Sougia to Lissos

Sougia to Lissos, Crete, Greece, 17 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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This post covers a walk from the village of Sougia, on the south west coast of Crete, to the site of the ancient Roman town of Lissos in a neighbouring valley, taking about 90 minutes.

There’s been a gap in posts while I have been in Far North Queensland.  I will finish posting on Crete with seven to nine posts on Western Crete, plus a few mono posts of Crete.  There will also be a live music post in the middle of those.  The rest of that trip (to Andalusia, Barcelona, Oregon and Washington) will then have to wait while I cover the trip to Far North Queensland.  

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Crete, Greece, History, Landscape, Lissos, Nature, Photography, Sougia, Street photography, Travel

This is from the western end of the beach at Sougia.  If you click for a larger image, you will be able to see the umbrellas at the far end of the beach.

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There is also a World War II gun emplacement and a rusted anchor.

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A small church set back from the beach.

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The tiny harbour of Sougia.  There must have been a harbour here for thousands of years.

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Another miniature roadside shrine.  This one has a photograph of the person it is dedicated to.  In view of the location he was likely lost at sea.

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We have now started on the walk to Lissos.

Here is an abridged description of the walk from the site sougia.info:

“The walk starts at the harbour of Sougia. Whilst passing there, note the ancient water line which is clearly visible in the cliff, about 7 meters above the present sea level. This sudden elevation happened about 1500 years ago in western Crete.”  (Note: you can see that waterline behind the harbour in the earlier image.)

“At the entrance of the small gorge, a fence must be opened (& closed afterwards) and after clambering over a smooth rock you get on the path leading to Lissos.  After following the path in the shade of pine trees for about half an hour you will pass an impressive smooth cliff overhanging the trail. Ten minutes later the path veers off to the left and starts climbing up the hill. The good path up the hills then leads through old pine trees to a treeless plateau with good views all around. After ten more minutes walking straight towards the West you arrive at a steep drop with beautiful views of Lissos. Lissos is like a bowl of vegetation fields and terraces leading to the sea.”

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Some of the trees grow in unlikely places.

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(Most of the images in this post require no description).

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This is not a wild goat.  He has a collar.

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We are now overlooking the mouth of the valley where Lissos is.  Perhaps you may need to click on the image for a larger view but Panagaia Chapel is in the middle near the sea and a small boat is behind it, offering a passenger service.  We discover we may not need to walk back.  The chapel is made using materials recycled from the ancient Roman town and has several carved marble blocks in its walls.

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FrangoKastello to Sougia

Matala to Hora Sfakion, Crete, Greece, 16 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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The previous post, for the first part of the journey for the day, finished at Hora Sfakion.  Next we drove the short distance to FrangoKastello, then the rest of the journey to Sougia.  This involved a long detour to the north (see map in previous post) because there is no road along the south coast there.

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Notwithstanding the name, FrangoKastello is a Venetian castle.  The locals called it the Castle of the Franks as a somewhat sardonic reference to the foreign religion of their overlords (Roman Catholic) and the name stuck.

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It was built from 1371 to 1374 to provide protection from pirates and the frequently rebelling locals.

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FrangoKastello was last renovated by the Venetians in 1645, shortly before it was taken by the Ottomans.

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In 1770, the Cretan rebel Ioannis Vlachos occupied FrangoKastello but later he was captured by Ottomans and executed.

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In 1828, a group of locals and Greeks from Epirus occupied the castle as part of an attempt to spread the Greek War of Independence to Crete.  They lost a fierce battle and were massacred.  The Ottomans subsequently suffered many losses in ambushes by the locals but they stayed.

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After the 1828 events, the castle was destroyed so it could not be used in subsequent independence actions, but it was later rebuilt.

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The last period of reconstruction and reuse was during the Cretan Revolution of 1866-69.

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Items found on the site have included Venetian ceramic vessels, mainly from the 15th century, coins, swords, and a lead seal of the Doge of Venice Lenardius Donato (1605-1612).

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Looking up inside one of the towers.

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The cars may have been left here by the Venetians during the construction of the castle in the fourteenth century.  I was not able to confirm this at the time.

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An ancient fortress visible from the road.  Due to the absence of gun ports I would guess Byzantine.

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Looking down on farmland from the same location.

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We are now in Vryses where we stopped for a coffee.

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It’s possible some of the buildings may not be newly constructed.

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This is the town centre.

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We are now heading south on the road from near Chania to Sougia and it is getting very late in the afternoon.

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A church and buildings in the shadow of a valley.

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A cemetery by a chapel perched on the side of a cliff near Epanochori.

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I’m currently travelling in North Queensland.  I prepared this post before I left.  So far I’m too tired at night to process any images and my guess is there will be no more posts for a while, until say the second week in August..

North Queensland Itinerary 2022

8 to 29 July 2022.

(Click maps for a larger size if they are too small to see).
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Jools and I are flying north to North Queensland tomorrow for three weeks. You would think this would be quite a change from the currently cold climate of Canberra and for the most part it will be, though in these times of unusual weather, Laura looks like being much the same as Canberra.  We attempted this journey in 2021 but had to bail out when we got caught in a COVID lockdown in Brisbane for a week and the ACT Government advised all travellers to return.

