Monday, February 27, 2017

Chamber Tomb of Barnavos: C1749



“It is not down on any map; true places never are.”
Chapter 12, 'Biographical'
Moby Dick
Herman Melville





Dr. James C. Wright has reported the finding of a chamber tomb in the Nemea Valley.[1]  At some time it had been robbed but through two excavation seasons in 2002-3 Dr. Wright and his team managed to carefully document what remained.  They established that it was used in the LH IIIA2 and that there were no other tombs in the immediate vicinity.

In this post I’m not concerned so much with the tomb’s significance but with its location.  Where is it?

Dr. Wright says this:

“The area known as Barnavos, or Marditsa, is located just west of Ancient Nemea (Figs. 1, 2). It is a ravine with a thick growth of cypresses and white pines.  The tomb is located on the western hillside just at the edge of the trees. Sherds and human bone fragments could be seen spilling down the slope to the east and southeast, thrown out of the tomb chamber by robbers (Fig. 3). To the northeast the hillside drops away less steeply as the ravine opens out to a field that borders the road to the village (Fig. 4). To the north and west the hill curves around several terraces planted with olives.

“The dry streambed of the ravine is deeply incised; directly above to the west is an earlier channel along which a path meanders up through cypresses to the head of the ravine. Above the path the ravine slope is very steep (40% grade) … On the facing slope east of the tomb is a modern goat-shed, and below it an agricultural road winds up the eastern side of the ravine. Above the shed the lower hillside is planted with barley and olives, and pine forest is present above the road cut. The south slope of the ravine here is very steep and bends westward as it rises to the west (Fig. 4). This slope is even more extensively covered with cypresses and white pine than the opposite side, and again, most of the surface is hard caliche or exposed soft marl.”[2]

The article is accompanied by a photograph and I show it here:





This is an unhappy picture and conceals more than it displays.  But there's life in these old scholarly pictures yet and a screen capture followed by a quick pass through Photoshop yielded this:


Now we can see what we're doing.  Dr. Wright annotated the picture with the 'Robbed Tomb' and the arrow.  The 'Maize?' annotation is mine.  So where are we?  We appear to be standing on the edge of a field of maize (Zea mays).   This is the plant Americans call 'Corn' or 'Indian Corn'.  The stand to the right seems unmistakably to be grape vines (Vitis spp.).  We are not told what direction we're facing but my initial guess is south.  There's a road around our corn field; it starts at the lower left and continues in a curve around to the middle right.

Dr. Wright makes a high-level map available.  It is here:


My version of this is here:




The toponym 'Barnavos' is actually meaningless.  Like Queequeg's 'Rokovoko' it appears on no map.  Or at least not on any map to which human beings have access.  I enlarged the 'Barnavos' area in Topoguide and got this:




In the center of this image we see the words 'Kokinies' and my guess is that the chamber tomb is somewhere near there.  Of course I'm not interested in knowing 'about' where it is.  I want to know precisely where it is, goat shed and all, because, in an actual Science which is what Mycenology purports to be, this is what we do.

Now let's look in Google Earth.


In this Google Earth image we are looking directly south in the Kokinies area and we see stretching up to the NE (lower left) a series of ridges and ravines of the Analipsi/Tebes hill complex.  Judging by his maps and by his verbal descriptions Dr. Wright's tomb, or so I suspect, is in one of these ravines.

Can we find the cypresses and white pines  (perhaps Cupressus sempervirens and Pinus peuce)?  Let's look:


This ravine is at 37.806656 N, 22.691198 E.  We're still looking nearly south as in the picture just above but we have now zoomed into one of those ravines and at its very bottom, probably following an intermittent creek, we have a long row of what looks very much like conifers.  Click on the picture to see it larger and notice the characteristic thin pointed shadows.

Now Dr. Wright has provided a very close-up detailed map of the site of the chamber tomb.  Here it is.



Now that we've found the site by whatever means available Dr. Wright has loaded us down with detail.  I imagine that this map shows an area of about 120 meters square directly around the site.  The paired lines in alternating black and white are field roads.  If we can find those roads then we have a shot at finding the site.



