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The 'highest' palace in Crete, the zominthos palace, continues to be excavated by the Archaeological Society under the baton of the Honorary Director of Antiquities, Dr. Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki. Despite the difficult conditions (COVID-19), the excavation was carried out with all mandatory protection measures.
The purpose of the excavation was clarify how to access the north entrance of the Central Building, one of the central entrances, and verify the biomagnetic research carried out by A. Sarris' team north of the Central Building.
Discoveries in the central building of the palace
This year's excavation showed that the existing Central Building, two or even three stories, It had an earlier use from at least 2000 BC. and until the year 1700 BC. when it began to expand into the surrounding area; a fact that has already been recognized in previous excavation periods and that culminated this year with the discovery of two new complexes.
In the end it turns out that the excavation on the north slope of the hill, where the palace is located, has not been exhausted by excavations and that more research is needed.
The studies have determined that the palace of Zominthos had a political, economic and religious character throughout its existence, due to its proximity to the great religious center of the Ideon Andron whose fame spread to the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Egypt.
This year's excavation showed that access to the north entrance had already been made in the era Protopalacial (around 1900 BC) down a ramp that ended in a strong retaining wall, and was subsequently paved with slabs twice during the period Neopalacial (1700- 1600 BC).
A sloping ritual corridor was built into the strong retaining wall leading to the north entrance.
Its use since the period of the first palaces is confirmed by ceramics and especially by mugs from the middle Minoan period (around 1800 BC), typical of Knossos pottery.
At the level of late Minoan period (around 1650 BC) three stone openings (drainage pipes) belonging to areas of the Central Building and the western apartments attached to it were unearthed immediately after its destruction, around 1650 BC. (Complex I).
Zominthos Palace Complex I
From Complex I what is now called the "northern sanctuary" of the Neopalatial period, an important sanctuary outside the Central Building, stands out. Part of it was excavated in 2019 and specifically an altar with stones, between and on which a series of ritual vessels came to light.
The discovery of a small sheet of gold unearthed after the rain led to a search under the stone layer of the altar where a surprise awaited the excavators.
In the center of the underlying layer was a burned piece of wood to which about 90 small sheets of gold were attached or scattered. The discovery of this set can only indicate the existence of a wooden idol covered with a fine gold leaf.
The corresponding idols clad in gold are known from the ivory figurines from Archanes and Palaiokastro.
On the same level were found a stone, a ritual container to receive liquids and a seal with a representation of an animal on its sealing surface.
Obviously, after the first destruction of the new palaces, the building's occupants preserved the remains of the ruined idol on which the stone altar with the ritual vessels mentioned above was built.
The timeless sanctity of the place is manifested by the existence in the same place, on a lower level and north of the altar, of an earlier shrine from the Proto-Palatial period (around 1900 BC), in which fragmentary statuettes of people and animals were unearthed .
Among them is a beautiful female figure called «the Lady of Zominthos».
Zominthos Palace Complex II
North of Complex I A second complex of rooms (Complex II) was unearthed, separated from the first by a narrow corridor. The rooms are paved and equipped with a major sewage system, with pipes starting from Complex I and continuing further north.
In one of these rooms and among the ceramic finds, an important flower-shaped seal came to light, dating from the time of the first palaces.
Ceramic remains show, in fact, that the use of the site began even before the foundation of the first palaces, that is, before the year 2000 B.C.
Both the drainage and sewerage systems demonstrate the advanced and technological expertise that existed at Zominthos.
The use over time of the section excavated this year is also evidenced by a coin from the Doge of Venice Pietro Gradenigo (1289-1311), which coincides with the IV Crusade and the period of Venetian rule in Crete.