Ancient Crete

Archaeological Sites:


Knossos


Phaistos


Malia


Zakros

Palekastro
Tripitos
Itanos

Museums:


Heraklion Museum


Sitia Museum

The rich history of Crete has left the island sown with hundreds of archaeological sites, large and small. The island reached its zenith during prehistoric times when the Minoan civilization dominated the Aegean and produced a fascinating culture which in turn has left behind a plethora of beautiful art and architecture. Once the Minoan culture fell into decline, the Mycenaean powers of mainland Greece controlled the island, and later the Greeks during the Classical and Hellenistic eras. In turn, the Romans established their authority and ruled Crete

Consequently, the important archaeological sites found on Crete reflect the different historical eras: Minoan, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, or Byzantine. By far, the most spectacular finds are the Minoan palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Zakros, while the most important artifacts found in excavations are housed in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. This museum's collection is complemented by museums in the towns of Agios Nikolaos, Chania, and Sitia.

A visit to Crete would not be complete without a visit to the Heraklion Museum, a visit to Knossos and one to Phaistos. For those who want to form a complete picture of Minoan Crete, a visit to the palace of Malia is a short drive from Heraklion. The palace of Kato Zakros would be more of a challenge to visit as it is located on the east coast of the island. Other important archaeological sites of the island include the Minoan towns of Palekastro and Gournia, and a host of smaller settlements like Pseira The most important Classical and Hellenistic sites are the ruins at Gortyn which became the Roman capital of the island, and Lato near Agios Nikolaos.

For those who love ancient civilizations Crete is a huge playground. There is an archaeological site, or a legend around every bend of the road. So many sites fill this beautiful island that it could take a life time to explore them all. In my two weeks I wanted to see the most important sites and artifacts of the Minoan Civilization, and of course I had to distill my visits to what I deemed to be the most important places. While Crete is host to a multitude of Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine sites, I focused only on the remains of the Minoan civilization which is unique to the island. I visited all four known palaces of Crete (Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Zakros), and two major towns (Palekastro, and Gournia). These tours along with the exhibits of the Heraklion and Sitia museums allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the Minoan Civilization, and its influence on the development of ancient Greece.

From all the sites, I enjoyed my visit to Phaistos the most. This was in large part to the setting of the palace on the hill and the views it generates, and it did not hurt that I arrived there in what must have been the perfect August morning.

For more information visit the
Minoan Civilization
pages at Ancient-Greece.org

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