Thursday, July 22, 2021

Kamari Gouva (C173) Reconsidered

In my last post I discussed the location of a site called 'Gouva', near Kamari (UMME 236).  Gouva was a large tholos tomb from the LHIII A.  And just to recap some of the main points:

a. It has been robbed and destroyed. [1]

b. It had been so large that when the central dome collapsed (or was dug out) it left two little hills. [2]

c. These two 'bumps' on the landscape could still be seen from a nearby highway as late as the 1960's by investigators such as McDonald and Simpson.[3]

In that post I looked over all the constraints and decided on a location at  37.292614° N, 21.78284° E and I gave various reasons for why I thought that was the right location.

But now I have reason to think that I was wrong and that the real location is just a bit to the north.  A correspondent of mine in Greece, Pete, has actually been to this ridge and walked the whole length of it looking for features that might fit our tholos.  He reports:

"I took a general walk around the area either side of the ridge. Going much further south got difficult as the ridge was overgrown and I was weary of snakes in the undergrowth. Of course low scrub and trees make judging any details difficult but I can usually spot a point of interest or identify an area that might fit the bill. So none of this is conclusive, but I offer a suggestion for consideration.

I note that the report stated that the mounds were on the skyline and looked like two small hills. Or some such. So I took a walk along the skyline ridge route. I started a little further to the south of the area you had indicated and walked north, along the top of the little valley and up to the highest point some tens of meters away. Just beyond that high point (mostly covered by bushes) there was a cleared stony/earth field with a somewhat obvious mound near the higher, west side. The mound had a shallow dip in the middle."[4]

What does he mean?

This next image shows the area that he's talking about.  The various camera icons indicate where Pete was standing when he took these photos; the color matching rays indicate the direction the camera was facing.  (Photo 12 is a panorama.)  His suggested tholos location is the white circle and its lat/lon position is 37.293955° N, 21.782660° E.  North is at the top.

And in order to see his suggested mound clearly let's look at Photo 10:[5]

Proposed Kamari: Gouva tholos as seen from E.
For credit see fn. 5.

And from the SE facing NW here is photo 7:[5]

Proposed Kamari: Gouva tholos as seen from SE.
For credit see fn. 5.

Photo 8 shows the mound from the S:[5]

Gouva Mound(?) from the SE.
For credit see fn. 5.

Photo 9 shows the mound from the SW.[5]

Pete has this to say about Photo 9:

"Image 9 is taken from 'behind' the mound in question I walked though the gap in the bush to the SW of the mound as I wanted to see what the other side was like. The mound was not so obvious at this point. It was "lost" in a long linear patch of shrub and undergrowth. In fact if anything there seemed to be a short, steep bank (which the shrubs followed) instead of a smooth sloped side to the mound.

In the photo one can see that the nearest olive trees are smaller and so I suppose this immediate area has been bulldozed in the last 50 years (probably 20 or so). That might explain the missing west slope of the suggested site. It had been removed by bulldozer and  the "cut-edge" left exposed and left to weather. I could not get too close but when I tried to see if there were any stones showing I was not able to see any clearly. I did not see any regular pattern of placement of stone or anything proving or strongly supporting this as a site for a tholos. The exposed parts of the bank were composed of a gritty red earth with a lot of stones."[6]

Photo 12 is a panorama which looks at the site from the NE.[5]

Gouva Mound(?) from the NE.
For credit see fn. 5.

So.  Is this site correct?  Or at least does it fit the description in Messenia III?

Here's what McDonald and Simpson report:

"As one travels w on the road from Kopanaki to Kamari past the spring of Sanova, he sees on the w skyline what appear to be two artificial mounds quite close together.  The N-S ridge on which they lie is at least 1 km. from any road.

   On close inspection it turns out that there was originally one large mound and that its center was deeply dug out.  From a distance the heightened banks of excavated earth create the impression of two mounds.   ...    The shrubs that have since grown up in the crater suggest that the excavation may have been as much as half a century ago.  Perhaps the crater explains the local toponym of Gouva ("hole")."[7]

Can we find the road?  Can we find the spot from which McDonald/Simpson were when they saw these two mounds?

I think we can.  The stretch of road along which they were travelling is shown here:

The yellow line is the road of travel.  In Google Maps the road is labelled 'Epar. Od. Chanion-Naou Epikouriou Apollonos'.  Kopanaki is in the lower right under the red arrow and Kamari is on the upper left center under another red arrow.  The stretch of road from which McDonald/Simpson could have seen the twin mounds is somewhere along the yellow line and inside the i km. circle which is centered on the proposed new location.  This stretch of road leaves Nea Agrilia going NW and the traveler drops from the plateau on which Nea Agrilia is situated into a little valley (some 15 m. or so vertical distance) through which flows a stream (Topoguide says that it's called the 'Kopitsa') whose origin is on the N side of this road.  It turns out that the proposed stretch of the ridge on which the proposed location is positioned is only visible from the very edge of this plateau just before the drop into the valley.  This position is just to the right of the 1 km. circle on the line which represent the road.

Here's a viewshed of these valleys and ridges; it has its origin on the plateau edge as I just suggested

And I have another way of demonstrating this.  Incredibly Google Street View is available for this entire road.   I've made a photo of what that ridge line looks like from the suggested observer's position on top of the plateau.  Here it is:

O.k.  This requires a little explanation.  The road in the foreground (we're facing NNW) is the road to Kamari.  What's that gray thing?  It turns out that when you draw a line in Google Earth and the extend it down to the ground you can often see that extended line in Googlle Street View.  This scene places us on the right road looking more or less west to the ridge.  The line here was drawn starting at the  proposed tholos position and extended to the observer's position just ahead of us on  the road.  I then extended it to create this unmissable indicator.  The left vertical edge of this figure is directlly over the tholos and the ragged corner here imitates the changing elevation of the ridges between us and the observer.  To see where the line hits the ridge line it is enough to continue the edges with arrows to the point where they meet on the ridge.

If Pete is right then this is the area of the ridge that MacDonald/Simpson would have seen.   

Can we see two little mounds from here given that we know that they're there?  I'm just not sure.  The bumps on this ridge are consistent with what M/S saw but whether they're exactly the same we cannot now know.

