Friday 1 October 2004

Metaxia Tsipopoulou
Ministry of Culture, 24th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical antiquities

A new Late Minoan IIIC shrine at Halasmenos, Ierapetra, East Crete
The Late Minoan IIIC site of Halasmenos is situated on a steep-sided hill of some 240m just to the south of the Ha gorge, near the village of Monastiraki, at the north end of the Ierapetra Isthmus. The investigations started in 1992, under the direction of the speaker and the late William Coulson. The settlement belongs to a dense pattern of occupation, known from sites excavated or located by survey. Its size suggests that it was of major importance to the area. The buildings have not suffered extensive damage through ploughing and reuse of construction materials. Consequently, this excellent state of preservation offers a unique opportunity for determining room function, construction techniques, and spatial relationships between buildings and streets.
The settlement consists of three separate areas, A, B and C. Excavation has been conducted in all three sectors for a total of almost 3000 m2. In Sector B the single-storey plan is agglomerative. Sector A, which is divided by a road in two parts, has larger rooms and more complex plans. In A Lower the architecture comprises three megara, parallel to each other. On top of the largest one a rectangular oikos was built in the second half of the 8th century BC.
In Sector C, situated on a slightly lower plateau, a public shrine of the so called «goddess with up raised arms» was discovered and excavated. The data from the excavation will be presented, and an attempt will be made at integrating the shrine within the framework of the other similar finds in the area. Also the issue of the provenance of this type of cult place (Mycenaean or Minoan) will be addressed.
The shrine has a megaroid plan and is freestanding. In it more than 9 large female clay figures of the type conventionally called “goddess with up-raised arms” came to light. The group of cult vases included at least 8 more or less complete “snake-tubes”. The shrine contained also 11 plaques or pinakes with double horns on the upper part. The amount of pottery in the building was limited, the most important vessels being three large pithoi.
In order to understand the position of the shrine of Halasmenos in the wider framework of the Mirabello-Ierapetra area, the reasons of the foundation of these settlements, at the beginning of Late Minoan IIIC or slightly later, should be explored. The presence of Gournia, which was a Late Minoan IIIB center, in the immediate vicinity of Halasmenos and of at least another three important settlements, namely Kavousi-Kastro and Vronda and Vassiliki-Kephala, two of them equipped with a shrine of the «goddess with up raised arms», is of particular importance. Furthermore, the issue of the origin of the large female idols found in these shrines is a contentious one. Alexiou in his old and still valid study suggested the most plausible explanation.
Halasmenos, with a well organized urban arrangement, and the hierarchical organization of its buildings, offers the possibility for a re-assessment of the character of the Late Minoan IIIC settlements, in the Aegean in general, and Crete in particular.


Next Seminar

Friday 12 May 18.30

M. Marthari
Raos on Thera...