The late Minoan cemetery of Armeni is one of the most beautiful archaeological sites on the island. Over 230 tombs dating from 1400-1200 BC are hewn out of the rock here, lying close together in an extensive forest of Walloon and Kermes oaks.
The locals call this area 'Prinokephalo', which means 'hill of wild oaks'. The entire area is fenced off, with access from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am-6pm (November-March 8am-3pm). A leisurely tour takes about 40-50 minutes.
The cemetery was only discovered by chance in 1969, and the town belonging to it has not been found until today. Archaeologists found over 500 skeletons in the graves. Investigations showed that the men had lived to an average age of 28-31, the women only 20-25 years. All the graves were family graves, the dead were buried either on the rocky ground, in large ceramic jars (pithoi) or in painted clay or wooden sarcophagi. For the journey to the afterlife, the relatives were given weapons and jewellery, clay vessels and tools. Today, parts of these finds are kept in the archaeological museums of Rethymno and Chania.
The graves vary in size, which suggests not insignificant social differences. They all consist of a burial chamber hewn into the rock and a sloping access road to it, a dromos. These dromoi vary in length, the longest being 16 m long with 24 steps. There are also considerable differences in the burial chambers. The largest is about 2.40 m high and 5x5 m in size, surrounded by a stone bench. This burial chamber is now electrically illuminated. In front of the entrances to the burial chambers, the former closing stones are usually still leaning against the rock face on the side wall of the dromoi.
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