On Island of Crete, an 'Extremely Interesting' Find

Archaeologists unearth 4K-year-old building from Minoan civilization; airport project may be disrupted
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 12, 2024 9:15 AM CDT
On Island of Crete, an 'Extremely Interesting' Find
In this undated photo, the ruins of a 4,000-year-old hilltop building newly discovered on the island of Crete are seen from above.   (Greek Culture Ministry via AP)

A big, round, 4,000-year-old stone building discovered on a Crete hilltop is puzzling archaeologists and threatening to disrupt a major airport project on the Greek tourist island. Greece's Culture Ministry said Tuesday the structure is a "unique and extremely interesting find" from Crete's Minoan civilization, famous for its sumptuous palaces, flamboyant art, and enigmatic writing system. Resembling a huge car wheel from above, the ruins of the labyrinthine, 19,000-square-foot building came to light during a recent dig by archaeologists, per the AP. The site was earmarked for a radar station to serve a new airport under construction near Kastelli. Set to open in 2027, it's projected to replace Greece's second-biggest airport at Heraklion.

Archaeologists don't yet know what the hilltop structure was for. It's still under excavation and has no known Minoan parallels. Experts speculate it could have been used for a ritual or religious function. Ringed by eight stepped stone walls up to 5.6 feet high, the inner structure was split into smaller, interconnecting spaces and may have had a shallow conical roof. The ministry's statement said it didn't appear to have been a dwelling, and the finds inside included a large quantity of animal bones. "It may have been periodically used for possibly ritual ceremonies involving consumption of food, wine, and perhaps offerings," the statement said.

"Its size, architectural layout, and careful construction required considerable labor, specialized know-how, and a robust central administration," the statement added, noting it was certainly some kind of communal building that stood out in the entire area. The ministry said the building was mainly used between 2000BC and 1700BC and was founded around the time Crete's first palaces were being built. It said some of the building's features were comparable with early Minoan beehive tombs.

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Greece's rich cultural heritage often results in conflicts of interest during construction projects. At the end of the last century, an entire hilltop fortified settlement from the third millennium BC was excavated and then destroyed during construction work for Athens International Airport. So far, at least another 35 archaeological sites have been uncovered during work on the new Kastelli airport and its road connections. (More Crete stories.)

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