Minoan peak sanctuary

The empire of Minos

It is known that the Minoans were related with Kythira already in the third millennium BC The Minoans despite their self-sufficiency had developed strong commercial relationships even more far away areas. From Egypt and the East came to Crete many exotic products, ivory and hippopotamus teeth, ostrich eggs. Numerous are the objects found in Crete made ​​of semiprecious stones such as Carnelian, amethyst, agate, sardonyx, hematite, onyx, chalcedony and rock crystal. Apart from the raw materials manufactured items, gems of the East, stone vases, scarabs from Egypt.
It was natural therefore, to have trade relations between Crete and much shorter distance, mainland Greece, Asia Minor and the islands, the Dodecanese and the Cyclades. Many works on different islands attest that the Minoans had established stations and trade in key points and even colonies. Milos, Kea, Santorini, as shown by excavations years ago, is the most typical examples. Recently entered the presence of the Minoans and Samothrace. Excavations made ​​in Asia Minor last Miletus unearth rich Minoan elements, even remnants of murals and inscriptions on pottery in Minoan Linear A Scripture. The Miletus, grandson of Minos and mythical founder of Miletus, and other relatives of Minos is said to have colonized some islands. Minoa is the name given during delivery Minos himself in various positions in the Aegean.

From this grid strategic locations which had occupied the Minoans in the Aegean, it was impossible to stay out of Kythira, an island on the way not only for the Peloponnesus and mainland Greece and the West. The first traces of the Minoans in Kythira discovered in the 1930's. Then in decade of 1960, with the great archaeological excavation of the English School at the Kastri, near the Avlemonas, the Minoan colonization of Cythera was now assured. The homes were typically excavated Minoan, their inhabitants, as in Crete, used in the same way the same objects. They were the graves, who discovered a little further, the same burial customs. The only thing missing from the Minoan colony of Cythera was a sanctuary. A mountain with a height of 350 meters, just four kilometers from the Minoan settlement in Kastri carefully hid his secrets until 1991.

The findings of the excavation

In the few years that lasted the excavation, asserting numerous findings by the day to Minoan worship on the island. Of course, the ceramics were often crushed, their study showed, however, that they belonged to different types of small pipette and cups containing the liquid and solid humble offerings of the faithful, to large jars, where the priests would gather the goods. Many pottery were purely religious use as rhyta, vessels with a hole to pour libations, or brazier, the censers. And even Cairns, vessels with multiple cavities, which were later used in the Eleusinian cult, to include the origins, the first fruits of the earth. There were also clay figurines of humans and animals, especially bulls, even a bird figurine, but it is not certain that this pigeon, so it was associated with Venus, already Homer calls Kythereia. Found a jar with engraved on the mark ceramicist. Perhaps illustrating ship. The slope, a little lower, like plummeted once, found pieces of large Minoan jars with plastic decoration impressive as one piece with plastic clam shells and sea landscape reminiscent of lips and other jars with plastic representations.

170 In so far known Minoan bronze figurines that exist today around the world, the St. George hid other 83. Found a female figurine with conspicuous combing and folds of the skirt and a hand touching the form on the forehead. Most idols have the right hand to the forehead (sevazousa stop) and the other on the side. From the ancient attitude probably comes and the current military salute. This attitude is the "aposkopein." This is a typical attitude of Minoan figurines. The worshipers show so trying to hide from the glow of sulfur raised before them.
Were still too many offerings, bronze and ceramics. These small offerings is perhaps the most poignant. A bronze hand, a foot with a hole for hanging, heads integrally statues, all of them so similar to those of today, our offerings have been offered with reverence to a Minoan god we do not know.

The luxurious dishes were stone. It is significant that some of the lithotechnimata constructed from pieces of Laconian land, porphyry and basalt Spartan, stone prized since become and export in Crete. Porphyry constructed one lamp, which reveals other interesting facts about the cult, namely that there would be some nighttime rituals pannychides, which require larger and more permanent light. As has been argued by the religious experts, ceremonial bonfires were lit in various outdoor often cults and they probably tossed and various specials, found among the ashes.
Perhaps the most important finding however is a miniature vase made ​​of black steatite with an inscription in Linear A script, the first Minoan inscription is known from Kythera. The three points scored read da-ma-te, which of course brings to mind the name of Dimitras.

The strategic importance of the sacred

It is noteworthy that the height of 350 meters of St George Mountain, nobody supervises not only the coast of southwestern Peloponnese from Cape Malea-up Taygetos in the background but a large part of the Aegean Sea. To day clean look to the south not only Antikythera and the mountains of Crete, the White Mountains and the Ida, extremely important element of the early waterways, while to the east, in the distance, is Milos and Santorini. It controls all maritime passages from North to South and from East to West.
On the importance of the position of St. George in the Mountains is characteristic information from the Venetian era. In various sources reported that from March to October, the months were made naval operations in the Aegean, there was always a guard to St. George - the Capo San Giorgio of Venice - and bonfires at night, so as to learn the Venetians in Crete the position of the Turkish fleet. Why not lit and the Minoans and other fires outside of ritual? Like them, so for the Venetians, Kythira was the "eye of Crete." Anyone who wanted to dominate the Aegean had to hold Kythira.

As the findings show, Cretans arrived in Kythira around 2000 BC and the colony prospered until about 1400, when it collapsed and the Minoan naval. The findings of the summit is ongoing, arrive in our days, and suggest that St.George Mountain never deserted by humans. The Minoans lived on until 1400, then came the Mycenaeans, the Greeks, after the Christians. With the installation of Christians and built the first Christian building on top and in those years, in the 6th or 7th century, dating the famous mosaic floor of St. George, known and published by G. Sotiriou 1923. In the same period, the peak became aware again glories. Byzantine coins found several and among them one hyperpyron (silver gilt) currency Basil II, Christ enthroned with on one side and the other the Emperor to keep his right hand a scepter and orb in his left.
Currently at the top of the mountain are two Byzantine churches. The first is St. George, which was named after the mountain. Next to St George built the church of Our Lady dikonchi Mirtidiotissa where syneortazetai and St. Nicholas. Minimum distance separating the two churches are built on a rock. A few meters away there is a vaulted cell where Christians lived and probably in the same position and another earlier priests. In the courtyard formed by small churches and cell layers were intact and Byzantine.

The great discovery

The story of the discovery of the sanctuary of Saint George was a hot afternoon in August 1991, when the editor of "Hearth" Adonis Cyrus climbed the steep ridge that overlooks the beach in Avlemonas. Although publisher, Mr. Cyrus is known for his passion for archeology and studies of the subject. Thus, the indignation when reaching the top, he discovered that there was dirt behind were satisfied as he saw the ground next to his feet sticking something resembling bronze statuette. Further on he saw another, and the whole area around the church was studded with fragments of pottery. Did not take long to realize that was.
Immediately alerted Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology and Mr. John Sakellaraki few days later the archaeologist was in Kythira with his wife, also archaeologist, Mr. Efi Sakellarakis. A brief visit to Ai Giorgis Mountain arrived to convince the three that were in the Minoan Peak Sanctuary of Avlemonas. Immediately informed the Archaeological Service and the following year became a brief sample excavation.

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