Arkalochori cave

Arkalochori cave

The cave of Arkalochori, also known as Holy Cave, is located at the South West side of Arkalochori village, specifically at the south west aisle of Profitis Ilias Church, 400m above sea level.

A narrow entrance (0.70cm wide, 1.60cm tall) leads to the interior, where one cannot walk upright due to lack of space. In previous times the cave is reported to be remarkably larger, extending possibly to the whole hill area and consisted of small connected compartments. The roof of the large cave collapsed around 1500 BC. According to some archaeologists this collapse was due to either an earthquake or the eruption of Santorini volcano. It may also be possible that it collapsed because of soil eroded by water entering the rocks.

From the archaeological point of view the cave is one of the most important in the Prefecture of Heraklion. Its reputation as a place of worship had been obviously attracting many visitors, proven by the also large number of votive offerings that were brought into light during the excavations.

The first excavation was conducted by Joseph Chatzidakis in 1912 when many potsherds, 53 brass sword blades without handles with a size of up to one meter in length, as well as 19 votive double axes one of which is silver, were brought to light.

It was supported by Spiros Marinatos that the cave had been a worship centre since 2500 BC, in favour of a war god possibly, as most of the votive were weapons. It is also possible that some of its space had been used as a coppersmith’s workshop, because pieces of raw copper were found. The above archaeological findings are nowadays exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. Also, Marinatos claimed that the cave is the mythical position where goddess Rhea gave birth to Zeus.