Ancient Aptera, on Crete, reveals buried secrets

Two large funerary monuments, one with an underground burial chamber, have been discovered by archaeologists in the Fortress of Ancient Aptera, in the prefecture of Hania, Crete. The final stage of the work, being carried out by the 25th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, is aimed at highlighting the site in general and, more specifically, at stabilizing the very tall architectural structures and uncovering the wall. The discovery of these graves, along with other smaller findings, is important partly insofar as they are easily accessible from the town of Hania. The excavations revealed the total length of the fortress (3,480 meters), which dates from shortly after the middle of the 4th century BC. Work has focused on the western side of the fortress, where the town’s western cemetery begins. The excavations, directed by archaeologist Vanna Niniou-Kindeli, first came upon one of the city gates and a rectangular tower. Strata bearing traces of battles during the Hellenistic period were found, along with traces of the graves of newborn infants in the second half of the 4th century, near the tower. Next to the heroes’ monument discovered during work carried out under the European Union’s Second Community Support Framework, two large grave monuments were found in good condition. The more impressive of the two, according to the experts, has a well-constructed underground mausoleum accessed by a staircase and antechamber. It is constructed of large stone plinths. Nails are still fixed in the walls for hanging lamps. In the main chamber are four stone graves which were partly looted in the 6th or 7th century AD, when other graves on the site were dug. The two monuments probably date from the 1st-2nd centuries AD, although the underground monument might have been constructed during the Hellenistic period. Other items found include slabs, pots, lamps, pellets for catapults and coins. The project, directed by Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, will cost 880,441 euros.