Anyway, Pete's suggested position (which I will be adopting for C173 in the atlas) is:  37.293955° N, 21.782660° E.

A shout-out to Pete for his extraordinary work on this ridge!


There's just one more mystery to clear up.  Simpson says: 

"As one travels w on the road from Kopanaki to Kamari past the spring of Sanova, ... "[8]

Where is the spring Sanova?  I'll deal with that in my next post.


[1] Messenia III, 137. ' ..., there is practically no doubt that this was a large tholos tomb that was excavated (presumably illicitly) and completely destroyed.  The shrubs that have since grown up in the crater suggest that the excavation may have been as much as half a century ago.'  This article appeared in 1969.  All the authors known to me who have described this tomb are simply repeating McDonald and Simpson.

[2] Messenia III, 137.  ' ... [the traveler] sees on the w skyline what appear to be two artificial mounds quite close together.  The N-S ridge on which they lie is at least 1 km. from any road.'

[3] Idem.

[4] Personal communication on July 18, 2021.

[5] Pete's photos were heavily post-processed by me in Photoshop before publishing.  Typical operations consisted of contrast adjustment (sometimes selective), color-balance and enhancement, and sharpening.   

All of Pete's photographs are licensed under the Creative Commons Licence: Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0).  This license means, in brief, that anyone may use, modify, or tweak this data, even for commercial use, as long as credit is given to the original author(s).

[6] Personal communication on July 13, 2021.

[7] Messenia III, 137-8.

[8] Messenia III, 137.


(All of the sources listed here simply copy Messenia III.  Aside from these there are no other reports of Gouva to my knowledge.)

Boyd [2001]:  Boyd, Michael John, Middle Helladic And Early Mycenaean Mortuary Practices In The Southern And Western Peloponnese, 2001   pg. 212   'Unexcavated Tholos Tombs'.  It is online here.

Cavanagh and Mee [1998]: Cavanagh, W., Mee, Ch., A private place: death in prehistoric Greece ((Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology, 125)).1998.  ISBN: 91-7081-178-4

McDonald and Rapp [1972]:  McDonald, William A. and George R. Rapp, Jr.,  The Minnesota Messenia Expedition: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Regional Environment.  University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  USA. 1972.   pg. 298, no. 236, 'Kamari: Gouva'.

Messenia III:   McDonald, William A. and Richard Hope Simpson. ‘Further Explorations in Southwestern Peloponnese: 1964-1968’, American Journal of Archaeology (73:2) (Apr., 1969), pp. 123-177., '23D. Gouva (Kamari)', pg. 137. Online here.

Pelon [1976]:  Pelon, Olivier . Tholoi, tumuli et cercles funéraires; Recherches sur les monuments funéraires de plan circulaire dan l'Égée de l’Âge du Bronze (IIIe at IIe millénaires av. J.-C).  Bibliothèques de l'École française d'Athènes et de Rome - Série Athènes, 229. 1976.   pg. 465, 'Gouva'.   It is online here.

Simpson and Dickinson [1979]:  Simpson, Richard Hope and O.T.P.K. Dickinson.  A Gazetteer of Aegean Civilization in the Bronze Age, Vol. I: The Mainland and the Islands. Paul Åströms Förlag, Goteborg. 1979.   pg. 177, 'D 236 Kamari: Gouva.'  It is online here.

Simpson [1981]:  Simpson, Richard Hope.  Mycenaean Greece. Park Ridge, New Jersey: Noyes Press, 1981.   pg. 137   'F 209 Kamari: Gouva'.

Zavadil [2012]:  Zavadil, Michaela  Monumenta: Studien zu mittel- und späthelladischen Gräbern in Messenien.  Wien:Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch-Historische Klasse Denkschriften. 2012.   pg. 411, 'KAMARI/GOUVA (EP. TRIPHYLIAS)'.  It is online here.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Kamari: Gouva (C173)

The area south of Kamari, in Messenia, is a lightly inhabited region of small farms and large olive orchards.  It is characterized by north-south running ridges which run from the outskirts of Kamari itself as far as the east-west running highway 25 which starts at Kalo Nero on  the coast and runs inland through the Soleima valley until it reaches Zeugolateio in the Pamisos river valley.  On the south side of highway 25 lies the wild and jumbled country of central Messenia which was, so far as anyone knows, nearly uninhabited in Mycenaean times.  One of the ridges running directly south of Kamari and stretching towards highway 25 was, in prehistoric times, the site of a great burial mound which is thought to have sheltered a tholos.  The literature of this site knows it as Kamari/Gouva[1].  What is this site?  It appears that, in prehistoric times, at the site location, there had been raised a great mound which (seems to have) concealed a tholos tomb.  At  some early period the mound was destroyed by robbers and their digging left a distinct notch in the ridge-line.  Simpson remarks on this:

"As one travels w on the road from Kopanaki to Kamari past the spring of Sanova, he sees on the w skyline what appear to be two artificial mounds quite close together. ...  On close inspection it turns out that there was originally one large mound and that its center was deeply dug out. From a distance the heightened banks of excavated earth create the impression of two mounds."[2]

We further learn from Simpson that there were many large flat stones lying around.  These were foreign to the place and are supposed to be the remains of the dug-out tholos which had been completely destroyed.   It appears that nothing datable was found in the place and so the significance of this site is somewhat limited.  But the enormous size of the thing and the effort that its destroyers went to suggest that this had been an important depostion site and, perhaps, linked to a hypothetical settlement found a short distance to the north (although its remains, in the form of sherds,  are somewhat exiguous).  So where was this (formerly) important site.  Luckily McDonald and Simpson have left us enough clues.  But first let's look at a map of the area.

The area N of the Soulima Valley and S of Kamari in Messenia.

Here is the area in question.  It is bounded by three highways that form a rough triangle.   Somewhere in the middle of this triangle is our site.

Can we be more precise about the location of site C173?  Luckily, in Messenia III, Simpson and McDonald give us good bearing marks and distances.  They say this:

"From the tomb one gets a fine view to N, s and E. Several ancient sites can be seen: Mesovouni ... 10° and about 2 km. distant; Stilari ... 90° and about 4 km.; Rachi Gourtsia ... 180° and about 4 km."

