The excavation of two new very early Mesara-type tombs, Mesorrachi and Livari, atypically located in north-east and south-east Crete respectively, has called for a revision of previous theories about the tombs’ origin. Past studies have used grave goods to measure Cycladic influence; debate continues as to whether such objects reflect interaction/trade in prestige items, or immigration. In contrast, tomb construction is a long-term labour-intensive project embodying beliefs about life and death, and as such it will reflect the strength of tradition that has taken root in situ. Easterly alignment of tomb entrances to face the dawn has long been recognised as a distinctive and significant feature of the tombs’ construction. The sun rises at a range of positions during the year from 60° at midsummer to 120° at midwinter, and a study of the orientation of the Mesara-type tomb entrances identified recurring patterns of alignment to sunrise at specific times in spring and autumn when the first light would, over a period of a few days, briefly enter through the low tomb doorway to illuminate the interior. At the same time it was possible to identify groups of exceptions with unusual alignment patterns. The same tombs also shared certain elements of geographical location, construction and contents suggesting groups of immigrants bringing off-island ideas and culture; in some cases there are specific Cycladic links. It is suggested that Cycladic input should be reconsidered as one of the many strands of influence from various sources that contributed to the development of the phenomenon that became the Mesara-type tombs.