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Earlier Explorations

The Kephali or Buffo hill east of the present modern village of Sissi (kinotita Vrachasiou) has been known for some time in travel and archaeological literature: Captain Spratt mentions the creek at Seese (Sissi) in 1865 and the existence of a toponym helleniko which, according to the locals, indicating antiquities. Old Venetian and later maps, however, show a place called Cicalari(a) in this area, as the map by Boschini (1651), Coronelli (1696) and that by J.B. Homann (1704), east of Azimo (itself east of Maglia) and west of Milato. The same maps, however, show a place called Sissi or Sisi to the east of Milatos as also a map by Mercator (1590). Did Sissi and Milatos exchange names at some point in their history or did one cartographer copy the mistakes of another ?

In the fifties, Paul Faure visited the area during his explorations of the island, noting the presence of a large, natural cave east (spiliada) of the Buffo later used as a cattle mandra by a local shepherd (Voidas) and now used as a restaurant by the Kalimera Kriti hotel. In one of his later publications, Faure remarks the following: A 500 m au Nord de Kato Sisi (Mirabellou), en bordure de la mer, sur une terrasse rocheuse qui la domine d’une dizaine de mètres, dite Kremasma, ont été ramassées en 1929 un certain nombre de têtes humaines, très sommairement modelées dans l’argile, certaines pourvues d’une sorte de couronne (BCH 1929, 529). Mr. A. Dessenne qui les a étudiées en 1949 (BCH 1949, 307-315) les a justement attribuées à un enclos sacré, d’une vingtaine de mètres carrés, sans fondations visibles. Il proposait de les dater du MR 3 en raison des tessons de pithoi, d’amphores et de coupelles trouvés au voisinage. Mr Davaras, qui a visité le site en 1963 (Kr.Chr. 1963, 405), n’a identifié qu’un dépôt de tessons et de figurines d’époque subminoenne, ce qui paraît aussi vraisemblable étant donné la facture grossière de la plupart des visages. A 300 m à l’Est, au lieu-dit ormos Charkoma, la légende veut qu’on ait trouvé un chaudron de cuivre. Ce petit mouillage est dominé par la butte de Kefali, au Sud, couverte de tessons et de murailles MR 3, semble-t-il (alt. 25 à 30 m). Dans l’angle oriental du mouillage, au lieu-dit Boufos ont été découverts en 1962 une figurine masculine d’argile à étui phallique et un vase trilobé (Kr.Chr. 1963, 399). Rappelons que Sisi a été un petit port très actif jusque vers 1914. Faure adds that the name of the hill to the east, Kaminia, would also indicate an area of ancient tombs and that the name Sisi is a prehellenic name (BCH 1967, 142-143).

The then epimelete of antiquities Kostas Davaras (Archaeologikon Deltion 1963:405; 1964: 442) conducted some test trenches in the early sixties which resulted in the hill to be classified as an archaeological site.

About the same time, the area was visited by Sinclair Hood, Peter Warren and Gerald Cadogan. Peter Warren recalls On 17 February (1963) we explored the Sissi area and examined several sites (I have been consulting the records in my travel diary). The main site we explored was, wait for it, Aghios Antonios Kephali. My sketchmap notes extensive megalithic walls, with a fine section on the west side of the hill, a small construction on the north, traces of walls on the east and south-east slopes, and « Minoan sherds everywhere ». I noted it as « a large Minoan settlement, previously unrecognized as such. Kylix stems and rims among the pottery ». We also examined other sites east and west of Kephali, including (1) a Minoan shrine! about 150m W of Kephali and 40m from the sea, on a small akrotiri. It was at Kremasma or Kremasta (I wrote both spellings, just one will be correct), I have some details; (2) a really good EM-LM site at Khalkoma on the north-east corner of a bay right on the coast c. 600m east of Sissi. It was being cut away by the sea and there was a wall projecting out of the north-west of the site, right at the sea. There was very good EM pottery �. The pottery then collected is still kept in the Stratigraphical Museum at Knossos.

