15. IERAPETRA - ZAKROS (coastal road) (see
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.
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.
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
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.
Who were the people who lived here, who their King was, where
they came from and what happened to them we shall probably never
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.
of the information on this page : “Unexplored
Crete”, Road Editions. For more
guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.