Thursday, June 22, 2017

Where is the church of Ayios Konstantinos (Arcadia) C1716?

Making sense of Howell no. 24, (C1716)

In his important survey of Eastern Arcadia Howell says this about the church of Ayios Konstandinos at Stadio in Arcadia:

“24. Stadhion (Akhourion) – Ayios Konstandinos (plate 38c).
The church of Ayios Konstandinos stands on a low mound at the northern edge of the village of Stadhion.  It lies about 200 m. from the crossroads at the centre of the village, to the right of a road leading north towards Ayios Sostis.  Early Helladic … and Middle Helladic sherds … occurred in abundance over an area about 100 m. in diameter around the church.  Five obsidian fragments were also found …”[1]

And there’s more to this site than just some sherds.  The BCH, number 2423 announces, in 2007, the discovery of a habitation there.  They say this:

“Tegea, Stadium.  Hill of Agios Konstantinos.  The ΛΘ’ ΕΠΚΑ reports the discovery of a settlement (fig. 1) occupied principally in the Early and Middle Helladic periods but continuing into Late Helladic. A rectangular building with two rooms (one over 25m2) has so far been partially excavated. The pottery recovered includes an undecorated EH bowl and sherds of at least two storage pithoi with rope decoration.”[2]

Going to the link which BCH provides gives us a nice .pdf which goes into more detail about the find:

“Stadio, Agios Konstantinos Hill
Just outside Stadio stands a low hill that has been named after the homonymous newer church on its top. Older surface surveys on the hill resulted in the identification of prehistoric pottery. The excavation research of the Ephorate that began in 2007 on the occasion of the request of the ecclesiastical council for the construction of a multipurpose building, a short distance southeast of the church, brought to light for the first time a prehistoric settlement with continuous habitation from the Early Helladic period to the late Mycenaean (Fig. 2). The main phase of use of the site dates back to the Early Helladic and Middle Helladic period. At present, a partially rectangular building with a DDB-ANA orientation has been excavated, which has a bilateral arrangement and is similar to the most widespread type of residence in the Aegean area since the early Bronze Age. One of the two rooms has an interior space of over 25 m². Among the most characteristic ceramic samples are an intact first-generation flask and fragments of at least two strands with rope-like decoration.”[3]

So.  In Howell’s time when it was merely a sherd scatter it has now become a full-fledged habitation; even an important one.  So where is it?  Ah.  That’s the problem.  Let’s go to the map.

In this first satellite view we see the general area in Arcadia where Stadio is located.   I have marked some other well-known spots such as Nauplio, etc.  Stadio is just a few hundred yards to the east of Tegea.

In this second satellite view I show the area in a close-up.  Stadio is to the lower right center.  The red arrow by ‘Stadio’ points to the crossroads mentioned by Howell.  The large church in the center of Stadio is Ayios Dimitrios.  It is not the church that Howell et al. are talking about.

Leading from Stadio to Ayios Sostis to the north the road passes just to the east of Tegea Archaeological Park.  On the way it passes a church which is on the right.  It’s the identification of that church which is in question.  Here’s another closeup:

Let’s unpack this picture.  The red circle at the lower R is centered at the crossroads of Stadio.  It is 200 m. in radius.  Theoretically the church of Ayios Konstantinos should be on or near the northern edge of that circle.  There is no church in that area.  Our candidate church which we identified in the last picture (and whose name I do not know) is nearly 500 meters from the northern edge of Stadion.  That’s the lavender circle.  It is centered on the possible church and has a radius of 484 m.  I drew several routes starting from the main crossroads in Stadion.  The blue route goes to the edge of the 200 m. circle to the west.  No churches there.  The yellow route shows the main way to Ayios Sostis.  It does go past our candidate church.  The church is on the right of that route which it should be (Howell is thinking of the route as running from Stadio to Ayios Sostis).  But that yellow route is nearly 700 m. long.  The green route just starts at the crossroads and runs almost exactly 200 m. to the 200 m. radius circle edge.  No church at the end of the green route either.  So is the church at the end of the yellow route our sought-after church?  Even though it’s much further away from Stadio than 200 m.?

Regrettably I do not know the answer.

