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Greece » Crete » Heraklion Prefecture » Heraklion Sightseeing » The archaeological site of Malia
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The archaeological site of Malia

The archaeological site of Malia is situated at a distance of some 38 kilometres far from Heraklion at the East, 2 kilometres far from the village of Malia, in the area between the National Road and the sea.

Traces of human activity, mainly potshreds, found at the place go back to the Neolithic period (6000 - 3000 b.C.)and continues in the next millennium (3000 - 2000 b.C.); houses  of the Prepalatial settlement have been under the palace of 2000 b.C., whereas a series of graves are situated close to the beach.
The first palace is built in early 2nd millenium b.C. and the prepalatial settlement becomes a centre of the Minoan civilisation.  This palace collapses in circa 1700 b.C., but soon enough, within the next 50 years it is rebuilt at the same place and with basically the same design; several changes and additions are made in circa 1600 b.C. In the mid-15th century the palace is destroyed again, along with the destruction of the other Minoan palatial centres, possibly by the Mycenean invaders and a period of decline starts for some 100 years; in 1350 there are traces of a short peiod of recovery, and after that the abandonment.  

The site present some activity in the Roman period, as at the site of Marmara there have been discovered the ruins of the Roman settlement, as well as a basilica of the 6th century A.D.

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The site had been noticed since the mid-19th century; several travellers, among which the British admiral Th. Spratt, refer that golden items had been found at the site "Helleniko Livadi". However, excavations at the area started only in early 20th century (1915) by the Greek archaeologist J. Chantzidakis, who excavated the hill of "Azymo" and brought to light a part of the palace and the graves on the beach. Chantzidakis stopped soon and the work was undertaken by the French School of Archaeology, which continue to carry out excavations at the site up to now, with intervals.

Most of the mobile finds are displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, but several are also found at the Archaeological Museum of Aghios Nikolaos.

Most of the ruins visible today belong to the New Palace complex; the visitor can also see a small part of the old palace at the Northwest, and a small building of the Postpalatial period at the Northern courtyard.

Today, the visitor enters the palace from the western, paved, courtyard with raised corridors, the "procession streets" as archaeologists call them. There are entrances in every side, but the main ones were those in the north and south wings. The central courtyard has "stoa" (galleries) at the northern end eastern side and an altar at the middle.

At the western wing of the palace you will see a two-storeyed building with storerooms, spaces for cult and official appartments. The southern wing, also two-storeyed is comprised by luxurious appartments and guests' rooms, a small shrine and the monunental, paved, entrance to the palace, that leads to the central courtyard. Just next, you may see the eight circulare structures used for grain storage.

The eastern wing is impressive for the sturctures aiming at the collection and storage of licuids; the big - sized storage jars ("pithoi") stood on low platforms; there is also system of channels and collectors for the collection of liquids.

Behind the northern "stoa" of the central court, there is the "hypostyle hall" with and antechamber. A hall of equal size located on the upper storey is considered by the archaeologists as a ceremonial banquet hall.

Western to this two-storey complex there is a stone paved corridor connecting the central courtyard with the northern and the southwestern ones.  The northern courtyard is surrounded by the storerooms and workshops, whereas the southwestern one is also known as the "court of the dungeon".

More to the West there are located the official appartments of the palace with the reception hall at the centre, a typically Minoan construction with polythyra (pier-and-door partition) and a purification cistern.

The Minoan city is extended around the palace, surrounding it; it is one of the  most important and bigger Minoan cities in Crete. At the North of the western courtyard there is  the agora and  a "hypostyle crypt", interpreted by the archaeologists as a kind of the "prytaneion" of the historic times.

Up to now there have been excavated both integrate sectors of the city and isolated houses; the most important sector is the so-called sector Z and the houses Da and Db; very important is the sector M, dated in the First Palace period, which covers a space of 3.000 square meters and is the most important architectural complex of this period, in Crete.

The First Palace period necropolis (cemetery) has been detected at the Northern part of the beach of Malia, Northeastern to the Pa;ace. The most important part of this extended cemetery is the burial complex o Chryssolakos; it is in a grave of this complex that was found the famous pendant with the two bees, now in the Heraklion Mouseum.
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