Special Finds

Quartz Crystal

In room 15, we found many quartz crystals. It is probable that this room, among others, was used for processing this rare and valuable material, which in antiquity was believed to have magical properties. Quartz crystals and offerings made of this material have been discovered in the Idaean Cave and at some peak sanctuaries, indicating that they may have been used in various Minoan rituals.

Rock crystal (room 15)

Quartz crystal (room 15)

Rock crystal in situ (room 15)

Quartz crystal in situ (room 15)


In the Ceramics Workshop, we uncovered two mysterious “lekanes.” There are no parallels in Minoan archaeology. Although they resemble modern juice squeezers, we are not sure about their function. The spout was designed to pour liquids, so we think that they may have been used either in the process of producing ceramics or for squeezing juice from fruits and vegetables. Another idea is that they were used for food production, such as the congealing of milk in order to produce yogurt or cheese. In addition, both lekanes had a hole at the base, which may have facilitated their smooth firing–the hole was likely used to position the vessel on a shaft in order to spin it, like on a potter’s wheel.

Lekanes in situ (Ceramics Workshop)

Lekanes in situ (Ceramics Workshop)

4. Lekanes

Lekanes (Ceramics Workshop)

Potter’s Wheel

The potter’s wheel from the Zominthos Ceramics Workshop is one of the biggest found to date, in either a palace or palacelike structure (or villa). It belongs to the well-known typology 3C (according to R.D.G. Evely). Similar wheels have been found at other sites, including Nerokourou, Knossos, Archanes, Tylissos, Gournia, and Zakros.

The Zominthos wheel has a diameter of 44 centimeters (17.3 inches) and a slightly projecting rim. On the back, it has seven grooves/ridges and a collar (13 centimeters, 5.1 inches) with oblique cuts. The wheel would have been attached to a vertical axis that revolved around the socket.

The potter’s wheel was used to shape round ceramic wares. The principle of the wheel was most likely developed in Mesopotamia. In ancient times, pots were created using coiling, a technique that involved squeezing, squashing, and smoothing successive layers of clay coils into a thin, even wall that swelled or tapered as it grew and formed a shape. To do this, the potter needed to turn the pot around slowly as he worked. Gradually, innumerable ways of using a platter or bowl to speed up the coiling were developed. Eventually, a small turntable was employed, with which a vessel could be turned around quickly and easily. However, it took a long time for free-running, steady turntables to come into use.

Potter’s wheel, back (Ceramics Workshop)

Potter’s wheel, back (Ceramics Workshop)

Potter’s wheel, front (Ceramics Workshop)

Potter’s wheel, front (Ceramics Workshop)


Among several pithoi that we have found in the Zominthos Central Building, there is a particularly interesting one that came to light in 2007. It took up a great area of the southeast and central part of room 15. It has a height of 1.15 meters (3.7 feet) and two rows of handles below the rim and at the lower part of its body. At the center of the room, and in contact with the pithos’ rims, two thin pieces of limestone came to light that do not resemble the stones fallen from the story above. This probably means that they were used to cover the pithos, which was most likely used for storing liquids or legumes and nuts.

Pithos in situ (Central Building)

Pithos in situ (Central Building)

Pithos (Central Building)

Restored Pithos (Central Building)


We discovered this object in the northwest corner of room 15, near the pithos. Similar objects, which have been characterized as sauceboats, have been found at Akrotiri, Thira. However, we are yet not certain if the Zominthos find had the same use, since it is much larger and undecorated. Any suggestions?

Kymbe (room 15)

Kymbe (room 15)

Beads Made of Bronze, Sard, and Agate

These beads, which we excavated in room 19, were most likely part of a necklace. They are special finds not only for Zominthos, but for the Neopalatial period in general. These kinds of artifacts usually come to light in cemeteries, which are quite rare during this era.

Beads (room 19)

Beads (room 19)


In the south wall of room 15, we revealed one niche, in which we uncovered three high-stemmed communion chalices. These cups were used as rhyta, since they have a hole at their base through which liquid offerings could be made. These finds may indicate the Central Building’s double use, as a place of worship and a crafts center, an interpretation that is reinforced by site’s location on the route to the Idaean Cave.

