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Ancient Zominthos

Place description

The ancient site of Zominthos can be found in the Psiloritis range, 7km west of Anogia, on the road leading to the Nida plateau. Discovered in 1982, Zominthos is considered one of the most significant archaeological finds in Crete, often compared to Knossos.

During archaeological work in the cave of Ideon Andron (1982), archaeologist Yiannis Sakellarakis spoke with a local shepherd who mentioned the name Zominthos. Sakellarakis immediately realized that this name referred to an ancient location and visited the site the next day, where he quickly identified traces of a Minoan mansion.

Excavations are still ongoing, conducted by the Greek Archaeological Service and the University of Heidelberg. So far, archaeologists have uncovered a large, luxurious building covering an area of 1360 square meters, constructed from local stone and consisting of around 80 rooms. The two- or three-story building had walls plastered with clay for insulation and adorned with murals. A smaller Mycenaean building has also been discovered nearby. It is remarkable that such a large complex existed at an altitude of 1200m, although it is believed to have been closed during the winter months due to snow.

The building was constructed around 1900 BC, reached its peak in 1600 BC, and was destroyed in 1400 BC, likely by an earthquake. Zominthos was undoubtedly one of the most prominent Minoan settlements and is thought to have been a station for Minoans visiting the sacred cave of Ideon Andron. Indeed, Zominthos is situated on the ancient trail that began at Knossos, passed through the gorge of Kroussonas, Livadi Plateau, and then through Zominthos, where a sacred spring was located (at the site of the current church of Saint Marina). According to Homer, King Minos visited Ideon Andron every nine years to receive laws for his people. Thus, Zominthos may have also been built to accommodate Minos during his visits to the cave.

However, Zominthos also appears to have served as a financial and organizational center for trading the famous Cretan cypress, as well as the popular agricultural products and livestock of the Ida Range. It is no coincidence that scripts from Knossos mention thousands of sheep, which likely originated from Ida.

Archaeologists are working to reconstruct the physical environment in which Zominthos was situated. This task is relatively easy, as there has been no human presence for centuries, and the natural environment has remained intact. Additionally, within the archaeological site, a large hawthorn tree has been officially declared a monument of nature.

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