muhammad is believed to have risen to heaven and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.

Split into four quarters – the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter – each part of the city has its own unique atmosphere and history. A walk around the different quarters reveals ancient wonders right alongside the hustle and bustle of modern life, showing the continuation of cultures past and present.

Cultural Triangle, Sri Lanka

The island nation of Sri Lanka has a wealth of cultural and archaeological treasures, with the famed Cultural Triangle the ancient centre of the country. The area comprises three points: the former capitals of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, and the impressive Dambulla caves.

Ancient Sri Lanka’s first capital, and considered the cradle of Sri Lankan Buddhism, Anuradhapura was established around the fifth century BC according to historical records, although archaeologists have unearthed ruins from around 500 years earlier. Central to the town is the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, believed to be a part of the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment in India. Now, the whole town is designated a world heritage site by UNESCO and its many monuments are must-sees.

Dambulla is a picturesque setting to base oneself whilst exploring the sights of the ancient city regions, surrounded by jungle and lush green hills as far as the eye can see. The nearby vast cave complex is home to many impressive Buddhist murals and statues, some of which date back as far as the first century BC. The renowned rock citadel of Sigiriya is also within reach, a climb up to which is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular activities.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is among the most breathtaking archaeological sites on the planet. Its positioning between two peaks at an altitude of 2,380 metres provides a suitably dramatic backdrop of cloud-forested mountains. The Machu Picchu (Old Peak) mountain gives the citadel its name and is situated to the south of the ruins, whereas Huayna Picchu (Young Peak) looms over the site itself.

Having been constructed for the Incan emperor in the 1400s, the site was abandoned around the time of the Spanish conquest and, although still known locally, remained undiscovered by the conquistadors. Hiram Bingham, the American historian, brought the site to the attention of the outside world in 1911 and people have been fascinated with this glimpse into the past ever since. The citadel complex was built in classic Inca style and its main parts – the Intihuatana ritual stone, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows – reveal how this civilisation lived long ago. The fascinating ruins, high in the Andes, are the jewel in the crown of Peru’s magnificent ancient, colonial-era and scenic sights.

Crete, Greece

From the Ottomans and Romans to the Minoans and Byzantines, many empires have ruled the island of Crete, and all have left their mark – including mosques, fortresses and monasteries. Crete’s archaeological highlights include the Palace of Knossos, an incomparable monument of ancient Minoan society, and the site of the ancient city-state of Eleutherna.

Knossos has been referred to as Europe’s oldest city and was first settled around 7000 BC, during the Neolithic era. Its palace was constructed some time around 1900 BC and it wasn’t excavated until 1900 AD, when it provided the first clues about this unknown civilisation. Today, the structure can be thoroughly explored, including its throne room, unique Minoan columns, many examples of pottery and colourful frescoes.

Excavations of Eleutherna began in 1985 and this ninth century BC-era site is still offering archaeologists new clues to this day. The city was built by the Dorian civilisation and was inhabited all the way up to the time of the Byzantine empire. Located near the pretty town of Rethymno, this archaeological wonder and its fascinating museum is a must-visit.

Varanasi, India

Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world and which Hindus believe was founded by Lord Shiva, is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in Hinduism. Bathing in the sacred river Ganges that flows alongside the city is a spiritual rite of passage, and many flock to the ghats (waterfront steps) each day, as they have for centuries, to purge their sins in the holy water.

Sarnath, located only 10km away, is equally as important for Buddhists, being one of the four main holy sites to which they set out on pilgrimage. They believe it was here that Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, explaining the Four Noble Truths to his followers. Now, there are many excavated ruins to explore including several stupas and temples, in addition to a comprehensive museum of artefacts.

The area is so significant that there are still reports of new archaeological discoveries. As recently as 2020, a team from the Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi unearthed the remnants of a 4,000-year-old settlement thought to be a craft village, including temples and potteries that were mentioned in ancient historical texts.

Kerry Golds is Managing Director of Cox & Kings. Cox & Kings is an award-winning tour operator with a history of over 260 years, specialising in luxury small group tours to the world’s most captivating destinations.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.


The Chinese Treasure Hoard: Ivory, Bronze, Gold and Jade

Dating back to the Xia (c. 2,070 BC-c. 1,600 BC) and Shang (c. 1,600 BC-1,046 BC) dynasties, the discoveries at Sanxingdui have been featured in an animated film, several documentaries, books and computer games.

As of May 2020, “534 important cultural artifacts” made of ivory, bronze, gold and jade ware have been unearthed from the site. Furthermore, around 2,000 broken relics, including a gold mask, were found in a series of six sacrificial pits.

