Archaeological areas in Tylisos Municipality
Archaeological area of Tylisos
The site of the ancient town was located by the travelers of the 19th century, Pashley and Spratt. Pashley in 1837 mentions how he arrived at Tylisos coming from the Province of Mylopotamos after a tiring descent. Although he was not told about coins and other ancient finds by the local inhabitants, he was convinced that it was the site of ancient Tylisos, since they mentioned to him the name of Tylisos.
Spratt gives a more detailed description: he locates the ancient town on the highest part of the site and is surprised by the extent of the city, which was situated on a most, advantageous and preferential strategic place. He bases his opinion about the importance of the ancient city on the extent of its ruins and on its coins. He mentions that he came to this conclusion from some ancient tombs which had recently been looted by illegal excavators. Moreover, the inhabitants of the village told him about foundations of walls, made of big ashlar stones, which they found while digging or ploughing their fields.
Joseph Chatzidakis, the doctor and archaeologist who founded the archaeological service in Crete and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, was the lucky man to excavate the famous ancient Tylisos. Here is the way he recounts the discovery of the ancient city: «ln the year 1906, some inhabitants of the village found four huge cauldrons while digging in the fields of the Holy Monastery of Chalepa. They carried them to Heraklion in order to sell them as old bronze. We saw them quite by chance in a coppersmith’s workshop and bought them on behalf of the Museum. Moreover we immediately asked for permission and money from the Cretan Government in order to carry out excavations at the site. The excavation began in June 1912 and lasted three summer months over three years».
View of the Ancient Tylisos
In the 1940s the late Nicholaos Platon, then Ephor of Antiquities in Crete, undertook works of conservation and restoration of the ruins, on a big scale. His collaborator was the late Zacharias Kanakis, then chief technician of the Museum. The works on the ruins of the mansions A and B included:
Storerooms in Mansion A
Water cistern in Mansion C
The purpose of all these works was to present the Minoan mansions at the time of their flourish. At the same time, the arrangement of the site and its enclosure was also performed.
These works were continued and completed in the years 1951-1955, again by the Ephor N. Platon. New works included the restoration of the windows, the dadoes and the staircases of Mansion B. Also, a series of works were conducted on Mansion C, and in the Court of the Altar and the paved roads west of Mansion C, including the restoration and fixing of walls, the reconstruction of the triple window and the restoration of all paved floors, dadoes, polythyra and staircases. One polythyron and some architectural parts of the latest mansion C', on a higher level over the earlier Mansion C was also made.
The fixing of the successive paved roads led to the discovery of the new paved yard beside the Court of the Altar, and of the north portico which had five columns and was contemporary to the latest Mansion C. A similar and contemporary larger Portico exists at Agia Triada and at Kommos in south Crete which at that time served as the palatial centre and palatial port respectively, having replaced the Phaistos palace in this role. Besides these works, new plans of the Mansions were prepared by the late architect Piet De Jong.
If we attempt a classification of the Minoan centres and other settlements, according to their history, the importance of their architecture and their finds, we must place the palatial cities of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, Zakro, Agia Triada, Archanes and the urban centres of Palaikastro and Tylisos in the first class. In order to support this classification we will go through the architecture of the Tylisos Mansions.
The architecture at Tylisos is quite similar to that of Knossos and is more impressive than other palatial buildings, for example Malia. The finds of Tylisos are unique.
The author prefers to use the term mansions, that is to say large buildings of luxurious construction and urban function, instead of the term houses as Chatzidakis called them or villas (cottages) as others call them. The three huge cauldrons have no parallel in the Aegean sea and indicate the great number of the inhabitants in the mansions, as well as the ability of obtaining the precious and expensive metal (copper) which arrived in Crete only through a well organized palatial trade.
The bronze idol of Tylisos is the biggest and best of its kind. Scholars consider it of wonderful art. The cauldrons and the idols testify that Tylisos used to be a large centre of copper-working, and that a local bronze sculpture workshop or a local cooper school existed here. Tablets of the Minoan palatial Linear A script have been found only in palaces and grand mansions. One clay idol and one jar have an incised inscription in the Linear A.
The large plastered water cistern is not a usual find in Minoan palaces and mansions.
Aerophotograph of the Ancient area of Tylisos
The obsidian rhyton is very rare too-there is only another one from Zakros. The miniature frescoes are only found at Knossos and prove the prosperity and refined taste of the inhabitants of Tylisos.
Tylisos had very close links with Knossos throughout its floruit (1650-1450), but also during the next period (1450-1200). In our opinion it was a substitution for the capital, a regional centre through which the palatial authority of Knossos could exercise control - together with the nearby mansion at Sklavokampos - on the strategic passage from central to western Crete, as well as on the economic activity on the mountains and plains of Malevizi and much more, on the wealth of mount Ida which is a very rich area (stock-raising, timber, wool etc.). The following facts lead to the conclusion that the two cities had very close relations during the New Palatial (1650-1450) and the Latest Palatial (1450-1200) periods:
The whole external appearance of the mansions at Tylisos is of excellent quality and luxuriously built. The facades are of big well-carved ashlar stones, some of which also have masons marks. Moreover, the frescoes in the interior can be compared only to the Knossian ones. It is by no means impossible that the mansions at Tylisos may have been made by the same architects, builders and artisans as those of the capital Knossos.
The structure of the interior of the mansions and the arrangement of the various apartments corresponds to their function. This is more obvious inside mansions A and C. The main apartments in each mansion are the residential apartments, the storerooms and the sanctuaries.
The miniature frescoes of Tylisos which were preserved only in fragments - a total of thirteen - are very similar to the Knossian ones, in terms of styles and subjects. Some details of the frescoes are so like the Knossian-ones that we believe that they were painted by knossian painters. They comprise the second largest group of miniature frescoes in Crete.