I suspect that at one time (it’s been nearly 50 years since Howell wrote his description) the church of Ayios Konstantinos was located somewhere else.  The Greek people do move and rebuild their churches from time to time so this is not impossible.  There could be a clue in the EPKA announcement where they say: ‘stands a low hill that has been named after the homonymous newer church on its top’.  (‘…τον ομώνυμο νεότερο ναό στην κορυφή του.).  ‘Neotero’.  This is the comparative form and just means ‘younger’ or ‘newer’.   Although I think that the Greek is mushy at this point they appear to be trying to tell us that this church of Ayios Konstantinos is ‘newer’; perhaps has been rebuilt.  Our candidate church does stand on a barely perceptible hill.  It peaks at the cemetery about 3 m. above the level.  If this is correct then EPKA’s announcement does refer to our church (F2689) at 37.462022 N, 22.430321 E.

But if this is Howell's church then that raises additional  difficulties. 

Case 1. It was originally located somewhere nearer Stadio.  That means that the finds of Howell cannot be associated to the EPKA finds even though EPKA clearly says ‘Older surface surveys on the hill resulted in the identification of prehistoric pottery’.

    Case 2. It was never rebuilt and is still in the same place or it was rebuilt in the same place.  If EPKA is telling us that Howell’s finds and the finds announced in 2007 are from the same place then we still have the problem that this putative Ayios Konstantinos does not at all conform to Howell’s directions.

I trust that I’ve muddied the waters sufficiently for today.  

For the purposes of my atlas I’m placing C1716 (Stadhion: Ayios Konstandinos) at this new church.  But the difficulties are obvious.  If anyone knows exactly where the church of Ayios Konstandinos near Stadio is, or was, or what in the heck EPKA is on about then please let me know.


Status of the Mycenaean Atlas Project

Currently prototyping an alpha online version of the Atlas.  I'm probably about a month away from making it available.

I've recently received a large database of Bronze Age and Iron Age sites in continental Greece and the islands.  I estimate that it will add 1200+ more unique sites in addition to additional information about the sites that I already have.

Anyone who would like to have a copy of the MAP database can send an e-mail to bobconsoli 'at' or leave a comment on any of my posts.  

A large (about 2400+ page) .pdf document which describes the entire database is available for the asking.

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.  

I can and will make .kml or .kmz files, which can be opened directly in Google Earth, available to those who would like them.
I can also create .csv files for people who would like to import Mycenaean Atlas Project data into Google Earth but would like it in tabular form.
If you like these posts then please follow me on Twitter (Squinchpix) or on Google+   (Robert Consoli)

Facebook?  Sorry.I.just.can't. 


[1] Howell [1970] p. 91.


[3]  ΕΦΟΡΕΙΑ ΠΡΟΪΣΤΟΡΙΚΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΛΑΣΙΚΩΝ ΑΡΧΑΙΟΤΗΤΩΝ, p. 123, ‘Στάδιο, λόφος Αγίου Κωνσταντίνου’.  Google translate with my edits.


Howell [1970]:  Howell, R.  "A Survey of Eastern Arcadia in Prehistory"  The Annual of the British School at Athens.  65. November, 1970.  79-127.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Southeast promontories of Zakynthos

Location of the tholos tomb C576

In the southeast of the island of Zakynthos there were, before 2005, two major discoveries that can be plausibly dated to the Bronze Age.  Since 2005 Professor van Wijngaarden has led numerous surveys to this part of the island and considerably enlarged our understanding of this area.  But, right now,  I am concerned with the two primary discoveries which date back at least to the 1930’s.

First let’s look at the geography.  This area of Zakynthos consists of an east-facing plain bordered on the west by a range of low hills.  Cape Kalogeras is the severely eroded promontory at the upper right in our first image here.  At the base of Cape Kalogeras is the little populated area of Porto Roma. 

Proceeding to the extreme south we come to Cape Yerakas (variously transliterated as Gerakas and Gherakis).  Yerakas marks the southern boundary of Triodhia Bay.  The beach which it shelters on its east side is known as Gerakas Beach and the part of this same beach to the north is sometimes known as Triodi (Triodhia) Beach.  In the center of this little peninsula (and dominating what has been an agricultural area) is Vasilikos.  Up to the northwest is the range of small hills I mentioned and which average about 180 m. elevation.