In the Mycenaean Atlas these  place names correspond to these:

1. Rachi Gourtsia (C171)

2. Stilari (C164, C343)

3. Mesovouni (C172)

I took the trouble of drawing these distance circles and bearing lines in Google Earth and was gratified to see that they all seem to converge on the same place

At the top is a yellow circle centered on Mesovouni (C172) and of 2 km. radius.  The green circle is centered on the sites at Stilari (C164) and is of 4 km. radius.  The dark blue circle is centered on Rachi Gourtsia (C171) and is also of 4 km. radius.  The bearing lines from each of these centers are drawn as Simpson and McDonald would have them.  We see that they all converge on pretty much the same ridge south of Kamari.  Here's a close-up:

The blue circle and line originate in Rachi Gourtsia.  They intersect at the light blue paddle marked 1.  The green line and circle originate at Stilari.  They intersect at the green push-pin marked 2.  The yellow circle and line originate at Mesovouni.  They intersect at the yellow push-pin marked 3.  So far they seem to be in rough agreement.  The distance from 1 to 3 is almost exactly 200 meters.  Is our bowl-shaped site anywhere in the vicinity?

In the view just above we're looking directly west.  The construction lines are the same and the same push-pins are easily visible from far left center to center right, yellow, green, and blue.  Our site should be around here somewhere and, sure enough, just in the center the white push-pin denotes an area that is a dip and still has some remnant of wild bushes not completely overtaken by olive trees.  I suspect that this is our site.  To prove that it is a dip requires some additional work.

I went back into Google Earth and drew a multi-segmented line (the red line) criss-crossing the area of interest in generally a north-south direction.  I then did a 'Show Elevation Profile' which produced the image at the bottom.  The dark red vertical bar is the area just crossing our selected area (the white push-pin).  You can see that travelling from north to south that this is a local minimum.  

When the lines are drawn running east and west a different story emerges.  Here's what that looks like:

From this we see that our location at the white push pin actually sits on a slope that runs from west to east.  So: a) in a dip from north to south, b) on a slope that goes from higher in the west to lower in the east.

I analyzed this site in my Atlas by choosing an 'Aspect' report for site C173.  This is what it shows:

This report (you may have to enlarge it by clicking on it) shows that, at 150 m. from the center the aspect of the site is east and west (red arrow).  This means that the ground falls away from our site to the E and W.  At 300 m. the aspect of the site is also east and west (orange arrow).  But at both distances the slopes to north and south are positive which means that the ground rises to north and south but dips to east and west.  And it dips most significantly to the east.  And that makes sense.  Simpson would have been looking from the east and this notch in the ridge is what he would have seen.  Here's what it looks like in Google street view.

This is the view that Simpson would have had from the road going towards Kamari.  Off to the west the near ridge (some 850 m. distant) is clearly visible as is the dip in its outline.

I've updated the splash page for the Mycenaean Atlas to show some beautiful terra-cotta dancers from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.  You can see them here.


[1] Kamari Gouva:  in Zavadil [2012], 'KAMARI/GOUVA (EP. TRIPHYLIAS)', pg. 411;  Simpson [1981], 'F 209 Kamari: Gouva', pg. 137; Messenia III [1969],  '23D. Gouva (Kamari)', pg. 137; McDonald and Rapp [1972], '236 Kamari: Gouva', pg. 298; Boyd [2001], 'Goúva Kamári, Messinía.', 212

[2] Messenia III, 137, '23D. Gouva (Kamari)'.

[3] Ibid. 138.


Boyd [2001]:  Boyd, Michael John. <i>Middle Helladic And Early Mycenaean Mortuary Practices In the Southern And Western Peloponnese</i>. 2001.  Online here.

McDonald and Rapp [1972]:  McDonald, William A. and George R. Rapp, Jr.. <i>The Minnesota Messenia Expedition: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Regional Environment</i>,  University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota. USA. 1972,

Messenia III:  McDonald, William A. and Richard Hope Simpson. ‘Further Explorations in Southwestern Peloponnese: 1964-1968’, American Journal of Archaeology. Vol. 73, No. 2 (Apr., 1969), pp. 123-177.

Simpson [1981]:  Simpson, Richard Hope. Mycenaean Greece. Park Ridge, New Jersey: Noyes Press, 1981., 

Zavadil [2012]:   Zavadil, Michaela. Monumenta: Studien zu mittel- und späthelladischen Gräbern in Messenien. Wien:Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch-Historische Klasse Denkschriften. 2012., '. Online here.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Changes to the Chronology Report Page

 The chronology page has been a mess since I originated it.  The central problem is that, because I was exploring how to do it, I committed the programmer's gravest sin: hard-coding things that should be dynamically figured out at run-time.  In this case I hard-coded the column header names - here the ceramic horizon names, LHIII, MMI, etc.  That led to a whole bunch of kludges that severely limited the adaptability of the page.  As an immediate consequence I had to repeat nearly all the code in a whole separate page devoted just to Minoan ceramic horizon names.  And ... endless .. I was going to have to create a new Cycladic Chronology page.  Well, worse and worse.

I have now solved all these problems by rewriting the Chronology page to be self-configurable.  It figures out at run-time what ceramic horizon headings are needed and what order to put them in.  Now a single chronology page works for all ceramic horizon combinations.  It works for Minoan, Cycladic and any other horizons in the database.  And, strangely enough, the resulting code is a lot simpler.

Here's what the new page looks like:

Strangely it looks just like the old page except simpler.  Notice that the annoying 'Minoan' button that was in the upper right of the page is now gone.

This example was generated for 'hab' sites in Achaea.  There are 15 such sites in the DB.  The left-most column lists the names of the sites along with their place keys.  Clicking on one of the place keys will create a Place Key Report page for that site.  Mousing over the column headers (ceramic horizon names) will pop up the start and end dates for that ceramic horizon that are listed for it in the DB.  Some of the charts have very many rows and, as you scroll down, you may lose the info about which ceramic horizon is intended.  Mousing over the 'x' will pop up the ceramic horizon name for that column.  The following illustrations show each of those things:

The ceramic horizon name pops up when the 'x' is moused over.
Here the cursor is simulated by the red arrow.

