ATHENS – Archaeologists working at a site in the Greek island of Crete uncovered ancient Minoan tombs that dated back some 3,000 years, the country’s culture ministry announced on Wednesday.
The tombs form part of a cemetery connected to a palace belonging to the early and middle Minoans (2,000-1,700 BC), a Bronze Age civilization that 19th century archaeologists linked to the ancient Greek myth of King Minos and the minotaur who roamed the labyrinth beneath the palace of Knossos, devouring sacrificial youths sent from the recently-conquered Athens.
The latest two graves of the 21 that were uncovered at the Petras palace site, near the city of Siteia, were found to be filled with ivory seals, golden jewelry and semi-precious gems of exceptional beauty, as well as stone cups and small clay statues decorated in the middle Minoan style, the ministry said in a statement.
“The amount of pottery is also very important and includes a very large number of decorated ritual vases,” read the statement.
The head of the excavation was Metaxia Tsipopoulou, director emeritus of the ministry, who coordinated a team of 26 archaeologists from nine different countries.
Until now, 17 monumental tombs, the most spacious one measuring some 125 meters squared (1,345 square feet), have been found and studied, as well as a stone engraving, three pits and two extensive ritual spaces.
Over the last few years, archaeologists digging in the Petras graveyard have found many gold and silver jewels, copper tools, more than 200 stone cups, 65 ivory seals, two signet rings and a huge number of small ceremonial statues.
They have also found human remains that give valuable information on the anatomy of the Minoan man.
The site at Petras, in northeastern Crete, was built on a 40 meter high hill in the early Minoan period (2,800-1,800 BC), though there is evidence that it had been inhabited since the late neolithic (3,500 BC).
Petras palace is believed to have been inhabited continuously until 1,450 BC, when it was destroyed alongside most other Minoan palaces in what experts believe could have been an earthquake or an Anatolian invasion.
The site was first excavated in 1900 by British archaeologist Robert Carr Bosanquett.
In 1985, systematic excavations began under the direction of Tsipopoulou.