Heraklion Minoan Palace of Malia

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Location: Malia Village

The Malia Archaeological Site holds the third largest Minoan Palace found in Crete, after Knossos and Phaistos, and is located 35 kilometers east of Heraklion Town. This palace is believed to date between 1650 and 1450 BCE, although it was built on top of an older palace from 1900 to 1700 BCE that was destroyed by an earthquake.
The archaeological importance of the area was unknown for a very long time until Iosif Hatzidakis came across the palace while digging for gold in the area. As his finances prevented him from continuing his work, the French School at Athens undertook the expedition with digs continuing to this day.

The centerpiece of Malia is, of course, the anaktoron, or palace. Most of the building dates to the Neopalatial Period, after it was reconstructed following its destruction around 1700 BCE, however, the northwestern section dates back to the Protopalatial Period, which would give it an age of almost 4000 years! There is also a small structure in the northern wing, called the oblique room, which clashes with the floorplan and is believed to be from the Postpalatial or Mycenaean Period after the palace burned down in the 13th century BCE.

The palace is known for its enormous central courtyard, which measures 48 x 23 meters and features an altar in the middle. This would have served as the religious center of the area and is believed to be a relic of the original palace that was kept during reconstruction. At the northern and eastern edges were built stoas, with the eastern stoa built out of wooden and stone pessoi square columns.

The most important wing of the palace was the western one, as two massive staircases led from the courtyard to an upper level, whereas the rest of the building was exclusively at grade. The upper level would have housed the royal quarters, as well as any religious or administrative members of the court. An interesting feature here is what is referred to as the loggia, which was essentially a raised platform where religious ceremonies would have been held.
The western wing’s lower level preserves the so-called “crypt”, a room that included many in-door columns, with its main purpose being holding up the upper level. Religious ceremonies are believed to have taken place here, as well.
Just south of the crypt is the widest of the two staircases, which would have also served as a seating area for those observing the ceremonies taking place in the courtyard, akin to the “theatre” found in other Minoan palaces. Here, one can see the kernos, a unique, circular stone tray with 33 small and one large depression on its rim, where votive liquids, such as oil or wine, would be poured.

The southwest of the palace features 8 circular structures, which were used as grain silos by the Minoans, while the eastern wing (as well as sections of the western and northern wings) functioned as a storehouse. It is clear which rooms were meant to store liquids, as they include a sophisticated drainage system in the case of spills. These liquids would have been held in enormous pithoi, up to two meters tall, some of which have been reconstructed and can be seen at the site today.

Another structure closely connected to the settlement at Malia is the Chysolakkos Necropolis. Located about 500 meters north of the main archaeological site. This structure was divided into at least 40 burial chambers and included an altar and a kernos for religious offerings.
One of the Minoan Civilization’s most recognizable artifacts, the gold bee pendant, was discovered here, where it was once placed as a grave good for a presumably wealthy individual. This artifact is today held at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, as is the renowned axe-head, with one end featuring an ornamental panther design. This is believed to have been the decoration at the tip of a scepter, perhaps belonging to a royal. Apart from these two major artifacts, however, most of the finds from Malia are at the Agios Nikolaos Archaeological Museum, including pottery, jewelry, and other artistic expressions of the people of the palace.

Finally, visitors to the site of Malia can step inside the information center, where photographs of the finds in situ, as well as sketches of the layout, hang on the walls, while the floor is dominated by reconstructions of what the palace would have looked like.

Opening hours:
Summer Season (01/06 - 31/10): Wednesday - Monday, 08:00 - 15:00; Tuesday closed
Winter Season (01/11 - 31/05): Wednesday - Monday, 08:30 - 15:00; Tuesday closed



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