Places near Profitis Ilias
The best spot in Old Hersonissos is definitely the round village square, surrounded by little tavernas and with a fountain in the middle. The square on summer evenings it is full of life. Locals and tourists fill the tavernas to try tasty Cretan dishes, drink the local wine and have fun with their friends. In recent years the tavern owners have organised a Cretan evening once a week, usually on Mondays, with live music and traditional dances.
ΔΗΜΟΤΙΚΟ ΣΧΟΛΕΙΟ ΑΡΚΑΛΟΧΩΡΙ ΕΙΔΙΚΟ
The cave is situated at the South West side of Arkalochori village, specifically at the SouthWest aisle of Profitis Ilias Church, 400m above sea level.
A narrow entrance (0.70cm wide, 1.60cm tall) leads to the interior, where one cannot walk upright due to lack of space. The roof is supported by three concrete poles. In previous times the cave is reported to be remarkably larger, extending possibly to the whole hill area and consisted of small connected compartments.
The roof of the large cave collapsed around 1500 BC. According to some archaeologists this collapse was due to either an earthquake or the eruption of Santorini volcano. It may also be possible that it collapsed because of soil eroded by water entering the rocks. From the archaeological point of view the cave is one of the most important in the Prefecture of Heraklion. Its reputation as a place of worship had been obviously attracting many visitors, proven by the also large number of votive offerings that were brought into light during the excavations.The first excavation was conducted by Joseph Chatzidakis in 1912 when many potsherds, 53 brass sword blades without handles with a size of up to one meter in length, as well as 19 votive double axes one of which is silver, were brought to light.
More systematic excavations were done in 1934-35 by the archaeologists Spiros Marinatos and Nikolaos Platonas and many objects were found, mainly double gold axes. Their size varies reaching up to 70 cm. Among the swords the biggest is of a size of 1m and 5cm and is the longest copper sword of the Prehistoric Greece found. Many among the axes and the swords are engraved, one also bearing hieroglyphic writing.
It was supported by Spiros Marinatos, that the cave had been a worship centre since 2500 BC, in favour of a war god possibly, as most of the votive were weapons. It is also possible that some of its space had been used as a coppersmith’s workshop, because pieces of raw copper were found. The above archaeological findings are nowadays exhibited in the Archaeological Museum at Heraklion.
The Cave of Arkalohori is located about half a kilometer south of the homonymous settlement, at the place called Prophet Elias. The entrance to the cave is relatively difficult, whereas before 1500 it had been developed to a greater extent. The collapse of a part of the cave is perhaps due to natural causes.
Archaeological research of I. Hatzidakis has revealed an important worship center with numerous visitors. The findings are related to Early Minoan pottery, bronze knives, swords etc. The excavations continued in 1932 by Spyros Marinatos and Nikolaos Platonas. Among the many items found, there were double axes (labrys), many of which were decorated with gold, and a bronze ax with hieroglyphic signs, similar to those of the Phaistos disc. The cave had been used since 2500 BC as a place of worship, probably of a war deity, because the offerings have been mainly weapons. The cave probably had been a copper workshop, as indicated by findings of pieces of copper.
ΝΗΠΙΑΓΩΓΕΙΟ ΑΡΚΑΛΟΧΩΡΙ ΕΙΔΙΚΟ
Byzantine Church of Archangel Michael
This is a rare Byzantine monument. The church of the Archangel Michael (14th – 15th century) with the Cross on its roof has a main architectural characteristic: its vertical aisle distinguishes from the central aisle, as it is higher, while the church has no dome. It also has a narthex with a dome for its decoration and arches based on columns, as well as frescoes of the Cretan School of the 14th and 15th centuries. Outside at the door entrance an embossed icon of a melon can be distinguished, which is quite unusual. The temple is situated at the old cemetery of Arkalohori, just outside the village.