12. Rhyta

Rhyta (room 15)

Rhyta in situ (room 15)

Rhyta in situ (room 15)

Knife Blade and a Vessel’s Base with Fingerprints

We found this knife blade in the Ceramics Workshop, near the potter’s wheel and under a very strange base of a vessel that has numerous fingerprints. Although it is not definite that the blade was used in the production of pottery, it is certain that it was used like a modern knife, probably for the preparation of food, since we unearthed a lot of animal bones in the same room. On the other hand, the base of the vessel has no parallels. The fingerprints may have formed a rough surface to be used as a grater, probably for the production of pottery. Any suggestions are more than welcome!

Vessel with fingerprints (Ceramics Workshop)

Vessel with fingerprints (Ceramics Workshop)

Knife blade (Ceramics Workshop)

Knife blade (Ceramics Workshop)

Pig Rhyton

We uncovered this rhyton, shaped like a pig, in the niche of room 11. It seems that there are no parallels of this type and, along with the other three rhyta in room 15, it may reinforce the interpretation of the Central Building’s double use as a place of worship and a crafts center.

Pig rhyton, front (room 11)

Pig rhyton, front (room 11)

Pig rhyton, top (room 11)

Pig rhyton, top (room 11)


On the floors and walls of the Central Building, we found great quantities of plaster. Many of them have traces of red and blue color, as well as traces of the strings that were used to shape the outlines of frescoes. Their quality is unprecedented for such a building, which supports the notion that Zominthos Central Building had palatial features and functions.


Picture 1 of 6

Plaster from the Central Building


In room 15, we unearthed several pieces of pyroluzit (manganese oxide), which has a semi-metallic shine and is mainly found at Lavrio (Attica) and on the island of Melos. When processed appropriately, it can be used to make colors and produce porcelain.

Pyroluzit (room 15)

Pyroluzit (room 15)


The archaeological data in Minoan archaeology, with the exception of Akrotiri and Archanes, rarely present such well-preserved floors from each story. An excellent example at Zominthos comes from room 15, where part of the floor was lying in the upper layers and especially above the pithos found at the northeast part of the room, giving a definitive answer about the original appearance of the floor.

Floor from room 15

Floor from room 15

Comments (72)

  1. Efi Sakellaraki, Director of Zominthos Excavations says:

    Dear Mrs Bauer,
    Thank you for your suggestions. However, both objects are big and heavy. So they cannot be used the way you propose.

  2. Livvy McMahill says:

    Mrs. Sakellaraki…

    Please accept my sad condolences on the death of Professor Sakellaraki…& my best wishes for your continued directorship of this very Important dig…

    My husband’s grandfather was from Crete & often spoke of the Marvelous objects found while plowing their fields on Crete…He was a great admirer of the Old Ones, as he called them…

    Thank You for your work to bring this most Amazing civilizaton alive again…

    They were Fascinating people who deserve to Live again & to be Appreciated for their accomplishments & Beautiful creations…

  3. Sylvia Constantindis says:

    Dear Mrs Sakelarakis,
    My condolences on the passing of yoru husband. Here in Australia we are fascinated by Minoan civilization and archaeology. I hope one day you will visit us with some of yruo finds. I have visited Crete and walked with teh Minoans, They were truely a fascinating civilization. Please continue to publish.

  4. lin says:

    trying to find you, can i have your facebook or twitter?

  5. tina swetman says:

    Hi, I am bringing a group of teenagers from the UK to Crete next summer(2012) to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh award. Part of the award stipulates that they spend 5 days doing something that interests them away from home. I was wondering if it would be possible to come along to the dig and be put to work in some basic capacity? There are 10 of them, they are all from an independent school in Canterbury in the south of England. They are intelligent, articulate well presented individuals who would take this opportunity very seriously. We will be in Crete from 14/15 August until 28/29 August depending on flights. They will spend 5 days walking in the Lefka Ori fro the expedition part of the award. Can we be of any assistance?
    Best Regards
    Tina Swetman
    on behalf of
    Kent College Canterbury

  6. Peggy Schuyler says:

    Could the Kymbe (rm 15) be a type of funnel used to fill jars with grain, wine, olives (if available then), and such? Or a scoop used to fill jars? Good luck on your fascinating excavations!

