Touring in Crete: Mirabello Bay

The island of Pseira from the coast near Platanos at Mirabello Bay, Crete

10th stop: Mirabello Bay

Visiting the islet of Pseira and Ancient Azoria

Mirabello Bay is an embayment of the Sea of Crete on the eastern part of Crete in present day Greece. This area was important in prehistoric settlements of the island of 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 backgroundPseira 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.

5 Seals—impressions (Minoan civilization)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.


View of Azoria from Southwest, CreteAzoria 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.

Monumental Civic Building at Azoria, CreteBlack-figure skyphos, drinking cup, from a kitchen in the Service Building, Azoria, CreteAltar in the Archaic Shrine of the Monumental Civic Building, Azoria, Crete


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.

Votive Terracotta figurines from the altar of Archaic Shrine at Azoria, CreteDestruction (early 5th c. B.C.) deposit in a kitchen (B1500) of the Service Building, Azoria, CreteProtogeometric krater from the kitchen of the Archaic Shrine, Azoria, Crete


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. 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.

External links

First Minoan Shipwreck
Archaeology Volume 63 Number 1, January/February 2010

Pseira and Minoan sea-trade

Excavations at Pseira:
The Evidence for The Theran Eruption

Ancient Cretan Diet
Excavations at Azoria, Crete, reveal a 3,000-year-old diet and its surprising connection to early Greek city life. Research undertaken by archaeologist Donald C. Haggis of the University of North Carolina.

Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries
Interactive Educational Programs in Crete, Greece
Seminar Schedule 2012

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