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.
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[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.

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