As if this priceless Chinese treasure hoard wasn’t enough for one year, in Pit 3, a “1.15 meters [3.8 feet] high, 3,000-year-old bronze figure was discovered with a zun, (ancient wine vessel) on top of the head.” According to Global Times, this single artifact is being described as an “unprecedented cultural relic,” on a global scale.

This bronze altar previously unearthed at the Sanxingdui Ruins site consists of 3 levels: the bottom level is a circular base bearing a pair of fabulous animals, on the second level are 4 standing human figures supporting hills on their heads. The top level is a four-sided structure adorned with human figures and human-headed birds. The 3 levels probably represent the vertical order of man, earth and heaven. (momo / CC BY 2.0 )


Great Cretan Gastronomic Experiences

The Cretan diet is not only healthy and full of flavor, it&rsquos strictly fresh and seasonal with tons of top quality extra virgin olive oil.

Here are 5 Cretan gastronomic experiences to discover the best of the local cuisine.

18. Municipal Market of Chania

The Agora or municipal market in the city of Chania is the best place on the island to learn about every staple product from Crete.

Inside Chania&rsquos public marketplace, local producers sell goat and sheep cheeses, fresh wild greens, snails, thyme honey, extra virgin olive oil, and fragrant bread fresh form the wooden oven.

You can sample the delicious food and if you visit during midday, the market is a fantastic place to have a traditional homemade meal at very convenient prices.

Dishes such as moussaka, and spinach pies or zucchini pies, unique village recipes, and local soups and stews as well.

19. Bougatsa

Bougatsa is a Greek delicacy which has turned into one of Crete&rsquos favorite sweets.

Bougatsa is a pocket of phyllo pastry filled with custard or cheese, served with a topping of honey, sugar or cinnamon and usually paired with a cup of authentic Greek coffee.

Two of the most traditional places to taste this sweet on the island are:

  • Kirkor &ndash located in Heraklion, it has been making bougatsa since 1921
  • Iordanis &ndash Located in Chania, it has been open since 1924. It serves bougatsa filled with a local variety of cheese called myzithra.

20. Raki

Tsikoudia, or Cretan raki is something you must try when visiting Crete.

After the winemaking season is done with, the people distille tsikoudia.

This high alcohol volume drink is served with appetizers at the beginning of a meal, or with fruit and yogurt as a dessert.

Raki is often served on important occasions such as welcoming guests or family reunions.

21. Fine Dining in Crete

Dining in Crete can range from high-end fusion restaurants to tasty street food eaten on the go. In every case, the dishes are prepared using fresh products grown locally.

Peskesi is the most famous restaurant in Crete located in Heraklion. It is the best place to find authentic dishes and traditional cooking methods.

Avli is located in the heart of the old town of Rethymnon. They use an abundant use of local herbs and delicious cheeses.

Serenissima Restaurant is located in the alleys of the old town of Chania. It is one of the best culinary gems of Crete.

22. Fast Food in Crete

Greek fast-food is synonymous with gyros and souvlaki, the famous pita bread wrap that conquers everyone with its taste and simplicity.

  • In the city of Agios Nikolaos, Karnagiois the definite king of gyros.
  • In Heraklion the most traditional gyro joint is Petrousis.
  • In Rethymnon, you should add O Nikos Souvlakias a must-dine place.
  • In Chania, nobody beats the over 50 years of experience that Oasis Souvlaki has serving the best wraps in town.

23. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

With over 35,000,000 olive trees cultivated on the island, Cretans consume the largest quantity of olive oil in the world. About 35 liters per person per year.

To have a better idea, compare that amount to the 17 liters consumed in the rest of Greece, and the 1.2 liters used in Australia!

When visiting Crete, it&rsquos a great idea to book an olive oil tour to learn all about this important industry.

As you can see, Crete is one of the most exciting islands to visit in Greece. So get ready to book your dream vacation to Crete today!

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Rare Royal Purple Dye

Fox News reports that “archaeologists think the Minoans may have been the first to make the famous dye about 4,000 years ago.” The sea snails were very valuable in the ancient world because they were used to make purple dye. The creatures produce a tiny amount of a purple substance, which they use as a defense against predators. It takes thousands of sea snails to produce enough of this to dye a single garment.

The excavation site of the Minoan showing the thousands of discarded snail shells ( Greece Ministry of Culture and Sports )

Deborah Ruscillo of Washington University in St. Louis, told Live Science “purple did not exist from any other source at the time.” It was so rare and hard to produce that it was very valuable, at least until the Middle Ages . The Minoans were the first to dominate the trade in the purple dye, but it was later monopolized by the Phoenicians.

