In a small, closed valley, 15 km south of Knossos, the Minoan city of Archanes with its palatial complex was discovered. It is one of the most important areas of Crete. Human presence appeared there in the Late Minoan period and remained remarkable until the historic times.
The site is important because of the long history of the settlement and the funerary monuments, which represent various aspects and activities of that community. During the late Minoan period, the Minoan Crete was very prosperous. New luxurious palaces were built and the “Pax Minoica” prevailed.
Neolithic tools of the Late Neolithic and the Sub-Neolithic periods are evidence of the first human settlement in the wider area of Archanes. It is possible that certain scattered settlements existed during that period. With the introduction of copper in the Hellenic area, new conditions were created. Safer houses were built; worship took place in caves and small domestic sanctuaries, while vaulted tombs and graveyards began to appear.
Contacts with the Cyclades, Egypt and the Orient began at the time. Architectural remains found near the palatial complex attest the existence of an early Minoan settlement. However, the most significant information is provided by the funerary monuments of the necropolis of Fourni. Funerary gifts, including pottery items, seals, Cycladic statuettes, jewellery and Egyptian scarabs testify the wealth of the residents and indicate an organized social life with intense external contacts.
During the middle Minoan period life continues in Archanes and the settlement develops into an important Minoan community with a Minoan palace. There are architectural remains under the later palace, while excellent camaraic pottery items were found in Tourkogeitonia, Deksameni, the Theatre and elsewhere. Population is now dense, while early Minoan “islets” are united into communities. The temples of the area of Archanes provide valuable information on the worship practices of the time.
A summit temple was found on the summit Psili Korifi of Mount Yuhtas. The independent temple in Anemospilia, in the north slope of Yuhtas, is also a very important sanctuary, where an alleged human sacrifice has been discovered.
During the late Minoan period the palace of Archanes becomes more brilliant and the settlement also experiences great development. Important private houses or mansions are built in the area (Vitsila, Karnari, Hommatolakos, Kseri Kara, Vathypetro). The excavated part of the palace of Archanes dates from this period.
In around 1450 B.C. one more major earthquake destroyed Crete and Archanes. A splendid period ends but the city and the palace continue to exist. Life continues, while the necropolis at Fourni offers important evidence about the prosperous period of the settlement. The appearance of the Mycenaeans in Crete does not cause stagnation. On the contrary, abundant Mycenaean finds from the palace and the necropolis reveal continuous development.
During the historic times, various finds from Archanes and the wider area confirm the existence of continuous habitation. Potsherds from various periods, inscribed columns, statuettes and statues are samples of the remarkable art that developed in the area. The temple at Yuhtas, where worship continued, continued to be of great importance. The name “Archanes” is referred to for the first time in the classical period. In 67 B.C. Metellos turns Crete into a Roman province. Archanes now belongs to the area of Knossos. Architectural remains of houses and graves confirm the existence of a settlement.
Remains from the Byzantine period are scarce. In the wider area the fortress Rokkas was built (10th century A.D.). Some monuments from the Venetian occupation have been preserved in Archanes, such as the Morosini fountain. The next conquerors of Crete, the Ottomans (1669-1898), also left their traces in Archanes, as the settlement became part of the headquarters of the Ottoman officials.
Excavations in Archanes began in the beginning of the 20th century. Xanthoudides was the first to draw attention to the existence of antiquities. Excavations were started, however, by Evans, who recognized the palatial nature of the Minoan complex. The research of Evans in the palatial complex was continued by Sakellarakis. In 1956 the necropolis of Fourni was discovered and gave new impetus to the research. In 1966 the excavation of Archanes was taken over by the Archaeological Society and it is continued by G. Sakellarakis and E. Sapouna – Sakellaraki.