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Hagia Triada

Coordinates: 35°03′32″N 24°47′33″E / 35.05889°N 24.79250°E / 35.05889; 24.79250
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Hagia Triada
Map of Minoan Crete
LocationFaistos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece
RegionMessara Plain
Coordinates35°03′32″N 24°47′33″E / 35.05889°N 24.79250°E / 35.05889; 24.79250
TypeMinoan town and "palace"
Site notes
Excavation dates1902-1914, 1934-1936, 1939, 1950, 1977-present
ArchaeologistsFederico Halbherr, Luigi Pernier et al.[1]
Public accessYes

Hagia Triada (also Haghia Triada, Hagia Triadha, Ayia Triada, Agia Triada), (Greek: [aˈʝia triˈaða]) is a Minoan archaeological site in Crete. The site includes the remains of an extensive settlement noted for its monumental NeoPalatial and PostPalatial period buildings especially the large Royal Villa. It is located in the Mesara Plain about three kilometers from the larger Palace of Phaistos, with which it appears to have had close political and economic ties. It is also nearby the Minoan harbor site of Kommos.[3] Excavations at Hagia Triada have provided crucial evidence concerning Minoan everyday life.

Notable finds include the Hagia Triada sarcophagus and the "Harvester Vase". About 150 Linear A tablets were found, the largest cache at any Minoan site.[4] Twenty three roundels (circular lumps of clay sealed on the edge) and a large number of nodules (clay lumps with 3 faces of which two had small inscriptions and one face a seal) were also found.[5] All of the Linear A finds date to the Late Minoan IB period, before the site was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt.[6]

After being found on 62 Linear B tablets at Knossos, the name "pa-i-to" has been proposed for the ancient name of the nearby site of Phaistos. The ancient name of Hagia Triada is not yet known though at one point "da-wo" was proposed as well as Scheria from the writing of Homer.[7]


Minoan chronology
Timespan Period
3100–2650 BC EM I Prepalatial
2650–2200 BC EM II
2200–2100 BC EM III
2100–1925 BC MM IA
1925–1875 BC MM IB Protopalatial
1875–1750 BC MM II
1750–1700 BC MM III Neopalatial
1700–1625 BC LM IA
1625–1470 BC LM IB
1470–1420 BC LM II Postpalatial
1420–1330 BC LM IIIA
1330–1200 BC LM IIIB
1200–1075 BC LM IIIC

The site was founded in the Early Minoan I (EM I) period.[8] By the Middle Minoan IA (MM IA) period it is known to have had a cemetery with a large circular "tholos" tomb.[9] The site grew rapidly during the MM IB to MM IIB period.[10][11] With the Protopolatial period (c. 1925 BC) an extensive building program began which continued through the NeoPalatial period. Toward the end of the LM IB period (c. 1625–1470 BC) the site was destroyed by fire. It has been suggested that this destruction resulted from a series of large earthquakes.[12] After that destruction monumental rebuilding occurred on a large scale.[13] By sometime in the Late Minoan III (LM III) period the site came under Mycenae control.[14] In the 13th century BC the site of Haghia Triada was destroyed and abandoned.[15]

In the Mycenae Protogeometric period (c. 1050-900 BC) a sanctuary was established in the Regione dei Sacelli area, primarily at the Piazzale dei Sacelli. Numerous votive figurines were found there. After an occupation gap of three centuries the site came back into use in the Hellenistic period (323-30 BC) with several shrines being built. At that time the site was under the control of nearby Phaistos. The site was then abandoned in the 2nd century BC after Phaistos was destroyed by Gortyn. Later, after the island was conquered by Rome in 69 BC, a Roman villa was built at the site.[16]

Nearby are two chapels: Hagia Triada in the deserted village and Hagios Georgios, built during the Venetian period.[17]


Archaeological site of Agia Triada

Hagia Triada is in south central Crete, 30–40 meters above sea level. It lies four kilometres west of Phaistos, which is situated at the western end of the Mesara Plain. The site was not a Minoan palace but an upscale town with some kind of local administration center. Though occupied earlier, most of the structural remains date to the Late Minoan period. The site is traditionally divided into a "Villa" (administrative center) and a "Village" area, at both of which Linear A inscriptions were found (all dated to the site's destruction by fire in Late Minoan IB). The site included three large storage magazines, which is taken to suggest trade. Linear A tablet find spots in the Villa were at northwest corner, southwest corner, and in two of the magazines (in one case found inside two pithoi and in the Village at the "Casa del Lebete". Although the site was partially rebuilt after the LM IB fire there was no evidence of administration from that point on.[6]

