Monochromes from Eastern Crete

Crete, Greece, 12 October 2018.

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Links go to colour posts (with information and historical context). If an image does not have a link, the preceding one applies.

(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, Black and White, Crete, Gortyn, Greece, Heraklion, Knossos, Landscape, Matala, Monochrome, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Zakros

Venetian Harbour and the Koules Fortress. (First night in Crete).

Thira to Heraklion.

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An ancient building below our hotel room, with the roof in need of repair.

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An old ruined boat fenced off beside the harbour.

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South House.

Knossos.

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Large pithoi (storage jars), South PropylæumPostpalatial Period (1450-1100BC).

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Octopus fresco, in situ.

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The Throne Room.

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Surprisingly, it’s an elaborate jug.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum.

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The “Snake Goddess”.

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Large jars with impressive decorations.

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Burial in a wide-mouthed Pithos.  Neopalatial period 1700-1450BC.

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Fishing Nets.

Thira to Heraklion.

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Night concert.

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The Orthodox Church of Agia Fotini.

Heraklion to Zakros.

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Paralia Tholos.

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House B in Block Beta, Palaikastro Minoan Town.

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Minoan Palace of Zakros.

Zakros.

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Rear of Lustral Basin with base for a column.

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Nisida Kafali and Nisida Kavallos.

Zakros to Matala.

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Paralia Mazida Amnos.

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Roadside shrine.

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A couple exploring the historic caves of Matala.

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Section of Citadel wall, Acropolis of Gortyn.

Gortyn.

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Church of St Titus in Gortyn, from the Acropolis.

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Largest remaining citadel wall, Gortyn Acropolis.

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Landscape with ruins and olive trees from Gortyn Acropolis.

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Rethymnon Fortezza

Rethymnon, Crete, Greece, 20 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 spending some time in the morning at Chania, we drove back to Heraklion for the plane the next day.  On the way we stopped at Rethymnon.  We didn’t really visit the city, but we did spend some time at the Fortezza.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Greece, History, Photography, Rethymnon, Street photography, Travel

At the north side of the Fortezza, overlooking the modern town.

There has been settlement here since neolithic times and the Minoan settlement didn’t fare well with the tsunami from Thera.  The hill on which the Fortezza is built is thought to have originally been an island connected to the mainland by a narrow spit but is now part of the mainland.  It is also thought to be the site of the acropolis of ancient Rithymna including the temple of Apollo and the Sanctuary of Artemis, but this has not been proved archaeologically.  Rithymna was most important in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC and declined afterwards.  The Venetians arrived in Crete in 1211, after the 4th Crusade occupied Constantinople, and subsequently decided to build a harbour here which led to the revival of the city.

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In 1571, the pirate Ulu Ali attacked Rethymnon with forty galleys and sacked it, demonstrating the inadequacy of the fortifications.  Consequently, the Venetians built the Fortezza with supposedly more than 100,000 “volunteer” Cretan labourers, finishing it in 1580.  They had promised the inhabitants of the city they could all come and live within the walls but that proved not to be the case and it was in any case much too small for that, so it became a place of refuge for the population instead.

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In 1646, Rethymnon fell to the Ottomans.  The Venetian Cathedral of San Niccol became the Mosque of Sultam Ibrahim Han and additional houses were built for the Ottoman garrison and administration.  By the turn of the twentieth century, the fortezza was filled with residential buildings but these were cleared out after the Second World War and ancient buildings restored.

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You can see that the angles for the gun slots are pointing down rather than out.

In 1897, the Great Powers decided to occupy the island and Rethymnon was occupied by the Russian Army until 1907 (Putin was not yet Tsar at that time).  In the Second World War, the city was bombed by the Germans and many buildings destroyed.  The Germans sent paratroopers in to occupy the city in 1941, thinking it was not defended.  but there were two Australian and two Greek battalions as well as armed local Gendarmerie, and the Germans did not fare well here.  At one stage, the Allies had captured panels requesting resupply and were able to persuade German planes to drop guns and ammunition to them.  In the same way they were able at one point to direct the Germans to drop bombs on their own troops.   However, they were unable to receive the general order to withdraw and the Australians and one Greek Battalion had to surrender when they ran out of food and ammunition, while the other Greek battalion, mainly Cretans, was able to disperse into the countryside.

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Walls and gun emplacements.

The city was very poor after the war but it is much more prosperous now, with main income from tourism as well as agriculture such as olive oil.

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This is the Ottoman Mosque of the Sultan Ibrahim Han, formerly the Catholic Cathedral of St Nicholas.  The base of the former minaret is on its left side.

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I presume this is a small mausoleum but I’m unable to find a description online.