  7. Kestie Freehawk says:

    I have a Lodge cast iron Chicken Fryer made of cast iron that has dimples in the lid and when I make pan fried pizza the lid is handy because the thin part of the metal is hotter and evaporates the steam. It melts the cheese without making the bread soggy. Could the dimpled pan be a lid for melting cheese on flat bread?

  8. Samuel France says:

    Two comments about object identification, generally to draw broad comparisons to more modern tools.

    Some of the best tools are not used just for one thing. Particularly when one is in a hurry, a screwdriver is a fine alternative to a can opener, a prybar and a chisel. As an ancient example, if I’m a hunter in the field, and some scrap of leather is dangling off clothes, I could very well decide to cut it off with an arrowhead.

    There’s a misassumption that tools were especially apt for their purpose. After buying kitchen knives for some years now at the local reminders store that sometimes sells very high knives, I’m surprised that some knives were made By major manufacturers at all — they’re largely useless for most people. (I’m thinking of a bread knife from Henckels.) I have an inexpensive Japanese sushi knife that’s so razor sharp, it’s too dangerous for general use. My aging stepmother complains about the weight of the very expensive kitchen knife I gave her — yet she’s a small person. I’m a large athletic person, and I often feel the little kitchen knifes that skimp on metal weight are the wrong tool for me for any job.

    So, thinking outside the box, these ancient tools may have had more than one purpose for which they were more or less suited.

  9. Lynne Nordquist says:

    Back in 2010 I suggested that the mysterious vessel with the fingerprints found in the potter’s workshop was a bat or banding wheel. I should have remarked at the time that if the vessel is indeed a bat, then the location of the knife makes perfect sense. Most potters have several knives, made of metal, wood and other materials, used for the purpose of trimming the base of a freshly thrown pot before removing it from the bat or wheel.

  10. granger cemetery vase says:

    When my time comes, I want to rest in a historical cemetery somewhere like Spring Grove.

  11. I recently read that you guys have found a ‘libation table’ inscribed with Linear A at Zominthos… Is it possible for you to provide me with photos of the inscription (all 12 sides) for personal use? I have been working on Linear A and pictographic for some time (well over a decade) and in fact was awarded a MA for my work… I would be forever grateful!!!

  12. Rachel Whidden says:

    In the Introduction for the field notes it states that one of the rooms that would be concentrated on would be room 19 because of the light well that was located there. On this page it states how the beads made of bronze, sard, and agate were also found in room 19 and how they were mainly used in cemeteries and quite rare during the time. Do you think the two have a symbolic relationship since they were found in the same space?

  13. Razzi Smith says:

    This is so amazing, I am completely blown away. I would love to help anyway I can if you ever have volunteers helping out let me know i would love to do this anyway i possibly can. This seems so interesting, I am so jealous that people actually get to do this.

  14. Thelma Kastl says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your adventure and knowledge for those of who have not had the opportunity to experience this in person. I love the fact that I can tie this into history, science, technology, engineering, mathematics and technology assessment! I wish I had the financial means to support your endeavors!

  15. Sean Darius Vickery says:

    I have seen references to a quartz “lens” found at the Idaean Cave, but have not been able to find a scholarly article on quartz artifacts from this site. Did your team find a “lens”? Do you have any idea if the quartz workshop had grinding tools. Thanks!

  16. Prof. John DEAN says:


    We discovered this object in the northwest corner of room 15, near the pithos. Similar objects, which have been characterized as sauceboats, have been found at Akrotiri, Thira. However, we are yet not certain if the Zominthos find had the same use, since it is much larger and undecorated. Any suggestions.


