The cave of Eileithyia, 1km south of Amnissos, was used as a place of rituals from the Neolithic times right up to 5th c. BC. It was dedicated to the goddess Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth.
A number of spectacular finds of women during childbirth, or nursing or praying were unearthed here and are exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Iraklion. Neolithic artifacts such as shells, tools and animal figures have been found here too.
Restricted investigation was carried out in 1885 by Joseph Chatzidakis. The site was systematically excavated by Spyridon Marinatos in 1929-1938.
The most important monuments at this place are:
- The cave of Eileithyia. It is 64.5 m. long, entered from the east. Inside there was a rectangular anteroom and a rectangular peribolos surrounding cylindrical stalagmites (altar or cella).
- Courtyard with the altars. The courtyard is exactly outside the cave and was probably used for ceremonial activities. Buildings of the 14th-13th centuries B.C. were discovered here and interpreted as priests' houses by their excavator.
A second Cave at Kamares, about 57km from Iraklion, reached was also used as a place of worship during the early Minoan period, probably also dedicated to the goddess Eileithyia. The remarkable Kamares vases were found here and are exhibited at the Iraklion museum.