In October 2023, the Greek Ministry of Culture announced that the archaeologists unveiled new significant discoveries at the Minoan Palace of Archanes.
This year’s excavation of the Minoan Palace at Archanes, led by Dr. Efi Sapounas-Sakellarakis of the Archaeological Society, unveiled fascinating discoveries. The northernmost section of the palace was meticulously excavated, shedding new light on its architecture and construction. The ground floor and first floor were meticulously unearthed, while stones from the upper floors revealed intriguing insights.
Of particular interest was the revelation that the palace was constructed using gypsum, a shiny material also found in Phaistos and Knossos. In Archanes, gypsum was used to embellish pilasters and multi-doors, creating a striking visual effect. The uncovering of the multi-doored palace, plaster doors, and a central column formed a significant part of the “Minoan Hall,” a crucial element of elite Minoan architecture.
At the Minoan Palace at Archanes, recent excavations have uncovered new insights into the destructive fire that ravaged a portion of the palace. During the 1999/2000 excavations, it was discovered that rooms 30-33 in the northern section had been significantly damaged by a powerful fire, in stark contrast to the relatively unscathed south and west sections. The intensity of the fire was estimated to have reached 1000 degrees Fahrenheit by the Fire Service. Notably, room 33, which was not designated as a storage area, contained a collection of approximately 20 large jars holding wine, oil, and textiles, as well as unique perfume vases and an Egyptian scarab.
Subsequent excavations in 2023 revealed evidence suggesting that the fire originated from an upper-floor area, with a substantial layer of ash and charred wood concentrated in the northeastern section. This accumulation extended to the floor, indicating the fire’s potential path.
Furthermore, the excavated area likely housed a sanctuary, supported by the discovery of surviving crystal fragments, grey/leucolite, incised steatite vessels, and obsidian fragments. Notably, obsidian was not commonly used during the YMI period around 1600 BC, suggesting a ritualistic or magical significance to the abundance of obsidian artefacts found at the site.
Microscopic samples of large vessels have been discovered in the Minoan Palace at Archanes, including parts from dedicated kettles. A sea newt, believed to have been used for invoking the deity, was also found, along with larger sea pebbles symbolizing the deity’s marine status. These pebbles, known for their use in Knossos, were discovered near an agate seal stone with a fish representation. The sanctuary, typical of similar sites, was not utilized during the Minoan era.
In the upper layers, a fragment of a bronze buckle and the foot of a Mycenaean goblet were unearthed, along with a Doge of Venice coin and a 1963 US coin. Furthermore, conical and “egg cup” fragments indicated illicit excavation in the palace area. The building’s floors were adorned with pebble, mosaic, and clay slabs, while the walls, reaching a height of 2 meters, featured thin plaster and remnants of fine mortars bearing frescoes. A window connected room 37 with room 33.
Noteworthy elements include brick walls in two rooms, clay cupboards on both floors and empty cupboards from this year’s excavations.
Dr. Polina Sapouna ΄Ellis, Dimitris Kokkinakos, Persefoni Xylouri, Yiannis Androulidakis, Agapi Ladianou, Veta Kalivianaki, and Chrysanthi Zacharioudaki conducted this year’s excavation. The Region of Crete and the Psycha Foundation provided financial support, and the Municipality of Archana/Asterousia also contributed to the project.
The Minoan Palace at Archanes is located 15 km from Knossos and is believed to be of similar size, as stated by Giannis Sakellarakis.