Linear A inscription on a clay tablet from Hagia Triada

The site was first identified in June 1900 by Luigi Pernier who was excavating at Phaistos at that time.[18] While work proceeded at nearby Phaistos, Hagia Triada was excavated from 1902 to 1908 by a group from the Italian Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Atene, directed by Federico Halbherr and Luigi Pernier.[19][20][21] The site includes a town and a miniature "palace", an ancient drainage system servicing both, and Early Minoan tholos tombs. The settlement was in use, in various forms, from Early Minoan I until the site's destruction by fire in Late Minoan IB.[22][23]

Excavation resumed between 1910 and 1914, with the addition of Gaetano De Sanctis though the work from this effort is largely unpublished.[24] In 1938 and 1959 Luisa Banti carried out limited excavation at the site.[25] From 1970 until 1976 the site was excavated by Doro Levi and Clelia Laviosa. All of these excavations remain thinly published.[26]

From 1977 to 2012 a team from the Italian Archaeological School at Athens led by Vincenzo La Rosa excavated at the site.[27][28][29][30][31] Finds included a Late Minoan I kiln.[32] Publication of this excavation, which focused on the ProtoPalatial levels, is in progress.[33]

During the long course of excavation innumerable small finds have been collected. These include a large bronze cauldron, loom weights, obsidian tools, oil lamps, bronze bowls, 16 copper ingots and large quantities of jugs and drinking cups. For the early excavations the specific find spot is not always clear.[6]

Hagia Triada sarcophagus[edit]

The famous Hagia Triada sarcophagus

In 1903 archaeologists unearthed the Hagia Triada sarcophagus painted with illuminating scenes of funerary rituals.[34][35] It was found in a 3.8 meter by 4.2 meter tomb (Tomb 4) dated to the LM III period and contained two skulls.[36] The tomb is also known as the Tomb of the Painted Sarcophagus and contained a 2nd, clay, sarcophagus (Larnax) and a stone and clay cup, two bronze razors, a clay figurine, and two seals. It has been suggested that a number of grave goods found in the nearby Tomba degli Ori originally resided in this tomb.[37] In 1956 a complete cleaning and restoration of the sarcophagus was completed.[38] It is the only limestone sarcophagus of its era discovered to date and the only sarcophagus with a series of narrative scenes of Minoan funerary ritual.[39] The sarcophagus has fresco painting on all four sides. On the short sides there is a scene of goats (earlier identified as horses or griffin) drawing a chariot, led by a female figure.[40]

Excavation at Hagia Triada

In the center of one of the long sides of the sarcophagus is the scene of a bull lying on a table which has two goats squatting underneath. A man, playing an aulos flute and wearing a phorbeia faces the table and is followed in procession by four women.[41]

The second long side, generally called the North or Front (because it faced the door of the tomb), is divided into four directional zones. In the rightmost zone there is a structure with three stairs and a spiral border holding a leafless tree. Next to the left an armless figure (speculated to be a god, statue, or deceased man) faces left. In the next leftward zone three men in procession face the armless figure bearing two bulls and a crescent shaped white boat. In the leftmost zone a man dressed in a long robe is playing a seven-stringed lyre (Phorminx) preceded by a woman who is wearing a crown and carrying two baskets. She in turn is preceded by a woman offering a libation to an altar. The altar is decorated with double axes and two yellow and red birds.[42][43]

Harvester Vase[edit]

Harvester Vase Heraklion Archaeological Museum

An agrarian procession is depicted on the black steatite "Harvester Vase" which was found in Hagia Triada along with the Chieftain Cup. The lower portion was not preserved. The date of the vase is in some dispute. The range of Middle Minoan III to Late Minoan I had been proposed.[44] An alternative proposal is to the last phase of the NeoPalatial period (Late Minoan II). Men are walking in twos with rods on their shoulders. The leader is dressed in a priestly robe with a fringe and is carrying a stick. A group of musicians accompany with song, and one of them holds a sistrum.[45][46][47][48] Other interpretations of the procession have been proposed.[49]

Chieftain's Cup[edit]

