Heraklion Archaeological Site of Agia Triada

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Location: Tymbaki village

Located in the Messara Plain, in an area of extraordinary natural beauty near the Palace of Phaistos, Agia Triada is an archaeological site known for its Royal Villa, one of the greatest monuments of Minoan architecture.

The first signs of human settlement in Agia Triada date back to the 3rd millennium BC. The Minoan palace was erected on top of a hill around 1600 BC, over the ruins of a pre-existing center, and it is believed to have functioned as the summer residence of the King of Phaistos. According to another theory, it was used by the Anax after the destruction of the palace of Phaistos, while it is also possible that the two palatial centers were employed simultaneously. During the Archaic period, it was converted into a place of worship, and a temple dedicated to Zeus Velchanos was subsequently constructed during the Hellenistic times.

The complex consists of two L-shaped wings, and though smaller than the palaces of Knossos and Phaistos, it evinces all the distinctive features of Minoan architecture: halls with polythyra (pier and door partitions), light-wells, shrines, storerooms, workshops, staircases, porticoes, as well as terraces and balconies and cobblestone courtyards. Boasting more frescoes than all the other Minoan sites on the island put together, it is characterized by great charm and elegance. The southern part is much simpler and is thought to have contained the complex’s ancillary areas.

To the northwest of the Royal Villa, visitors can see the ruins of an extensive Mycenean settlement with its Agora, as well as a necropolis with two early Minoan beehive tombs (30th-23rd centuries BC) and late Minoan chamber tombs (14th century BC). Nearby there are two chapels: Agios Georgios, which was built during the Venetian era, and Agia Triada, which is located in a deserted village.

Archaeological excavations have brought to light a number of outstanding findings, many of which provide crucial information about the everyday life of the Minoans. Among the most notable ones is the Agia Triada sarcophagus, which is unique in many respects. Not only is it the only limestone sarcophagus of its era discovered to date, but it is also coated in plaster and painted in frescoes on all four faces. It is the only one with a series of narrative scenes of Minoan funerary rituals, as later sarcophagi were adorned only with abstract designs and patterns.

Another finding of exquisite beauty is the so-called Harvester Vase, a stone rhyton with a band of relief running around its widest part depicting marching men. Various interpretations have been put forward as to whether this is a harvest celebration, a religious procession, or a military scene. The list would be incomplete without the Cup of the Report, an impressive conical vessel with relief bands, and a conical stone jar depicting boxing and bull-leaping scenes. Other discoveries include a collection of seals, a rare clay figurine of a Minoan goddess on a swing, and the largest cache of Linear A tablets ever found at any Minoan site. All of these items are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.



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