Here the date-range for the ceramic horizon as reflected in
the DB pops up when you mouse over the ceramic horizon name. 
Here the cursor is simulated by the red arrow.

I should finish up by saying that the new chrono page is already released so you can use it.  You get to the chrono page from the control page by 1) pressing the 'report' button and then 2) pulling down the Detail Reports drop down and selecting 'Chronology'.  

Also don't forget that you can generate .kml or .csv(s) from this page and that those can be inputs into QGIS product (and if you don't have that then you should download it and install it and start learning how to use it).  The download page for QGIS is here.

And that's all there is to it.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

“The World Will Always Welcome Plovers”; Environmental and other concerns in lyrics of the ‘Casablanca Poet’


Pondorff has restored the fragmented phrase of the anonymous ‘Casablanca Poet’

T-- Worl- will a(lac.)y- -elcome -overs’


The world will always welcome lovers’. [1]

We must regard this as a somewhat eccentric restoration. Pondorff has not considered that in an overpopulated world of some 8 billion people the world would hardly welcome ‘lovers’.

LeSage, with respect to this lyric, pointed to many instances of economic distress and job loss at that time. For him this requires the reading:

The world will always welcome glovers.’ [2]

This can hardly be correct as this ode is, putatively, a lament for the degraded environment and the alarm over species extinction which were characteristic concerns of that period. The correct restoration is clearly

The world will always welcome plovers.’

This has the virtue of being consistent with the generally agreed restoration of the very next line:

'As slime goes by.'

I trust that this will correct the misapprehensions of those who want to follow the unjustifiably romantic readings of Pondorff.

End Notes

[1] Pondorff[2334], III, 549, 'Bemerkungen zu Fr. 8.'

[2] LeSage [2289], 35.


[1] Pondorf [2334]: Pondorff, Eric. Neue Untersuchungen für lyrische Fragmente der Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts. XIV vols., nchen 2334.

[2] LeSage [2289]: LeSage, Jean-Marie. ‘'Jouez, Sam, encore une fois”; Lyrisme dans 'Le poète de Casablanca'” in Chansons populaires américaines: la période Kardashian, (III: Spring). pp. 34-35. [2289].

Saturday, March 6, 2021

In praise of the telephone pole. Kato Goumenitsa (C521)

 I sometimes think that the scholar of toponomy has no truer friend than the humble but sturdy telephone pole.  Kilometer markers are renumbered, torn down or stolen.  Towns may change their  places, churches their names and hills are levelled.  'Vineyards', currant patches, and wheat fields are now olive groves.  'Tall trees' are cut down, monasteries and nunneries are disbanded, but the telephone pole abides forever.  After all it costs the utility companies serious money to move them around and, as a result, they are among the most permanent of all man's creations.[1]

A case in point.  How shall we find Achaea's hill of Hagios Paraskeuei on which sits an important graveyard of the LH IIIA-C?   We have a photograph of the site which is all but useless except for one thing ... it shows a telephone pole.

The picture I refer to is from Papadopoulos [1978]. [2]  I have balanced the contrasts in Photoshop and sharpened the result.

Adapted from Papadopoulos [1978] 12, Fig. 11.

First of all notice how this photograph tells us almost nothing at all.  He calls this 'Paraskevi Hill' but it's not clear whether this is the surface in the foreground or the hill in the middle distance.  I have talked elsewhere about the  use of photographs in academic publishing and I have stressed the idea that photographs will not stand by themselves.  They require extensive text accompaniment so that the reader will take away the desired information.[2]  Papadopoulos' photo fails on all these counts except for that one blessed telephone pole.  Can we recreate Papadopoulos' scene and by so doing locate the chamber tomb cemetery?

In order to do this I set out to find every visible electric or telephone wire (I lump them together since I don't know the difference) in that region which is visible in Google Earth.   Here's what I came up with.

I then set out to map every pole that I could see:

All the telephone poles that I could find are marked in yellow.  Which, if any, is the right one?  Well, we appear to want a pole on a grassy ridge and in this map there are really only two candidates.

In this photo they're circled.

After settling on a likely pole the test is whether Papadopoulos' photo can be reproduced starting from that pole.  The answer is that it can.  Here is my reproduction of Papadopoulos' photo starting from the right-hand side pole in the previous picture.

In this picture the electrical lines are still in red and the poles (which appear to lie on the ground) are in yellow.  A purple line connecting the base of the telephone pole to the ridge is 8.38 degrees E of north.  The green line is drawn from the base of the telephone pole to true north.  Part of it is hidden by the terrain.  I reproduce the Papadopoulos photograph for comparison:

So the result is that his photograph of Papadopoulos' was taken from within 5 meters of 38.055960° N, 22.026076° E and facing just about 8° to E of N.

This south Achaean hill of Hagios Paraskeuei is significant because in the early 1920's Kyparissis investigated 12 chamber tombs there.

The general area of Goumenissa in Achaea.


Kyparissis was the first serious investigator of what had already been recognized as a chamber tomb cemetery.  In succeeding years he continued to discover and excavate more tombs here.  

The directions to the hill which are given by all the researchers center around several difficult toponyms.  

A) 'Koudounomylos': a region somewhere to the south west of the little town of Kato Goumenitsa.   The area of 'Koudounomylos' is a ravine stretching from the church Hagia Marina at  38.060517 N,  22.030972 E and stretching from there to the SW and W about 2 kilometers.

B) Vrysarion/Goumenissa/Kato Goumenitsa: The name of the closest town to the ridge in Kyparissis' time was 'Kato Goumenitsa'.  This name was changed to 'Vrysarion' on Aug. 20, 1955.  The name was changed again from 'Vrysarion' to 'Goumenissa' on November 23, 1984.   We are liable to find all three names assigned to the town depending on our source.[4]

C) Hagios Paraskeuei hill.  The directions are simplicity itself.  One starts from the region of 'Vrysarion'.  One then descends into the ravine at Koudounomylos.  After ten minutes walk one ascends the hill of Hagios Paraskeuei and the chamber tombs are at the top of the hill.