Now that we know where everything is let’s see what Simpson has to say:

“The Kalogeros promontory is about a kilometre east of Vasiliko, and immediately east of the taverna at Porto Roma.  It is very eroded, and only about 150 m. east to west by 50 m. of top surface remains.  Parts of two houses were excavated.  The pottery (destroyed by the 1953 earthquake) ranged from LH I .. to LH III, of which a considerable quantity was found.  Not far to south of the site on the uninhabited Triodi beach on the headland of Yerakas at the farthest southeast tip of Zakynthos, is a ruined structure thought to be the remains of a Mycenaean tholos tomb … If this is so, it would presumably have been connected with the Kalogeros site, since the Yerakas promontory seems too exposed for a settlement.”[1]

So.  Simpson mentions the discovery of

A.  parts of two houses on Cape Kalogeras and

B.  a potential Mycenaean tholos tomb at a place called Triodi Beach and which is near Cape Yerakas. 

These discoveries go back to the activity of Miss Sylvia Benton and others in the 1930’s.  They were reported at that time.  Since then there has been further erosional activity at Cape Kalogeras.  Also the location of the Mycenaean tholos tomb has become, since that time, … somewhat obscure.

In 2010 Dr. van Wijngaarden led a survey in this area and one of the results was the rediscovery of the tomb.  In his survey report he describes the situation like this:

“During the  April campaign  we visited  an  area  near a popular beach,  which  was  inaccessible for survey  during  the  2006  campaign.  On  the  slopes  of  an  eroding  sandstone  ridge,  the  team encountered a very weathered round structure … , around which fragments of fine pottery were scattered. In all probability, these were the remains of a small Mycenaean tholos tomb, which is mentioned  by  several  authors,  but  which  we  had  been  unable  to  locate.  N.  Papadatos,  for  many years working in the Zakynthos museum, confirmed our ideas and informed us that in the 1970’s some basic restoring works aimed at stopping the erosion had been done. Nevertheless, the structure is nowadays very much in decay and hardly recognizable. During the summer campaign we were able to document the structure in some detail. It is roughly 3.50 m. in diameter and situated on a steep slope, which is subject to severe marine erosion. Pottery and bone fragments were collected,
confirming a Mycenaean date for the tomb.”[2]

Dr. van Wijngaarden clearly connects this tomb to the one mentioned by Simpson and others.  So, after having been … insecurely known it is now located.  Where?  Dr. van Wijngaarden does not tell us.  Can we find out?  Sure. 

I have already mentioned that Triodi beach is at the north and west end of the beach created by the shelter of Cape Yerakas.  We can see it clearly in Google Earth.  The first thing that jumps out at us is the section of extremely eroded sandstone ridges at 37.709080 N, 20.982875 E.  Generations of wind action have carved the sandstone into weird free-standing ridges.  A good example is this photograph from Panoramio which shows not only the sandstone ridges but Cape Yerakas in the distance.

(Picture by nikolagalabov)

These pictures strongly reminded me of the ‘Calanques’ in southern France near Cassis.  The photograph which Dr. Wijngaarden reproduces shows a smooth ridge on the skyline behind the tomb.  This doesn't look like the area of severest erosion.

(Picture by The Zakynthos Archaeology Project)

As a result I think that this picture was taken a little further down the beach.  Here is a picture taken just about 100 m. further to the east.  Here the arrow points to what looks like the same smooth ridgeline.

(picture by Kostas Ventouris)

 So, to wrap it all up I present this aerial view from Google Earth which shows the situation:

The location of the tholos tomb C576 on Zakynthos (within 50 m.)

This argument of mine is supported by Dr. Wijngaarden's own map which is reproduced in the 2010 Summary Report.[3]  Here it is:

The only point which Dr. Wijngaarden has marked in this region (F) is exactly where I propose that the tholos tomb is so I think we're good here to within 50 m.  

Over the years there has been a lack of clarity about which expeditions found what and where, precisely, things were found.  I hope this helps to clarify the location of the tholos tomb.


Status of the Mycenaean Atlas Project

Currently prototyping an alpha online version of the Atlas.  I'm probably about two months away from making it available.

