Like most of Crete, the valley that resides to the north of Matala is as historically rich as it is ancient. The earliest detectable inhabitants date to ~7000 BC. We chose to visit two very different and important archeological sites, Gortyn and Phaistos.
Gortyn is as ancient as any city in Crete, but is most famous for the Gortyn law code (left) that was etched into stone in the 6th century BC and remains on display in the later remains of a Roman Odeon. It is the oldest and most complete example of a code of ancient Greek law and contains hints of what Minoan society must have been like, one where equality between men and women was greater than probably any civilization since, vastly greater than during the Golden Age of Athens.
You can learn more about it here.
Phaistos is a well preserved ancient Minoan palace that was occupied between ~3000 to 1500 BC. Minoan palaces dot the Cretan landscape, but there are a handful that are the largest and best understood, Phaistos being one of them (above and below).
While each of the great palaces are slightly different from the others, key elements of their spatial layout are common to all of them (courtyards, sleeping and bathing quarters, stockpiles, etc.). A common culture was clearly in play across the island during this golden age of Crete.