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Diktaean (Psychro) Cave

The cave of Psychro is one of the most important cult places of Minoan Crete. The use of caves as cult places was one of the basic characteristics of the religious beliefs of the ancient Cretans.

This sacred cave was coincided with the famous Diktaion Andron, which according to the ancient tradition, is the cave that Rhea used to give birth to Zeus. For this reason, it is also called Bethlehem of the Ancient World. According to myth, there was an oracle that said that Saturn would be killed by his son, so he ate his children to protect himself. As a result, Rea resorted to the Dikteon Andro to giving birth to the father of all the gods, Zeus, secretly from Saturn. Rea tricked Saturn and, instead of the infant, she gave him to devour a rock wrapped in the baby's diaper. Then she left Zeus in the cave so as to nurture him the Dikteans Kourites, with the care of the goat Amalthia and the nymph Melissa. The Amalthia goat, which according to another legend was Nymph, raised Zeus while, the Kourites covered his weeping infant with the sounds of their weapons and their wild dance. According to other myth, the god was look after by bees, pigeons or a female pig.

In another tradition, the Dikteon Andron was the place where Zeus, in the form of a bull, brought Europe, after abducting it from Phenicia. It was also said that Epimenides, the famous seer of the Archaic period, slept in the cave for 57 years. After waking up, he had the same age but he had acquired divine wisdom and knowledge.

The worship begins from the Early Minoan period (2800-2300 BC) - although there are traces at the anterchamber of an earlier human presence. The main findings are those of the Middle Minoan period (1800 BC) and later, because its duration of use is long-lasting. Its use continues unceasingly until the geometric (8th century BC) and oriental-archaic period (7th - 6th century BC). The findings show that the cave had visitors during the Roman period. The devotees devoted many votive offerings, such as figurines of faithful, goddesses, animals, double stalks, weapons, etc.

At the end of the 19th century, residents of the area, mainly shepherds and hunters, discovered many archaeological objects in the cave. Since then a circle of excavations has begun in the cave, but of a limited size. Most finds come from smugglers and are kept in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion and Oxford. Unfortunately, because the cave was open, over the centuries, many important objects are believed to have been removed.

The cave seems to have been used as a home and burial site since 2800 BC. It is believed that around 2000 BC. the Dikteo Andro became a place of worship, taking the sights from the most important cave of the Bank, near the village of Marmaketo. Around 700 BC, it delivered the scepter of worship to the Ideo Andros of Psiloritis. Various human-animal or animal-like styles appear to have played an important role in worship.