The ancient Minoans are best known as seafarers, but excavations at the site of Zominthos, nestled in a plateau on Mt. Ida, Crete’s highest mountain, have shown that they were also highlanders. This important second-millennium B.C. site, located about 1,200 meters (nearly 4,000 feet) above sea level, lies on the ancient route between the palace at Knossos, the Minoans’ primary administrative center, and the sacred Ideon Cave, where many believe the legendary god Zeus was born and raised. Zominthos is the only mountaintop Minoan settlement ever to have been excavated and after just a handful of large-scale dig seasons is already yielding groundbreaking information.
Yannis Sakellarakis discovered the site in 1982, during his first day of excavations at the nearby Ideon Cave, when a shepherd told him about his pastures and sheep in an area called “Zominthos”. Intrigued by the pre-Hellenic place-name, he began small-scale excavations the following year, which revealed the Central Building that is now believed to have dominated one of the main Minoan routes up to Mount Ida, today called Psiloritis. After a gap of 17 years, archaeological work at the site of Zominthos resumed in the summer of 2005.