The island of Leuke is mentioned by Pliny. A special mention is also made in the inscription known as the "Diaitesia (arbitration) of the Magnetes", built in the facade of the catholicon (main church) of the Toplou Monastery. The inscription refers to the conflict between Itanos and Ierapytna. Leuke was an important station of sponge collecting and mainly, of the working of murex shells, from which the famous, precious and expensive purple dye was extracted; moreover, its position was strategic mainly for the ships that stopped on the south-east coasts, and as a result became a reason of conflict between the two cities. Itanos was justified in the end.

Leuke was continuously inhabited from the Early Minoan (3000-2200 B.C.) until the Early Christian period and was finally abandoned in the 4th century A.D. The very restricted human presence on the island thereafter (it was used only for cultivation and stock-breeding) greatly contributed to the preservation of the antiquities as it actually remained uninhabited, although the largest part of its surface was covered with sand.

The English admiral Th. Spratt was the first who visited the island in the middle of the 19th century and made detailed descriptions of the ancient remains he managed to locate: a temple in the south, with fragments of a marble statue, a settlement in the northern part of the island, and water cisterns in the centre. In 1903, the English archaeologists R.C. Bosanquet and Ct. Curelly conducted a survey to locate the ruins mentioned by Spratt, while in 1971 A. Leonard Jr. carried out a more thorough investigation. Systematic excavation started in 1976 by N. Papadakis of the 24th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and is still in progress.