So how do we reach the LH cemetery of Ayia Paraskeuei from Goumenissa/Goumenitsa?  Here is what our authors say:

1. Åström: "Outside Kato Goumenitsa at 10 minutes' distance from it, at the 72 kms. stone, one descends at the locality Koudounomylos to a ravine and ascends in 10 minutes to a white hill (c. 850 m. above sea level), whose top has been levelled off.  Chamber tombs had been found here ... "[5]

2. Papadopoulos: "At 10 minutes distance W of Vrysarion one descends at the locality Koudounomylos to a ravine, and 10 minutes later ascends a white hill called "Ayia Paraskevi".  ...  At that locality Kyparisses excavated 25 chamber tombs in his successive expeditions in 1925, 1926 and 1927 and Yialouris three more in 1959-60.  They belong to the early Mycenaean period ... "[6]

3. Alexopoulou: "The location is at the entrance of the village (Goumenissa, RHC) and on the left / west side of the road that leads to it. It (i.e. the hill we're looking for) owes its name to the homonymous church of Agia Paraskevi. From here to the area of ​​Koudounomylos in the N rises a cluster of small sandstone hills, on the plateaus of which are carved tombs of the Mycenaean period. The cemetery has been partially excavated."  (Greek language, my translation). [7]

It turns out that none of the directions make sense.  

To begin with one must dispense with Åström's kilometer stones.  They no longer exist in the form seen in his (or Kyparissis' time).  There are new kilometer markers in this area (I was able to find two after hours of searching.) with numbers in the range of 33 - 37 or so.   

Nor can one walk from  Vrysarion down to Koudounomylos for 10 minutes and then turn north to find Ayia  Paraskevi hill with its chamber tombs.   This invalidates both Alexopoulos' description as well as Papadopoulos' map which I reproduce below.

Alexopoulos places our chamber tombs at  38.060400° N ,  22.029200° E.  This position, as we shall see, is off by half a kilometer.

So where is the hill of Ayia Paraskevi?   The photograph makes clear what is intended.  The map puts the site N of the Koudounomylos Ravine (The route across it is the curved pink line) but the  photograph proves that it is really to the south of the Ravine and just N of the road.

Adapted from Papadopoulos [1978].  Pink line is the path over Koudonomulos Ravine.  I re-typed place names which were blurred on the reproduction.[8]

So why would we walk down into a valley from Goumenissa, cross the valley, and then walk up a steep hill on the other side of the valley to reach the cemetery site?   Especially when we can just drive down road 31, park at the side of the road and then walk uphill the 70 meters or so to the site?  I don't know the reason but what I suspect is that road 31 did not exist in Kyparissis' time (not to mention the scarcity of automobiles).  A hundred years ago it may have been much easier to start from Kato Goumenitsa, pop down the hill to the Koudonomulos  ravine bottom and then up the hill on the other side.  This would have been close to a straight line (a distance of about 780 m.).  If that's so then we have a situation where the same meaningless directions about going down into the Koudonomulos Ravine have been handed down over the years long after they ceased to make sense.


1.  See these case histories: Gargaliano Megas Kambos 1 C390; Tsoukka C1922; or Aghia Paraskeuei in Boeotia C1600.   For a change of pace there are high voltage AC transmission  towers, e.g. the location of Thouria in Messenia.

2. Papadopoulos [1978], p. 12, Fig. 11.

3. See this: Chamber Tomb in Barnavos C1749.

4.  Name change record from Kato Goumenitsa to Vrysarion is here.  Name change record from Vrysarion to Goumenissa is here.

5. Åström [1965], 104.

6. Papadopoulos [1979], p. 33, nos. 48-9.

7. Alexopoulou [2009], p. 101, 'α/α 29'.

8. Papadopoulos [1978] p. 15, Fig. 20.


Alexopoulou [2009]:  Αλεξοπούλου, Γεωργία Ζ.   Σύμβολή στην Αρχαιολογιά και τοπογραφία της Αζανίας (Βόρειας Αρκαδίας) Επαρχία Καλαβρύτων.  Patra, Greece. 2009.

Åström [1965] :  Åström, Paul, 'Mycenaean Pottery from the Region of Aigion, with a List of Prehistoric Sites in Achaia', Opuscula Atheniensia, V, pp. 89-110, C.W.K. Gleerup, Lund, 1965.

Papadopoulos [1978]:  Papadopoulos, Thanasis J., Mycenaean Achaea, Part 2: Figures.  Åstroms Forlag, Sweden.  1978.

Papadopoulos [1979] : Papadopoulos, Thanasis J., Mycenaean Achaea, Part 1: Text.  Åstroms Forlag, Sweden.  1979.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Tithorea and Neon: A Small Town in Phocis

 Ano Tithorea (hereinafter Tithorea) is a town in Phocis which sits under the foot of the north face of Parnassos.  In the Mycenaean Atlas it is defined as C5152 and it is located at 38.583985° N, 22.668176° E.   It has always been a small town of shepherds and farmers and of no particular importance although in Pausanias' time it was the location of the most significant Isis temple in Greece.   Nor does it seem to have been of any great antiquity.  It was thought to have been founded after the Trojan war but the finds exhibited in the town don't go further back than the Archaic.[1]  In modern times it bore the name of Velitza until 1926[2].  More recently it has been eclipsed in significance by the growth of Kato Tithorea which is about 4.5 km. to the NE  on the right bank of the Cephissos River.

