Malia Minoan Palace

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The Palace of Malia, located on the north coast of Crete east of Heraklion, is the third largest Minoan palace, covering 7,500 square meters. Its Minoan name remains unknown, taking its current name from a nearby town.

Evidence suggests that the first monumental architecture on the site dates to the Early Minoan IIB period. This building, or group of buildings, was constructed around a large open space and shares the same alignment as the later palace. Beneath this structure, remnants of even earlier Early Minoan IIA architecture have been found, showcasing a simpler style and different orientation.

It is believed that the Early Minoan II building was not a palace in the traditional sense but rather a monumentalized court, marking the transition of ritual practices from natural settings to constructed environments. Even before the palace’s construction, the town had expanded to 2.58 hectares, with remains found beneath the palace and to the northwest. Some walls in the palace’s west magazines were built during the Early Minoan II period and later incorporated into the first palace.

The Old Palace

The exact construction date of the first palace is debated. The traditional view places it in the Middle Minoan IB period (around 1900 BCE), coinciding with the rise of a powerful elite on Crete. However, some archaeologists argue for an earlier construction in the Early Minoan III-Middle Minoan IA period, potentially making it the first palace on the island. Evidence for this earlier date is limited, based on the discovery of a “teapot” and pottery sherds within the palace walls.

The Old Palace was destroyed at the end of the Middle Minoan IIB period, likely due to an earthquake, along with the surrounding town. Despite its destruction, finds from this period indicate the Old Palace’s wealth and importance.

The New Palace

The second palace, whose ruins are visible today, was built around 1650 BCE, resembling the old one in many ways. It served religious, political, and economic functions, as evidenced by the presence of magazines, cult rooms, and official apartments. The central court, a feature from the Old Palace, is oriented north-south and measures 48 by 23 meters. Porticoes line the north and west sides, and an unusual altar stands in the middle.

East of the central court are well-preserved magazines, each with a raised area for pithoi and a channel for collecting spilled liquids. The “Loggia,” a building likely used for religious rites, is located north of the magazines. Behind it lies the Treasure Room, connected by a stairway. Other rooms in this area include a lustral basin and an assembly room.

South of the Loggia is the grand staircase, originally leading to an upper floor room. The Main Hall, used for religious purposes, is situated opposite the central court altar. A pillar crypt, accessible from the Main Hall, contains two large pillars, one with a double axe engraving. West of this area is a long corridor with numerous magazines.

The new palace was destroyed around 1450 BCE, along with other Minoan sites on Crete. For over 60 years, excavators believed the palace was a vassal of Knossos, but some argue it may have maintained independence until 1600 BCE. The new palace, built in the Knossian style, suggests Malia may have come under Knossos’ control. It lacked the status objects, administrative documents, and frescoes found in other palaces. The palace declined in the Late Minoan IB period and was ultimately destroyed.

  • Construction Period: Old Palace: Middle Minoan IB (c. 1900 BCE), New Palace: Late Minoan IA (c. 1650 BCE)
  • Location: North coast of Crete, east of Heraklion
  • Dimensions: 7,500 square meters
  • Historical Significance: Third largest Minoan palace, showcases Minoan architecture and culture, provides evidence of trade and administration, and played a role in the power dynamics of the Minoan civilization.
  • Current Status: Archaeological site, under excavation by the French Archaeological School.
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