Dikteon andron cave or Zeus cave or Psichro cave

Dikteon andron cave or Zeus cave or Psichro cave

The impressive cave of Zeus, the Diktaean Cave, is located just 10 minutes walking-distance from Psychro, in Lassithi Plateau, at an altitude of 1025m. In Psychro there is plenty of parking areas, with plenty of restaurants nearby. The route to the cave is magnificent as the view to the Lassithi Plateau is breathtaking. The cave, which has an area of 2200 sq.m, is well lit and the paths in it come along a well-designed path of 250m length.

Near the entrance, on the right there is a hall (length 42m, width 19m, 6.5 m), while the great hall starts at a lower level. On the floor of the hall, there are rocks that have fallen from the top, while others have come to the surface by excavations. Southeast of the chamber there is a large stalagmite complex. Also, there are some buildings. A smaller hall is located on the northwest side, from which important findings have been extracted.

While moving inside the cave, the visitor enters the great hall. Its entrance has a width of 18m and a height of 14m, while the largest part of it is covered by solid rock and large stalagmites. From there, a downhill staircase starts which leads to the end of the hall. The great hall has a maximum length of 84m, width 38m, height 5-14m. The floor is full of scattered rocks.

On the left hand, the visitor can easily discern a small chamber with dimensions 10m x 5.5m It is called 'cradle of Zeus' and, according to the myth, is the room where Zeus was born. On the right another larger hall is shaped (length 25m, width 12m, height 10m), which is divided into two sections by large columns. The first part is located 35m lower than the cave entrance. It hosts a marvelous water lake (16m x 8.5m) which has water all year round. The pond is filled with coins from visitors.

The whole great hall has impressive decor with large columns, stalactites and stalagmites. The Diktaean cave is one of the most spectacular caves in Crete.

In the late 19th century, local residents, mostly shepherds and hunters, discovered many ancient objects in the cave. From then, a series of limited excavations started in the cave. Most findings come from illegal excavations and are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion and in Oxford. Unfortunately, the cave was open during the ages, thus many important objects are believed to have been removed.

Objects from Neolithic, Minoan, Subminoan, Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman times have been extracted, indicating the long-term use of the cave. The cave seems to have been used for residence and burials since 2800 BC. It seems that in around 2000BC, the Diktaean Cave became a place of worship, taking the lead as the most important worship cave in the area. In 700BC the worship was moved to Ideon Cave in Psiloritis Mount.

The cave is full of various shapes that resemble humans or animals. It seems that they have been used as worship objects. In the first hall, Neolithic pottery and Early Minoan burial objects have been found. Here, one meter above the floor, a rectangular altar stands. It seems that locals placed offerings above the altar, such as oil, honey, wine, cereals, sacrificed animals and then they put fire. Residues were collected at the side of the altar.

A small shrine (3m x 2m), a paved floor and a wall surrounding them have been found inside the small hall, near the entrance.

Over the paved floor, archaeologists found traces of ashes, post-Minoan jars and reliefs, bronze weapons, knives and pins, a metal cult statue, pottery parts, and Geometric and Archaic offerings.

In the great hall, excavations revealed numerous offerings, spearheads, knives, razors, needles, figurines, statues, brass and bronze double axes, pottery parts, gems with depictions of bulls and goats, necklace beads, small spheres of glass, bronze rings, gold and silver garlands, human statues, precious jewelry, lances, spears etc. The devoid of iron is characteristic here (it is abundant in the first hall).