Zakros Minoan Palace

The Minoan Palace of Zakros

Zakros Palace in Crete is one of the latest vestiges of the ancient Minoan civilization that was unearthed in our time. Zakros Palace is the last of the Minoan Palaces that has come into light as a whole.

zakros palace on the map of crete

The site of this Minoan palace is situated on Crete’s eastern coast, in the region of Zakros, just south of Palaikastro, another interesting Minoan settlement.

Of the four Minoan palaces to be discovered by archaeologists – the others being Malia, Phaistos and, of course, Knossos – the palace of Zakros is the smallest.

the minoan palace of zakros
No 1: entrance to the palace of Zakros, No2: central court | Source:

The palace itself covered an extension of 4,500 square meters and crowned a flourishing urban centre with an area of over 8,000 square metres as a whole. However Zakros Palace is only a fifth of the size of Knossos, the latter being the largest of the Minoan palaces in Crete and the centre of the Minoan civilization in general.

The first excavations in the area occupied by Zakros Palace were done in the early 1900s. They were headed by David George Hogarth, an archaeologist and scholar who worked with the British School of Archaeology in Athens. Hogarth’s digs yielded about 10 Late Minoan houses and other valuable findings such as pottery, bronze tools and spurs of mail exchange dating back to the prehistorical era, yet the Second World War discontinued his project.

The ruins of Zakros Palace emerged when work at the site was resumed by renowned Greek archaeologist Nikolaos Platon in 1961. Much of what is known about Zakros Palace is due to Platon’s work. The excavations at Kato Zakros continue until today.

How to get to the Palace of Zakros – Visiting Hours

The Palace of Zakros is open to the public daily except Mondays, from 9:00 to 15:00. You can get there by taking the bus from Sitia to Kato Zakros. The distance is 45 kilometres and the journey takes about an hour.

If you like walks in the countryside, you can walk down the Zakros Gorge to the archaeological site.

The Significance of Zakros Palace

The findings in Zakros Palace are considered to be of the most important discoveries with regards to studies of the ancient Minoan civilization and they are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Sitia.

glass vase found in zakros
rock-crystall ritual vessel found in Zakros

Because the Zakros Minoan palace was unearthed a lot later than the other three of its kind, the work done here made use of more advanced methods in archaeology. But more than that, the ruins of Zakros Palace has been preserved over time, untouched by robbers.

It is theorised that Zakros Palace was an administrative and religion’s centre, a very important commercial harbour that connected Minoan Crete to Asia and Africa. Evidence of this theory came in the form of large quantities of row materials and export goods stored such as artefacts with local origins in places such as Cyprus, Egypt and the Middle East. The strategic location of Zakros Palace itself on the eastern coast of Crete, protected from the winds of Cape Sidero, suggests that.

The Structure of Zakros Palace

Archaeological findings have pegged the date of Zakros Palace’s construction at around 1900 BC, the same time Knossos and the other Minoan palaces were built. The original palace, however, was levelled down by an earthquake and was replaced with a new structure in around 1600 BC. This second palace faced its final destruction in about 1450 BC and was not rebuilt again.

As seen from the layout of the ruins of Zakros Palace, its dominant section is its Central Court. The Central Court has an area of 30 by 12 metres and is flanked by the wings that make up Zakros Palace itself. A roadway also connects the Central Court to the harbour.

The north and south wings of the Zakros Minoan palace are made up of the monumental staircase, kitchen, various workshops and other auxiliary buildings respectively. One of the workshops is believed to be a place where faience pottery was made. Pottery pieces created with the faience technique possess a special glazed effect. Treasury

The west wing of the Zakros Minoan palace contains among the storage rooms, the treasury, the archive and other constructions built for public or ritual reasons, a shrine with a lustral basin. The function of this lustral basin has been the subject of debates among scholars. One side claims that the basin was used for ritual purification of the body, while the other side contends that the basin functioned as a symbolic place for ritual cleansing.

The royal apartments can be found on the eastern wing of the Zakros Palace. The apartments for the king and the queen are separate. At the eastern part of the royal apartments can be found what was dubbed the Cistern Room. The Cistern Room has a circular pool with seven steps descending into it.

Zakros Palace itself is surrounded by a town with large houses arranged in blocks. A number of these houses contain as much as 30 rooms. It is believed, however, that some of these houses are not exactly dwellings but rather buildings serving some sort of function for the palace.

Zakros Palace and its surrounding town must have truly been an important settlement in its day. It nonetheless is still a valuable source of insights into Minoan culture today.

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