Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


25 October 2011

The Three Peak Sanctuaries of Central Crete Project

Naturally, the major aim of the Three Peak Sanctuaries of Central Crete project is to publish the material discovered at the peak sanctuaries of Philioremos-Gonies, Keria-Kroussona and Pyrgos-Tylissos in central northern Crete. In order to achieve this, many years of post-excavation work have been dedicated to the three sites’ pottery. As a result, sufficient information was gathered to allow the project to also begin a comparison of the three sites with one another.

The three sites are on average no more than 10km away from each other and form a triangular pattern. They are located in the regions of Anogia, Krousonas and Tylissos respectively, south west of Heraklion and visually control all the major access routes from the plain of Knossos to Mount Ida, the most important mountain mass of central Crete. The peak sanctuaries are inter-visible and pick up sounds from their surrounding areas clearly.

The fact that they are geographically so close to each other is interesting for two types of study. First, in determining the micro-scale local variations of material at each site, and second, in reflecting on the possibility that changes in the material culture indicate changes in the beliefs associated to each site. All three peaks are accepted as having hosted some sort of ritual but it is possible that they were dedicated to different saints or gods accordingly.

The Three Peak Sanctuaries of Central Crete project also aims to revisit commonly accepted theories on peak sanctuaries, or will attempt to further develop them if they can be materially proven. The theories tackled by the project are 1) the nature of peak sanctuaries, 2) their times of use and 3) the function of the ceramic figurines discovered on these sites.

  • For a long time, the standard view on peak sanctuaries was that they are very dissimilar to one another. The reason for these assumptions relate to the fact that they are pastoralist sanctuaries and that they can frequently be associated to larger sites. For example, one could easily relate the peak sanctuary of Yukthas to the palace of Knossos, and the peak sanctuary of Petsophas to the site of Palaikastro. Indeed, it has been claimed that peak sanctuaries – in the New Palace Period particularly – were controlled by the Minoan palatial system.
  • Peak sanctuaries have traditionally been perceived as exclusively Minoan sites. Very little studies have been carried out on the possibility of them being active in the Hellenic era.
  • In terms of artefacts, although no theories exist on as to how and by whom the typical peak sanctuary ceramic figurines were made, these objects have been accepted as fulfilling the role of votive offerings representing pilgrims or addorants.

Additionally, Gonies-Philioremos, Keria-Kroussona and Pyrgos-Tylissos are prime locations from which to study Minoan landscape and ritual-scape, communication patterns and land partitions.

Run by Dr Evangelos Kyriakidis (University of Kent), the project first began in 2004. Pyrgos-Tylissos was the first site to be examined, but was closely followed by Gonies-Philioremos in 2005 and Keria-Kroussona in 2007. The project began as the continuation of Evangelos’ previous research on ritual identification and institutionalisation which had Cretan open air ritual sites as a starting point. So far, however, beyond the study of the three peak sanctuaries’ pottery, its dating, its petrographic analysis and macroscopic fabric examination, the Three Peak Sanctuaries of Central Crete project has studied the techniques of ceramic figurine manufacture, the specialist recipes for the production of the figurines’ clay, the figurines’ decoration and the function of special vessels. Moreover, the project aims to carry out a major comparative study on the pottery from all three sites once the previously stated studies are complete.


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