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The Palace of Zakros

Archaeological Sites


At first glance

The fourth in size Minoan palace in Crete, following the palaces of Knossos, Phaistos and Malia, the palace of Zakros constituted a major port and commercial gateway to the East, as verified by many archaeological findings (elephant tusks, faience, copper, etc.). Strategically positioned in the area and sheltered by a cape on the east tip of the island, it was considered the administrative, religious and commercial centre of Zakros, which expanded around it, and had two main construction phases: the old palace was built around 1900 BC, whereas the new palace was constructed approximately in 1600 BC and was destroyed, along all other centres of Minoan Crete, in 1450 BC, when the site was abandoned for good.

Places to visit

The palace of Zakros spreads out over a distance of more than 8,000 square meters and can be found at the exit of the famed Gorge of the Dead. It follows the typical layout of Minoan palaces, with the main gate on the east side, whereas the second main gate is located on the northeast side, leading to a paved road that would connect it to the harbour. A road with steps descending towards the northeast gate and continuing up to the main gate, is thought to be the core of the construction and the place where religious rituals would be held. It was surrounded by facades and porticos with columns-pillars which supported verandas. On the northwest side,  an altar had been built. In order for visitors to grasp the mere size and importance of Zakros during Minoan times, all they need to do is visualise that inside the premises of the palace, 300 rooms of various utilities, as well as many floors have been discovered.

The west wing of the palace would be the primary site for ceremonial activities. This is where you would come across a large hypostyle hall named the «Hall of ceremonies», with a peristyle «lightwell» and halls with pier-and-door partitions («polythyra»), one of which led to the «banquet hall», named after the amphora vases and wine pitchers discovered there. The west side of the wing was devoted to a shrine and consisted of eleven rooms of different dimensions. A small room with an elevated bench for the placement of objects would be the main sanctuary and was unaccessible to the public. Right next to it, there was an underground lustral basin, whereas on the south side, three auxiliary rooms were situated: a stone-carving workshop, a storage room and a treasury. Further on the east side, there was an archive room where pyxes containing clay Linear A signs were found on top of clay shelves.

On the east wing is where the «royal quarters» would be situated, as well as the administrative centre, whereas through the main gate, a pier-and-door partition hall led to the so-called «cistern room». On the south wing, a small complex of workshops could be found, dedicated to the production of perfumes and small items made of faience, rock crystal and other valuable materials. On the south wing, there was a large flight of stairs which led up to the first floor, where you would find the «royal repositories», a lustral basin and a large room accessible through a corridor, which is believed to have been the kitchen area and probably served as the banquet hall of the upper floor.

Not to be missed

The Treasury, the only Minoan artefact of its kind that was unearthed without any signs of pillaging, provided us with a vast array of exquisite ritual vessels, as well as breathtaking findings which were brought to light during excavations by the Greek archaeologist Nikolaos Platon. Most of these artefacts are displayed in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.


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