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Greece » Crete » Lassithi Prefecture » Lassithi Sightseeing » Psychro Cave
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Psychro Cave

The Cave of Psychro is situated at the Lassithi plateau, some 65 kilometers far from Aghios Nicolaos at the West, 16 kilometers southwestern to the village of Germiado and approximately 1 kilometer far from the homonymous village at the Southwest.

It used to be one of the most important ritual places of Minoan period. Worship in the cave seems to have started to practice in the Early Minoan period (2800-2300 b.C.), although there are traces of human activity in the cave even earlier. The most important finds are dated to the Middle Minoan period (1800 b.C.) and to more recent periods up to the Geometric (800-700 b.C.) and Archaic (700-500 b.C.) periods . It is likely that the cave was used even during the Roman times. Numerous finds have been brought to light as votive offerings (human figures and statuettes of gods and animals), double axes, arms, tools and other items.
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Some scholars suggested that the cave of Psychro is the well-known Diktaeon Andron that, according to Greek Mythology, was the place where Zeus, the king of gods was born and bred up. It is here that the divine goat Amaltheia gave him its milk and the Couretes looked after him. The cave is also linked with the myth of Zeus and Europe and with the soothsayer Epimenides who is said to have passed away in this cave.

The cave was excavated for the first time by the Greek archaeologist Joseph Chantzidakis, in co-operation with Italian archaeologists at the end of the 19 th century. The works continued later by several archaeologists, but excavations were never conducted in a systematic way. Most of the finds come from illegal excavations and are housed in the Museums of Heraklion and Oxford.

The cave is found at a height of more than 1.000 meters and access to it is possible via an uphill path, starting from the public road. After the narrow entrance there is a hall (42 X 19 meters), where there was a rectangular stone shrine. Neolithic potsherds, Early Minoan burials and Middle Minoan votive offerings were found in this hall. At the very northern edge it has been excavated an enclosure with stone paved floor, occasionally preserved today; the construction seems to be a “temenos”.

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Successive to the first hall there is another, bigger one (84 X 38 meters), sloping downwards, with a small chamber at its left edge, the so-called “cradle of Zeus”.

At the right, a bigger chamber (25 X 12 meters) is divided in two parts, one with a small lake and the other with an impressive stalactite, poetically called “the Mantle of Zeus”. A good number of votive offerings, mainly bronze statuettes, knives, spearheads and double axes have been found here.

Access from Aghios Nicolaos is possible only by rented or private cars and motorbikes.
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