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Ierapetra - Zakros

 

15. IERAPETRA - ZAKROS (coastal road) (see Map )

15.1 Ierapetra to Zakros 15.2 Palace of Zakros

The Palace of Zakros

Guarded archaeological site.
Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 8.30am-3.00pm. In the summer of 1901, David George Hogarth, a young English archaeologist who was working with Sir Arthur Evans at the excavations at Knossos found himself (in an interval of the excavations) in the sandy beach at Kato Zakros. When the villagers who had their fields on the small plain behind the beach found out that he was an archaeologist, they told him that they often found ceramic and various ancient objects every time they ploughed their land.

Map, Ierapetra to Zakros

They showed him fragments, from which Hogarth immediately concluded that there was a Minoan settlement somewhere in the area. Judging from the other Minoan habitations which were built on hillsides, he assumed that the habitation must be situated on the hillside north-east of the small plain of Kato Zakros. Indeed, in the excavations which were carried out, he discovered the foundations of a number of Minoan habitations and he found important artefacts of the period l600-l500 BC, mainly tools, weapons and an impressive number of seals (500), perhaps the remains of commercial correspondence. From the wealth of the discoveries, he concluded that here was a very important settlement. He worked systematically and very intensively despite the limited means he had at his disposal, but he stopped just ten metres short of the amazing palace....

Sixty years later, in 1961, the experienced Greek archaeologist Nikolaos Platon had the inspiration to excavate the flat area at the base of the hill where Hogarth had excavated. From almost the first blows of the archaeologist’s pickaxe, one of the most important Minoan palaces came to light - the palace of Zakros - and after this, an extensive settlement which climbed the hillside north and north-east of the palace.

Kato Zakros

There is not the slightest reference to the name of this palace in any literary source or archaeological finding. Neither indeed do we know the name of the King who lived here. We can, however, walk through his bedroom (1), refresh ourselves with the water which still bubbles up from his round swimming-pool (2), walk around the central courtyard of the palace (3), sit and eat our fruit in his dining-room (4) and have a soft drink in his banqueting-hall (21).

The first part of the palace to come to light after 3,500 years of undisturbed sleep under the ground were the store houses with their earthenware jars (5,6,7,8). A little further south, the Royal Apartment (9) was discovered, a wonderful room divided into two by an internal colonnade, which had a paved internal courtyard/skylight (10). There was also an internal staircase here (11) that went up to the second floor of the palace (some steps have been preserved) which must have been the Treasury. Many of the priceless treasures which were kept here (swords with gold hilts, ornate cups, fruit bowls, etc.) were found scattered on the ground floor (12, 13,14, 15) directly beneath the Treasury. Room 16 must have been the Archives. Whole chests were found here containing tablets where the palace secretaries had recorded accounting details in a language (Linear A) which archaeo-logists still have not managed to decipher.

The most exciting moment of the excavation, however, was when the Altar of the Palace (17, 18) and the Treasury of the Altar (19) were found. In the latter, more than 100 ceremonial vessels were found - of stone, clay, metal and rock crystal - the most impressive which have been found to date

This wing of the palace also contained the main workshop areas (20). Here, precious objects were made in elephant bone, ivory, stone and glazed earthenware. There were also workshops in the east wing of the palace (22, 23). The copper boilers which were probably used for the preparation of perfumes were found here.

Kato Zakros

Who were the people who lived here, who their King was, where they came from and what happened to them we shall probably never know. The life of the settlement was exceptionally short - its building begun in 1600 BC and in 1500 BC it collapsed in ruins, due either to a natural disaster or to an attack by invaders. In this short period of 100 years, however, industry and trade brought great wealth to the palace. The palace treasures were preserved intact (not having been robbed), well protected under the earth for many centuries. Today you can admire them at the Iraklio museum. (Room VIII).


THE ROUTES THE ROUTES

Routes starting from Hania

Hania
1. Hania - Akrotiri
2. Hania - Paleochora
3. Hania - Sameria
4. Hania - Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
5. Hania - Kissamos (Kasteli)

Routes starting from Kissamos
Kissamos (Kasteli)
6. Kissamos - Gramvoussa
7. Kissamos - Elafonissos
8. Kissamos - Paleochora (through the Topolian Gorge)
9. Kissamos - Paleochora (through Episkopi)
10. Kissamos - Sirikari

Routes starting from Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
11. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (travelling inland)
12. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (following the coast)

Routes starting from Rethimno (Rethymnon)
Rethimno (Rethymnon)
13. Rethimno - Ierapetra (following the south coast)
14. Rethimno - Ierapetra (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Ierapetra
Ierapetra
15. Ierapetra - Zakros (coastal road)
16. Ierapetra - Zakros (inland route)

Routes starting from Iraklio (Heraklion)
Iraklio (Heraklion)
17. Heraklion - Rethymnon (coastal road)
18. Heraklion - Rethymnon (travelling inland)
19.Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (coastal road)
20. Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos
21. Agios Nikolaos - Zakros


Source of the information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”, Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.

 

 

Tip of the day

In the small but organized city museum you will see findings from excavations in ancient Kissamos and its surrounding areas. The museum’s collection includes floor mosaics of 2nd and 3rd century houses found in Kissamos city, as well as findings from the archeological sites of Polirrinia and Falasarna (mainly statues, reliefs and ceramics dating back to the Hellenistic and Roman times).
The present town is famous for its amazing wine which is produced here and is celebrated with “the Feast of Wine" at the beginning of August. During the feast local wine is offered in great quantities under the sound of lyre and lute and in a very enthusiastic atmosphere.
The beaches surrounding Kastelli that you can visit for swimming in the homonym gulf are Molos beach covered by thick pebbles, Ghipedo beach surrounded by trees and Telonio beach with view of the Venetian walls. It is better though to take the road to the famous Gramvousa peninsula.

 

 

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