The Chieftain Cup is a serpentine footed conical cup or chalice measuring 11.5 centimetres high and with a diameter of 9.9 centimetres. It depicts five males, three with "hides" and two facing each other. The rightmost faving figure stands in front of a pillar and wears three necklaces, several arm bands and bracelets, and a belted short kilt with dagger. The other is holding a sword in one hand and an object in the other thought to be a ritual "sprinkler" and also wears a short kilt. On the back only the heads of the three ox-hide bearing figures are seen. There have been a variety of possible explanations for the scene on the Chieftain's Cup.[50][51][52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ including Gaetano De Sanctis, Luisa Banti, Doro Levi, Clelia Laviosa, Vincenzo La Rosa
  2. ^ 23rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquitites
  3. ^ [1]Betancourt, P., "A Great Minoan Triangle: The Changing Characters of Phaistos, Hagia Triadha, and Kommos during the Middle Minoan-Late Minoan III Periods", in J.W. Shaw and Maria C. Shaw (eds.), pp. 31-34, 1985
  4. ^ [2] Salgarella, Ester, "Drawing lines: The palaeography of Linear A and Linear B", Kadmos, vol. 58, no. 1–2, pp. 61–92, 2019 doi:10.1515/kadmos-2019-0004
  5. ^ Massimo Perna, "The Roundels of Haghia Triada", Kadmos, 33, pp. 93-141 1994
  6. ^ a b c [3]Tomas, Helena, "The Administration of Haghia Triada", Opvscvla archaeologica 25.1, pp. 39-57, 2001
  7. ^ Privitera, Santo, "Looking for a Home in a Houseless Town: Exploring Domestic Architecture in Final Palatial Ayia Triada", Hesperia Supplements, vol. 44, pp. 263–72, 2011
  8. ^ Todaro, Simona, "A non-funerary context for communal feasting in EM I Ayia Triada (Crete)", Proceedings of the 10th International Cretological Congress (Chania, 1–8 October 2006), pp. 59-71, 2011
  9. ^ [4]Caloi, I., "The Mesara tholos tomb cemeteries in the Protopalatial period. Comparing the funerary complexes of Kamilari and Ayia Triada", Creta Antica 17, pp. 59-72, 2018
  10. ^ Girella, Luca, "Evidence for Middle Minoan III occupation at Ayia Triada", British School at Athens Studies, pp. 123-135, 2013
  11. ^ Carinci F., "Haghia Triada nel periodo Medio Minoico", Creta Antica 4, pp. 97-143, 2003
  12. ^ Monaco, Carmelo, and Luigi Tortorici, "Effects of Earthquakes on the Minoan 'Royal Villa' at Haghia Triada (Crete)", Creta antica 4, pp. 403-417, 2003
  13. ^ Halbherr F., Stefani E., Banti L., "Haghia Triada nel periodo tardo palaziale", ASAtene LV, 13-296, 1977
  14. ^ Privitera, Santo, "Haghia Triada III", The Late Minoan III Buildings in the Villaggio (Monografie della Scuola Archeologica di Atene e delle Missioni Italiane in Oriente 23), Athens: National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and Italian Archaeological School at Athens, 2015
  15. ^ [5]Rosa, Vincenzo La, "Preliminary considerations on the problem of the relationship between Phaistos and Hagia Triadha", in J. W. Shaw and M.C. Shaw (eds.), pp. 45-54, 1985
  16. ^ D’Agata, Anna Lucia, "Changing Patterns in a Minoan and Post-Minoan Sanctuary: The Case of Agia Triada", British School at Athens Studies, vol. 2, pp. 19–26, 1998
  17. ^ La Rosa, Vincenzo (2012). "Ayia Triada". In Cline, Eric (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean. Oxford University Press. pp. 495–508. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199873609.013.0037. ISBN 978-0199873609.
  18. ^ Pernier, L., "Lavori eseguiti a Phaestos dalla Missione Archeologica Italiana nel 1900: relazione", RAL IX, pp. 631-636, 1900
  19. ^ Federico Halbherr, "Lavori eseguiti dalla missione archeologica italiana ad Haghia Triada e nella necropoli di Phaestos dal 15 maggio al 12 giugno 1902", Roma : Tipografia della Reale Accademia dei Lincei, 1902
  20. ^ Federico Halbherr, "Rapporto alla presidenza del R. Istituto lombardo di scienze e lettere sugli scavi eseguiti dalla missione archeologica ad Haghia Triada ed a Festo nell'anno 1904", Milano : Ulrico Hoepli edit, 1905
  21. ^ Federico Halbherr & Luigi Savignoni, "Resti dell'eta micena scoperti ad Haghia Triada presso Phaestos : rapporto delle ricerche del 1902", Roma : Tipografia della Reale Accademia dei Lincei, 1903
  22. ^ Banti, L., "La grande tomba a Tholos di Haghia Triada", ASAtene 13-14, pp. 155-251, 1933
  23. ^ Borda, M., "Arte cretese-micenea nel Museo Pigorini di Roma", Roma: La libreria dello Stato, 1946
  24. ^ Levi Della Vida G., "Scavi della Missione Italiana in Creta", Ausonia 4, pp. 37-38, 1910
