It is known that the explosion of the volcano of Santorin made weak the Minoan civilization which was attacked by Dorians later and around 1200 B.C. But what happened to the first European civilization? It is just disappeared? Following the steps of the last Minoans we reached to inaccessible top of mountain Karfi, where Arthur Evans discovered in 1896 the traces of the last Minoan settlement.

Karfi mountain located between Heraklion and Lassithi, north of Tzermiado village in Lassithi Plateau, at an altitude of 1100m. Took its name by the big rocky hill on a top, which is too steep and look like a nail (karfi means nail in greek). The location is natural fortified and protected from the winds. That’s why Minoan refugees settled here after the descent of the Dorians.

There are two ways for someone to reach Karfi. He could start hiking from the village Kera or Tzermiado. The second is easier. On western entrance of Tzermiado is a sign which shows the way to Timios Stavros church. This road leads to plateau of Nisimos. After 200m is a second sign for Timios Stavros church which shows right. We turn to opposite direction and after 200m it is a road branch. The left road stops to the root of the mountain after 500m. From this position one must hiking an easy path for about 45 minutes. The path starts from the western slope and it is signed. The top of the rocky hill can be reached only from eastern, where the settlement was once. From there the view is amazing. One can see all around Lassithi Plateau and the north Cretan cost.

The name of the settlement is unknown, so it is named “Minoan settlement on Karfi”. The settlement must was built around 1200 B.C. after the descent of the Dorians. Its economy was supported by livestock, hunting and olive oil production. It seems that residents didn’t stay here for a while, so about 1100 B.C. they abandoned the place. According archaeologists probably they moved down to the safer settlement of Papoura which inhabited continuously until roman period. The Minoan settlement on Karfi was discovered by Arthur Evans on 1896 and the excavation was kept on by J. Pendlebury in 1937-1939. Unfortunately, when the excavations finished, archaeologists left the place without fixative works, so now one can see only the foundations of that settlement.

In the region, they indentified several single-storey houses and a large building which served as a sanctuary. In the sanctuary amazing worship clay figurines were found, including the figurine of Minoan Goddess with upraised hands which is exhibit in archaeological museum of Heraklion. Generally, the findings from the settlement are mainly vessels for daily use. Until nowadays a walker can find many clay pieces of that period. The most impressive of all is the high technological level of buildings with integrated road and sewerage network.

At lowest altitudes, about 100m from the top, spring Vitzilovrysi located (vitziles are the eagles in local dialect). The Minoan settlement must was supplied water from here. The spring has a marble inscription as a reminder of the English excavations to the area. Near the springs Vitzilovrysi and Atsividero, two cemeteries with seventeen vaulted tombs have been found, unfortunately many of them looted.

Αnna Marinou

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