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Home / About Malia / History & Heritage / Minoan Archaeological Site
Minoan Archaeological Site

Visit the remains of a unique palace that are evidence of the glorious Minoan civilization that flourished here 4,000 years ago and that turned Malia into an important trade and mercantile centre with substantial political and economic power.

Set on a flat plain, with a small cove at its mouth and with Mt. Selena rising behind it, it is easy to envisage this seaside palace in its days of glory. The rust and ochre coloured remains blending into the landscape give it a flavour of an ancient civilization with a taste for the good life: an impression of golden brown.

Minoan civilization – a summary

The first palaces in Crete and in Malia appear around 1900 BC, a period we call Proto Palatial. By that time, Malia already consists of a group of settlements, which probably dates back to the Neolithic period, forming a simple agricultural community. Malia’s influence at that time is thought to have reached from the Bay of Mirabello to as far as the upland plateau of Lassithi, maybe even to its south coast. Around 1700 BC the first palaces and their surrounding settlements are destroyed, either by a severe earthquake or by martial acts resulting from inner strife. This marks the end of the Proto Palatial period.

The rebuilding of the old palaces exactly over the destroyed ones meant that traces of the latter as good as vanished. The shape and architecture of the new palaces were basically the same as the first ones and – although grander and more impressive – they were not more spacious. This period is called the Neo Palatial period.

The concept of Minoan architecture was that of a complex, labyrinth-like style, completely the opposite of the later, classical Greek period architecture, which was simple, straight and open. Surprisingly, all Minoan palaces in Crete were built according to the same plan, sometimes even down to the smallest detail: all had north-south axes and an impressive façade with toothings, the so called ‘consecrated horns’. Though they were separated from each other by quite a distance, it looks as if they had one architectural answer to their similar political, religious and economic needs.

Though the destruction must have been a set back, Minoan civilization continued to flourish, and with the palaces being rebuilt – bigger, better and more beautiful – the society entered its golden age. This period is called the Neo Palatial period. Most of the ruins and of what we see today in the museums dates from this period.

Definite destruction of the palaces together with most buildings in Crete came about in around 1450 BC, with only Knossos surviving for fifty more years. From the declining years of the Minoan civilization until the early 20th century, Crete was ruled by a series of foreign invaders, who have marked the land and its people’s character and have left their traces in landscape and cities alike.