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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

Arune Gulati

Following the destruction of Mycenaean settlements around 1200, much of the population was forced to seek refuge in elevated sites for better protection. One of the most famous of these sites is the refugee town of Karphi, located on a virtually inaccessible peak 300 meters above the Lasithi Plain in Crete(Biers 100). As Whitley points out, such a position was optimal for refugees looking for an easily defensible position remote from any possible source of conflict (Whitley 78). However, this is not to say that the inhabitants of Karphi never wandered off their mountaintop settlement. They needed good land for farming, and olive pit remains found at Karphi strongly suggest that Karphi made use of the lands in and around the Lasithi plain (Watrous). Archaeologists have concluded that Karphi was founded in the late 12th century by about 3500 people of mixed Mycenaean-Minoan origins. This fits well with the findings at Karphi, which include heavy Minoan influences like the rows of tholos tombs complete with the requisite dromos and corbelled architecture (Whitley 78). Karphi was excavated by the British School of Archaeology following World War II.

As can be seen by the ground plan, the rooms exhibit the shared walls characteristic of Mycenaean and Minoan palaces that preceded Karphi. The houses were made of fieldstones and were connected by relatively well-paved roads. Sites of interest include a large house called the “Great House” and a cult center located in the northernmost part of town. Because of its size and location in one of the most well-protected areas of the town, Archaeologists have surmised that the “Great House” belonged to the ruler of Karphi (Biers 100). The cult center is known mainly for the terra cotta figurines that were found that heavily resemble the Minoan snake goddess figurines with their upraised arms. However, the figurines at Karphi have prominently displayed feet, new features that were probably made separately and attached later (Biers 106).

Biers, William R. The Archaeology of Greece. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.

Watrous, Livingston Vance. Lasithi: A History of Settlement on a Highland Plain in Crete. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Whitley, James. The Archaeology of Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Posted at Dec 13/2007 11:12PM:
Harry Anastopulos: It's pretty amazing that this culture was able to survive, even after destructions that shook pretty much all of the Mediterranean Bronze Age world!

Posted at Dec 17/2007 07:58AM:
Rachel Griffith: Great description and I really love that you added the 360 degree photo of Karphi. It really gives much more perspective than flat pictures of the site.