Ancient History

Archaeological findings in the greater area

Settlement at Kefali of Erganos

Of special interest are the post-Minoan, early-Geometric findings in the plates of Embaros. At its eastern end, the southwestern edge of Mount Dikti, the ruins of a settlement and its cemetery have been discovered. It lies on mount Kefali (alt. 1090m), between the Embaros and Erganos basins, above the mount crossing that connects Viannos and the plateaus of Lasithi. Despite the rocky nature of the mountain, which makes the settlement more of a refuge-shelter, careful examination of the topography reveals important advantages for its inhabitants. Its fortified and central position, the clear view towards the cultivable grounds and the already inhabited areas of the west, as well as the neighbouring village of Ergana, were justified to attract the interest of the people, despite the fact there wasn't any fertile soil. This leads us to conclude its inhabitants didn't deal with agriculture, in fact they probably were hunters or cattle-breeders, or even thieves plundering the nearby settlements. However, modern cultivations of vineyards and seasonal cattle pasturage might support the original hypothesis.

The settlement's cemetery lies in the area of Ksenotafia, on the western side of the mountain. It is comprised of several vaulted graves, circular in ground plan, and some pit-like ones.The former have been built from uncut and unequal in size stones, without any adhesive materials. The diameter of the largest vault approaches 2 meters, its height is estimated around 1.3m and the length of the road about 1.4m. Many dead bodies were placed inside each grave, as the finding of the bones of six dead persons prove.

The fact the findings appear scattered in a limited area, compared to the extent of the larger area, doesn't appear random. On the contrary, it seems that the position of the facilities was dictated by the need to control the cultivated areas and the ways of transportation, but also assuring efficient defense. Kefali offers those potential to its inhabitants, yet lacks any sources of wealth. The Erganos' findings precede the Arcadian remnants, which in conjunction with the relative positions of the facilities appears to indicate a movement of the population from the former position to the latter. It appears the population of Erganos recluded back to Kefali. Its lack of natural resources leads us to assume it wasn't used as a shelter, especially for a community of numerous people for about two centuries. Therefore, we tend to accept the interpretation that those facilities were used from a small group of people that either grabbed the products of settlements lower on Kefali, or received part of the surplus as a trade for protection from third parties. In this case, we think that with the passage of time, the improving conditions of existence and the constant contact between the two groups, gradually, the "survival of the fittest" would evolve into a generally accepted law, which would define the relationships between the members of the local society in the future. Consequently, internal opposition would subside, which in turn will allow the move of the inhabitants of Erganos onto Profitis Ilias, during the 10th century, in the context of a unifying process.

The contents of the vaults of Erganos and Panagia, in conjunction with the rest of the findings in their greater area, offer great insight in the life of their people. The relative poverty of the buildings suggests a mediocre standard of living of the locals, whose main issue was self-sufficiency. Lack of evidence doesn't allow us to deduce any economic or social differentiation of those buried in the vaults, versus the ones buried in pits. It is possible the former implies bonds with Messara and Eastern Crete, without proving the racial identity of the dead. The circular or orthogonal shape of the vault is essentially a local adversity. Multiple inhumations unifies the population and creates a contrast with the later practices on Profitis Ilias, which may be affected by the Minoan customs. They may also show organization of society based on family bonds. Lastly, offering weapons appears to connect glory and the ability of imposing over others, highlighting the value of soldiers and stating the need of readiness. The economic and political situation we just described greatly changes in the 9th century B.C. Erganos is abandoned and the Arcadians are vastly developing.

Arcadians

The Arcadian territory consisted of the southern part of the valley. The built-up core of the Arcadians appears to be created in the early Geometric years, meets swift growth in the 8th and 7th centuries and survives into the Classic and Hellenistic periods. After 260 BC it submits to Gortyna, and is possibly ruined in 221 BC by Knossians, when its inhabitants allied with Lyctians. During Roman rule, the command center appears to move close to Ini, and even in later years the city is not abandoned.

The constant occupation of the area is justified by the fact it is included among the richest in the island. During early Iron age, the center of human presence was the mountain of Profitis Ilias, which oversees the plateau of Embaros. Its position allows its people the control of a vast area, which is interfered between the gulf and the plains of Messara and Pediada. Natural resources of the area offered the local populace not only sufficient goods but also a great surplus of agricultural products. Besides, ground morphology would provide unblocked visibility to any direction and its natural fortification is undoubted. Control of the ways of communication between central and eastern Crete would reinforce their economic contacts with other areas, providing a satisfactory level of living. Moreover, position of Mt. Profitis Ilias, about in the center of the area, made its monitoring easier, while its height, in combination with its morphology, provided natural fortification for its populace and the neighbouring mount Idi provides cover from the east. Therefore, settling on Profitis Ilias possesed the advantages which would make a settlement an economic and political centre that would stand out.