Fournou Korifi and Pirgos in Mirtos

Minoan Settlements near Mirtos

Fournou Korifi (2800-2200 BC)

At a distance of 3.5 km from Mirtos, on a low hill excavated by British archaeologist Peter Warren in 1968-69, is the Early Minoan settlement of Fournou Korifi which flourished at the dawn of the Bronze Age (2800-2200 BC).

This is one of the first settlements established in Crete. Although it is so early in date, it covers an area of approximately 1250 sq.m., while the excavation brought to light an impressive 90 rooms used for various purposes.

All the buildings of Fournou Korifi are built of large rough stones. Warren says that the settlement was surrounded by a stone wall with two entrances, while the south entrance was reinforced by a bastion.

The settlement of Fournou Korifi was a particularly thriving one. Many workshops and storerooms were found, as well as loomweights, seals, vessels and knives, meaning that they had developed an early form of handicraft production.

Among the various workshops was a pottery workshop with potter’s wheels, indicating surprisingly developed ceramic skills 5,000 years ago.

Mirtos Goddess
Mirtos Goddess, Agios Nikolaos Museum

The vessels made here are in the Vassiliki Style. Their most intriguing feature is the decoration of irregular patterns created by uneven firing (alternating high and low temperatures when firing the pots in a kiln).

The level of pottery development also leads us to conclude that a new socioeconomic class arose then, that of the skilled craftsmen.

At Fournou Korifi workshops were common and the houses were similar, showing that social distinctions had not yet arisen. In other words, this was a prehistoric democracy!

The most impressive find, now on display at Agios Nikolaos Museum, is the Mirtos Goddess from the settlement shrine. This is a clay female figurine holding a jug. The hollow figurine has a long, thin neck and rounded body, and was intended for pouring libations.

Pirgos (2200-1450 BC)

Pirgos is at the east end of the village, next to the riverbed.

The Minoan settlement of Pirgos flourished shortly after that of Fournou Korifi (2200-1450 BC). It was excavated in 1969-1970 and 1981-1982 by archaeologist Gerald Cadogan of the British School at Athens.

fournou koryfi at mirtos crete
The Minoan settlement of Pirgos and the modern coastal town of Mirtos

At the top of the hill is a luxurious building laid out according to the architectural plan of the Minoan palaces, with the other houses of the settlement, workshops and storerooms spread out around it.

The building on the hilltop of Pirgos was obviously the residence of the ruler of the settlement. It has a central court, lightwells, a cistern and a paved staircase leading to a second or even third storey, while traces of wall paintings are preserved at various points.

This means that, in contrast to the Early Minoan settlement at Fournou Korifi, Pirgos had an obvious social hierarchy, expressed in the building layout.

Another difference between the two settlements is in the pottery development: a fast-turning potter’s wheel was found at Pirgos, meaning that the vessels produced here were more elegant and standardised. The pottery finds from Pirgos are also more elaborate and painted with spirals or plant and marine motifs.

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