Anemospilia

Another site you can choose to visit while being on a private tour is the 'temple' of Anemospilia which is located on the hill Luktas, not far from Knossos and modern city of Heraklion. The site was excavated by J. Sakellarakis in 1979, and given its small size, turned out to be one of the most controversial excavations to have taken place in Crete.

The building is unusual for a Minoan site in that it is more symmetrical and less labyrinthine than most Minoan remains. The simple design consists of three rectangular rooms in a row, and a corridor or antechamber running the length of the three rooms to the north of the building. There is no other example of such a building from the Minoan-Mycenean periods. However, Dennis Hughes points out in his book "Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece" that to the north of the building there are three doorways corresponding to the three entrances to the rooms on the south and there is a fourth, wider entrance at the east end of the hall. Unfortunately the area north of the corridor is so heavily eroded that only the barest remains of two walls leading north from the corridor can still be seen.

The 'temple' was destroyed early in the 17th century BCE. It was almost certainly destroyed by earthquake, following which the lamps placed inside the shrine burnt whatever was flammable. Further evidence for an earthquake comes from the skeleton of a man found in the antechamber. He had been holding a vase, possibly containing blood as it resembled one to be seen on the Agia Triada sarcophagus into which the blood of a sacrficed bull is dripping. The position of the body suggests that the person was running from the building when it collapsed and killed him.

The antechamber was the place where the preparation of ritual acts would have taken place. Among the finds here were vases, pithoi (juge jars) , mortars and pestles and tripod cooking pots. The pithoi would have stored various foodstuffs and woven cloth.

The central room was full of larger utensils, and almost the whole floor was covered with vases. Along the south wall there was a bench which may have been used both for sitting on and for placing cult objects. The most interesting find in this room was a pair of larger-than-life-size clay feet and ash from a burnt wooden object. This evidence suggests that there was originally a large statue here. The body would have been made of wood and slotted onto two sticks at the top of the clay feet. The body would have been dressed in material and the feet would not have been visible. It is possible that the statue originally stood on the bench next to the only piece of bare rock which intruded into the building, deliberately allowed to do so as it represented "sacred earth".

Continuing your private tour in Anemospilia you will see the eastern room which was where bloodless ritual ceremonies took place. Along the south wall there was a stepped altar. The finds here were smaller in size than in the central room and included two small bronze boxes similar in design to others found at Mycenae and in the Mycenaean royal burial at Tholos Tomb A in Phourni cemetery near Archanes. Large bowls were placed on the stepped altar and it is known that these would have been used for offerings of agricultural produce -- fruit, crops, vegetables, wine and oil.

The west room is, in many ways, the most interesting. It is claimed that this room was used for blood sacrifices using bulls.

Uniquely in Crete, three skeletons were found in the room in what was after all not a burial context. Two of these people, a man and a woman, had been killed by the earthquake and resulting fire. Another skeleton of a young male was also found in the room. This body was found lying on what the excavator claimed was a low altar-like construction. A blade was resting on the skeleton. One of the feet was in a strange position with the heel pulled right back until it was touching the back of the thigh. It has been suggested by the excavator that the feet had been tied and that the young man had been sacrificed and the blood drained from his body. The argument goes that the normal victims of sacrifice would have been bulls, but in the face of seismic activity which threatened the whole community, it may have been considered necessary to make a human sacrifice.

A detailed description of the excavations and finds at Anemospilia can be found in the guide book to Archanes by J. and E. Sakellarakis, published by Ekdotike Athenon, Athens 1991.

The site is now well fenced in and not generally open to the public. However, a good view of the site can be had from the south fence and the views from the road of the north coast of Crete are spectacular. For the archaeologists or schools and colleges from abroad a permit from the local archaeological service can be issued upon request.

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