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Project leader: Prof. Dario Palermo (Catania University)

Field director: Antonella Pautasso

Participating bodies: IBAM – CNR; LANDIS (Laboratory for non-invasive analyses) of LNS/INFN (Dr. L. Pappalardo)

Site location: Priniàs (Greece)

Date of activity: From 1969 onwards. The mission’s activities usually take place in the summer months.

PriniasBrief description: Today Priniàs is a small town at the centre of the island of Crete, on the eastern slopes of the Monte Ida or the Psiloritis massif. The ancient settlement, situated on a plateau at 650 m a.s.l. (known locally as Patela), similar in shape to a triangle and naturally defended, is a short distance from the modern town.

The site was continually occupied from the 12th century B.C. – when following the collapse of the Minoan system the island saw territorial and social reorganisation with the occupation of naturally defended sites far from the coasts - to the mid 6th century B.C., when the settlement was abandoned (for reasons that remain to be clarified). It was not occupied again until the Hellenistic period. At this time, a phrourion was built on the western slope. This fort was probably linked to a network controlling the territory of Gortina during the conflict between Crete’s two main centres, Knossos in the north and Gortina in the central-south. The strategic importance of Priniàs is determined by its central position and the altitude of the Patela plateau from which it is possible to control one of the main routes linking the island’s north coast to the fertile plain of the Mesarà in the south.

Excavations have uncovered the urban layout of the archaic city, formed of blocks divided by roads and centred around a square similar in shape to a trapezium. Monumental buildings stood around the square, including temple A, famous for the various reconstructive hypotheses that have been proposed on the basis of the re-composition of its sculptural decoration.

Within the territory,  a short distance from the settlement on the site called Siderospilia, lies the necropolis where 680 tombs (a pozzo, tholos, and earth graves with rich grave goods) have been excavated, as have a large number of extraordinary horse burials.

The necropolis covers the same period of time as the settlement, an important aspect that allows the two complexes to be studied in parallel thus providing a complete vision of the development of the community of Priniàs. Moreover, a pottery workshop of the Orientalizing period comprising three kilns and associated rooms was found on a low rise a short distance from the Patela.

Evidence of occupation from the late Neolithic to the middle Minoan period has also been found in the territory.

Site typology and date: The settlement and necropolis date from the 12th century to the mid 7th century B.C. Excavation in the central area of the city, study of temple A and its sculpture, and more recently studies for the publication of the necropolis of Siderospilia.

Student participants: Yes

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