I've recently received a large database of Bronze Age and Iron Age sites in continental Greece and the islands.  I estimate that it will add 1200 more unique sites in addition to additional information about the sites that I already have.

Anyone who would like to have a copy of the MAP database can send an e-mail to bobconsoli 'at' or leave a comment on any of my posts.  

A large (about 2400 page) .pdf document which describes the entire database is available for the asking.

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.  

I can and will make .kml or .kmz files, which can be opened directly in Google Earth, available to those who would like them.
I can also create .csv files for people who would like to import Mycenaean Atlas Project data into Google Earth but would like it in tabular form.
If you like these posts then please follow me on Twitter (Squinchpix) or on Google+   (Robert Consoli)

Facebook?  Sorry.I.just.can't. 


[1] Simpson [1981], 155-6.

[2] van Wijngaarden [2010] 6.

[3] van Wijngaarden [2010] p. 2, fig. 2


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

van Wijngaarden [2010]: van Wijngaarden, Gert Jan.  ‘Zakynthos Archaeology Project 2010 Summary report’, online here.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Field, part 2

- Jesus, dis-je, il y a icy un nouveau monde?
- Certes, dist-il, il n'est mie nouveau, mais
l'on dist bien que hors d'icy y a une terre
neufve ou ilz ont et soleil et lune et tout plein
de belles besoignes; mais cestuy cy est plus ancien.

Gargantua and Pantagruel, ch. 32

What the Prisoner Experienced in the Cave

[From a previously unknown dialogue of Plato.  Part I is here.]

Socrates : Our prisoner awakens to find himself chained to a bench. His head has been constrained to face forward; in this way he can only see a kind of screen upon which are projected shadows. It happens that there is a fire behind our prisoners which casts these shadows onto the screen which is visible to them. The shadows are cast by large cut outs on long poles carried by actors who parade back and forth behind the prisoners. The shadows from these shapes are all that the prisoners can see. The shapes being carried are of every imaginable kind. There are cut-outs to signify the stars, the sun, the moon and the other heavenly bodies. Great houses and temples are represented as are humble abodes of common laborers. All the animals and plants are represented as well as all the other phenomena of the earth; mountains, hills, rivers, and roads. Some of the shapes are of human beings and their voices are simulated by those who carry the respective cut-outs.

Our prisoner rejoices to see this because they are of a much simpler version of that complex ‘reality’ which he, formerly a prisoner in the field, had previously been familiar. He finds everything much more comprehensible.

Glaucon : He prefers it to the open field?

Recess in S wall of Roman Agora. Athens, Attica, Greece. 1CBC.
Courtesy of SquinchPix
S. : And why not? Indeed his being imprisoned in the open field has prepared him to take maximum advantage from the cave. Because of his previous imprisonment he can far more easily detail the minutest shades of meaning in the ‘plays’ of the sign holders. Nothing for him is baffling; indeed the discourses of the priests and the prominent men (for they, too, are represented) are greatly simplified from the reality of such dignitaries in the upper world from which he has fled to this refuge. Would he not prefer these clearer meanings, Glaucon?

G. : Indeed, I don’t think so, Socrates!

S. : But consider, best of students, the upper world in which he was previously a prisoner was complex, incommensurable; sometimes cruel and baffling. The world of the cave, in which he is now so happy, is clear, plain, understandable. And, in addition, the vagaries of nature have no place in this better lower world.

G. : But how could a person choose a poor simulacrum over the richness of his former reality?

S. : Most of the prisoners (I mean, from the upper world of the Field) would choose it because they are safe in the Cave. The world is more comprehensible there. And you fail to consider the advantages of such a life over the disordered and chaotic mental life that he led previously. In the new life of the Cave ideal concepts are presented in their clearest and simplest form. They are easy to absorb. Instead of attempting to dredge meaning from complex phenomena (which, I assure you, are all too easy to misunderstand) the meaning of life and one’s place in it will be much simpler to absorb from the signs carried by the actors. Such a fortunate prisoner would never be confused about the founding ideas of life. Does one understand Virtue better from a controlled environment marked out by clear and intelligible signs or is it better to throw a child into a complex and confusing environment such as our own and trust to happenstance that the child will absorb the right lessons about life?