  25. ^ Banti l., "I culti minoici e greci di Haghia Triada", ASAtene 19, pp. 9-74, 1941-43
  26. ^ La Rosa V., "Haghia Triada: vicende e temi di uno scavo di lungo corso", Creta Antica 4, pp. 11-68, 2003
  27. ^ La Rosa V., "La ripresa dei lavori ad Haghia Triada: relazione preliminare sui saggi del 1977", ASAtene LV, pp. 297-342, 1977
  28. ^ La Rosa V., "Haghia Triada II: relazione preliminare sui saggi del 1978 e 1979", ASAtene LVII-LVIII, pp. 49-164, 1979-80
  29. ^ La Rosa V., "Le nuove indagini ad Haghia Triada", in 5th Diethnes Kritologhiko Synedrio, Ag. Nikolaos, Heraklio, pp. 190-198, 1985
  30. ^ La Rosa V., "Le campagne del 1986-91 e la conclusione del primo ciclo dei lavori ad Haghia Triada", in 7th Diethnes Kritologhiko Synedrio, Rethymno 1991, Rethymno, pp. 523-542, 1995
  31. ^ La Rosa, Vincenzo, "La conclusione dei lavori ad Haghia Triada. Le campagne 2010-2012", Creta Antica 15, pp. 129-242, 2015
  32. ^ [6]Belfiore, Cristina Maria, et al., "Petrographic and chemical characterization of pottery production of the Late Minoan I kiln at Haghia Triada, Crete", Archaeometry 49.4, pp. 621-653, 2007
  33. ^ Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications - "Hagia Triada IV. The Protopalatial Levels (Excavations 1977-2012)"
  34. ^ Nauert, Jean Porter, "The Hagia Triada Sarcophagus: An Iconographical Study" Antike Kunst 8.H. 2, pp. 91-98, 1965
  35. ^ Crete: The Archaeological Site of Agia Triada
  36. ^ Burke, Brendan, "Materialization of Mycenaean Ideology and the Ayia Triada Sarcophagus", American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 109, no. 3, pp. 403–22, 2005
  37. ^ Girella, Luca. "Middle Minoan III—Late Minoan IIIB Tombs and Funerary Practices in South-Central Crete", Death in Late Bronze Age Greece: Variations on a Theme, pp. 248-281, 2010
  38. ^ Levi, Doro, "The Sarcophagus of Hagia Triada Restored", Archaeology, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 192–99, 1956
  39. ^ Watrous, L. Vance, "The Origin and Iconography of the Late Minoan Painted Larnax", Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, vol. 60, no. 3, pp. 285–307, 1991
  40. ^ Small, Terry, "A Goat-Chariot on the Hagia Triada Sarcophagus", American Journal of Archaeology 76.3, pp. 327-327, 1972
  41. ^ [7]Kubatzki, Jana. "Processions and Pilgrimage in Ancient Greece: Some Iconographical Considerations", in Ute Luig (ed.) | Approaching the Sacred. Pilgrimage in Historical and Intercultural Perspective | Berlin Studies of the Ancient World 49, pp. 129-157, 2018
  42. ^ Long, C., "The Ayia Triadha Sarcophagus", Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 41. Göteborg: P. Åström's Förlag, 1974
  43. ^ [8]Cain, D., and Wendy Walgate, "Narrative Cycles on the Hagia Triada Sarcophagus", FAH 2001, 2002
  44. ^ Franković, Filip, "A View to a Kilt – The Late Bronze Age Aegean Costume in the Context of Social and Cultural Changes", Praehistorische Zeitschrift, 2023
  45. ^ Forsdyke, John, "The 'Harvester' Vase of Hagia Triada", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 17.1-2, pp. 1-9, 1954
  46. ^ Knapp, A. Bernard, "Sound of Silence: Music and Musical Practice in Late Bronze–Iron Age Cyprus", Strings and Threads: A Celebration of the Work of Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, edited by Wolfgang Heimpel and Gabriella Szabo, University Park, USA: Penn State University Press, pp. 121-132, 2011
  47. ^ J.A.Sakellarakis, "Herakleion Museum. Illustrated guide to the Museum" p. 64. Ekdotike Athinon. Athens 1987
  48. ^ Anderson, Warren D., "From the Beginnings to the Dark Age", Music and Musicians in Ancient Greece, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pp. 1-26, 1997
  49. ^ MacGillivray, J. A. "Reaper's Rout or Mariner's March? Reconsidering the ‘Harvester’ Vase from Ayia Triada" Processions: Studies of Bronze Age Ritual and Ceremony presented to Robert B. Koehl, pp. 81-90, 2023
  50. ^ Koehl, Robert B., "The Chieftain Cup and a Minoan Rite of Passage", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 106, pp. 99–110, 1986
  51. ^ Evangelos Kyriakidis, "A Sword Type on the Chieftain's Cup (HM 341)", Kadmos, vol. 39, no. 1-2, pp. 79-82, 2000
  52. ^ Koehl, Robert B., "Beyond the "Chieftain Cup": More Images Relating to Minoan Male "Rites of Passage"", Studies in Aegean art and culture. A New York Aegean Bronze Age Colloquium in Memory of Ellen N. Davis, hrsg. v. Robert B. Koehl, pp. 113-132, 2016

