New discoveries at the Temple of Demeter in Crete

Archaeologists have unearthed new discoveries at the Temple of Demeter, located in the ancient harbour city of Phalasarna, in the far west of Crete.

Phalasarna was first mentioned in ancient texts by the historians and geographers: Scylax, Strabo, Polybius, Livy and Pliny. The city-state prospered through its maritime affairs, evidenced by the remains of large, monumental buildings and artwork. The treaty with Polyrrhenia gives evidence that in the third century BC, the inhabitants were engaged in piracy, a common practice of the Cretan city-states.

- Advertisement -

In 69-67 BC, the Roman Republic stormed the city, blocked the harbour with massive masonry and destroyed the whole city. The location of the city was then forgotten, and Phalasarna appears in Venetian records only as a lost city. The site was rediscovered in the 19th century by British explorers Robert Pashley and Captain T. A. B. Spratt.

The Temple of Demeter was constructed at the city acropolis, situated on a rocky hill at the site of a natural cave. The temple operated as an open-air sacred space for worshipping Demeter, the Olympian goddess of the harvest and agriculture, presiding over crops, grains, food, the fertility of the earth and the power of water as a source of life.

Image Credit : YPPOA

In Greek tradition, Demeter is the second child of the Titans Rhea and Cronus, and sister to Hestia, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus. Demeter was often considered to be the same figure as the Anatolian goddess Cybele, and she was identified with the Roman goddess Ceres.

The architectural structure of the temple is in the Doric style and was rebuilt with stones for a second use in the late 4th to early 3rd century BC on the site of an earlier sacred site. A monumental staircase led to two single-room buildings, with the eastern building being the main temple structure and the western building serving an auxiliary function.

- Advertisement -

A geophysical survey conducted by archaeologists from the Mediterranean University of Crete revealed buried architectural remains which indicate a semi-circular structure.

Excavations have found archaic objects in the sanctuary of the temple, including high quality vases, one of which is inscribed in the Doric dialect and mentions A K E S T O I D A M A T R I (Akestoi dedicates to the goddess Demeter). The team also found artefacts linking Phalasarna to the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians. Other finds include figurines, spearheads, vases, and enthroned feminine figures.

Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

Header Image Credit : YPPOA


- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Archaeologists reveal hundreds of ancient monuments using LiDAR

A new study published in the journal Antiquity has revealed hundreds of previously unrecorded monuments at Baltinglass in County Wicklow, Ireland.

Archaeologists use revolutionary GPR robot to explore Viking Age site

Archaeologist from NIKU are using a revolutionary new GPR robot to explore a Viking Age site in Norway’s Sandefjord municipality.

Highway construction delayed following Bronze Age discoveries

Excavations in preparation for the S1 Expressway have delayed road construction following the discovery of two Bronze Age settlements.

Archaeologists uncover possible phallus carving at Roman Vindolanda

Excavations at the Roman fort of Vindolanda have uncovered a possible phallus carving near Hadrian’s Wall.

Carbonised Herculaneum papyrus reveals burial place of Plato

An analysis of carbonised papyrus from the Roman town of Herculaneum has revealed the burial place of Plato.

Sealed 18th century glass bottles discovered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

As part of a $40 million Mansion Revitalisation Project, archaeologists have discovered two sealed 18th century glass bottles at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

Study suggests human occupation in Patagonia prior to the Younger Dryas period

Archaeologists have conducted a study of lithic material from the Pilauco and Los Notros sites in north-western Patagonia, revealing evidence of human occupation in the region prior to the Younger Dryas period.

Fort excavation uncovers Roman sculpture

Archaeologists excavating Stuttgart’s Roman fort have uncovered a statue depicting a Roman god.