Minoan Heads found at Kremasma in1929 (Dessenne 1949, fig. 1)

Minoan Heads found at Kremasma in1929 (Dessenne 1949, fig. 1)


The ritual deposit mentioned by Faure in the area to the west of the hill, at Kremasma, was the one found by Demargne in the 20’s (Demargne 1929: 529; Dessenne 1949: 307-315) and then dated to Minoan times. It was said by Dessenne to belong to a site at Agios Antonios where walls, sherds and galopetres were collected; Davaras (1963: 405; 1964: 442) found a further deposit of Subminoan and Protogeometric sherds and figurines within a built cist with associated wall to the west. A Protogeometric figurine handed in to the Iraklion Museum (Davaras 1964: 442) is also said to have been found here (cf. Tsipopoulou 2005: 67). In the late eighties, a small round limestone column base was found on the hill and moved to Vrachasi where it was sitting next to the main road till quite recently. When the road was opened to the hotel and the hill was cut, remains of vases including pithoi were seen by locals. The previous mayor, Giorgios Markakis (Markogiorgo), pointed out where the kalderim still runs, south of the hill, now floating around 5 m above the present road surface. In 1994, Driessen (together with Dr. J.-P. Crielaard) of the Dutch Institute at Athens put in for a survey permit which was declined, however. It is then that the cyclopean-like wall to the southwest of the hill was first noted.

Cyclopean wall ending to the southwest of the Kephali Hill. Photo taken in 1993.

Cyclopean wall ending to the southwest of the Kephali Hill. Photo taken in 1993.

During the nineties, a survey team of the Ecole française d’Athènes under the direction of Sylvie M�ller also visited the area (cf. Blackman 1997: 110; M�ller 1991: 551, fig. 10; M�ller 1996). Hellenistic and Roman sherds are visible in the road cutting (including black glazed and terra sigillata sherds cf. M�ller in Blackman 1996: 110). At around the same time, the KD ephoreia conducted investigations in the general area (including the identification of a partly submerged Prepalatial site east of the hill in the area of the Kalimera Kriti Hotel, in Kharkoma Bay) which is probably where most of the sherds kept at Knossos came from.

In the hinterland of the Kephali are the remains of a Venetian aquaduct, close to the entrance of the Selinari gorge. A few British tourists visited the area in 1929 and left some of their impressions in the National Geographic Magazine of the same year (information courtesy Leonidas Klontzas).

View of the bridge and kalderim road in the Selinari gorge in 1929 (National Geographic Magazine).

View of the bridge and kalderim road in the Selinari gorge in 1929 (National Geographic Magazine).

The Kefali hill was, according to some of our local informers, also a point chosen by occupying Italian forces during World War II to install some light machine guns and when Italians soldiers were killed offshore by the Nazis, some of the bodies apparently washed ashore and were buried locally, especially in Avlaki.




Blackman 1997 = D. Blackman, Archaeology in Greece 1996-1997, Archaeological Reports for 1996-1997, 109-111.

Davaras 1963 = Kritika Chronika 17 (1963), 405.

Davaras 1964 = Archailogikon Deltion 19 (1964), II, 442.

Demargne 1929 = A. Demargne, Chronique des Fouilles, BCH 1929, 529.

Dessenne 1949 = A. Dessenne, Têtes minoennes, BCH 1949, 307-315, fig. 1.

Faure 1967 = P. Faure, Nouvelles recherches sur trois sortes de sanctuaires crêtois, BCH 91, 1967, 114-150.

M�ller 1991 = S. M�ller, Routes minoennes en relation avec le site de Malia, BCH 115 (1991), 545-560.

M�ller 1996 = S. M�ller, Prospection archéologique de la plaine de Malia, BCH 120:2 (1996), 921-928.

T.A.B. Spratt, Travels and Researches in Crete, I-II, London, 1865.

Tsipopoulou 2005 = M. Tsipopoulou, H ???, (Archaeological Institute of Cretan Studies).