Archanes is 15 km southeast of Herakleion. They are famous for its grapes, lush vegetation and its waters, whose source is Mt Youktas, to the west of the modern village. Since the 14th c. AD it has been associated with the myth about the Tomb of Zeus, the immortal god, who died on Crete, replacing the young Minoan god who was born and died afresh each year. For this reason many travelers have referred to Youktas as "Monte Jove" and others believed that they had seen the "Sepulcrum Jovis".

At the time he was excavation the palace of Knossos, Arthur Evans perceived the nature of the ruins at Archanes, but the palace was discovered in 1964 by John Sakellarakis. The district of Archanes was inhabited in the late Neolithic period and after 2500 BC the centre of Archanes was also inhabited, in the same area where the 2nd millennium palace was discovered.

Sporadic remains were found in the centre and on the outskirts of the village, but the most important ones are the burial structures at Phourni. The first palace was built in about 2000 BC and a new funerary building was added to the cemetery. A peak sanctuary was built on the top of Mt Youktas, dominating Archanes, where the inhabitants of the region practiced their cult. Later in the middle of this period, a free standing temple was built in Anemospilia. Immediately after the earthquake of 1700 BC which destroyed the first palace, the new palace was built. This was destroyed by yet another earthquake and a fire in about 1600 BC, was then rebuilt and was finally totally destroyed in about 1450 BC. The Vathypetro Megaron was built in the Neo palatial period. This was the seat of a regional governor who was subject to the ruler of Archanes. Roads linked the shrines with the centre of Archanes and Knossos. Thus here at Archanes we have for the first time a general picture of a Minoan centre with palace, villages, villas, settlement complex, cemetery, roads, shrines and cult caves.

New funerary structures were built in the cemetery. The arrival of the Mycenaean’s in Crete did not leave Archanes untouched. Mycenaean buildings have been found at many points in the town and built over the 1300 BC and a later ecological disaster in about 1100 BC led to the final abandonment of the palace.

The palace is in the middle of the modern village. A large part of it has been excavated, but the work is still continuing and therefore the site can only be visited with a special permit. The parts that are open to the public are the nucleus of the palace and the theatral area. The archive room and cistern are not open to visitors. The circular cistern, which is similar to the one at Zakros, but with stone conduits and a finer construction, was found northeast of the site visible today. It was surrounded by verandas and seems to have been a place where assemblies and ceremonies were held. The size of the palace must have been similar to those of Knossos and Phaistos, because it occupies the central part of the town. Different kinds of stone were used in its construction.

The part that may be visited has an entrance on Ierolochiton Street. Here the great quantity of fallen stones, which were deliberately left where they had fallen, will give an idea of the terrible destruction caused by the earthquake and fire. Beneath the court remains were found of the first palace. On the north side is the entrance and the walls of which were built of ashlar mansory, with a propylon formed of two columns. On the east side are the biconcave altars, whose shape is known from the lion gate at Mycenae. In the ante room a fresco was found, badly damaged by the fire, of a woman putting a branch on the altar. Passing through the polythyron, we enter the antechamber. The whole room is decorated around the base of the walls by painting bands of plaster, while in the centre a square surrounds a cross formed of similar bands. East of the ante room a polythyron leads into the ground floor. A part of whose upper floors has been excavated to date. The east wall is constructed of fine poros stone blocks bearing mason’s marks of tridents, which may belong to a third floor, and also polythyra of gypsum.

In the northeast corner, is an opening leading to an important area, which may have been a Shrine, and had at least two floors. The upper floor was smaller, with a veranda on the south and a column in the middle of the façade. The ground floor was particularly important, because it was found with all its contents in situ after the final destruction. It was a rectangular room with walls covered with white plaster and decorated with bands of blue, red and yellow. A stepped platform was found in the northwest corner precisely aligned with the alter and the entrance doorway. This room was undoubtedly a shrine, but the contents of a workshop on the upper floor had fallen into it.