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In 2021 we flew north to Brisbane to stay with friends for a few days and had intended to fly on to Cairns (as shown above).  This time, we fly straight to Cairns and back.  The itinerary up there is very similar but we are taking more time this time and there are a couple of additions.

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From Cairns, we drive south to the Atherton Tablelands, staying in a small village and then in rainforest near Lake Eacham and Craters Lakes National Park.  We expect to visit Cathedral Fig Tree, Lakes Eacham and Barrine, Yungaburra, Curtain Fig National Park, Atherton, Hasties Swamp National Park (bird hide), Herberton, Mt Hypipamee National Park, Ravenshoe, Tully Gorge Lookout and Millaa Millaa waterfalls.  We also expect to visit the Art Deco town of Innisfail and various waterfalls and nature sites along the way.  This is not shown on the map which I haven’t updated it since last time but it’s a loop down to the coast, starting from Millaa Millaa and meeting up with the road from Cairns to Atherton where it goes inland.  You can see it if you click the map for a larger view. 

Wildlife we hope to encounter includes striped possums, platypodes (the correct plural of platypus since the word derives from Greek not Latin) and tree kangaroos.  Tree kangaroos may be elusive though.

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We then drive to Laura where we stay overnight and join a camping excursion for Aboriginal rock art over three days and two nights.  We next drive to Cooktown where we stay for several days and join another Aboriginal rock art tour on the last morning.

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After Cooktown, we drive to Mossman Gorge where we stay for two nights.  Next is an early morning wildlife cruise on the Daintree River, then we head to Daintree National Park, where we stay for a few days at Cape Tribulation.  The rainforest here comes down to the sea and we may encounter a cassowary. 

Next we drive down to Kuranda, in the hills near Cairns and stay overnight.  The next day we drive back down the hill then take a cablecar back up to Kuranda and come down again in a small train.  Then we have a day or two in Cairns including a day trip to Fitzroy Island (where I visited in 1987 taking pictures of lighthouses).  Finally we catch our plane back to Canberra.

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I am planning to take both just Fuji photographic equipment.  In the abandoned trip in 2021 I also had Nikon for long telephoto and wildlife.  The penalty for that change is that the autofocus of my cameras will not be nearly as good for birds in flight (a new Fuji camera is, but It’s not available yet) and I will not have as much capacity to compose loosely and crop down (eg for wildlife which may move unpredictably).  The advantage is about 3 kilos less weight and a long lens easier to hand hold.

I will have Fuji X-T2, X-E4 and X-T2 IR cameras, together with 4mm f2.8 fisheye, 8-16mm f2.8, 14mm f2.8, 23mm f2, 35mm f1.4, 56mm f1.2, 80mm f2.8 macro, 70-300mm f4-5.6 and 200mm f2 lenses and a 1.4x TC.  My photographic pack will be about 11 kg which is fine.  Jools will  have an X-E4 and a 18-135mm lens and will be able to borrow the 70-300mm when I am using the  200mm for wildlife.

There’s a complication with selecting lenses for infrared because some produce a “hot spot” or bright flared area in the centre of the image.  So I could have taken the 27mm instead of the 23mm and 35mm but it’s not good for infrared.  The 8-16mm is only good for infrared at f2.8 so I took the 14mm as well, the 80mm macro is no good for infrared and the 200mm is only good at f4 and below but I have the 70-300mm. 

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I may find time for some temporary posts while travelling and will in time include below links for all posts I make from this trip.  In the meanwhile I have one more post to release from Crete and will resume posts from that trip later. 

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Here are links to the Brisbane posts from the 2021 trip:

Brisbane posts:

Links to North Queensland 2022 posts to appear here….

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Matala to Hora Sfakion

Matala to Hora Sfakion, Crete, Greece, 16 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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Architecture, Crete, Greece, History, Hora Sfakion, Landscape, Photography, Street photography, Travel

The map shows the journey for the day, from Matala at bottom right to Sougia at the left.  There are two posts for this though and this post covers the journey from Matala to Hora Sfakion.

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Another of the wonderful miniature roadside shrines.

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Modern church against a dramatic landscape.

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Curious structure on a hill.  Probably not ancient.

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Village from the road at a distance.

Much of the early part of this trip was off the main road in the mountains of the interior.  Some of it made for an interesting driving experience.  The approach to one village included a road on the walls of a small valley for several hundred metres with only one lane, no passing bays and blind corners.  Fortunately I encountered no other traffic there.

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Another, larger village across a valley from a greater distance.

In another, the road through a village was so narrow that villagers had to step into doorways to let us go by.  A video camera inside the windscreen might have recorded some interesting sequences.

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Four goats beside the road.

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A village and its church.

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We stopped for petrol here and this is a church across from the petrol station.

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A distant church on top of a hill.

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A ruined castle.  It has gun ports, so not Byzantine and probably Venetian.

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Another remote church on the same ridge as the castle.