This dye was widely used to color the garments of royalty and it became known as the ‘royal purple’. The dye was used to symbolize the power of the Roman Emperor . Ruscillo also stated that “it's thought to be the Tekhelet dye described in Hebrew scriptures as the color of the curtains of the tabernacle and the vestments of the high priest,” reports Live Science .


Réthymnon and around

The province of Réthymnon reaches to Mount Psilorítis in the east and towards the White Mountains in the west. The fertile Amari Valley, with its pretty villages, lies in the central plain, while on the south coast, in particular around Plakiás, there are beaches as fine as any Crete can offer.

Réthymnon itself is an attractive and lively city, with some excellent beaches nearby, although the coastline to the east has seen a great influx of tourists, with the development of a whole series of large hotels extending almost 10km along the beach.

Réthymnon

RÉTHYMNON remains one of the most beautiful of Crete’s major cities (only Haniá is a serious rival), with an enduringly provincial air. A wide sandy beach and palm-lined promenade border the old town, a labyrinthine tangle of Venetian and Turkish houses where ancient minarets lend an exotic air to the skyline. Dominating everything from the west is the superbly preserved outline of the fortress built by the Venetians after a series of pirate raids had devastated the town.

Hiking the Amári valley

A good base for touring the Amári valley is Thrónos, a sizeable village at the valley’s northern end with an inviting place to stay, Rooms Aravanes. The proprietor here – Lambros Papoutsakis – is a keen walker and conducts guided treks to the peak of Mount Psilorítis, which at 2456m is Crete’s highest. Although he does guide groups up in the daytime, his preferred approach is during the full moons of June, July and August, which avoids the extreme summer temperatures. Phone in advance for details it’s not a difficult climb, but you’ll need sturdy footwear and a sleeping bag. The summit is reached at around dawn, and the sunrise is always spectacular: on clear days the mountain offers a breathtaking view of the whole island and its four seas spreading in all directions.

Other hikes from Thrónos include a relatively easy path leading north through the foothills in a couple of hours to themonastery of Arkádhi, while south from Thrónos is an easy stroll on a paved road running back into the main valley via Kalóyerosa. A map detailing these walks is available from Rooms Aravanes.


