An accidental meeting in 1982 between a well-known Greek archaeologist, Yannis Sakellarakis, and a shepherd from Crete has led to an archaeological discovery of great importance: Zominthos, a settlement from the Minoan era on the plain by the same name, 1.187 metres above the sea. The settlement is at the feet of the highest mountain in Crete, Mount Psiloritis, eight kilometres from the village of Anogia along the road which led from Knossos to Ideon Andron, the cave where Zeus was born according to Greek mythology.
The shepherd, who lived in Anogia, invited the archaeologist who was working at an excavation site nearby to visit the area of Zominthos. The name was enough for an expert like Sakellarakis to suspect that something could be found in that area. Once he travelled to Zominthos the following day, he realized he was standing in front of a settlement from the Minoan era hiding behind the thick vegetation. A year later, in the summer of 1983, Sakellaris with colleague and partner Efi Sapouna Sakellaraki started excavations until 1990. They resumed them in 2004 and they are ongoing.
In the past few years, the remains of an impressive and luxurious building from 3,500 years ago has seen the light. The building has two or three floors and some 80 rooms including workshops and storage rooms over a surface of 1,360 square metres and it is in excellent state. Sapouna-Sakellaraki told To Vima weekly that it is the first Minoan mountain settlement built in the same period as the Palace of Knossos. The archaeologist also said this is the largest summer residence found so far from the Minoan era.
The structure of the building shows that it was not a seasonal house for shepherds but a luxury residence for local leaders. The building was a great administrative centre and was built with large, elongated stones while walls had been painted in different colours as shown by the building's remains. Experts believe the palace was destroyed by a violent earthquake.
Research so far has shown that three time periods emerge from the remains of the Palace of Zominthos: its first construction in 1900 BC, the second around 1600 BC at the height of its prosperity, when it was presumably destroyed by an earthquake and around 1400 BC when another building was built nearby.
Archaeological findings in Zominthos are several including signets with scorpions or birds and ornamental objects in copper and ivory. Two copper statues were also found, "among the most beautiful from the most prosperous Minoan period", said the archaeologist, who believes these prove the area was also a place of worship. Excavations have in fact unearthed among other things a metallic cylinder with snakes which could have been the sceptre of a priest and a copper cup.