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Another village and its church.

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I think this has to be Byzantine.  It is from the church in the next image.

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Ancient church in Kardaki described (in Greek) in Google Maps as “Holy Temple”.

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The remote interior.

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Kotsifou Canyon.

I marked this on the map not because of its significance but because I photographed the road sign so can identify where it is.

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Not far after Kotsifou Canyon, this is a distant view of Plakias on the south coast.

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We are now in Hora Sfakion and at the back of the town there are old buildings in a variety of states of disrepair.

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Inside this cave is the tiny Church of St Anthony.  We didn’t go up to have a look and I think there was a sign at the bottom saying closed.

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This is why we came here – to have lunch in a picturesque seaside location.

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… and the old buildings provided additional interest.

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There is a second beach a bit further along.

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And the narrow streets offer a challenge for truck drivers.

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The village prospered during Venetian and Ottoman occupations and must have once been much larger as it is claimed it once had a hundred churches (which probably just means many).  During World War II though, it was the point of evacuation of allied forces to Egypt and was heavily damaged by German bombing which may still be the cause of the state of many of the derelict buildings.

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Ruins of a Venetian fortress.

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The commercial port, not the one where we had liunch.

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Phaestos

Phaestos, Crete, Greece, 15 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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Archaeology, Architecture, Crete, Greece, History, Kaloi Limenes, Landscape, Phaestos, Photography, Street photography, Travel

This was our route of travel for the day.  From Matala we drove to the Acropolis of Gortyn and Gortyn (previous post), then to Phaestos and briefly to Kaloi Limenes and back to Matala (this post).

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Just before Phaestos, we encountered the Church of Agios Georgios Phalandras.   It looks like two buildings combined but the left half is just an empty facade.  What you can see through that doorway is just the ground beyond.

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You can see this from the rear.  It was built in the 16th century, in the Venetian period.  The intended second aisle was never completed so two arches intended to connect the two were quickly walled up.

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Tombs of eminent persons from the Venetian period were found both inside and around it.  It was originally connected to a monastery founded in the 10th century and fell into disuse after 1821.

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The curiously asymmetrical window at the rear of the church.

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We are now in the Northwest Court in the ancient Minoan “Palace” of Phaestos.

Bull-leaping is believed to have occurred here, though I didn’t notice any happening when we were there.

Phaestos is on top of a hill with commanding views.  Its construction involved the enormous effort of levelling three large terraces.  Its prime importance is as one of the main Minoan “palaces” and it has been suggested that the Old Palace at Phaestos was the oldest “palace” in Minoan Crete.  Settlement goes back even further, to neolithic times six thousand years ago and there is a neolithic kiln on the site.

According to legend, it was founded by Minos himself and the first ruler was his brother Radamanthys.  It appears to have been mainly a religious, political and ceremonial centre and the nearby city of Agia Triadha, down on the plain below, was more of a commercial centre and became much larger.

The Old Palace was built in the Protopalatial Period (1900-1700BC) and twice destroyed by earthquake.  Attempts to rebuild as the New Palace started 1750-1700BC but the “palace” was effectively abandoned 1650-1500BC and only completed 1500-1450BC, shortly before the Mycenaean invasion.

As we saw in the previous post for Gortyn, that city was founded from Phaestos in the Minoan Period, became more important during the Greek period and became the capital of Crete, Libya and Egypt during the Roman period. It eclipsed Phaestos by about 700BC and defeated and sacked it.  Some settlement continued in Phaestos in the Roman era but it never regained its influence.

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The Upper Court.

The upper court functioned as a kind of balcony to view proceedings in the Northwest Courtyard.  Though most of the “palace” is Minoan, some of the remains of walls here date from the Greek period.

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The Grand Staircase (leading to the Propylaea).

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The Propylaea.

This was the central and most impressive entrance to the New Palace.  The circular stub in front was the basis of a column at the start of a large two-storey building and entrance.

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The Theatral Area.

The Theatral Area and the West Court it forms part of date from the Old Palace era 1900-1700BC.  it was an important processional and ceremonial area.

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West Magazines.

These are store rooms for goods, primarily goods for export.

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One of the Giant Pithoi.

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Ancient road and remains of adjacent buildings.

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One of the four Kouloures.

At the south end of the West Court there are four large round structures known as kouloures (rings) that date to the Old Palace period.  Thye are thought to be for storing offerings from the Palace Shrines, or granaries.

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A different one beside a road.

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More pithoi.

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Part of the East Wing Complex.

This is a miniature version of the “Royal Apartments” and has been interpreted as the residence of a young prince.

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The Central Court.

This dates to the old Palace period.  It is a feature of every Minoan Palace, surrounded by buildings for which it provides light and air.

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View of the plain below.

We can see something of the spectacular view from Phaestos.  Somewhere in the distance to the left was the city of Agia Triadha, which became the local administrative centre after the earthquake around 1700BC.

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Part of the East Court.

Around the East Court was a complex of small rooms which provided the workshops for the New Palace.  This included a kiln.

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The Northeast Complex.