Further reading[edit]

  • Baldacci, Giorgia, "Pottery and ritual activity at Protopalatial Hagia Triada: a foundation deposit and a set of broken rhyta from the Sacello", Creta Antica 15, pp. 47-62, 2015
  • N. Cucuzza & N. Hellner, "A Late Minoan III propylon at Haghia Triada", CretAnt 10/11, pp. 501-518, 2009
  • [9]De Gregorio, Chiara, "The Ayia Triada Necropolis in the EM III-MM I and the Connections with Neighbouring Areas" Dissertation, Heidelberg University, 2024
  • G.P. Carratelli, "Le epigraphi di Haghia Triada in lineare A", Salamanca, 1963
  • Gallo, G., et al., "3D Modeling in the Archaeology of Minoan Crete: the Architecture of Ayia Triada (Crete)", Communications to SIMAI Congress, vol. 3, 2009
  • Hiller, S., "Egyptian Elements on the Hagia Triada Sarcophagus", in Betancourt and Karageorghis, pp. 361-368, 1999
  • Jones, Bernice, "A Reconsideration of the Kneeling-Figure Fresco from Hagia Triada", Krinoi kai Limenes: Studies in Honour of Joseph and Maria Shaw, pp. 151-158, 2007
  • [10]Martino, Paula L., "Egyptian ideas, Minoan rituals: evidence of the interconnections between Crete and Egypt in the Bronze Age on the Hagia Triada sarcophagus", Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 4.1, pp. 31-50, 2012
  • P. Militello, "Riconsiderazioni preliminari sulla documentazione in Lineare A da Haghia Triadaî", Sileno, 14, pp. 233-261, 1988
  • [11]Monzani, Juliana Caldeira, "Spatial analysis in archaeology. A study of case: Hagia Triada, Crete", Revista do Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia. Suplemento, pp. 143-148,
  • Privitera, Santo, "A Painted Town: Wall-Paintings and Built Environment at Late Minoan III Hagia Triada", Mycenaean Wall-Painting in Context. New Discoveries, Old Finds Reconsidered, EIE, pp. 66-90, 2015
  • Privitera, Santo, "The LM III frescoes from the villaggio at Hagia Triada: New observations on context and chronology", Creta antica 9, pp. 111-137, 2008
  • Privitera, Santo, "The tomb, the house, and the double axes: Late Minoan IIIA2 Hagia Triada as a ritual and ‘mythical’place", AEGAEUM 39, pp. 149-156, 2016
  • [12]Shaw, Maria C., "Minoan and Mycenaean wall hangings: new light from a wall painting at Hagia Triadha", Creta Antica 3, pp. 93–104, 2002
  • [13]Uchitel, Alexander, "“River” and “Earth”: Two “provinces” of the Minoan principality of Phaistos-Hagia Triada", 2016
  • Watrous, Livingston V., "Ayia Triada: a new perspective on the Minoan villa", American Journal of Archaeology 88.2, pp. 123-134, 1984
  • Weingarten, Judith, "Seal-use at LM IΒ Ayia Triada: a Minoan elite in action I. Administrative considerations", Kadmos 26.1, pp. 1-43, 1987

External links[edit]