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12 October 2012
Crete, 3500-year-old Minoan building found

An accidental meeting in 1982 between well-known Greek archaeologist Yannis Sakellarakis and a shepherd from Crete has led to an archaeological discovery of great importance - Zominthos, a settlement from the Minoan era on the plain of the same name, 1,187 metres above sea level. The settlement is at the feet of the highest mountain in Crete, Mount Psiloritis, eight kilometres from the village of Anogia along the road which led from Knossos to Ideon Andron - the cave where Zeus was born, according to Greek mythology.
     The shepherd, who lived in Anogia, invited the archaeologist who was working at a site nearby to visit the area of Zominthos. Sakellarakis realised he was standing in front of a settlement from the Minoan era, hiding behind thick vegetation. Sakellarakis, with colleague and partner Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki, excavated from the summer of 1983 until 1990. Excavations resumed in 2004 and are ongoing.
     In the past few years, the remains of an impressive and luxurious building from 3,500 years ago has emerged. The building has two or three floors, some 80 rooms including workshops and storage rooms over a surface of 1,360 square metres, and it is in excellent condition. Sapouna-Sakellaraki says it is the first Minoan mountain settlement built in the same period as the Palace of Knossos, and the largest summer residence from the Minoan era yet discovered.
     The structure was built with large, elongated stones, and with walls painted in different colours. Experts believe the palace was destroyed by a violent earthquake.
     Three time periods emerge from the remains of the Palace of Zominthos - its first construction in 1900 BCE, the second around 1600 BCE at the height of its prosperity, when it was presumably destroyed by an earthquake, and around 1400 BCE when another building was constructed nearby.
     Archaeological findings in Zominthos include several signets portraying scorpions or birds, ornamental objects in copper and ivory, a metallic cylinder decorated with images of snakes, and a copper cup. Two copper statues were also found - "among the most beautiful from the most prosperous Minoan period", said the archaeologist, who believes the area was also a place of worship.

Edited from ANSA Med (4 October 2012)

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