This is a complex of four rooms on the north-eastern side of the Palace.  Although it does not belong to the Old Palace, it was here that the Phaistos disk was found.  This is a round clay tablet with spirals of hieroglyphic script on each side.  The hieroglyphs were individually pressed in so it is the first known example of printing.  While the script has not been deciphered, a partial interpretation is possible due to similarities with characters used in linear A and linear B.  It appears to be a religious text, perhaps a chant, concerning the Mother Goddess..

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King’s Megaron.

This is known as the King’s Megaron or King’s Bedroom, although of course the nature of any Minoan political or religious hierarchy is unknown.

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Queen’s Megaron.

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We’re almost full circle now.  We are at the edge of the Northwest Court, the foreground structures are likely part of the Propylon, and the East Court is in the distance.

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From nearby, looking in a different direction, but I’m not sure at what.

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Back full circle now, looking over the Northwest Courtyard.

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Near Phaestos, I presume this is a ruined farmhouse from relatively modern times.

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From Phaestos, we headed south for a brief visit at the port of Kaloi Limenes.

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The village on the beach is quite small.

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The rocks are glowing in the late afternoon light.

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Heading back towards Matala now.   This appears to be an old church not far from the road.

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A village on the other side of the valley in the late afternoon light.

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Another small roadside shrine.  There appears to be a bench or a bed inside on the right.

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From a different angle, we can see some bells inside.

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Not far from Matala now, in the late afternoon light.  You may need to click on this image to see it larger.

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Gortyn

Gortyn, Crete, Greece, 15 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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Section of Citadel wall, looking a bit sphinx-like.

From Matala, we headed for the ancient Minoan, Greek and Roman City of Gortyn, or so we thought.  What I had specified on my car GPS was actually the Acropolis of Gortyn.  The Acropolis is up on top of a hill whereas the city is down below on the plain.  We got to the city later but this proved to be a most fortuitous mistake.

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Getting closer to the remaining walls.

The Acropolis is open to view but there are no noticeboards relating the significance of what you are seeing.

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Holes knocked through three walls.

Perhaps these holes were made when the Moslems took the Citadel in 828AD, but my guess is it was done later to remove large heavy objects from inside.  After all, this is before the time of cannons.

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Largest remaining citadel wall.

Fortifications were initially erected during the Dorian or Geometric Period 1100 to 700BC.  The walls we see are from the 7th century AD, erected during the reign on the emperor Heraclius.  I recall reading that they are six metres high, which seems about right.

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Looking down from the top of the cliff behind the citadel, we see the city that was our intended destination.  This is the Church of St Titus.

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… And this is the Odeon and the building housing the Law Codes, obscured by trees.

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In the middle distance, behind the Citadel and near the cliff, is the Temple of Athena Pollouchos, from the 7th century BC.  Significant sculptures were unearthed here.  In the foreground may be either part of the temple or part of the basilica erected in the 6th to 7th century AD, using materials from the temple.

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There was a settlement here during Neolithic (6000 to 3000 BC), Minoan (3000-1200BC), Greek and Roman, and Byzantine (6th to 10th century AD) periods.

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Clearly Roman building style.

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Lichen on some of the walls produces an almost abstract effect.

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The site is all the more impressive for being largely unremarked and unexplained.

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One last look back as we walk out….

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And here, looking down from the edge of the Acropolis, you see the obscure country road in and the huge crowds in the car park.  Well, actually it’s just  our rental car on the edge of the road.

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Now, we have driven round and are now in the ancient city and the Church of St Titus.

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It was built in the 6th to 7th centuries to replace the larger Basilica of St Titus that was destroyed by an earthquake in 670AD.

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The city is more recent that the Acropolis up on the hill.  It was founded as an offshoot of nearby Phaestos during the Minoan period.  During the Greek period, Gortyn grew in status and surpassed Phaestos.  It survived a war at various time against or allied to Phaestos, Knossos and Lyttos.

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Ancient olive tree besides the Church.

It gave refuge to  Hannibal in 189BC, thus incurring the displeasure of Rome.  It must have decided that was a bad idea so shortly after it allied with Rome.

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Consequently, as a Roman ally, it wasn’t sacked when the Romans took over Crete and subsequently became the capital of the Roman Province of Crete and Cyrene (including, in modern terms, Crete, Libya and Egypt).  This was the period of its greatest power and influence.

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Remains of the Odeon, a small theatre for music.

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The building that houses the Law Code.

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Not much remains of Greek Gortyn (it’s mainly the Roman structures that survive) but one thing that does is the Law Code of Gortyn.

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Dating to 450BC, it was inscribed on marble blocks spanning eight metres wide.  It was originally on the walls of the Agora, an open meeting place for all citizens.  After the supporting wall was destroyed in the 1st century BC, the Romans re-erected the Law Code in the same place but in the walls of their council chambers.

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It covers rules for inheritance, debts, adoption, marriage, divorce, slavery and sexual violence.   There are distinctions between legal classes of free, serf, slave and foreigner.  It is 600 lines long in the Dorian text and is in boustrophedon, or “as the ox ploughs”, so the lines are read in altnerating direction from either left or right.  It is the oldest and most complete European Law Code and was in many ways quite liberal for its time.  For more information on it, see here.