10 Most Important Archaeological Finds in Greece of the Last Decade

Greece has a countless amount of ruins to visit and learn about. However, there are some discoveries that have occurred in the last decade that have forever changed history as we know it today.
Here’s a look at the 10 most important archaeological finds in Greece of the last ten years.
1. Ancient Minoan Tomb, Crete – 2018
A farmer discovered a rare tombstone from late Minoan III period on Crete in August, 2018.
A farmer in Kentri Ierapetra on Crete attempted to park his vehicle in the shade of an olive tree and by pure chance, the over-irrigated dirt under his vehicle revealed a carved tombstone of the Late Minoan III period.
In the grave, that had not been ransacked, archaeologists discovered two large Larnaka Late Minoan period embossed depictions that are in excellent condition.
In addition, there were two skeletons found in the graves and about 24 vases with colored embossings and depictions.
This tomb is a rare find and archaeologists hope to find new evidence of the Late Minoan period in the area.
2. An Ancient Mall, Argilos – 2013
While archaeologists were further excavating at the site of the ancient city of Argilos in 2013, they stumbled upon its portico, or a group of shops – something like a modern-day mall.
This ancient strip mall had different qualities than those experts have come across in the past, making it a rare find.
Unlike other porticoes discovered from antiquity, this one was made up of different rooms, suggesting that each shop owner constructed his own place of business.
The ancient mall dates back to some 2,500 years ago, making it the oldest portico ever found in northern Greece.
3. Lost Greek City Dating Back 2,500 Years, Vlochos – 2016
Just five hours north of Athens archaeologists discovered a lost ancient Greek city dating back some 2,500 years.
The discovery of ancient ruins on the hillside where the city sits is nothing new to archaeologists, who have dismissed them in the past as nothing more than part of an irrelevant settlement that once existed years ago.
However, researchers from the University of Gothenburg and the University of Bournemouth decided to take a closer look at the ruins in 2016 and discovered a lost ancient city near the village of Vlochos.
So far since they started exploring the site back in September, 2016, the team has uncovered everything from the remains of towers and city walls to ancient pottery and coins that date back as far as 500 BC.
4. 4,000-year-old Pyramid with Plumbing System – 2018
On the Greek island of Keros there is an archaeological site which although everyone was familiar with, had no idea what treasures lay inside.
High up above the Aegean Sea some 4,000 years ago, the residents on Keros carved a cone-shaped piece of the coast line into terraces to resemble a stepped pyramid.
In 2018, researchers looked inside this carved pyramid and were surprised to see that there was a sophisticated system of drainage tunnels dating back a full millennium.
Experts say that the pyramid’s plumbing could have been used to provide fresh water or removed sewage.
5. The Underwater Ruins of Ancient Naval Bases at Piraeus Harbor – 2010
In 2010, a local fisherman guided a group of archaeologists to his favorite fishing spot that he frequented as a child. He used to sit on ancient columns peeking out from the sea in the northern side of Mounichia in Piraeus.
It turned out that the columns were part of the ruins of an ancient naval base dating back as far as 480 BC.
The ruins of the ancient Greek naval bases played a pivotal role in defeating the Persian Empire in the historical Battle of Salamis, and since its initial discovery in 2010, many new discoveries around the ruins have come to light.
Exploration of the partially sunken port have uncovered sunken ship-sheds from underwater excavations undertaken by Zea Harbor Project.
6. Knossos, the Capital of Minoan Civilization Offers More Treasures – 2016
The newest discoveries on Crete at the site of the ancient city of Knossos suggest that the capital of the Minoan Civilization was much more influential and larger than previously thought.
Archaeologists already knew that Knossos was Europe’s oldest city and ruled over the massive trade empire during the Bronze age, however, new evidence suggests that the Minoans may have actually survived into the Iron Age.
Previously thought to have perished around 1200 BC after the volcanic eruption of Thera on Santorini, new artifacts discovered by a team led by a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of classics, Antonis Kotsonas, suggests otherwise.
Nearby burial sites that have recently been excavated revealed that the Minoans were still in the trading business in the region long after 1200 BC and that the actual area of Knossos may have been much bigger than originally thought due to the new discoveries.
7. Significant Finds from Underwater Excavation at Delos – 2017
The remains of ancient coastal structures, a port, a large number of shipwrecks dating back to various eras and significant smaller finds, were found in underwater archaeological excavations conducted by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities at the island of Delos from May 2 until May 20, 2017.
The discover confirmed to experts that the island of Delos was an important trading base and an important maritime trade route that played a crucial role in linking the east and west Mediterranean in ancient times.
Archaeologists carried out an in-depth investigation of the ancient breakwater that protected the island’s central port in antiquity from the strong northwestern winds, which is now underwater because the sea level has risen by two meters since that time.
Other finds included the remains of walls and a fallen colonnade, the remains of a later Hellenistic era shipwreck carrying amphorae of oil and wine from Italy and the western Mediterranean, as well as another two shipwrecks from the same era off the southern tip of Delos and at Rineia, in Fylladi Bay.
8. Ancient Silver Mine of Lavrio – 2009

Located in the Sounio National Park in a general area called Agrileza (near the village of Agios Konstadinos), the ruins of the mines and workshops of Lavrios Ancient Silver Mines were under excavation until as recently as 2009.
In particular, the Lavrio silver mine was a source of wealth and power to ancient Athens and is interconnected with the rise and fall of the Athenian Empire, from 5th – 4th century BC.
The importance of geology in Greece dates back to the Classical Era when mines filled with silver, gold, iron and other natural ores contributed to the formation of the ancient Greek civilization.
In fact, many of the monuments of Athens (Parthenon, great walls of Athens, statues and majority of the temples) were built with money that was revenue from mines.
9. Marble Slab with Ancient Inscription, Evia – 2018
In August, 2018, a slab of marble with an ancient inscription was discovered hidden under stones along a dirt path.
This priceless piece of history was almost lost forever, as police confiscated it wrapped in a plastic bag, most likely ready to be sold on the black market.
The slab is important and valuable, experts say. It is believed that a rendering of the text could provide important information about life in ancient Greece.
The piece of marble is 50 x 22 cm and has an ancient Greek inscription carved into it, along with a decoration of Acanthous, which is from the Hellenistic or early Roman era.
10. Ancient Cave Art Dating back to the ice Age, Crete – 2018
In the Asphendou cave in Crete — known for its petroglyphs — archaeologists discovered what is believed to be the earliest Greek art, dating back to the last Ice Age.
The artworks, 37 deer engravings about 5 centimeters long, portray an extinct animal known as the dwarf deer, Candiacervus ropalophorus.
The Candiacervus ropalophorus became extinct more than 11,000 years ago.
They once roamed not far from the Asphendou in caves on the north coast of Crete about 11,000 years ago, according to specimens found by scientists.


Watch the video: ΑΜΗ Κυκλαδικά ειδώλια στην Κρήτη (January 2022).