CULTURE

Minoan mansion unearthed on Crete

British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans noted in his diary over a century ago that the architectural traits of construction materials found at an altitude of 900 meters in Gaidoroufas, in the area of Anatoli, Ierapetra, in southeast Crete, pointed to the presence of a Minoan construction in the area.

Today, the building, which according to initial reports could be described as a Minoan mansion, is gradually resurfacing thanks to a five-year Athens University research program. Besides the actual residence, archaeologists are also examining the personal belongings left behind by the mansion?s ancient residents and looking into possible reasons for their sudden departure.

So far two rooms have been unearthed down to floor level during the first part of the excavation project. According to the archaeologists working on the excavation site, the mansion dates to 1600-1400 BC and was abandoned immediately after its destruction for unknown reasons. While similar mansions have been discovered in other parts of the island, these have always been situated no higher than 400 meters above sea level and traditionally tied to Minoan agricultural activity. The new discovery, archaeologists hope, will provide clues with regard to the way natural resources were used by the Minoans in mountainous areas and the importance of mountains in the Minoan economy in general. The only other excavation related to the same period and at a higher altitude is located on the Zominthos plateau in the foothills of Mt Psiloritis, where initial findings point to the existence of a mountain economy largely diversified from the agricultural activity of the Knossos and Phaistos settlements.

According to Yiannis Papadatos, a lecturer in prehistoric archaeology at the University of Athens who is in charge of the Gaidoroufas excavation, very little is known about Minoan activity in the area of Ierapetra.

?We don?t know if there was some kind of administrative center or royal complex in the area, similar to those discovered in neighboring Gournia, Makris Gialos and Myrtos,? said Papadatos.

While exploring the area?s mountains for more clues, the excavation?s archaeological team believes that research conducted in Anatoli will provide invaluable information regarding Minoan life.

The five-year program is funded by Athens University along with various local and international institutions, while the Ierapetra Municipality is also expected to provide assistance to the project.