And yet, for all its obscurity, Tithorea was for a while the center of a knotty controversy involving another town called Neo.  The controversy was just the question of whether Neo was an earlier name for Tithorea  or whether Neo was a completely separate town located somewhere else.
The earliest mention of these names that we have is in Herodotus. [3]  He describes what happens as Xerxes’ army approaches the Cephisos valley in the summer of 480 BC. 
“When the barbarians marched out of Doris and invaded Phocis, they did not take any Phocians themselves, because a number of the Phocians had climbed to the heights of Parnassus, where there is a suitable haven for many people on an isolated peak called Tithorea, overlooking the city of Neon.  Those who climbed this peak brought their belongings along with them.”
Six hundred years later Pausanias visited the area and reported this:
“I know more than one version of the name of the city as Herodotos in his Persian Invasion say one thing, and Bakis in his prophecies another.  Bakis calls the people here Tithoreans, but Herodotos’s account is that when the barbarians came in, the people fled to the crest of the mountain, and the city was called Neon, while Tithorea was on the peak of Pamassos.  In the course of time ‘Tithorea’ seems to have crept in for the whole countryside and then, when a city arose from the villages, it came to be Tithorea, and is not now called Neon.”[4]
So the combined account of Pausanias and Herodotus suggests that there was a settlement at the location of present-day Ano Tithorea (until 1926 'Velitsa') and which was called ‘Neon’.   When Xerxes invaded in 480 BC he destroyed the towns in Phocis including Neon(?) but the inhabitants had fled into the adjoining hills and cliffs of Parnassos and so saved themselves.  Both Pausanias and Herodotus seem to support the idea that Neon was a precursor to Tithorea.  When the town was rebuilt it was named for the immediate area which was, in turn, referred to from the name of a peak of Parnassos called ‘Tithorea’.  Although I would just like to put forward the hypothesis here that Xerxes must have destroyed the town so completely that, afterwards, the old name of Neon seemed to apply to nothing and that a new name seemed natural to the inhabitants.[5]
In the nineteenth century E.D. Clarke made the identification of Velitza with Tithorea.  He described the finding of a spolia inscription in a local church which listed some citizens of ‘Tithorea’.[6]  Clarke had no difficulty accepting the idea that Tithorea was the later name of a settlement called ‘Neo’; he repeats Pausanias’ account with no additional comment.[7]
During the nineteenth century doubts arose about the identification of Neon with Tithorea.   H.N. Ulrichs finds grounds for doubting the traditional understanding in his reading of Plutarch's Sulla.   Plutarch’s account is as follows [8]
“[3] For these reasons Sulla transferred his army into Boeotia. But Hortensius was rescued by Caphis, a countryman of mine, and conducted by different routes, of which the Barbarians were ignorant, past Parnassus to a spot just below Tithora. [9]
[4] This was not so large a city then as it is now, but a fortress surrounded on all sides by steep cliffs, into which those of the Phocians who in ancient times fled before the advance of Xerxes [10] betook themselves and were saved. Having encamped here, Hortensius repulsed the enemy by day, and at night descended to Patronis by difficult paths and made a junction with Sulla, who came to meet him with his army." (emphasis is mine) [11]
So Plutarch, describing events in the first century B.C. describes Tithorea as a fortress ‘φρούριον’.  And this, combined with Herodotus’ report that people fled FROM Neon TO Tithora, suggested to Ulrichs that Tithora was NOT a peak of Parnassos but was the actual town.  Therefore Neon had to be somewhere else.[12]  And that this happened in the same way as in ancient times (‘πάλαι’) when the Phocians fled Xerxes’ advancing horde. 
Ah, problem.  There is no evidence at all that Tithora was fortified during the fifth century B.C.  At that time it was just a small town under an overhanging cliff, perched on the edge of the Cachales on the east but completely open to invasion from the west and the north.  At that time no one would have fled TO the town for refuge.[13]
Ulrichs tries to bolster his argument by suggesting that the Phocians would never have fled into the foothills of  Parnassos because Parnassos offers no safe or comfortable place of refuge.[14]
This argument, too, is difficult to accept.  The first problem is that refugees are not looking for absolutely safe or comfortable places in which to dwell.   They   are fleeing for their lives and are willing to make strenuous efforts and put up with considerable discomfort in the attempt.  We must remember that Thessalians were coming along with Xerxes and, due to the long-standing hatred between the two peoples, no Phocian would  have felt safe in their path. [15]   Nor can we judge the idea of Parnassos as a refuge from our perspective but from theirs (or as nearly as we can imagine it).    We must keep always in mind that Parnassos was not something foreign to the Phocians but part of their lived, everyday, experience.  For the Phocians Parnassos was rich in resources, and riddled with sheltering caves.  Many Phocaeans were intimately familiar with it and quite up to its physical challenges.[16]
We should remember that an important part of the Phocian economy was to take flocks up the slopes of Parnassos in the summer.  We should remember that Xerxes traversed this valley in August of 480 BC - full summer.  At that time some (indeterminate) number of Phocians would have already been on the slopes of Parnassos with their flocks.[17] 
There is a large number of places on the N side of Parnassos that would furnish temporary refuge for those fleeing an approaching hostile army.  The heights above Ano Tithorea rise in a series of small plateaus and the cliff faces that separate them are studded with caves as can be plainly seen in the following photograph from Grigory Palierakes. [18]

In this photo (taken from the church at 38.582526° N, 22.669754° E) the town of Tithorea is in the foreground. The photo faces S towards the first ramparts of Parnassos. The 4th century fortifications of the town are on the slope in the right center of the picture; more fortifications are out of sight to the right and behind the photographer. The deep ravine of the Cachales is to the left. On the hill itself (higher peaks are lost to sight in the clouds) we can make out at least three levels that could hold refugees. Level 3 is the lowest, a small flat area on the steepest part of the hill. Level 1 is a large flattened area in which the elevations vary by about 200 m. By my measurement it is just over a hectare in area. Behind the arrow marked level 2 is a larger flat area which is at least 25 hectares in area. Any of these areas would shelter people - not comfortably but in relative safety. And what we see in this photograph is just the beginning of all those areas on Parnassos which could shelter people.   Parnassos is also the location of many caves of which one can be seen in this picture. Another large cave, that of Odysseus Androutsou, is located just behind the arrow labelled ‘Level 2’ (On the M.A.P. it is F6229).  For more about these caves you can see the article by Sporn and Laufer [2019].

Ulrich’s idea that sheltering on the slopes of Parnassos would not have been practical is an argument with little basis. Shelter was to be found in many places on the slopes and as far as the forage line which is at about 1600 m.

Here we see the same area from directly above in Google Earth.  The labels label the same  phenomena.  The photograph was taken from the yellow pin indicated by the red arrow.