(Click image to read the text on the tablets).

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An ancient bridge.

Only a small part of the ancient city of Gortyn is open to the public.  We did not realise at the time that over the road with few indications, there are other sites that you can view at a distance through wire fences.

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An olive tree, 2,000 years old.

There is also a tree on the site, a plane tree, that is said to be the tree where Zeus disguised himself as a bull and seduced Europa, a Phoenician Princess.  Their children came to rule major Minoan cities including Minos in Knossos.  Assuming this legend is completely historically accurate, as Schliemann assumed Homer to be for Troy, then that tree must be more than 4,000 years old.  Modern science does not explain how this is possible but then it also doesn’t explain how it may be possible for a God to turn himself into a bull and mate with a woman.

The Mycenaeans arrived in Greece more than halfway through the Minoan civilisation and the Dorians even later.  There are many sites in Crete that claim to be the birthplace of Zeus and many other places in Crete with specific associations to Greek Gods.  We know little in detail of Minoan society.  Linear A has not been deciphered, we don’t even know what language they used and even if we did, the tablets may merely contain accounting records.  I speculate though that Minoan religion may have been the basis for Greek religion and Athenian democracy might even have its basis in Minoan political practices.

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This statue is usually assumed to be of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, but is more likely to be a copy of a Greek statue from 2nd or 3rd century BC of an unknown person.  The original head is in the museum at Heraklion.

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Zakros to Matala

Zakros, Crete, Greece, 14 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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After visiting the ancient Minoan site at Zakros (previous post) we travelled along the south coast to Matala.

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Nisida Kafali and Nisida Kavallos.

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Paralia Mazida Amnos (the islands are offshore).

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Ierapetra.

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Somewhere between Ierapetra and Matala, but closer to Matala.

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Another of the wonderful little roadside shrines (iconostases or kandilakia).

They commemorate lives both lost and saved, usually road accidents.

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We have now reached Matala and it is very late in the afternoon.  This and the next images appears to be taken from out hotel room.

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Some of the famous caves of Matala.

They date back to neolithic times and one is reputed to have been the residence of Brutus for a time.  “Hippies” lived in them in the 70s, including Joni Mitchell, who sang about her time there in Carey and also in a verse in California, both from her 1971 album Blue.

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Matala at night.

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You can make out some of the caves at the bottom of the cliff on the left.

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Next morning, a couple exploring the historic caves (with a long lens from our hotel room).

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Zakros

Zakros, Crete, Greece, 14 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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This post is about the ancient Minoan city of Zakros, which was one of the four main Minoan “Palaces”.  There is Knossos from three posts ago, Malia that we drove past without visiting, Zakros (where we are) and Phaistos in probably three posts.

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Here we are looking at the remains of the Palace of Zakros and the town behind it.  Perhaps you might like to click on the image to see it in more detail.  The large open area on the left is the Central Court of the “Palace”.  At the front with a small wall around it and also a small modern fence is the circular well.  The area fenced off to the right must be under excavation and includes the “Well of the Fountain” and the “Cistern Hall” though I don’t seem to have photographed it.

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From a noticeboard at the site, this is what the Palace may have looked like in its time, with at least two stories and occupying a large area.  In the previous panorama, our viewpoint is at the right edge of the frame here, about a third of the way up.

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At the far end of the Central Court, this is the base of a shrine in the foreground and note the fine stonework behind it.

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This looks like a chair but it may not be so.  I think this is the room where pottery vessels were stored.  It is also near the room where bronze ingots and elephant tusks were found.

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Just to the right of the previous image, this is the Archives Room, where Linear A tablets were discovered.

Less agricultural produce seems to have been stored in the “palace” than other “palaces”.   This implies the town was less focussed on agriculture and more on trade.  Main items stored were pottery, metal goods and textiles, and there is even evidence of perfume production.  There were also both olive presses and wine presses found in the town and a bronze kiln.

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We are still inside the West Wing of the “Palace” and looking beyond to part of the town on the hill.

The town developed in the Protopalatial Period 1900-175BC, was destroyed by an earthquake around 1650BC (as for the other “palaces”), rebuilt by around 1600BC and finally destroyed in 1450BC when the Mycanaeans arrived.

The “palace” was unusual in that after the final destruction it was not looted so many artefacts have been found.

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This is a “Lustral Basin”.  Between the front stones and the pink stone just behind which may seem part of it is a small stone stairway that goes down to a recessed area about three or four feet deep.  Based on nearby murals, it appears to have been used for “purification rituals”.

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This is at the rear of the Lustral Basin from the previous image.  The circular recess is actually where a column sat.  There is the remains of a mural behind it.

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We are now out of the “palace” and in the town.  This is the “Port Road”  though we are looking away from the sea and towards the town.  Trade was a major function of the town.  Its position sheltered it from dangerously strong north winds encountered further north on the coast and it was the nearest Minoan port to Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean.  Various exotic Canaanite and Egyptian items were discovered here.