G. : The former, surely.

S. : Most certainly Glaucon, attentive one! For consider the study of Truth. The material world outside the cave has no certain or natural way of communicating knowledge of, or love of, the Truth to the poor prisoners sitting under the canopy in the field. And how can all the prisoners in the upper world all reach the same conclusions? Indeed, what certain and unerring idea can be communicated by means of the multifarious and ever-changing phenomena of the upper world? Because, Glaucon, what is Truth?

G. : Truth is the Unchanging.

S. : Precisely so! But how can the Unchanging emerge from the Changing?

G. : It cannot.

S. : Just so. But the opposite obtains in the Cave. For in the Cave the work of the great Truth-tellers can be clearly and unambiguously communicated by using symbols and words that have fixed and unchanging meanings. Now, suppose that our prisoner is again accidentally freed. What shall he do?

G. : Entirely free? Able to choose whether to stay in the cave or to go back out into the world of the field?

S. : Yes.

G. :Well, according to what you say, I suppose that he would ignore his new freedom – even conceal the fact that his bonds had slipped – and remain in the cave watching the projected shadows.

S. :  But let us continue this in our next meeting.

G.: Very well, Socrates.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Arachne CMS seals database

I learned from the Aegeanet bulletin board that the Arachne CMS databases are online.  This includes a very large engraved seals database.

I have very little interest in engraved seals but I did go to this site anyway and looked at it.  I learned that the Heidelberg University Seals Database numbers about 13000 entries.  They do not allow access to their database except through a browser.   To do serious research work you’d have to look at every one of the 13,000 entries and you’d have to painstakingly recreate your seals DB from theirs one entry at a time.  Let’s say you can do two per hour.  That amounts to 6500 man hours.  There are only 2250 man hours in a work year.  That means that anyone who wants to use the Arachne seals DB for serious research has to spend 2.9 man years or 34.67 months in analysis and db building.   Along with all the errors that hand copying entails.

Which is an  unnecessary time expenditure because anyone who wants the Arachne seals database can have the entire thing with no more time investment than a couple of days to write a piece of software.   

How is that possible?

Well, first of all, it’s the internet and the internet is notoriously open.  It is open especially for benign purposes which this is.  But, second, the Arachne people have a sloppiness in their website which is that they show all the parameters to a page call right on their url line.  The result is that that url can be programmatically manipulated to allow you to download one page after another until you’ve downloaded every one of their pages.  The whole download process (images and all) would take, at most, a few minutes.  Once downloaded each page can be parsed for its constituent info (let me emphasize that the information being dumped is exactly the information that the web site is designed to provide in the first place and analyzing this page is exactly what your favorite web browser already does).  After download a series of sql statements can be generated which can create a customized form of their database on the local machine.  All of this can be done with a single program so that the sequence is ‘web pages in; SQL statements out’.

It would require that the would-be downloader write a program that is, in essence, a tiny customized browser that is designed just to read Arachne web pages.  That web browser can then parse the string coming from Arachne and write out sql statements that encapsulate the info of interest.  Once the sql statements are executed the database will be magically recreated on the local machine.

But let’s get back to that part about the sloppiness.  What does that look like?

A typical Arachne seals page

In this picture we see a typical Arachne seals page.   The browser I’m using, just for the record, is Chrome (Version 58.0.3029.110 (64-bit)).  See that red box towards the bottom?  That’s the information that you want to copy and put in your own database.  And the maxim is that if something is visible on your computer then it’s ON your computer and, if you can get access to it, you can do anything you want with it.  And, if you look at that little red circle at the top, you’ll see the number 495 there followed by an ampersand (&).  If you could change that number to 496 and reload the page then Arachne would serve the next image to your machine.  If you put that in a loop in a program then Arachne would serve ALL the images to your machine.  And I call this a sloppiness because those parameters don’t have to be visible.  I think that if Arachne really wanted to force you to use an approved browser then they should have used the POST method instead of GET for transmitting parameters.  That would make the passed parameters invisible.

What about the information in the red box?  How do you get hold of that?  Let’s look at a piece of the page string that is served by the Arachne servers.  This is the exact same string served to your regular browser and to see this, just use your browser to go to one of the Arachne web pages and then press the right mouse button on your mouse.  Then select 'View Source'.

