(More) Evidence of Human Sacrifice from Crete?

Another one from ANSA:

A new discovery made during archaeological digs on the Greek island of Crete confirms the hypothesis, already advanced in the past, that over 3,000 years ago human beings, and not only animals, were sacrificed to local gods.

The site in which the artefacts were discovered is on the hill of Castelli near Splazia, in the area of the city of Chania, the second city of Crete on the north-western part of the island, built in 1252 at the order of the 44th Doge of Venice Marino Morosini over the ancient city of Cydonia.

The excavations led to the discovery of many tombs and ceramic vases from the Mycenaean period, buildings similar to Mycenaean palaces, frescoes from the Minoan era, fragments of a vase with linear B writing used in Mycenaean language, Roman statues, fragments of mosaics from Hellenic and Christian eras and animal and human bones including the skull of a young woman allegedly dating back to 1280 BC which would prove that humans were also sacrificed 3,000 years ago during religious rites, and not just animals.

The bones were discovered in the corner of a court outside which, according to the evidence found, was beside the royal palace of the city of Cydonia built like buildings from the Mycenaean period between 1375 and 1200 BC.

‘Under the stones placed in an ordered way we found what we expected: the skull of a young woman, not in one piece, amid animal skulls. It was broken, just like the others, with a strong blow to the forehead’, said archaeologist Maria Andreadakis-Vlazakis, director of antiquities and cultural heritage at the Greek culture ministry, who directs excavation work.

The artifacts show that an important settlement that would gradually become the city of Cydonia was already in the area in the Neolithic period, the researcher said at a conference on ‘Chania’ in the Minoan era’ held at the headquarters of Greece’s Association of archaeologists.

‘We believe the woman was killed during a human sacrifice and not of animals’, said Andreadakis, referring to the skull found. ‘We have not yet drawn the final conclusions, we need to study the bones much more closely. By the month of October however we will be ready to present the results at the international archaeology congress in Milan on the theme of human sacrifices in ancient history. The findings from excavations in Chania’ will be the main topic of the congress’.

Excavation work, involving the 25th Superintendency of classic antiquities in cooperation with the Swedish and Danish archeological institutes, have been ongoing since 2005 and the most important artifacts were discovered in 2012.

‘The presence of the human skull must not surprise us as Greek mythology is full of stories of sacrifices of virgins in an attempt made by society to ingratiate gods and confront great disasters’, said Andreadakis.

Now despite tales of the Minotaur, and the like, scholars of our generation(s) have tended to be skeptical of claims of human sacrifice among the Greeks, especially the folks on Crete. I don’t think we have a scholarly consensus yet, but folks might want to peruse news reports from the past which mention other finds which might make you go hmmmmm:

From 1979 from Heraklion (this is the work/find of Ioannis Sakellerakis)

From back in 1980 near Heraklion (clearly the same site; more details):

And on the mainland, we’ve heard of possible human sacrifice at Mt Lykaion:

Zominthos Update

Despite ANSA‘s headline, this is a dig that has been going on for quite a few years:

An accidental meeting in 1982 between a well-known Greek archaeologist, Yannis Sakellarakis, and a shepherd from Crete has led to an archaeological discovery of great importance; Zominthos, a settlement from the Minoan era on the plain by the same name, 1.187 metres above the sea. The settlement is at the feet of the highest mountain in Crete, Mount Psiloritis, eight kilometres from the village of Anogia along the road which led from Knossos to Ideon Andron, the cave where Zeus was born according to Greek mythology.

The shepherd, who lived in Anogia, invited the archaeologist who was working at an excavation site nearby to visit the area of Zominthos. The name was enough for an expert like Sakellarakis to suspect that something could be found in that area. Once he travelled to Zominthos the following day, he realized he was standing in front of a settlement from the Minoan era hiding behind the thick vegetation. A year later, in the summer of 1983, Sakellaris with colleague and partner Efi Sapouna Sakellaraki started excavations until 1990. They resumed them in 2004 and they are ongoing.

In the past few years, the remains of an impressive and luxurious building from 3,500 years ago has seen the light. The building has two or three floors and some 80 rooms including workshops and storage rooms over a surface of 1,360 square metres and it is in excellent state. Sapouna-Sakellaraki told To Vima weekly that it is the first Minoan mountain settlement built in the same period as the Palace of Knossos. The archaeologist also said this is the largest summer residence found so far from the Minoan era.

The structure of the building shows that it was not a seasonal house for shepherds but a luxury residence for local leaders. The building was a great administrative centre and was built with large, elongated stones while walls had been painted in different colours as shown by the building’s remains. Experts believe the palace was destroyed by a violent earthquake.

Research so far has shown that three time periods emerge from the remains of the Palace of Zominthos – its first construction in 1900 BC, the second around 1600 BC at the height of its prosperity, when it was presumably destroyed by an earthquake and around 1400 BC when another building was built nearby.

Archaeological findings in Zominthos are several including signets with scorpions or birds and ornamental objects in copper and ivory. Two copper statues were also found, “among the most beautiful from the most prosperous Minoan period”, said the archaeologist, who believes these prove the area was also a place of worship. Excavations have in fact unearthed among other things a metallic cylinder with snakes which could have been the sceptre of a priest and a copper cup.

Of course, this dig is also the subject of one of Archaeology Magazine’s Interactive Digs … plenty of material there to occupy your time: Interactive Dig Crete: Zominthos Project

Minoan ‘Mansion’ from Crete

Tantalizingly brief item from Kathimerini:

A Minoan mansion dating to 1600-1400 BC has been discovered during an excavation in the mountainous area of Anatoli, Ierapetra, southeast Crete.

According to archaeologists taking part in the excavating process, the discovery is expected to provide answers with regard to Minoan activity in mountainous areas as well as to the Minoan civilization in the area of Ierapetra in general.

… hopefully we’ll hear more details …