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Stairs and walls.

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Paving.

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Bench.

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Stairs to a residence.

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The town was very densely settled with narrow walkways between the walls of the houses.

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You can see the Central Court down there in the distance.  This gives you a good idea of the size of the site though not all is excavated.  This is probably House H in the foreground.  You may have guessed that.

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The sea is not far away.

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Looking down on the remains of the “palace”.  There is not much visible to the left of the Central Court because much of that was destroyed by agriculture prior to excavation.

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Views of a part of the town.

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Back now not far from where we started with a large succulent in the foreground.

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A closer look at some of the buds.  This involved an exercise in focus stacking (in this case, combining twelve images at different points of focus).

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Time for a leisurely lunch at a beachside restaurant.

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There would have been a harbour here in Minoan times though the shoreline may have been different.

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Heraklion to Zakros

Heraklion to Zakros, Crete, Greece, 13 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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Agia Fotini, Archaeology, Crete, Greece, History, Landscape, Lasithi Plateau, Palaikastro, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Zakros

We headed from Heraklion to the far east of Crete.

The map as shown above is the actual route, which differs from the planned route as shown on an earlier map.

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A small village from the road.  I think this is from the main road, before we turned off for the windmills.  Much later I saw a spectacular small village on a ridge but it was a narrow winding road with nowhere to pull off for a photograph.

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These are windmills of the Lasithi Plateau.

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They first appeared in Byzantine times but were mainly established in the Venetian era.

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They are fixed windmills, oriented to the direction of the prevailing wind and used for grinding grain.  The door was on the leeward side.

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Somewhat later, this is Pacheia Amnos, where we stopped for a coffee..

I had been interested in visiting the small Island of Spinalonga a bit further north.  This was the last holdout of the Venetians, for forty-six years after the rest of the island fell to the Ottomans.  Much later it was a holdout for Ottomans after the 1878 Cretan Revolt.  In the early 20th century it was a leper colony.  However, it was going to take half a day which was more time than I had available.

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Nearby, this is the wonderful Orthodox Church of Agia Fotini.

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… And close by the church is a Minoan archaeological site.

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From a distance and far above, this is Paralia Tholos.  The next four images are taken from the same spot.

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Small fishing boat off the island of Pseira, not far offshore.

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Different boat, same island.

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A wider view, showing both the Paralia Tholos Bay and the island of Pseira.

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A bit further on, an eroded coastline.

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The little town is Mochios.

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At the roadside, agricultural buildings, probably with a story to tell.

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From the same spot, a wider view looking towards Mochios in the distance, with the island of Pseira in the far distance.

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This is the small town of Palaikastro on the far east end of the island.

I would also have liked to get to the north-east tip of Crete but there’s never enough time for everything when travelling.

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Only a kilometre or so from Palaikastro is the Minoan Town of Palaikastro at Rousolakkos.

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A recently excavated section is covered with a roof to protect it from the elements.

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Ancient paving.

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The main road.

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The site may have been occupied from as early as 3000BC.  The town itself developed in the period from 1900BC to 1750BC  An earthquake destroyed much of the town around 1650BC and it was rebuilt.  There was significant destruction by fire around 1450BC at the time of the Mycenaean takeover and not all the town was resettled afterwards.  Somewhere between 1350 and 1100BC, another earthquake caused much destruction.  The town was partially resettled for a while and then abandoned.

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Another section of the main road, which ran for 145 metres through the town.

The town grew to be the second largest in Minoan Crete after Knossos and its layout shows central planning.

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Impressively cut large stone blocks at the edge of a road.

Locals removed some of the well-cut stones for their own constructions, not necessarily in recent times.

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This is House B in Block Beta (archaeologists give such romantic and imaginative names!) which had 22 rooms and “megalithic” outer walls.

There are some steps from a stairway to an upper level partly obscured in this image but you might be able to make out two just past the square stone block in the middle of the image (Perhaps click on the image for a larger view).

Past the steps and through a doorway is the Hall, a characteristic architectural feature in Palaikastro Minoan Town.  Bases of columns were found in each corner and it would have been open to the sky, presumably to let in light and air.  Many large ceramic jars were found here.  In fact many objects were found in this house, including female clay figurines, the clay head of an ox., large numbers of vases and large jars, at least one elaborately decorated with an octopus.

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The town had a higher concentration than usual of religous object but no “palace” has so far been found.  The main activities of the town would have been agriculture and trade.  Loom weights indicate there was much weaving in the town.  There was also manufacture of elite items using imported materials and much pottery making.

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This must have been the harbour for the town though I don’t know how much the sea level would have changed and how different it would have looked.  For more detail on the Minoan town, see here.

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A view of the coast looking south.

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This is the Church of Saint John the Theologian (though there are many with that name), on the road between Palaikastro  and Zakros, and as the sign behind it indicates, at the turnoff to Theostalos Minoan Sanctuary Peak.

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The cemetery behind the church.

There is a kerosene lamp underneath one of those crosses with a lit flame (though you’d have to click on the image for a larger view to find it).