On the north side two doorways open into adjacent apartments and a white latticed window. West of the platform hall is crossed by a large drain, while on the north a doorway leads to a large room, perhaps a throne room over which there was a shrine from which the monolithic sacrificial altar and some 30 offering tables came. The room was paved with marble slabs in the middle, like the ground floor hall. There is a probable place for a throne on the north side of the ground floor. The hall was surrounded by a gypsum paneled bench and contained ceremonial utensils. An opening in the southwest probably led to a lustral basin. In area further west, which has only been partly excavated, slabs of polychrome marble from the upper floor were found, and on the ground floor 100 pots, including 40 amphorae. The upper floor may thus have been a Banquet Hall. The hall next to it had a splendid mosaic floor. The drain in court, continues in the open air area. Considerable remains of the Mycenaean period exist in this place.

An entrance from the court leads into an oblong room with another entrance at the southwest side. The horns of consecration found here and the polychrome plaster associate it with the official area. The upper floors had an industrial purpose. The west wall of rooms presented a fine façade of ashlar masonry and formed the end of the eastern part the palace.

The western part of the palace was intensively inhabited even after the 1450 BC destruction, especially during the Mycenaean period. This is clear from the circular hearth and small finds. What is interesting, however, is the discovery of a shrine with a large number of ceremonial objects from the last Minoan period, chiefly a gold and ivory group of at least five figures. The industrial section was on an upper floor.

The archive room containing Linear A tablets was discovered west of the palace, in the locality called Tzami. The manner in which it was originally excavated did not give the exact architectural form of the room. The clay Archanes house model exhibited in the Herakleion museum was found here.


Cult practices were carried on in the area, outside of the Palace on nearby Mt Youktas in the peak Sanctuary and in the temple at Anemospilia. The Temple at Anemospilia, which was discovered in 1979 by Drs j. and E. Sakellarakis, is one of the most interesting excavations of recent years. On a plot of land facing northwards towards the sea a tripartite Shrine was discovered with an antechamber and three rooms. On a base in the central room were found the remains of a "xoanon", a wooden statue with clay feet. In the west room, however, a find unique in the history of the Minoan civilization came to light for the first time: a Human Sacrifice. The catastrophe took place in 1700 BC, and the sacrifice had been carried out before it occurred in order to avert the disaster, but to no avail. We know of cases of human sacrifice for the general good from later Greek times, the classical exampie being the abortive sacrifice of Iphigenia, which the myth sets in the time of the Trojan War.


A few kilometres distant is the Megaron of Vathypetro, a provincial seat with a tripartite shrine, magazines, workshops and a wine press similar to those found at Phourni and Zakros.


It is considered to be the most important cemetery in the Aegean in terms of its completeness and duration - it was in use for over 1000 years (2400-1200 BC) - the number of different forms of tomb and the information they have provided about different burial customs. It was unknown before it was discovered by J. Sakellarakis in 1964. Phourni is a low hill between Ano and Kato Archanes. There is a road to it from Ano Archanes, where the Palace is. It is best to begin the visit on the north side, where the cart-track from Kato Archanes ends. The first feature encountered approaching from the north is the rectangular Crave Enclosure, unique in Crete, containing seven rectangular Mycenaean rock-cut tombs of the 14th c. BC with funerary stelai. Further east is the Tholos tomb A, one of the richest tholos tombs in Crete. It is dome-shaped like those of Atreus at Mycenae and Minyas at Orchomenos, with a side chamber and long entrant e passage. A single intact royal burial dated to 1400 BC was found in the side chamber. The princess-priestess buried in a clay sarcophagus was accompanied by five gold rings, a wealth of gold jewellery and an ivory footstool, among other things, a bull, the sacred animal of Minoan Crete, had been sacrificed in her honour, and a horse, which would have been a very precious offering at the time, since horses had only been introduced into Crete a short time before.


This is southwest of the Buildings and is architecturally the most important as well as the largest, tallest and most complex at Phourni. It was built over the earlier Funerary Building. The Tholos was built after 2100 BC and stayed in use until the 14th c BC. The plan is a circle inscribed in a square with many rooms two floors. In around 1600 BC a Hypostyle Hall with a pillar and frescos was built up against it, in which a gold ring depicting a goddess leading a griffon was found.


In around 2000 BC an Ossuary was built west of Tholos where the bones of the dead were brought and deposited. Many skulls were found here accompanied by valuable seals, one of which had fourteen sealing faces and another was in the shape of a fly, a symbol of valour in contemporary Egypt and in Homer.