Archaeologist, professor at the University
of Heidelberg and member
of the Greek Archaeological Service
The third excavation of John Sakellarakis was called “the highest Greek excavation” due to the difficulty in finding the archaeological findings. John Sakellarakis (1936 – 28th October 2010) was an archaeologist, professor at the University of Heidelberg and member of the Greek Archaeological Service since 1963, in the archaeological site of Ideon Andron which is situated on the peak of Psiloritis Mt. in an altitude of 1.538 meters above the Kalikrateian Prefecture of Anogia in the prefecture of Rethymnon –Crete.
According to the findings, Ideon was an area of a special worship and John Sakellarakis in 1982 who started the third excavation 100 years after the first one, mentioned: “my courage to overcome the Greek envy contributed to the decision to take over the excavation of the Archaeological Society in 1982, since some director of Antiquities prevented my first periodical exhibition in Herakleion Museum that I was preparing as its new director”.
The technological equipment that was installed and helped the success of the excavation -he had clarified- was a generator, a hoist and trolleys on rails in order to raise tons of stones and discharge. The shepherds called it “Crete’s first railway”.
It has to be noted that for the implementation of the projects in the ancient cave, the contribution of a numerous qualified personnel constituting of archaeologists, workmen, antiquities guards, excavations craftsmen, geologists, architects, civil engineers, electricians, constructors, cooks and others that reached the amount of about 75 people, was greatly important. More than half of those people lived during the whole period of every excavation in makeshift shelters in the area near the cave, specifically in the nearby “Spring of Christ”, which was being constructed from the beginning each year.
It is worth mentioning that this was the first time that the cave and the wider area were declared archaeological sites (according to the law of that time) while the position award vascular along with other welded findings became known and Ideon Andron was able to be visited at the end of the excavation.
The archaeological findings are chronologically determined in the prehistoric, the Roman and the Classical period. The excavation was focused on the central hall of the cave– according to John Sakellarakis’ notes- and more particularly in the west side, in a site which was studded with rocks.
More specifically, Mr. John Sakellarakis underlined “the wall had to be found that the archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos discovered during the second excavation. The specific photo of the excavation in the particular spot was published in the Proceedings of the Archaeological Society; however due to the fact that the photo was printed upside down, it did not actually help. Indeed, the contribution of an old villager from Anogia, who had worked in the excavation as a teenager, was crucial. The wall that stretches from the east to the west and covers about 10 meters in length and 0, 80 meters in width including its angle to the north, formed a tiled room that went all the way till the ash alter which was surely related to worshipping. A significant element regarding worship was also the spotting of the ash alter, a common mark not only in Olympia but also in the temple of Heraion in Samos. Among the most important elements are two inscribed potsherds that are referred to Zeus.
The North Creek with a length of 26 meters and a width of 6, 50 meters has two distinct endings, one in the east and one in the west. This is the very place where apart from the main hall most findings from the prehistoric till the Roman Period were found. As well as in the Central Hall, also in the South Creek, the findings were covered in ashes and animal bones. In the South Creek with a length of 8, 70 meters and a width of 8, 20 meters, a variety of vases were found which are dated in the classical period”.
The first excavation at Ideon Andron was realized by a young Italian archaeologist called Federico Halbherr at the end of the 19th century and the second excavation was realized by Sryridon Marinatos.
John Sakellarakis was a Greek archaeologist, professor at the University of Heidelberg and a member of the Greek Archaeological Service since 1963. He was distinguished for his archaeological excavations and discoveries in Crete.
He was born in Epirus Street in Athens in 1936. He graduated from the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Athens. He served in many parts of Greece, namely in Crete at the age 27, initially as a curator of Antiquities at the Herakleion Museum (1963-1968) and later as its director (1980-1987). In Athens, he served as the curator of Crete and also as the curator of prehistoric societies (1970-1980) and deputy director (1987-1994) of the National Archaeological Museum. He taught at the Universities of Athens, Hamburg and Heidelberg. He published a variety of books and articles, mainly about the early civilizations of the Aegean. He gave dozens of lectures all over the world and took part in numerous conferences and symposia. He was a member of a number of Greek and foreign scientific societies. He was awarded along with Effie Sakellaraki by Athens Academy and won the gold medal of the University of Crete. In January 2004, he was honored by the President of the Republic with the gold cross of the Legion of Honor.
John Sakellarakis died on October 28th in 2010. He requested that his bones were buried in the Cretan Zominthos, the site that he discovered.
His archaeological action was: Along with his wife Effie Sakellaraki he excavated in Archanes. There, in a «draft » he discovered a small chamber tomb which however did not have any findings. Thus, the search for the Palace of Archanes commenced and he really managed to bring results. Then, he discovered the ancient cemetery in Fourni and the temple in Anemospilia.
He himself writes: “37 centuries ago, at a time when fierce earthquakes swept over Crete, a Minoan priest tried to exorcise the great catastrophe with a rare and desperate act. He offered to the deity of the temple on the hillside the greatest sacrifice: a human life. Victim and victimizer were buried simultaneously due to an earthquake that demolished the temple”.
John Sakellarakis’ guess created great reactions. In fact, this view cost him his professorship.
On August 29th 1984, he discovered at Ideon Andron in Crete a number of important archaeological findings from the Minoan Era, which were probably earlier hidden there by a villager of Anogia. Lastly, he excavated in the island of Kythira and discovered Zominthos.
Source of publication 15th edition In-On