The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sport announced late last week extraordinary archaeological finds at the ancient city of Falasarna (Phalasarna), in the far west of Crete. According to the announcement, hundreds of ancient artifacts, including clay figurines of female figures dedicated to the Greek goddess Demeter, were unearthed by teams led by Dr. Elpida Hadjidakis.
Falasarna, for those unfamiliar, is famous in modern times for its stunning Blue Flag beaches. However, a fascinating port existed in antiquity where the city-state thrived during Hellenistic times. Falasarna was one of the most important maritime cities in the eastern Mediterranean that produced its own laws and coinage. The city had a storied past which ended abruptly when the Romans sent forces to eradicate pirates who had held out after the defeat of Macedonian King Persius.
The city-state’s port was a wonder of the time, an artificial monumental harbor constructed inland and protected by the sheer rocks of the coastline. The Romans more or less erased Falasarna from the historical record, destroying the city and killing its residents. Another historical event that ensured Falasarna would be a “lost city” for hundreds of years was the remarkable 365 AD great earthquake near the west coast of the Island of Crete.
This quake was one of the most powerful ever recorded on Earth, a mega-seismic event that generated a mega-tsunami and that lifted the entire west end of Crete island as much as nine meters higher. Today, Falasarna’s ancient port lay many meters inland from its original position. I’ve written several colorful stories about this event.
So, this important and magnificent port lay undiscovered until the 19th-century British explorers Robert Pashley and Captain T. A. B. Spratt rediscovered its ruins. The fascinating visuals in Phalasarna sitsim app video above will help you understand how unique and awesome Falasarna in ancient times was.
These most recent findings are from the excavations on the ancient Temple of Demeter site. The temple, which say on a hillside of the Falasarna acropolis overlooking the sea, collapsed at some point and was then used as an open-air sacred gathering spot to worship the goddess of harvests, nature, childbirth, and the underworld.
Hadjidakis and her colleagues uncovered scores of vases and other objects beneath the tiled floor of the sanctuary of the temple. One of them was reportedly etched in Doric letters naming the goddess. The finds also include artifacts linking Falasarna to the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians. Other finds include figurines, spearheads, vases, and enthroned feminine figures, to name a few.
Dr. Hatzidakis has dedicated years to the study of this site (2009 story). She began the Falasarna project way back in 1986. The current finds came about with the support of the Director of the Ephorate of Chania, Dr. Eleni Papadopoulou, archaeologist Dr. Michalis Milidakis and the master craftsman K. Mountakis, among others.
The rediscovery of this magnificent site began in earnest back in 1966. Finds from those early days now grace the museums of Kissamos and Chania. Dr. Hadjidakis’ and her colleagues’ efforts include towers, quays, defensive walls, water tanks, baths, an altar, a wine factory, and even a public road. These latest finds will no doubt be followed by many others. It will be interesting for me to learn about the site’s Minoan (Keftiu) and even Neolithic eras.