Wednesday, December 7, 2016

New Information Comes to Light on a Unique Mycenaean Tholos Tomb

Ancient Origins

Preliminary results have been provided on a Mycenaean tholos tomb discovered in 2014 on the slope of the Amblianos hill near Amphissa on the Greek mainland. The tomb is considered a special find in West Locris and is one of the few funeral monuments of this type in Central Greece.

 Archaeology News Network reports the tomb has a long dromos (road) of about 30 ft. (9 meters) in length, leading to a circular chamber, 19.5 ft. (5.90 meters) in diameter, with a plastered floor. Even though the slab-like stones which were the superstructure of the tholos have crumbled, the walls of the chamber are in a pretty good condition. Archaeologists believe the tomb was used for more than two centuries, from the 13th to the 11th century BC.

The Finds Inside the Tomb The site Archaeology Newsroom says that a variety of osteological material was found inside the funeral chamber, especially in the center and around the walls. The finds also include several pottery vessels, Phi and Psi type figurines, weapons, a large quantity of jewelry, beads of semi-precious stones, and seals portraying animal scenes.

Example of "Phi" figurines (because they look like the Greek letter Φ) from Mycenae. (13th century BC) (Public Domain)

The newly discovered group of seals is especially interesting. They mostly portray simplified animals sitting next to branches or trees and date back to the last periods of Mycenaean seal-making. Among the figurines, another intriguing group of finds includes the image of a bull leaper, like one discovered at Methana.

Clay finds include miniature pieces of furniture such as a three-legged open chair and pieces of two other creations which could be offering tables or even funeral biers. The list of grave goods is completed with bronze vessels and objects made of gold, faience, and glass paste.

Mycenaean figurines from Agios Konstantinos, Methana. (14-13th century BC) Archaeological Museum of Piraeus, Greece. (Schuppi/CC BY SA 3.0) It is clear that the relatives of the people who were buried in the tomb cleaned out the burial chamber pretty often by removing earlier offerings to the dead, especially pottery, into the dromos or in an apothetes sealed with a low wall at the end of the dromos.

This led into the slow rise of the floor level of the dromos and the erection of a small staircase before the chamber’s entrance to make access easier. The archaeologists mostly found drinking vessels and vessels for mixing liquids in the apothetes. Some of the vessels impressed the archaeologists with their beautiful decoration.

The Importance of the Discovery
The study and presentation of this rare burial site is very significant for understanding the Mycenaean period in north Boeotia and Phocis - ancient Greek locations for which little is currently known. According to Archaeofeed, both the quality and the quantity of the pottery and the other discoveries from this tomb are important additions to the small, known group of examples from the neighboring sites of Kirrha, Krisa and Delphi, enlightening researchers about a number of matters regarding the local production of pottery and small artifacts.

The tholos at the Delphi archaeological site, Phocis, Greece. (Arian Zwegers/CC BY 2.0)
Furthermore, the tholos tomb reveals significant information about the topography of the area and the commercial and cultural elements of the local community situated in the periphery of the Mycenaean world. This makes historians wonder even more about the use of this type of monument by local elites in the past.

The study and the publication of this tomb is the result of work by a multi-disciplinary group of scholars, coordinated by Dr. Elena Kountouri, head of the Directorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture. Dr. Kountouri will present the information on the tholos tomb found at the site of Amblianos in Amphissa as part of the Mycenaean Seminar series in the University of Athens on November 24, 2016.

Top Image: The tholos tomb discovered in Amblianos, Greece. Source: Archaiologia

By Theodoros Karasavvas

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