A splendid site, a couple of kilometres to the west of the “palace” of phaistos, Aghia Triadha is known to have had a history dating back to the middle of the 4th milennium BC.
Continuously settled from those distant times, it was, however, destroyed by fire in the catastrophes which affected the whole island, in around 1,900 BC, though not looted. It rose to prominence at the very time Phaistos was beginning its slow decline from around 1600BC onwards. Not a palace in the conventional sense, Aghia Triadha, however, is a site of enormous importance, and can justifiably be ranked alongside Knossos and Phaistos as “must-see” places. Finds here include the famous ‘Aghia Triadha Sarcophagus (a larnyx – or coffin – made not of terracotta, but of limestone, which eats away the flesh). upon which is seen a scene straight out of late Minoan times. On one side is a fresco of a bull tied down to an altar having been sacrificed, as blood dripping into a basket below clearly shows. On the reverse side, a procession with seven figures involved is taking place; two women look left, carry urns (presumably to collect the blood of the poor bull, as his thighs are being carried in a basket!), and following them is a man carrying what looks like a lyre, with seven strings. To the right, three men have their backs to the lyre carrier and face what is commonly thought to be a priestess, two carrying offerings of animals, whilst the third hasa boat in his hands, presumably to speed the passage of the sarcophagus’ occupant to a better place. The “Harvester vase’, depicting a scene bucolic scene of crop gatherers, carrying scythes, and apparently singing whilst one of their number plays a tambourine-like instrument, known as a systrum. The ‘Boxer vase’ and the ‘Cheiftans Cup’, numerous clay sealings and Linear A tablets, all of which reside in Herakleion’s archaeological museum.