It is located at the northeastern border of the Heraklion nomos (prefecture), and east of the eponymous village, between Mt. Dikti and the sea on a narrow strip of coastal plain.
Greek archaeologists first explored this site in 1915. Since 1922 the French School at Athens has explored the palaces and large houses which were part of a large Minoan town here.
The ancient name is unknown. The name Malia possibly derives from the adjective 'omalo' or 'smooth'. A prepalatial settlement was excavated here, with finds including sherds of Vasiliki ware.
The first palace was built after 2000 BC, during the same period as the other main Minoan palaces, but was more provincial than the palaces of Phaistos and Knossos. In the Protopalatial town where houses were excavated, a sealstone engraver's workshop was found, as well as a large shrine, town square and marketplace to the north of the palace.
The famous gold 'bee pendant', (right) and a pin with a flower shaped head, were found in the cemetery near the seashore, at Chrysolakkos (whose name means 'Golden Hole').
The new palace at Malia was constructed of local sandstone and ironstone, along with bricks made of mud and seaweed. One approaches the palace ex cavation from the paved West Court.
As is typical of many Minoan sites, there are flagstone paths forming raissed walks. One of these leads to the North Entrance; another runs along to the West Front. Eight circular structures in a double row are seen at the south end of this fascade, constituting pits that were most likely used as silos or granaries, which were probably roofed, as is evidenced by signs of central pillars.
Entry to the main Central Court (large open rectangular space in diagram) via the south paved entrance, was indirect, leading first through an antechamber and paved terrace. The typical sunken lustral basin is seen near the first main entrance of the oldest part of the buildings.
An inner room has a hearth or table for offerings, and a row of storage magazines. The northern part of the palace had two courts. Of these, the North Court was paved and surrounded by workshops and magazines, and the Tower Court. The large hall here (Hypostyle Hall), might have been a banquet room. The Royal Apartments were to the west of the tower. These had multiple doors of the type known as plythyra, as well as light wells, colonnades, lustral basins and stairs. Linear A hieroglyphic writing found on the seals in the archive room, where the sword with the golden hilt with a depiction of an acrobat was also found. For a heck of a lot more about Crete and the Minoans see Harry's Guide to Crete!