This picture shows approximately the same area as Dr. Wright's topographical map.  The field road which makes a switchback (here I have emphasized it in orange) appears to be exactly the same.  The area outlined in red is the same as in the previous picture.  Here you can more clearly see the typical conifer shadow shapes.  We appear to be getting close.  But Dr. Wright shows a second field road, parallel to the first, which does not appear in this photograph.  As a result there's still a tiny bit of doubt about the correctness of this location.  

Let's go back in time.  What we need is a picture of this site taken from a different angle because I think that the road did not show up in the previous picture because it's hidden by the conifer shadows.  When I try the imagery from May 23, 2014 we see the second road quite clearly.  I emphasize it with arrows in the next picture.




The orange line for the field road with a switchback appears to have drifted about 7.25 m. east from the underlying picture of the road.  The reasons for this drift were explained here.  I think we're finally in a position to determine the site of our chamber tomb.  Going by Dr. Wright's topographic map we can say that, to within 5 meters, the position of the chamber tomb is here: 

37.806973° N, 22.691860° E

Let's go further in and take a look.


In fact, not only have we located our chamber tomb but we've also located the famous goat pen.  I've drawn an arrow pointing to what appears to be a metal-roofed structure.  It could be a roof over the chamber tomb itself but I doubt it.  I think that's the goat pen.


This excavation was carried out in 2002-2003.  Here is a Google Earth image of the area from May, 2003.  The imagery is so bad we can only interpret it on the basis of what we already know.  However, it may be that the bright spot in the center of the image is the goat pen as it was at that time.  At least it shows that, at that time, something was there.

This still leaves us with the puzzle of from where it was that the original photograph was taken.  Basically I looked all over the valley for a road to the north of the tomb which curved around a stand of corn or grape vines.  It was impossible to find anything that even began to match what I thought I was looking at.

I'll reproduce the modified photograph:



The key to this puzzle lay in finding the building at the very left edge center.  It's this building:



Here we're facing SE.  The main road running east to Nemea is in the lower left corner.  At the edge is a little street shrine or kandylakia which looks like it ought to be replaced.  The orange line is the same as in previous pictures.  It is the start of the field road which has the switchback.  The building we were looking for from the previous picture is here in the upper right center.  Judging by the street signs it is part of a winery.  With all this found we can now find the location from which our picture was taken.  It is here 37.808737° N, 22.693216° E, and I show it in the next  picture:


I had to go back to May 2003 to find this field still in cultivation.  But there it is, long cultivated rows of something or other, and undoubtedly the place from which Dr. Wright's photograph was taken.  The building in question is at the upper center next to the outlined red area.

My analysis of this photograph made me wonder, once again, about the utility of photographs in scientific documentation.  I thought that the road running along the left side curved to the right side.  It doesn't.  It makes a T-join with the main road running to Nemea.  Also I stared at the building in the photograph and interpreted it as another road which I spent time looking for.  It sounds silly enough until such a misinterpretation happens to you.  I also thought that we were looking down a hill to the tomb.  We're not.  We're looking up.



This last picture is taken from Google Street View and it comes as close as possible to reproducing the photograph of Dr. Wright.  On the right is the location from which Dr. Wright's photograph was taken.  You can see that it was cultivated at one time because the irrigation pipes are still in place.


Academic photographs used for documentation face many of the same problems as photographs of the surface of the earth.  They're likely to be curve-distorted and very likely to be the 'wrong' brightnesses and colors.  No photograph should be used for scholarly purposes without the creator spending time explaining what the viewer is looking at.  

Text and picture go together.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This blog documents the creation of the Mycenaean Atlas Project.  The MAP documents the exact locations of 1600+ Mycenaean sites and it is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the Greek Bronze Age.

Anyone who would like to have a copy of the MAP database can send an e-mail to bobconsoli 'at' gmail.com or leave a comment on any of my posts.  To run the MAP database requires a SQL server running on your desktop computer.   MySQL is such a server and it is powerful, industry-standard, and free.  

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Notes

[1]  Wright [2008]
[2] Wright [2008] 609-10.


Bibliography


Wright [2008]:  Wright, James C., Evangelia Pappi, Sevasti Triantaphyllou, Georgia kotzamani, Mary K. Dabney, Alexandra Livarda, Panagiotis Karkanas. 'Nemea Valley Archaeological Project, Excavations at Barnavos', Hesperia lxxvii, 607-654, 2008.  It is online here.

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