Minoan site of Mochlos

Minoan site of Mochlos
The excavations
The American archaeologist R. B. Seager discovered Mochlos in 1907 on the suggestion of a local fisherman.
The following year he started excavating the small island uncovering 20 pit graves and 12 settlements.
In 1955, J. Leatham and S. Hood while having an underwater exploration, they discovered some Roman fish tanks at the coast opposite the island of Mochlos, verifying the assumption of Seager that Mochlos was a peninsula during the Bronze Age.
In 1970, through the cleaning and the recent investigation outside the previously excavated area, many significant findings were uncovered, while extended excavating investigations were carried out from 1989 to 1994, under the direction of professors K. Davaras and J. Soles.

Early Minoan period
According to the excavation findings, the island or Mochlos was firstly occupied during the Early Minoan I period. Although, at that time the settlement was still small, the arrival of newcomers, perhaps from Central Crete, expanded the area during the Early Minoan II period. During the Early Minoan period III the settlement became one of the most significant centers of the Minoan civilization. The plain on the land provided rich agricultural production and the narrow channel that joined in antiquity the today's island and the mainland, forming in that way two natural harbors, used to protect the vessels from acute weather conditions. Mochlos served as a center of commerce transport. Obsidian was imported from the island of Milos, and other raw materials were imported from East and channeled afterwards to the whole island of Crete. The discovery of a round seal that is believed to be from north Syria and dates to the 18th century B.C. confirms the importance of this harbor.
Gold jewels, signets, and the famous stone vases of Mochlos were made at the "artisans' quarter". Many of those items were found in graves of this period. The cemetery of the Early Minoan period is located at the west of the island and is one of the most important of the east Crete. The most prominent graves were monumental and their construction resembled that of houses. They included gold jewels, signets, earthen and stone vases of exceptional craft, which are now exhibited at the Museums of Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos. The figures of some vases are quite similar with those of the Egyptian style, reinforcing the evidence of the relations between Crete and Egypt since the Early Minoan period.
The cemetery on the island was in use until the Middle Minoan period.

Late Minoan period
The town in Mochlos was rebuilt and expanded after the destruction that was caused by the eruption of the volcano on Thira during the Late Minoan IA period.
That was proved by the excavations when a layer of volcanic ash was uncovered underneath the floor and the walls of a house.
The town planning system of Mochlos was the same as those of other Minoan towns, such as Psira and Gournia.
The newly built town had central streets and other smaller ones that divided the town into quarters.
The houses were built on various levels, depending on the incline of the ground, and consisted of two or three floors.
The sandstone blocks that were used for their construction were taken from the ravine of Vagia, at the east of the modern settlement, which used to act as a quarry during the Late Minoan IB period.
The inhabitants of Gournia were supplied with construction materials from the same quarry for the building of the "palace" in their town.
Great changes took place during the Late Minoan III period.
The size of the town had considerably decreased and the old houses were repaired and reoccupied.
Even the burial patterns changed.
The tombs now resemble cabins and are sculptured in the mild slopes of the hills.
The dead corpses are put into earthen urns and earthenware jars along with their funeral gifts.
The cemetery of that period was located at Limenaria, at the west of the modern settlement, where thirty graves, which were not looted, were excavated, including more than a hundred vases of great craft.

Hellenistic period
The last phase of the extended occupation of the island is represented by a fortification at the north and east side of it, that dates from the
1st century B.C.
This fortification was perhaps an attempt made by the city of Ierapetra, in order to stabilize its presence at that period at the north coast of Crete.


Jeffrey S. Soles
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