In this picture, taken from the Topoguide ( web site we see the modern trails leading up from Tithorea and into the slopes above the town.  I suspect that it would have been little different in antiquity.
Palaio Thiva

If Ulrichs thought that the town of Neo was separate and somewhere else then where did he think it was?  It happens that Clarke had already identified the ruins of another town which was in his time called Palaio Thiva.  Clarke actually saw these ruins about which he says: "There is nothing to be seen upon the spot, but the traces of some walls, almost indiscernible; every other vestige having been long ago erased, to make way for the plough.  It is situate on the s. s. w. side of the CEPHISSUS, at an hour's distance from Turco-Chorio,  ... "[19]

Before proceeding I should say something about Palaio Thiva's location.  Only a few stone blocks are left to mark where it was and so its location is not precisely established.  Topoguide gives a region name of 'Palafiva' which I have placed in the Mycenaean Atlas at F6217.  If Palaio Thiva was located near the confluence of the Cachales and the Cephissos then it may have been located at F6245 which is where these two streams come together.  The following photo shows the region just north of Tithorea along the Cephissos (blue).  Here we see the much-channeled and depleted Cachales (green) where it meets the Cephissos.  It is here, approximately, that Palaio-Thiva was located.

A little later Ulrichs himself saw the site and describes it this way: "At a short distance of no more than an hour and a half, 25-30 stadia, from Velitza in a northbound direction, on the flat plain on the right bank of the Cephissus, lie the remains of an extensive old city which is now called he palaia Theba, i.e. Old Thebes. The walls formed a regular square. You can see the ditch all around, and next to it the whole line of the walls is raised like an earth wall. In many places, the basic structure appears, which consists of large ashlar stones. As in Mantinea, Thespiae and many other cities, a structure of unfired adobe bricks probably rose above this, the weathering of which forms the current mound, which hides the foundation in most places. One recognizes in the remains individual, partly square, partly round towers. Inside there are many large and small cuboid structures and the floor is mixed with broken bricks. "   It is this town of Palaio-Thiva that Ulrichs suggested as the real Neon.  As he says: "Because of the close proximity of Tithora, I believe that Herodotus' Neon should be added here."[20]

Frazer had more to say about the area when he visited it in the 1890's. "Now three or four miles to the north of Velitsa, in the plain on the right bank of the Cephisus, there exist the remains of an ancient city of considerable size.  The walls formed an irregular quadrangle.  In many places the foundation or socle of large squared blocks is to be seen, and the remains of towers, some square, some round, may also be recognised.  Inside the circuit of the walls are many foundations of various sizes, and the ground is littered with potsherds."[21]

Leake describes both arguments but seems to agree that Tithorea and Neon were the same place.  He points out that the walls of Tithorea have existed only from the beginning of the Roman period and he hints that Plutarch’s description of the  place as a fortress must have been mistaken.[22]
Thirty years later J.G. Frazer gives both sides of the argument: "H. N. Ulrichs conjectured that these ruins, which are now called Palaia Pheva ('Old Thebes') by the natives, are the remains of Neon.  That Neon was distinct from Tithorea and continued to subsist even after Tithorea was built seems to be indicated by the statement of Pausanias (x. 2. 4) that a battle was fought at Neon in the Sacred War of 355-346 B.C.  Yet on the other hand it has sometimes been held, as by Pausanias himself, that Neon and Tithorea were identical, Neon being the earlier, Tithorea the later name of the town.  On this view the peak to which Herodotus gave the name of Tithorea must have been one of the higher summits of Parnassus."[23]

In this passage Pausanias does seem to be naming Neon separately from Tithorea but Frazer has left out the most important part.  Pausanias continues: " ... at the city of Neon where the Phokians were routed, and in the panic Philomelos threw himself down from a steep high rock and was killed."[24]   A steep high rock is entirely consistent with Tithorea but there is no such thing at Palaia Thiva.  I would say that Pausanias has no reason to make up this story but remember that he is interested in the topos that being hurled from a cliff is the prescribed punishment for violating the sanctuary of Delphi (something which Philomelos had actually done). 

By the twentieth century the identification of Neon with Tithorea seems to have been established as the scholarly consensus.  Tillard, in an article of 1910, firmly establishes the equivalence of Neon and Tithorea.[25]

The truth is that both arguments are correct.  People living in the location of modern Tithorea would have taken refuge in the foothills of Parnassos at the approach of a hostile army.  But so would residents of communities out on the plain and closer to the Cephissos.    But none of those communities on the plain was called 'Neon'.
[1]  Strabo ix.5.  "But Demetrius the Scepsian says, that there is no such place on Parnassus as Eleon, but Neon, which was built after the Trojan war, "
[2]  The name 'Velitsa' is encountered in the older literature.  The name change record is here.

[3]  Herodotus (viii, 32).
[4] Pausanias (x, 32), p. 491.  And see Levi’s footnote 208.
[5] And determining which peak of Parnassos was called ‘Tithorea’ would be a nice exercise.  A good candidate might be the ridge-end at  38.569158°,  22.638735° which rises about 1400 m. above the town of Ano Tithoreia.  Perhaps the ridge end lower down at  38.579536° N,   22.665737° E would also be a plausible choice.
[6]  Clarke [1805], 155.
[7] Ibid., 154-5.  Clarke has the highest confidence in Pausanias.  On page 153 we read: “Too much attention cannot be paid to his text.  In all the district of Parnassus, every word he utters is a treasure.” 
[8] Plutarch. Sulla, 15.3-4.
[9]  Plutarch.  Sulla, 15.3:  διὰ τοῦ Παρνασσοῦ κατῆγεν ὑπ᾽ αὐτὴν τὴν Τιθόραν,
[10]  Plutarch.  Sulla, 15.4: οὔπω τοσαύτην πόλιν οὖσαν ὅση νῦν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ φρούριον ἀπορρῶγι κρημνῷ περικοπτόμενον, εἰς ὃ καὶ πάλαι ποτὲ Φωκέων οἱ Ξέρξην ἐπιόντα φεύγοντες ἀνεσκευάσαντο καὶ διεσώθησαν, ...
[11] Plutarch makes another error here.  He suggests that Tithorea (‘Tithora’) is surrounded by steep cliffs.  (‘ … ἀπορρῶγι κρημνῷ περικοπτόμενον … )  It isn’t.  It is quite open to the surrounding  plain of the Cephissos from north and west.
[12] Ulrichs [1863], II, 118.  " ..., während Tithora, wenn es nach Plutarchs Zeugniß schon damals befestigt war, sich wegen seiner vorzüglichen lage leicht vertheidigen ließ."  "While Tithora, if it was fortified according to Plutarch's testimony, was easy to defend because of its excellent location."

