Prepalatial Cemetery at Mochlos

The Early Minoan Cemetery at Mochlos is one of the largest and most important of the Prepalatial cemeteries in eastern Crete; it contains more built tombs than any other single cemetery in Crete, of any period, and has produced a wide variety of rich finds that have provided much information about the Prepalatial period of Minoan civilization.

The cemetery was excavated in 1908 by Richard Seager, who uncovered over 20 built tombs on the island of Mochlos, as well as a number of pithos burials, rock shelters, and simple pit graves. Two monumental tombs, I,II,III and IV,V,VI, were located on a narrow terrace running along the west face of the island. Their size and architectural details, their relative isolation, symbols of rank, including large numbers of gold diadems, found among the grave goods, and evidence for differential treatment of the deceased, all indicate that these tombs were reserved for a ruling elite.
There is some reason to believe that they were family tombs and belonged to individuals who played a religious role in the community, in which case they may well have belonged to the chiefs of Prepalatial Mochlos. The smaller, more numerous tombs, including rock shelter and pithos burials (VII-XXIII and Alpha-Lambda), were located on the adjacent South Slope and were used by the population at large. Most of the built tombs were constructed at the beginning of the EM II phase (c2900 BC) and continued in use in the EM III phase (c2300 to 2000 BC); fewer appear to have been used in the MM IA phase (ca. 2000 to 1900 BC). After a considerable gap some were re-used in the Neopalatial period, and it was at this time that the pithos burials were made. In 1912 Seager published his discoveries in his Explorations in the Island of Mochlos. In it Seager concentrates on the small finds, since they include some of the most spectacular objects from anywhere in Early Bronze Age Crete, but he neglects the architecture of the tombs. In the early 1970’s Professor Jeffrey S Soles drew detailed plans of the cemetery and identified all of the tombs that Seager had excavated. The results are published in The Prepalatial Cemeteries at Mochlos and Gournia and the House Tombs of Bronze Age Crete, Hesperia: Supplement XXIV, Princeton 1992.