Also known as the «Pompeii ofMinoanCrete» due to the fact that it is exceptionally well-preserved, the Gourniasettlement is considered to bethemost characteristic representation of an excavated area belonging to the golden age of the Minoan civilisation (1550 to 1450 BC). Built on top of a small hill and very close to the sea, you will come across this site while travelling from Agios Nikolaos to Ierapetra at the halfway point.
The first settlers of Gourniainhabited the area during the Early Minoan Period ΙΙΙ (2300 BC). Remnants dating back to theMiddle Minoan Periodare preserved to this day (2000 to 1600 BC), whereasthepalacewas builtapproximately in 1600 BC. The settlement was destroyed in its entirety, along with all other Minoancentres, around 1450 BC. After fifty years, there was a period in time where the site was «reclaimed», buteventually it was permanently abandoned around 1200 BC. The residents of Gournia used to work in agriculture, the raising of animals, fishing, pottery and in the production of textiles,as evident by a series of archaeological findings (chisels, fish hooks, hammers, etc.).
Places to visit
The unwalled city was spread out on theslopes of the hill. Twoperipheralpavedroads, oftentimes with steps, which were vertically divided by smaller roads, constituted city blocks and were connected to the sewerage system. It will be worth your time to visit thesite where the two-storey houses with shared exterior walls used to stand (the largest of which was 5Χ5 meters in size). Nowadays,the storage rooms and the workshops on the ground floor, as well asthe basementswhich were accessible by wooden stairs from above, are maintained. The main residence was located on the first floor and was accessible by a flight of stairs connecting it to the street. The walls on the lower part of the building werestone-built, whereasthefloorwasconstructed usingmudbricks.
On top of the hilland on the west side of therectangular courtyard, you will come across the palace which was considered to be theadministrative and και financialcentreof the settlement. An L-shaped row of steps is attached to thesouthside of the palace which faces the courtyard, possibly forming spectator’s seats in a theatre. Behind thestaircase, there is a small paved room of stones with distinctive holes, believed to bea platformforbullsacrifices, whereasbeside it lays a «kernos», asmallstonewithhollows, possibly used for offeringsto deities. The west side of the palace which overlooked a small paved courtyard, is believed to have beenmonumental in shape and adorned with decorativerecessionsandprojections, a door installed in the centre, as well as windows, none of which are preservednowadays.
The interiors of thepalace are not preserved in the best condition. Nevertheless, it is affirmed that they featuredofficial roomsand repositories as well as a second floor. Thecentralhallwas separated from thecentralcourtyard by a long sequence of round wooden columns, alternating with squarestonepiers.
Not to be missed
In addition to the palace which was the local lord’s residence, it is worth visiting the smallpublic shrine to the north of the site which was possibly dedicated to the Minoan snake goddess. It is practically a square room and has a stall on its south side for the deposition of religious objects, some of which were unearthed during excavations: clayfigurinesof the goddesswithraisedarms, a tripodaltar andsnaketubes.
- Accessible for people with special needs: YES
- Location: Ierapetra
- Fax: +30 28410 22462
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- Operation Hours: 08:00-15:00
- Ticket Price (€): 2
- Reduced Ticket Price (€): 1