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Councillor’s residence, possible mausoleum and Mosque of the Sultan Ibrahim Han.

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The Councillor’s Residence.

The Rector, or Governor, ruled with the aid of two Councillors, one of whom lived here.

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The square openings in the walls were presumably emplacements for cannon.

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Corner gun emplacement.

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You can get a glimpse here of the task of gunners firing down to repel invaders and preserve the Fortezza.   The Fortezza was said to be vulnerable both due to its small size and because it was not surrounded by a ditch.

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I understand that the Greek Government is unlikely to be willing to supply these cannons to the Russians in Ukraine (though they would only be a danger to anyone trying to fire them).

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The remains of  a series of food storerooms and water cisterns.

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The storeroom archways divided the storerooms into smaller spaces and supported the roof.

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Underneath are mysterious passages, perhaps storerooms,

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I seem to recall this was once used as a prison….

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One of the “tubes” was filled with relics from the Ottoman era.

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The Ottomans were less than sympathetic to the local population and all Moslems were thrown out in 1923. (There are some now in the more tolerant era of today).

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Archaeology, Architecture, Greece, History, Photography, Rethymnon, Street photography, Travel

I suspect these are tombstones.

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There may be an interesting story to be told if I could read Arabic and understand the iconography.

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The ceiling of the Ottoman Mosque of the Sultan Ibrahim Han.

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The mihrab, unfortunately defaced by graffiti.

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An ammunition storage depot, with a pyramidical roof, perhaps to help cannon balls bounce off.

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A southern part of the wall.

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The city and the port.

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Inside the church of Agios Theodoros Trichinas.

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Getting in closer….

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The souvenir shop, located inside an old Venetian enclosure.

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The old Venetian harbour and lighthouse.

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That was the last post on Crete, apart from three mono posts to come, and maybe a live music one. There have been 18 posts, nearly 500 images and close to 12,000 words in commentary.  It has included visits to Minoan, Greek, Roman, Venetian and Ottoman sites, artefacts from a couple of museums, views of often remote landscapes and street scenes.  You can see any of these posts from links in the Itinerary, which I have just updated.

Next posts will come more frequently than usual for a couple of weeks.  Then I will start posting on my recent trip to North Queensland and much later get back to rest of the trip that included Crete, with Andalusia, Barcelona, Oregon and Washington.

Archaeological Museum of Chania

Chania, Crete, Greece, 19 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, Chania, Greece, History, Photography, Street photography, Travel

We are in the Archaeological museum of Chania, located inside the former Venetian Monastery of St Francis and housing Minoan and Roman artefacts.  It is not clear when the building was constructed but it was recorded as surviving the earthquake of 1595.  It became a mosque during the Ottoman occupation, then for a while a storehouse for military equipment and a museum in 1962.  In 2000 it closed and in 2022 a new and larger modern museum opened outside the city centre.

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At the end of the main hall we see mosaics and statues.

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Roman mosaic featuring Dionysus and Ariadne.

This is the first large mosaic on the floor in the previous image.  Obviously, I couldn’t take it from above and I didn’t quite allow enough to get the whole mosaic circle in after correcting for perspective.

Dionysus is the Roman god of wine and festivity.  Ariadne is a mythological Minoan princess who helped Theseus escape from the labyrinth, was later abandoned by him and subsequently married Dionysus.

Dionysus is depicted between two satyrs, his companions in hedonism, one of whom is Selinus.  It demonstrates the moment he found Ariadne sleeping on the foreshore of the Island of Naxos, after she was abandoned by Theseus.

The mosaic was found near the market square of Chania in 1977.  It is from the second half of the 3rd century AD.

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The mosaic further on in the main hall.

It shows Poseidon rescuing Amymone after she was attacked by a satyr.  From mid third century and found in 1937.  It was in the central dining room of an ancient private house.

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Another mosaic in a side chamber.

It is described as showing Dionysus on a panther followed by a satyr.  I can see the satyr but not the panther.  From 3rd century AD and found in 1977.

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Out the back, this must be a Venetian lion dismembered by the Ottomans or maybe by an earthquake.

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Late Minoan III (1650 to 1600BC) bath tub used as a coffin.

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Minoan liquid container, presumably for water or wine.

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In the back garden again.

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A remarkable succulent growing up a wall.

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I don’t have a description for this but I presume it is Minoan.

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Marble vase from Elyros, near Sougia, 3rd century BC.

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Marble vases from Elyros, near Sougia, 3rd century BC.

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Clay vase from Elyros, near Sougia, 3rd century BC.

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Clay pyxis from Chamber tomb at Aptera (near Chania).  Late Minoan IIIB 1300-1250BC.