The name of the city of Tylisos is registered in the catalogue of the cities incised on clay tablets in Linear B during the Late Palatial or Mycenaean period. These cities were under the direct control of the capital, Knossos, like Amnisos etc. The mansion which was founded on the ruins of the Neopalatial mansion C, may have been of the type of Mycenaean megaron, similar to the one at Agia Triada of the same period (which was the palatial centre of Mesara during that period, Phaistos of the tablets). It might have been the seat of a local government subject to the great capital, Knossos.
The cistern which was built on the east side of the Mansion of the late or Mycenean period and adjacent to it was also used for a kind of worship, since clay idols and a clay ox head were found inside it, but not many sherds. Similar ceremonies were held in the spring sanctuary, in “Tikti Krini”, in the Guests House (Karavan-Serai) at Knossos. After the collapse of the palatial authorities in the big centres after 1200, in Tylisos as in Knossos, an important settlement continued to exist and its inhabitants did not have to move to a safer place or shelter as happened at other big centres.
The tombs of Tylisos, which have been excavated at times in various locations such as Langoufi, Panekklisia etc., belong mainly to the last flourishing period (1450-1200). They are chamber tombs and contained clay larnakes, clay vases and other grave-goods, like jewelry, seals etc.
Mansion A was the first to be excavated of the three mansions of Tylisos. The excavator called it a palace primarily, because many of the finds looked palatial. It covers the central part of the excavated archaeological area. It was two storeys high, as the stairs prove (on the south-west corner and on the west of the store-room 17) and consists of 24 rooms and other spaces. Its dimensions are 35x18m, i.e. it covers an area of about 630 sq.m.
Mansion A is built with ashlar masonry for the exterior and preserves the spaces for wooden interior framing in certain places, as well as paved areas. Its entrance lies in the middle of the eastern side. The visitor has to walk around the ruins in order to enter the mansion, but usually this is done from the west part where there are some openings. The entrance consists of a trithyron with two pillars and leads to a spacy room with a column in the middle, which served as a storeroom. A bronze axe and sheets of gold were found inside it. From the propylon, the interior of the south part can be seen through a window. Opposite the entrance, a door with a window beside it leads - through a narrow corridor - to the north staircase which ran upstairs. Beside this entrance a steatite lamp was found.
The store-rooms with the jars which were found in situ, lie on the north side. In the centre of the two storerooms are the square pillars which supported the roof. Above the store-rooms there were large halls with columns for meetings and banquets. The south part of the mansion is more complicated and more interesting. It had a polythyron megaron which is the architectural nucleus of Minoan palaces and other large buildings. It consists of a light-well on the west, a portico in the shape of a Γ with columns and paved floor, as well as of a central hall with polythyra and paved floor.
All the other departments are around the polythyron mansion: A pillar crypt with a column and a paved floor with jars, clay vases, bronze axes and other offerings inside it. One of the most remarkable finds of this room and perhaps of all the excavations in Tylisos was the bronze idol of a worshipper. All these were found in the domestic sanctuary which lay on the first floor and from which they fell during the destruction. Room 11 served as a lustral basin and had six steps which ran downwards. The paved store-room also contained very important finds: the three huge bronze cauldrons made of bronze sheets with rivets which is unique at Tylisos, the tablets in the Linear A script with incised inscriptions, a bronze ingot, and clay sealings.
Mansion B is less impressive in terms of the arrangement of the interior spaces. The exterior walls are built with ashlar masonry. Its shape is rectangular and it was two storeys high. It was possibly used for storage and its function might be supplementary to mansion A. Among the most remarkable finds are the jars, the clay vases (pyxides, cooking pots, spout jugs and cups) an offering table of steatite and fragments of frescoes from the rooms of the upper floor.
In the place of Mansion C, north of Mansion A, two successive buildings existed. The first, together with the Mansions A and B, belongs to the period of the new palaces. The second one was founded in the last Palatial period (14th and 13th centuries B. C), one meter above the ruins of the Neo-palatial mansion.
The Neo-palatial mansion C was covered with earth after its destruction in 1450 BC up to the roof of its basement, but it has been preserved in good condition. It is smaller (about 350 sq.m.) than Mansion A and its shape is less impressive. It is irregular in shape and the various groups of its rooms create wings which project over the north and the west. Its entrance lies on the east. The rooms of the ground floor communicate through a system of four corridors.
On the south of the entrance lies the section of the sanctuary with a columned crypt. The group of the store-rooms is on the west side. The residence apartments are on the north-west part of the Mansion. Communication with the upper floor was accomplished by means of three staircases. The windows in room 14 are very impressive. Room 12 served as a lustral basin. Among the very remarkable finds of mansion C are the jars in the store-rooms, the fragments of frescoes in room 7 (fallen from the upper floor) and many clay vases.
From the later Mansion C, few ruins have remained: two bases of columns, some thresholds and jamps, a stone-pipe, a small stone tank and a big circular stone-built tank with a descending staircase in the north-east corner of the old mansion. The portico with the four columns which was excavated on its north side is contemporary to the later mansion.
VISITING HOURS of Tylisos’s archaeological area
|MONTHS ||VISITING HOURS ||DAYS ||HOLIDAYS |
|April - October ||09:00 - 16:00 ||Monday-Sunday ||- |
|November - March ||09:00 - 16:00 ||Monday-Sunday ||- |
Telephone number of archaeological area: 2810-831498
Α. Vasilakis, Tylisos, Edition of the Communal Enterprise of Tylisos, 1997
Malevisi, Edition of Developmental Organisation of Malevisi, 1998
Heraklion and its Prefecture, Edition of Prefecture of Heraklion, 1971