A storehouse of ancient treasures, including precious jewels and gold beads, has been uncovered by archaeologists on an island near Crete devoted to making a precious purple dye from sea snails thousands of years ago.
The finds on Chrysi — a now uninhabited island — show the high value placed on the rare purple dye and the flourishing economy of the settlement between 3,800 and 3,500 years ago, during the Protopalatial and Neopalatial periods of the Minoan civilization on Crete.
Archaeologists think the largest building in the settlement was inhabited by a local elite who may have governed the Minoan settlement on the tiny island, south of the east end of Crete, Greece's culture ministry said in a statement.
The team found deep beds of thousands of the shells of spiny sea snails called Murex — which make the vivid purple substance within their bodies — in several small buildings in the settlement but not in the large building.
Instead, the large building was equipped with terraces, work desks, stoves, buckets and a stone staircase, suggesting that it was once inhabited by those who managed the settlement's production of the purple dye, and perhaps its promotion and trade to buyers who visited the island by ship, as well as payments wherein precious metals, jewelry and gemstones.
The prosperity of the island settlement was not shown by the remains of its simple buildings, but by the high quality of the artifacts found there, the statement said.