Excavations at Phourni have brought to light one of the most important cemeteries of the Minoan civilisation.
The cemetery dates from 2400 BC until 1200 BC and each funerary complex was used for a long period of time, bearing multiple
and successive burials. The long term and systematic excavations on the site, which began in 1964 and lasted for about three decades,
were conducted by Efi and John Sakellarakis under the auspices of the Athens Archaeological Society.
The most important monuments of the site are:
•Mycenaean Grave Enclosure
The funerary complex in the northern part of the cemetery contained seven graves of the LM IIIA period (14th century BC). The peribolos is rectangular
and the graves, also rectangular, are hewn from the rock. In each of the shafts a sarcophagus (larnax) has been placed. All graves yielded a variety
and wealth of offerings.
•Tholos Tomb A
It was constructed in the first half of the 14th century BC and has a dromos, tholos and a side chamber, which contained an intact royal burial inside a
sarcophagus with rich offerings (gold necklaces, beads of sardium and glass-paste, gold signet-rings, bronze and ivory vases).
the so-called "Secular Building". It lies almost at the centre of the eastern part of the cemetery. It is a complex rectangular structure, built on different levels,
in two separate wings. It was probably used for the preparation of the dead, during the LM IA period (1550-1500 BC).
•Tholos Tomb B
It is the largest and most complex structure of the cemetery, built before 2000 BC and used until the first half of the 14th century BC. Additions made during
the long period of its use, resulted in its complex form, comprising twelve rooms in total. The whole building is rectangular outside, with an inscribed tholos at
•Funerary Building 6
It is an ossuary with six parallel, oblong rectangular rooms, built in the MM IA period (before 2000 BC). The deposits inside the structure are the result of the clearing
of the neighbouring funerary buildings, and consisted mostly of skulls and numerous grave offerings.
•Funerary Building 3
Square, symmetrical building, extremely well-built and well preserved, containing significant offerings. It imitates the domestic architecture of the period
(doorways, antae, thresholds). It was used from the MM IA period (before 2000 BC) until after 1400 BC.
•Tholos Tomb C
It is built above ground level, with an entrance on the east side and a built hearth in the SW part of the tholos. A remarkable architectural peculiarity is the construction
of a window on the south side of the tholos. Burials were placed inside sarcophagi or directly on the floor and contained numerous offerings. The tholos dates from the
EM III period (2250-2100 BC).
•Funerary Building 19
It is the only apsidal funerary structure in Crete, used for burials and depositions during the MM IA-MM IB period (2100-1950 BC). The walls surrounding the apse are
exeptionally thick, obviously for the support of the building, which was roofed with a vault. The burials contained wealthy and numerous offerings.
•Tholos Tomb E
. This is probably the first
funerary building to have been erected at Phourni, as the earliest burials date from 2400-2300 BC but it was re-used two centuries later (2100-2000 BC). It is built above
ground level, with an entrance to the east, antae and lintel, and contained several burials with numerous offerings.
•Tholos Tomb D
It yielded an undisturbed, rich female burial, dated to the 14th century BC. The tomb is cut in the hard rock, part of which was used as a section of the tholos wall while the rest is
built of stones in irregular horizontal rings. The body of the deceased woman was placed on a wooden stretcher.