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Minoan Tombs
Minoan Tombs
About Crete - The Minoans - Minoan Tombs

Prepalatial Period
In early Minoan times the dead were buried in rock cavities as, for example, in the caves of the Kilada ton Nekron (Valley of the Dead) in Zakros. During the Prepalatial Period the first vaulted tombs (tholotos tafos) appeared. They were round and were built from large stones so that each stone projected slightly further inwards than the one immediately below it until they all met overhead, thus closing the vault. Vaulted tombs were used by many families (or a village) over a number of years for successive burials. The vaulted tomb at Lebena (Lendas, southern Iraklion) is an example of a tomb of this period. In some other cases, rectangular tombs instead of round tombs were used. During this period in Mochlos the burials were in small tombs in caves or hewn rock.

Old Palace Period
The vaulted tomb tradition continued in the Old Palace Period. Some scholars believe that the vaulted tomb in Kamilari, near Festos, was built as early as this period. Parallel to the large vaulted tombs, however, smaller private tombs were built. In addition, private tombs in the form of ceramic sarcophagi, and burial in ceramic jars (pithos) appear. The burials in small caves or holes in rocks also continue during this period. The Minoans buried people with their cherished possessions, such as jewellery, or personal objects like seals.

New Palace Period
In the New Palace Period, vaulted tombs were further developed. They became bigger, and sometimes sets of tombs were positioned next to each other. They were generally round, but square and octagonal shapes also appeared. In some cases a sarcophagus was placed within the tomb which could be reused for other dead in the future. The famous sarcophagus of Agia Triada, now in the Iraklion Museum, is an example.

In parallel with the vaulted tombs, which were built on a flat surface, a different type of tomb developed which was built underground. They were either circular, square, or polygonal, and their entrance was reached through a long tilted road. They were often built in hills or rock foundations. This type of tomb was the forerunner of the larger Mycenean-type of tomb. Examples of such tombs of this period exist near Knossos and Festos but this tradition continued in the Postpalatial Period. An example of a square-chamber vaulted tomb of the Postpalatial Period exists in Maleme, Kydonia, and examples of circular ones are in Stylos, Kydonia and in Kournas, Apokoronas. A whole cemetery with a large number of hewn rock tombs of the Postpalatial Period has been excavated in Armeni, Rethimnon.

Evidence suggests that the dead were cared for long after the burial with dinners, offerings and dances near the tomb. Decorated vases, jars and other artefacts have been found in the tombs of this period. The cemetery in Arhanes had quarters for the living, possible caretakers of the dead.

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