Sitia, Kato Zakro, and Palaikastro

It was our second day of looking at Minoan culture and our first introduction to the Mycenaean Culture. We started the day at the Archaeological Museum of Sitia looking mostly at pottery. The museum also houses the Palaikastro Kouros which is possibly the most eerie looking statue. It’s carved from a hippopotamus tooth with rock crystal eyes. The figure was subsequently burned after creation leaving a faceless, charred, and skinny figure holding a ridged stance with amazing anatomical detail showing lean muscles, veins, and nails. The level of detail is simply amazing given it was created during the late Bronze Age. It’s believed the figure was clothed in gold. Yet, it’s purpose is not entirely certain. It would seem that the figure is some sort of religious or cult figure due to the condition it was found in by archaeologists (i.e., smashed and burned). Then again, religious artifact seems to be a catch-all term used to explain things that we cannot clearly identify for other uses.

Map of the Neo-Palatial Period of Palaikastro showing archaeological finds (including Kuros)




Pottery forms and styles at the Museum illustrated nearly all periods of time for the Minoan culture. Forms included initial Cycladic forms, abstract animal shaped Koumasa, large storage Pithoi, and ritualistic Rhyta. These pithoi (singular: pithos) would have stored wet and dry goods in the magazines that we saw the day before at Malia and Gournia. Rhyta could only be described as ritualistic in that the shapes appeared to come in the shape of animal heads (e.g., bull) or highly pointed bottoms making them impossible to stand-up on their own. Styles included black background floral patterned Kamares ware, the more fluid floral patterns of the Floral style, the sea life focused Marine style, and finally the abstract Palace style.

We then made our way to the Palace at Kato Zakro to compare and contrast it with Malia and Gournia. Like Malia and Gournia, Kato Zakro had courtyards and magazines albeit at a reduced size. Kato Zakro and Malia had lustral basins and polythyra (singular: polythyron) in common, too, but with the addition of a shelf within the lustral basin suggesting ornamentation. However, Kato Zakro also contained water features such as wells and other spaces believed to be treasuries, workshops, kiln, and archive. Additionally, the shrine at Kato Zakro, in contrast to Malia and Gournia, was connected to the Palace. Overall, Kato Zakro seems to have a wealthier status than Malia and Gournia due to the presence of more polythyra and lustral basins. Possibly there was a focus on a secondary (i.e. manufactured goods) economy opposed to primary (i.e. gather and harvest) economy.

Our trip to Palaikastro was predominately to look at the megaron — a facet of the Mycenean culture. A megaron is a structure whose roof is held up by four columns and has a space in the center for a fire with a hole above it for smoke to escape. Within the megaron, the Palaikastro Kouros was discovered by archaeologists suggesting that this was a ritual space.

Palaikastro Palatial site
Map of the Palaikastro Palatial site

UPDATED: Added photos



Author: johnwallx

NC State University PhD Student in Earth Science with a masters in Geographic Information Systems.

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