...border="0" galleryimg="no"/></a><div style="font-size: 14px; padding: 3px; font-weight:bold;">Informationen</div><div class="info_wrap"><h3 class="info">Aufbewahrung: </h3><div class="info">Paläpaphos, Zypern, römisches Kammergrab.</div><div class="info">- Ortsangabe ist Fundort -</div><div class="info">Nikosia, Zypern, Cyprus Museum.</div><div class="info">- Ortsangabe ist Aufbewahrungsort -</div></div><div class="info_wrap"><h3 class="info">Herkunft: </h3><div class="info">Fundland: Zypern</div><div class="info">Fundort: Paläpaphos, CY</div><div class="info">Flur/Grabungsstätte: römisches Kammergrab</div><div class="info">Fundstelle: nein</div><div class="info">Platztypus: Grab</div><div class="info">Kontextdatierung: römisch</div><div class="info">Bereich: Zypern</div></div><div class="info_wrap"><h3 class="info">Form: </h3><div class="info">Siegelform: Lentoid</div><div class="info">Zahl der Siegelflächen: 1</div><div class="info">Wölbung der Siegelfläche: konvex</div><div class="info">Umriss der Siegelfläche: rund</div><div class="info">Dekor der Nebenseite: nein</div><div class="info">Art der Durchbohrung: diametral</div></div><div class="info_wrap"><h3 class="info">Material und Technik: </h3><div class="info">Material: Chalcedon?</div><div class="info">Bearbeitungstechnik: Rad, Rundperl, Tubus</div><div class="info">Sonstige Merkmale: nein</div></div><div class="....

Portion of the page string for an Arachne Seals web page

This string is the portion that creates the info box which I outlined in red above.  I changed some of the fields to red (I think that there are about 40 fields of interest) to show where they are.  The first ‘Fundland’ shows that this seal was found in Cyprus.  The second ‘Fundort’ gives you the location of the find city, namely Palaipaphos on Cyprus.  And so forth.  (And somewhere in here is the link to the high-resolution image of the seal.  Arachne snottily tells you that if you're just a casual user then you can only get the low-res version of the image  - or so they think.)  I emphasize that this page string is exactly the string that your Chrome or Firefox browser actually is sent by Arachne and from which your browser creates the web page that you see.  We just need a more efficient way to extract the data in a usable form and then create SQL statements out of it.  That's what's nice about this.  It is NOT a hack.  It does NOT try to change their data.  It does NOT attempt to modify their code to do something they don't want it to do.  It's merely a different way of consuming the product that they already WANT to deliver.

Much of web programming is done in a language called PHP.  PHP supports a call (leaving cURL completely out of the picture because we don’t need anything so sophisticated) called file_get_contents().  The parameter to this call is the URL whose page you are interested in acquiring.  When you execute this call the server on the Arachne machine returns the string representation of the page.  Your own favorite browser does exactly this except with much more powerful utilities.  When you get the page string back you can then do what I was suggesting which was to parse the page and write out the information in the form of SQL statements.  Writing out the SQL statements is trivial.  The whole program looks like this:

establish first URL

web_page = file_get_contents(URL);
web_array = explode('><div class="info">', Web_page);

    FOR (every element of web_array)
    IF start of element is a key word like ‘Fundort’ or ‘Fundstelle’                 then extract the argument and store it in a unique variable,                1..n

Generate the SQL statement: e.g. “insert in seals values (‘Unique var 1’, ‘Unique var 2’, … ‘Unique var n’);”;


       update the URL to point to the next page.


It’s a little more sophisticated than that.  The dates have to be extracted and placed in their own table since there can be a variable number of dates for each seal.   Basically, though, that’s all there is to it.  Now you may not want to do this but don't forget that this is always possible on the internet and for many more scholarly databases than just Arachne.  These internet tools are far more powerful than the uninitiated suppose.  What I suggest to Arachne is, if they really want to restrict access to only approved browsers, that they protect their URL line better.

And don't write back to me and say that this can't be done.  I got my version of this program running along with the associated database in about two days.  

Just for the exercise.