[13] For the date of the walls of Tithorea see Tillard [1910/1911] 54.  He dates the walls to after 338 B.C.  “… of a uniform type and date from the restoration after the battle of Chaironea in 338 B.C.” and, p. 60, “There is no reason  to believe that the enceinte of Tithorea is subsequent to the last years of the fourth century B.C.”. 
Also J.G. Frazer [1898] xxxii, p. 405: " ...; but their fine style leaves little room to doubt that they belong to the best period of Greek military architecture, namely to the fourth century B.C."  Frazer summarily dismisses Ulrich’s idea that the walls can be no earlier than the second century B.C.  Nor does he give any credence, nor should we, to the idea that they were a product of the Roman period.
[14] Ulrichs [1863], II, 118.  " ... denn die Gipfel und Bergflächen oberhalb Velitza bieten weder einen bequemen noch sicheren Zufluchtsort dar, ... "
[15] And there were other times when the Phocians sought shelter from invading armies on the slopes of Parnassos.  Herodotus tells us that at the time of the famous ‘Chalk Raid’ of 490, just ten years previously: “The Phocians had taken refuge on Mount Parnassus, and they had with them the prophet Tellias of Elis who had devised a clever stratagem for them … ”, “ἐπείτε γὰρ κατειλήθησαν ἐς τὸν Παρνησὸν  … ”. Herodotus viii, 27.3.   For more on the Chalk Raid and a discussion of where it was fought see Blome [2015] 29 ff.
[16] To remind us of this is, I believe, the purpose of this remark of Frazer's:  He is mounting the slope just behind (S of) Tithorea and inspecting the remains of the 4th century BC wall: "The antiquary who picks his way painfully among these obstacles is mortified by the contrast between his own slow progress and that of the village urchins who accompany him; for they climb and skip like goats on the top of the walls, now appearing suddenly on the highest pinnacles and then again leaping from stone to stone with wonderful confidence and agility." Frazer [1898] 404.
[17] For transhumance (or its absence) in Greece see Chandezon [2003].  Also  the review by Emily Mackil in Bryn Mawr Review, July 2004.  Also Stella Georgoudi, (1974) “Quelques problèmes de la transhumance dans la Grèce ancienne”, Revue des etudes Grecques (87) 153-185.

[18] A user-submitted photograph from Google  Earth signed ΓΡΗΓΟΡΗΣ ΠΑΛΙΕΡΑΚΗΣ.  No copyright notice visible.

[19] Clarke [1818] 285-286.

[20] Ulrichs [1863] II, 118.

[21] Frazer [1898] 32.9, pp. 406-7.  And see Dr. Karin Braun's article 'Palaio Thiva' in Lauffer [1999].

[22] The walls are not Roman but he is correct in spirit if not in fact.  Leake [1835], II, 80.

[23] Frazer [1898] 32.9, p. 407.

[25] Tillard [1910/1911], 'Tithorea', 56 ff.

Blome [2015] : Blome, David Andrew.  Defense and Strategy Among the Upland People of the Classical Greek World 490-362 BC.  Ph.D. Dissertation.  Cornell University. 2015.  It is online here.

Chandezon [2003] :  Chandezon, Christophe.  L’élevage en Grèce (fin Ve-fin Ier s. a.C.). L’apport des sources épigraphiques : fin Ve-fin Ier s. a.C. : l'apport des sources épigraphiques.  Scripta antiqua, 5. Bordeaux: Ausonius, 2003. ISBN 2910023346   It is online here.

Clarke [1805] : Clarke, E.D., The Tomb of Alexander, London, 1805.  This is online here.
Clarke [1818] :  Clarke, E.D. Travels in Various Countries of Europe Asia and Africa,  Greece Egypt and the Holy Land.  Section III, (Volume 7).  London, 1818.  Online here.

Frazer [1898]:  Frazer, J.G., Pausanias’ Description of Greece; Translated with a commentary by J.G. Frazer.  Volume 5; Commentary on Books IX., X. Addenda.  London, Macmillan.  1898.  It is online here.
Georgoudi [1974] : Georgoudi, Stella.  “Quelques problèmes de la transhumance dans la Grèce ancienne”, Revue des etudes Grecques (87) 153-185.  1974.  It is online here.

Herodotus:  The Landmark Herodotus; The Histories.  Robert B. Strassler (ed.).  Andrea L. Purvis (trans.).  Anchor Books.  2007.
Lauffer [1999] : Lauffer, Siegfried (ed.)  Griechenland; Lexikon der historischen Stätten.  Augsburg.  1999.  ISBN: 3-8289-4144-3.

Leake [1835] : Leake, William Martin.  Travels in Northern Greece, J. Rodwell, London. 1835.  It is online here.
Luraghi and Alcock [2003] : Luraghi, Nino and Susan E. Alcock (edd.), Helots and Their Masters in Laconia and Messenia: Histories, Ideologies, Structures. Hellenic Studies Series 4. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. 2003. It is online here.

Pausanias : Pausanias.   Guide to Greece I: Central Greece. Translated with an Introduction by Peter Levi. 1971.
Plutarch Sulla : Plutarch, Sulla.  Online here.  The Greek text is here.
Sporn and Laufer [2019] : Sporn, Katja and Eric Laufer.  'Tithorea, Griechenland. Topographische Untersuchungen im Stadtgebiet. Die Arbeiten der Jahre 2016 und 2017'   This is an e-publication of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut and is online here.  I am grateful to Brady Kiesling of Topostext for bringing this article to my attention.

Tillard [1910/1911] : Tillard, Laurence B., “The Fortifications of Phokis”, The Annual of the British School at Athens (17), 54-75.  1910/1911.  It is online here.
Ulrichs [1863]:  Ulrichs, Heinrich N.  Reisen und Forschungen in Griechenland.   Passow, Berlin.  1863.  Online here.

van Wees [2003] : van Wees, Hans.  'Conquerors and Serfs: Wars of Conquest and Forced Labour in Archaic Greece'. Chapt. 3 in Luraghi and Alcock [2003]. pp. 33-74.  It is online here