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Zone 7

In 2009, excavations focused on the southwest foot of the Kephali hill where previous investigations in the beginning of the 1990s by Sylvie Müller and Jan Driessen identified the remains of a megalithic wall. The position of the wall near to the modern entrance to the site makes this structure unmistakable to the visitor (Fig.1).

FIg.1 : Megalithic wall seen from the south after overgrowth clearing (Photo C. Gaston).

FIg.1 : Megalithic wall seen from the south after overgrowth clearing (Photo C. Gaston).

The wall consists of an L-shaped structure made of two 7 m-long stretches meeting at right angle. The considerable size of the blocks (the largest is estimated to weigh 2 tons!) and the position of the wall across what is today the easiest path to the top of the hill led to speculate about the date and function of the structure. These issues were elucidated by the excavation of two limited trenches.

The first trench, opened against the outer face of the wall, brought to light a Neopalatial pottery deposit (MM IIIB/LM IA) probably corresponding to a redeposited destruction layer. Since the deposit was found resting against the face of the wall, its date may provide a terminus ante quem for the abandonment of the structure.

The second trench was opened in the angle of the wall. There, excavations revealed three successive Neopalatial earth floor levels (MM IIIB/LMIA). This evidence suggests that the wall may have been part of a residential structure during the Neopalatial period. The Neopalatial floors were apparently laid over collapsed debris belonging to an earlier, Protopalatial residential structure. It is not impossible that this structure was occupied until MM III when it suffered substantial damage. EM II-III pottery was found mixed with the collapsed material and suggests that the area may have been inhabited as early as EM II. From the collapsed debris come the fragments of an MM straight-sided cup decorated in white-on-dark with a semi-radiating motif (Fig.2). These fragments can be stylistically related to the classical “Kamares” ware abundantly represented at the palaces of Phaistos and Knossos.

Fig.2 : Middle Minoan straight-sided cup fragments with white-on-dark decoration (Photo Chr. Papanikolopoulos).

Fig.2 : Middle Minoan straight-sided cup fragments with white-on-dark decoration (Photo Chr. Papanikolopoulos).

On present evidence, it seems unlikely that the megalithic wall of Sissi was exclusively designed as part of a defensive system. Aside from its likely association with Protopalatial and Neopalatial residential buildings, the structure may also have served as a retaining wall. Its monumental character may also have been intended to impress visitors arriving from the west.

Simon Jusseret