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It looks very different from the side.

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The belltower with the date 17 August 1951.

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Olive farming, it seems.

This image and the remaining ones are in or around the modern village of Zakros.

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A church with a view.

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Approaching the modern village of Zakros.

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This is one of the many tiny and wonderful roadside shrines that we saw during our travels in Crete, at the end of people’s driveways.

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Walking back to our car at the Village of Zakros after a coffee, this is a local garden including apple and persimmon trees.

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Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 12 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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The previous post was of Knossos, the ancient capital of Minoan Crete. This one is on the Heraklion Archaeological Museum includes many of the original items discovered at Knossos, as well as others from other parts of Crete.

Neolithic settlements started at Knossos from 7000BC and the peak of Minoan civilisation, with large cities and “palaces” was from 2000BC to 1450BC. Art included large wall paintings, miniatures, seal-carving, jewellery making, goldsmithing, metalwork, stone carving and vase painting.  Minoan seafarers at this time dominated the Eastern Mediterranean. After 1450BC, Mycenaeans arrived from Greece and became the dominant culture.

Item descriptions taken from museum labels.

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Clay figurine of squatting woman.  5300-3000BC.

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“Teapot” with elongated spout used for “liquids”.  2300-1900BC.

(Note the small snake on top of the spout).

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Pithos, flask, fruit-stand, bird-shaped vessel and other elaborate Kamares Ware vessels from Knossos.  1800-1700BC.

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Fragment of libation vessel with representation of an octopus.  Knossos, 1600-1450BC.

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The “Draughtboard”.

A board game inlaid with ivory, blue glass paste and rock crystal, plated with gold and silver.  Knossos, 1700-1450BC.

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Large jars.

Elaborately decorated large jars from Minoan palaces, urban houses and peripheral centres, used to store liquids such as wine and olive oil.  Their decoration with religious symbols, such as double axes and bucrania, and other characteristic themes such as the octopus, inspired by the Marine Style, made these vessels valuable display objects.

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Archetypal depiction of an octopus on a vase.

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Linear A script, used c.19001450BC.  Undeciphered.  Used for keeping records of agricultural products (figs, wheat, olives, wine and olive oil), textiles and vessels, humans and animals (sheep, goats, oxen, pigs).

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The earlier hieroglyphic script use up to c. 1900BC.  Though undeciphered, ninety of its signs represented syllables and others represented objects, products or living creatures.

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Large jar with patterns that may represent the suckers of an octopus.

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The original of the famous bull-leaping fresco.

Trained athletes of both sexes took part, represented with dark skin for men and white for women.  Minoan games were a precursor of the later Greek Olympic Games.

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Votive double axe of gold, Arkalochori Cave, 1700-1450BC.

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The Harvester Vase.

Black steatite rhyton with relief depiction of twenty-seven men carrying harvesting and winnowing implements.  A group of men sings to the accompaniment of the sustrum, a musical instrument with rattles sounded by rhythmical hand movements.  The procession may form part of a religious festival for the new harvest.  Hagia Triada, 1450BC.

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The Harvester Vase (different view).

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Offering by worshipper at mountain shrine.

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The “Dancer” Fresco.

A goddess is descending from the heavens, as indicated by the locks of hair streaming in the wind, a familiar convention in Minoan inconography for the goddess hovering in mid-air.  Her right arm, extended in a gesture of authority and command, indicates she formed part of a larger epiphany scene.  Knossos, 1600-1450BC.

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The Ring of Minos.

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The impression the signet ring would make on a wax seal.

The so-called Ring of Minos is a masterpiece of Minoan jewellery-making and an artwork of paramount importance for understanding religious iconography.  The composite image on its bezel summarises the three levels of epiphany. (Epiphany?  Say, metaphysical realisation.)  The goddess is depicted hovering in the air in miniature form, seated on a stepped platform topped with horns of consecration, and rowing and steering a boat with a seahorse-head prow.  Two scenes of tree-cult by a male and a female enrich the composition.

The passage of the goddess through the three natural elements of air, land and sea serves as a symbolic unification of the mortal world and vividly imposes the message of Minoan power over land and sea. Knossos, 1450-1400BC.

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Surprisingly, it’s actually a great elaborate jug.

Stone bull’s-head rhyton, left side of head and horns restored.  It is a masterpiece of Minoan art, worked with great precision to render the natural features of the real animal.  The snout is outlined with an inlay of white seashell, while the preserved right eye is inlaid with rock crystal, with rim and iris of red jasper.

This vessel would have been used for libations, as indicated by the hole in the neck for filling and the corresponding hole for pouring out the liquid.  Knossos – Little Palace 1600-1450BC.

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Also a jug.

Lioness-head rhyton of translucent limestone with a hole in the muzzle for pouring out the liquid offering.  An exquisitely modelled work, a typical example of the specialised stone-carvers’ skill in faithfully rendering the original.  The nose and eyes were originally inlaid with materials that have not survived.  Knossos 1600-1500BC.

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The “Snake Goddess”.