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Jewellery of the Hellenistic period (end of 4th to 3rd century BC).

Found in the cemetery of ancient Kydonia (modern Chania), for a dead woman to wear in the afterlife.

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The Presentation of the Virgin Mary Holy Metropolitan Church.

There was a small church here from the 11th century.  Later, the Venetians demolished it for a warehouse.  Under the Ottomans it became a soap factory until 1850 when it was donated to the Christians.  In the late nineteenth century it became the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Chania, which was then the capital of Crete.

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This is above the central door you see in the previous image.

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Inside the Cathedral.

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A panel inside the Cathedral.

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Archaeological excavation of Ancient Kydonia.  Settlement occurred from late Neolithic around 3000BC through Minoan, Greek and Roman to 365AD when Kydonia was levelled by an earthquake.  What we see here is for the late Minoan period around 1450BC.

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Sougia and Syia

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

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Captain George to the rescue!

Here we are still in Lissos, the ancient ruined Minoan, Greek, Roman and Byzantine city from the last post, watching the arrival of our sea transport to return to Sougia.  There was a sign onshore giving a phone number and saying he would be there in ten minutes.

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A view of the cliffs from the boat on the journey back.

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Sougia in the distance, taken with a very long lens.

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If there’s an earthquake, I think you don’t want to be under this cliff.

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Probably only the hardiest of trees can survive here.

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A lone tree against the horizon.

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We’re back in Sougia now. 

This may be a view from where we were staying.  There is a swimmer in the water and a ship on the horizon.

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We went for a walk around Sougia and discovered traces of the ancient city of Syia.

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A very old olive tree, probably with a net for olives wrapped around it.

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These are Roman tombs.

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Though Syia was a Minoan port, the excavated ruins are Roman and early Byzantine. 

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Much is still yet to be excavated.

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There is apparently an aqueduct outside town visible from the road.  There are also ruins of Roman buildings and three large early Christian Basilicas.  There is more there than we saw at the time.

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Remains of an ancient wall.

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Another stone circle, similar to the one we saw at Lissos.

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Lissos

Lissos, Crete, Greece, 17 October 2018.

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Archaeology, Crete, Greece, History, Landscape, Lissos, Nature, Photography, Travel

Panagia Chapel.

The last image in the last post showed the coastline of Lissos Valley, with this chapel just visible  near the sea.  This image is from the route in, and taken from at same position as that previous image, but with a long telephoto instead of a wide angle lens.

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Roman tombs in the necropolis on the far side of the hill.

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An ancient ruined house, probably from the Roman period.

Lissos was a Minoan, Greek, Roman and Byzantine city until it was destroyed by Arabs who invaded from Spain in the 820s and occupied Crete until they were driven out by the Byzantines in 961.  It was one of the two ports of the Dorian city of Elyros (further inland) along with Syia (the ancient name for Sougia).  It was the only city on this part of the South Coast to issue its own coinage.

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Temple of Asklepios.

This image and the next three is at the Temple of Asklepios, built in the 2nd or 3rd century BC.  Dedicated to the God of Medicine, people came here in ancient times to partake of the healing properties of its springs.  It was destroyed by an earthquake which covered it with rocks from the cliffs above and also partly preserved it.  When it was excavated in the 1950s many statues were recovered and marbke floors revealed.

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Archaeology, Crete, Greece, History, Landscape, Lissos, Nature, Photography, Travel .

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The Church of Agios Kyrikos.

This is a 14th century church, not the same as the one near the coast we saw earlier.  (And Agios Kyrikos is not to be confused with Nicholas Kyrgios, not the same at all).

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The view inside.

It looks as though I missed an opportunity to examine the paintings on the left hand wall, which probably come from the original church in the 6th century AD.  However, I suspect access may have been restricted to the back of the church.

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Ruined house nearby.

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There are quite a few fragments of ruined houses, many from the Roman era.

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Stone circle of unknown provenance (unknown to me at any rate).

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There is also much that is yet to be excavated.

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Unsurprisingly, there are many ancient olive trees.

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The patterns of the bark can be compelling….

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On the western side of the valley there is an extensive Roman Necropolis with many small chambers (now empty).

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Panagia Chapel.

Here we are now at Panagia Chapel, that we saw on the first image of this post and the last image of the previous one.  It is also a 14th century chapel  but incorporates some ancient Greek marble.

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The view inside.

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Ruined buildings near the chapel.

The holes may be for beams of the floor, cast out of alignment by an earthquake.

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An ancient olive tree, now barely surviving.

In the next post we return to Sougia and also check out the archaeological site of Syia.

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Phaestos

Phaestos, Crete, Greece, 15 October 2018.

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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

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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