Crete : History & Archaeology
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Zakros Palace and Archaeological Site
Sitia, East Crete
Like the other Cretan palaces, the palace of Zakros, was first built in about 1900 B.C. The present ruins seen by the visitor belong to the second building phase, in about 1600 BC.
The total area of the palace, including ancillary buildings, is approximately 10,000 sq.m. It was not only the permanent residence of the royal family, but also the administrative, as well as commercial and religious centre of the surrounding area.
The long term excavations have yielded over 10,000 objects, many of them considered unique, which are now on display in the Iraklion and Sitia museums.
Lefki (Koufonissi) island
Sitia, East Crete
Koufonisi is a small island in the Libyan Sea just off the South East coast of Crete and the Cape of Goudouras.
It is also named LEFKI and gave its name to the municipality.
There is a cluster of small islets in the area like Makroulo, Strogylo, Trahila and Marmara. The island is deserted and in many spots it is covered with sand reminding an African landscape.
Until 1976 the shepherds used to feed their sheep there but it was not inhabited.
Later the Archaeological Offices of Eastern Crete under the authority of N. Papadakis began the excavations and the island proved to be full of ancient sites.
A beautiful theater, made of stones, at the North West end of the island opposite the Marmaras islet was discovered. At the South East of the theater where a settlement was found, a villa with 8 rooms and a guest room was brought to light.
The excavations also showed a workshop where the famous purple robes of the Romans was made. They also dig out an astonishing building, the Public Baths, dated back to 1st and 4th A.D. and ruins of an old temple.
Boats depart daily from Makrygialos to Koufonissi (during the tourist season and only if the weather permits) offering day-trips.
A short description of Lefki, by the archaeologist Nikos Papadakis:
Koufonisi island covered today with sand and bushes, lies close to the southeast shore of Crete. From the Middle - Ages until today is nowhere referred that the island has ever been inhabited permanently. However scattered ancient remnants, drew the attention of the English admiral and traveller T B. Spratt in the mid - 19th century. His itinerary and visit was repeated by the English archaeologists Bosanquet and Curely in 1903 and by the American A. Leonard jr in 1970. The definite conclusion all the above travellers reached was that Koufonisi could be identified with the island Lefki of antiquity for which the people of Itanos and Hierapytna were contending as it is referred in the famous "Inscription of Magnetes" of 112 - 111 B.C.
Excavations and archaeological research have since 1976 taken the responsibility to answer to the questions almost innate and consequent to the above conclusion and the result is undoubtedly impressive: An entire theater that could have housed a thousand spectators: a temple still containing fragments from the colossal cult statue: two private houses with 17 rooms decorated with mosaics and colourful walls: a system supplying water to the city through a series of vaulted cisterns and built pipes: a Minoan acropolis: cemeteries and last but not least the city of Lefki itself. Thus, slowly but steadily is unveiled the short but impressive presence of this small island nearby east Crete. Judging from the so far finds we can say that Lefki being one of the major centers of processing and trading purple, a symbol of authority and economic power soon became the object of rivalry among its neighbours. A series of diplomatic intrigue and fighting had occurred over the dominance of this prolific island. Later when its sources of prosperity were depleted the people of Lefki were exterminated through arms and fire: an invasion in the 4th century A.D. turned the historic island into ashes. On the basis of the existing ruins the importance it had for its neighbours and the fact that it was never again inhabited after its destruction we may describe Koufonisi by quoting a western journalist as Delos of the Libyan Sea.
Palaikastro Archaeological site
Sitia, East Lassithi
At the northernmost edge of the eastern coast of Crete lie the ruins of a settlement which flourished during the Late Minoan period (1550-1220 B.C.). At the same site, however, are preserved remains of the Early and Middle Minoan periods (3000-1550 B.C.), mostly cemeteries with well-built ossuaries, and ruins of spacious houses. The site ceased to be inhabited at the same time when Zakros was abandoned (1450 B.C.) but was reoccupied during the Late Minoan III period (1300-1200 B.C.). The city covered a total area of more than 50,000 sq.m., was densely inhabited but not fortified.
To the NE of one of the city's sectors lies the sanctuary of Diktaian Zeus, which belonged administratively to the city of Itanos. Cult practice was continuous from the Geometric period (8th century B.C.) until the Roman conquest. It seems that the sanctuary was plundered and destroyed by fanatic Christians at the end of the 4th century A.D.
It is an historical monastery of the 15th century, which collapsed in the earthquake of 1612 and was rebuilt with the financial aid of the Venetians. During the Ottoman conquest of Crete, the monastery was destroyed and devastated by the Turks. In 1704 the monastery was declared stauropegion. During the Ottoman occupation there was a school in the monastery, while, after 1870, it was founded there a school of mutual teaching. The Monastery is a stauropegion fortress. The main building of 800 m2 has three floors, which are divided into cells, guest - houses, kitchens, the abbot' s residence and warehouses. The katholicon is a two-aisled church; the northern aisle is dedicated to the Virgin, and the southern posterior aisle, to St John the Theologian. The monastery' s characteristic bell tower bears relief crowns and crosses with inscriptions and the date 1558. In the Monastery, there is also an interesting Museum.
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