Mirabello Bay – Largest in the Greek Islands and of Prehistoric Significance

You will find Mirabello Bay in the Sea of Crete on the eastern part of Crete in Greece. It is the largest bay in the Greek islands and one of the biggest in the Mediterranean Sea. This area was important in prehistoric settlements in Crete.

The coast of Mirabello Bay was noted for its role in the copper metallurgy development in the period around 3000 BC. In the Late Minoan period, cities on high ground overlooking Mirabello Bay were founded as cities of refuge, including Karphi. Later in the Dorian Invasion, settlement occurred of other hilltop cities overlooking Mirabello Bay; an example of this phase of settlement was the city of Lato.

Pseira Islet

View of Azoria from the Kastro with the Kavousi plain and Bay of Mirabello, with the island of Pseira, in the background
View of Azoria from the Kastro with the Kavousi plain and Bay of Mirabello, with the island of Pseira, in the background

Pseira is an islet in the Gulf of Mirabello with the archaeological remains of Minoan and Mycenean civilisation.
Archaeological materials in this seaport, sited above its harbor, to which it was connected by cliffside stairs, span the period from the end of the Neolithic in the 4th millennium to the Late Bronze Age, with the cultural peak being Early Minoan to Late Minoan 1B. At that time the prosperous town of some 60 buildings was ranged round its open square (plateia), with a single large building that occupied one side.
Like many contemporary Late Minoan 1B sites, it was violently destroyed, ca 1550–1450 BC.
A remnant of its population cleared spaces in the rubble and for a time continued to dwell in the ruined town.

A Minoan seal-stone from the site representing a ship is a reminder that the harbour was essential. The Minoan community at Pseira supported itself by fishing and subsistence agriculture. They deeply tilled and terraced agricultural sites where they manured the thin limy soil with human waste from the settlement. They did not enclose their planting sites, a sign that goats did not roam free in Minoan Pseira; neither were pigs kept. Dams collected seasonal run-off, for water was scarce on the island, though the Aegean region was less dry in the second millennium BC than now.

Seals—impressions (Minoan civilization)
Seals—impressions (Minoan civilization)

Ancient Azoria

View of Azoria from southwest, Crete
View of Azoria from southwest

Azoria is an archaeological site on a double-peaked hill overlooking the Gulf of Mirabello in eastern Crete in the Greek Aegean. “Azoria” is a local toponym, not apparently an ancient place name or epigraphically-attested Greek city.
Located about 1 km southeast of the modern village of Kavousi, and 3 km from the sea, the site occupies a topographically strategic position (ca. 365 meters above sea level) between the north Isthmus of Ierapetra and the Siteia Mountains.

Black-figure skyphos, drinking cup, from a kitchen in the Service Building, Azoria, Crete
Black-figure skyphos, drinking cup

The Azoria Project excavations have recovered evidence of an Archaic Greek city, established ca. 600 B.C., following a long period of continuous occupation throughout the Early Iron Age or Greek Dark Age (1200-700 B.C.) and Early Archaic (700-600 B.C.) (or Orientalizing) periods. The city was destroyed by fire early in the 5th century B.C., to be subsequently reoccupied on a limited scale ca. 200 B.C.

The shrine of the Monumental Civic Building is equipped with a curbed hearth and altar on which were found a variety of terracotta votive female figurines (stylistically dated to 8th and 7th centuries B.C.), votive stands and vessels, and food offerings.

Protogeometric krater from the kitchen of the Archaic Shrine, Azoria, Crete
Protogeometric krater from the kitchen of the Archaic Shrine, Azoria

The finds from the main hall of the Monumental Civic Building—roasted leg joints of sheep and goat; chick peas and legumes (found preserved in pots on the floor); drinking and dining wares; stone kernoi (offering tables) carved into the top step of the bench, and a Minoan-style kernos lying face down on top of the bench—indicate that it was used for public banquets and formal cult activities; it may have had ceremonial functions similar to those associated with magistrates’ buildings (prytaneion) commonly identified in Greek city-states such as the neighboring poleis of Lato and Dreros.

Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries
Interactive Educational Programs in Crete, Greece