The most important cult objects from the Knossos Temple repositories are the figurines of the “Snake Goddess” named after the two snakes in her upraised hands.

The snakes suggest the chthonic character of the cult of the goddess (ie relating to the underworld), while the feline creature on her head suggests her dominion over wildlife.  The goddess wears luxurious garments, consisting of a long flounced skirt, an embroidered apron and a close-fitting bodice that exposes the large breasts, symbolic of the fertility of women, the goddess and by implication, nature itself.  Knossos, 1650-1550BC.

. Archaeology, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, History, Knossos, Photography, Street photography, Travel Large conical rhytons, some with elaborate relief surfaces, made of various types of stone such as veined marble, limestone and porphyry.  Zakros 1500-1450BC.

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Large jars with impressive decorations.

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This is one of the 3,400 Linear B tablets recovered from Knossos, accidentally preserved by the fire that destroyed the city.  c.1425-1300BC.  Written in Greek and able to be read, they are lists of accounts, goods, military equipment, palace officials and dependants, and ritual offerings. They also record the complex taxation system, the land register and the administration of labour.  The script includes 89 symbols corresponding to syllables, other symbols corresponding to words, and numbers in decimal format.  Names recorded of members of the Knossian hierarchy are usually Greek whereas names of shepherds and other professionals are Minoan.  Names for official positions are also Greek, indicating the form of political administration may have changed with the takeover of the Mycenaeans.

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Burial in a wide-mouthed Pithos.  Wooden coffins were also used.  Neopalatial period 1700-1450BC.

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Boar’s tusk helmet with cheek-guards, as described in Homer’s Iliad for the helmet of the Cretan hero Meriones.  Knossos 1450-1300BC.

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The “Poppy Goddess”.

She is crowned with opium poppies, indicating that the goddess relieves pain and heals her worshippers.  Gazi, 1300-1200BC.

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Chest larnax with gabled lid, decorated with a net pattern.  It contains a skeleton in foetal position, with legs bent, indicative of the way the dead were buried.  Tylissos-Panikklisia 1370-1300BC.

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Panel of the “lily Frescoes” from an upper story room of the “Villa of the Lilies” at Amnisos.  It is thought to depict a fenced garden, a place of leisure and pleasure as well as a marker of high social status.  Amnissos, Villa, 1600-1500BC.

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Archaeology, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, History, Knossos, Photography, Street photography, Travel A female figure with Mediterranean features and vivid make-up, part of the “Camp-Stool Fresco”, which probably mirrored actual banquets held in the upper hall of the West Wing of Knossos.  Her size and the “sacral knot” bunched up behind indicate that she was probably a leading priestess.  Knossos, 1450-1300BC.

. Archaeology, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, History, Knossos, Photography, Street photography, Travel The “Cup-Bearer”, a figure from the “Procession Fresco”, shows a youth with long black hair, naked torso and a richly decorated kilt carrying a large silver rhyton, a ceremonial vessel.  This is the only life-size figure in a Minoan fresco whose head and torso are preserved. 1600-1450BC.

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Lekythos (vessel for storing olive oil) depicting Theseus slaying the Minotaur.  5th century BC.

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Archaic pithoi from 7th and 6th centuries BC, mostly from central Crete, and with humans for size comparison.  Their relief decorations were made individually with a mould-stamp and include imaginary creatures, animals, geometric patterns and occasionally mythological and ritual scenes.

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Bronze “drum” from the Idaean Cave.

This is a votive offering that shows strong iconographic and stylistic influences from Assyrian art.  Its shape however, and the winged daemons flanking the central figure and beating drums are a direct allusion to the Kouretes, the daemons who beat drums to drown out the infant Zeus’ cries and prevent his father, the child-eating Kronos, from finding him. Similarly, the central figure, treading on a bull and taming a lion, is identified as the Cretan-born Zeus. Geometric period, late 8th century BC.

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Bronze shield of the Idaean Cave.

These shield served as lavish votive offerings.  Their ornamentation is mostly of Assyrian influence and includes frontal animal heads in high relief in the centre, animals and imaginary oriental creatures in concentric zones or in pairs, and human figures such as archers attacking animals and, kn one case, a female fugure flanked by lions and sphinxes.

They are thought to be the products of a local workshop or of foreign craftsmen versed in eastern iconography, itinerant in or established in Crete.  They date from the late 9th or early 9th to the mid 7th century BC.

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Bronze helmet of the “Corintian” type with hammered image of two winged horses.  Axos-Sanctuary, Archaic period, 7th century BC.

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Bronze belly-guards, pieces of armour with winged horses. Axos-Sanctuary, Archaic period, 6th century BC.

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Detail of a vase decoration showing a couple of conversing lovers.  Arkades-Afrati, Archaic period, 7th century BC.

Frieze made of poros stone from Temple A of Prinias.  It is a series of relief plaques depicting a procession of horsemen, shown parading with their shields and spears.  The rendering echoes the austere Doric spirit of the Cretan towns of the period.  Prinias (possibly ancient Rizenia), Archaic period, 7th century BC.

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