Sacred Caves in Roman Crete: The Case of Skoteino
Skoteino cave, in north-central Crete, is an important Minoan cult site that flourished in the Neopalatial period. This site was excavated in 1962 but its remains, studied in 2003 and 2004, reveal a rich Roman phase as well. A large assemblage of ceramics, both pottery and lamps, show a Roman presence at the cave from the first century BC through at least the third century AD. The majority of these finds seem to be domestic, and kraters, basins, plates, bowls, cooking pots, and lamps are identified; this pattern differs from many contemporary Cretan caves, like Agiasmatsi and the Ideon cave, which have at least a ritual component evident in their finds. The large number of lamps found at Skoteino suggests long-term or densely populated activities, but the types preserved do not confirm that this was of a ritual nature.
This paper explores the Roman use of Skoteino cave through its ceramic remains and considers it in the context of cave use, domestic settlements, and ritual sites in Roman Crete. Petrographic and typological analyses also permit some conclusions to be drawn regarding the source of the visitors to Skoteino.