    Dear Sirs, Madame, Ms.:

    As one looks closely at the various objects and their use, and without knowing additional details about composition and
    size in this case — this object looks a lot like a small version
    of a drain pipe, no?

    That is, could this be a drain pipe that is closed at one end and open at the other — thus directing
    water & moisture in a certain direction? An intelligent detail of engineering. Water, after all, was to be
    saved and harnessed. (And, after all, this object is undecorated.)

    Just a suggestion.

    Thank you.

    Best: — Professor John Dean

    Bravo on your WebSite! Very inspiring and subject appropriate.

    Professor John Dean,
    . Program Co-Director, 2015-2017 – der Akademie für Lehrerfortbildung und Personalführung
    in Dillingen, DE.
    . Executive Member US American Studies Association International Committee.
    . Chercheur Centre d’Histoire Culturelle des Sociétés Contemporaines, UVSQ.
    . Prof. Emeritus MC University of Versailles, France

  17. Hi, I would like to know what peoples opinion of the plant depicted on the rhyton? And what would the pigment be made from? Thanks, cool stuff!

  18. I propose It looks like Arundo Donax. It is spot on as far as taxonomy and spacing in nature. Barley has thinner leaves and is much more crowded, the seed head is also not depicted here. In greek writing the Minoans still at this time were more openly using sacraments than people in other areas. It would make sense to label the plant on its intended vessel if it was in some way intoxicating. Is it the shape more that makes you believe it ceremonial? I would also like to know more about the pigment used and how I could find out. Thanks again!

  19. I should say, ‘I would suppose’^, can not edit!

  20. Matthew Day says:

    With respect to object 15, it is tapered and rounded towards the front edge, or I would have said something to do with directing water runoff. At the left edge (as shown) the end is straight, but chamfered at roughly a 45% angle. I think you will find some kind of attachment method there, that will tell you if the object was a handheld scoop, or part of some larger scooping thingy, lol. It was located in proximity to the big pythos, which I will bet dollars to donuts had a bulk commodity like grain, or flour in it. Maybe it was part of the broken lid for the pythos? a kind of chute to channel new grain or flour into the pythos? A funnel for granular solids.

  21. Russ Roy says:

    As far as the restored pithos, several things come to mind. It is a storage vessel and would have been unstable sitting on the floor during common modest tremors in the region. It has a rather narrow base for its height. The handles are not for hands but for ropes and this vessel was probably suspended from the ceiling at perhaps a 30 deg. angle from the horizontal. Given the length of the vessel, it still could have held a lot. I suspect olive oil as the most likely. People today incorrectly think Bronze Age people had a primitive technology. This is incorrect. It was different than ours and one major difference is that people were used more than machines and engines. Two people would have manipulated the vessel. One at the lower end would lift it and at the other end, liquid would flow into a smaller vessel held by the second person. The cover, not shown, could have been easily crafted to fit in the angled position. As the vessel was slowly emptied over time the ropes could be adjusted to change the angle. The vessel could also be refilled while hanging also. The floor could be swept, it might have also been possible to adjust the ropes to that when not needed, the vessel would be moved up so people could walk under it. Hard to know this without more detail about the room.

  22. Russ Roy says:

    Vessel with fingerprints! for the benefit of the FBI? I doubt it being used as a grater. The rim would probably be smaller or non-existent. For strength, making the piece thicker would be better for a grater. There are some other possibilities. For example, this is a frying pan. Clay is not as thermally conductive as metal, so making it more conductive would help. Putting all those little dents in probably more than doubled the surface area of the pan so it warmed up faster and was hotter. Sticking with Julia Child, lets put some berries into the fingerprints, pour some batter on top and bake it. Flip it over and you have a decorated cake. Stretching a little, we suppose that the knife and the “pan” worked together. If you had something you wanted to stay still while you sliced it, pushing it down on a textured surface would help do that. The rim would catch the blood/juices.. whatever. This room was not a kitchen but for making clayware as you said: pots, bowls, knife handles, pans, all to order!

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