Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Lambaina Quarry (C131) found again.

In Messenia, near a town called Lambaina, there is a site that was identified by the MME researchers as a quarry/cem/habitation.  First let's look at it in the context of Messenia:

Lambaina sits on the W side of the Pamisos valley just before the Ithome foothills.  

And here's a close-up of the Lambaina area:

In this map N is to the top.  The main N-S highway runs through the center of the picture past a woodworking yard and former quarry.

The first description of this site known to me appeared in an article by McDonald and Simpson in 1964 where we read this:

“77B. Tourkokivouro (Lambaina)
On the E side of the Messini-Meligala highway and near the fork to Lambaina village (which is above and W of the highway) is a tile factory belonging to Ioannis Michalopoulos.  Immediately E of the factory is a great clay quarry which has cut into and perhaps largely destroyed a prehistoric cemetery.  The owner states that he retrieved from here and conveyed to the museum in Kalamata the two Mycenaean vases (a pilgrim flask and the bowl of a kylix) which are labeled as originating in Lambaina.”  [1]

In a follow-up article from 1969 McDonald and Simpson wrote this:

“77B. Tourkokivouro (Lambaina)
The ephorate investigated the site reported by us … Three pits were dug to rock on the E side of the clay pit and factory.  Pottery was more or less stratified in the sequence EH-LH-G.  The only structure encountered was an empty slab grave, probably EH.  The pottery was taken to the Kalamata Museum.  Mr. Papathanasopoulos suggests that this is a habitation site, rather than (as we thought) a cemetery.”  [2]

Finally, what does Simpson say in his gazetteer?

F120  Lambaina: Tourkokivouro
(MME No. 122)
About a kilometre east-southeast of Lambaina, on the east side of the Messini-Valyra road, stratified EH, Mycenaean, and Geometric layers were found on the east edge of a clay quarry. …”  [3]

Well, since the tile factory has disappeared the site is now effectively lost.  Can we find it?  What do we have to go on?  

a. near the fork to Lambaina village.
b. E side of the main N-S highway in this area
c. about 1 km. E-SE of Lambaina
d. Tile factory

Let's take another look at the general area:

The fork to Lambaina village is at 37.142447°, 21.969534°. 

Lambaina village itself is at 37.147274°, 21.967193°. 

One km. to S of Lambaina brings us to 37.138490°, 21.969614° which, as will appear, is an overestimate.

The tile factory.  Fortunately Google Street View exists for this part of Messenia so we are able to cruise up and down the main highway looking for it.  It doesn’t take long to establish that there is no longer a tile factory in this area.  What I discovered is a wood-working shop/factory with the name of ξυλεια Οικονομου or ‘Economy Wood Products’.

  This must have been the tile factory back in the 1960’s and has since been converted to wood products, or so I hoped.  On that basis I put the marker on the ground in back of this shop.  I plotted a point (C131) at 37.143516°  N, 21.97205° E.  

Now a correspondent of mine has visited this place and suggested a correction.  This is what he says:


“I have managed to pass the Lambaina quarry (or wood yard) several times and finally found the yard open with the owner in attendance. I asked him about the excavations and what he knew of it all.  He said he was rather younger when all this was going on and his father (not there) was the one who might remember more detail.  However he walked with me to the back of the yard where the quarry was originally located.  He confirmed that ceramics were made there before the yard became a saw mill.   It seems the ceramics were mostly tiles rather than pots or other utensils. That obviously made a quick survey rather difficult as the remains of the tile production had been dumped in the quarry when the yard was cleared for lumber storage.   In fact I picked up some of the more "interesting" ceramic pieces and wondered how anyone could tell by sight alone if they were ancient or modern.   The owner said there had been some excavations in the 80's but that they had not found too much and decided it was more likely a habitation of some sort - maybe even an ancient ceramic production centre using the same clay source.   His impression was that the excavators did not think it was a cemetery - certainly not one of any size.   However he was only a young interested person at the time and may have not understood all/any details.  He did say they became interested in something further to the east in another field (maybe the tumulus reported) but he didn't know anything about it.   I noticed a number of low mounds/small hillocks in the area to the east of the old quarry but did not investigate further at this time. 

   The upshot of all this is that your original presumptions are mostly correct (it was that yard and it had had a change of use from ceramics to wood).   However you might like to adjust the position of the site to something about 50m west of the current location (which is definitely outside the original quarry area).   My GoogleEarth  co-ordinates for the quarry area are:  37° 8.605'N ,  21° 58.284'E.

   The quarry was mostly worked on the southern side into the low hill. Indeed there is a semicircular area a little further to the west that one might suppose was formed by excavation. Unfortunately after the official excavation the site was filled and the debris from the old ceramic shops was dumped in the area with little regard for ‘contamination’.”


What's interesting about this narrative is a) no one seems to have visited it since the 1980's, b) When the changeover to wood products was carried out the debris from tile making seems to have been dumped into the quarry, c) the owner's son seems to have heard that the consensus of the archaeologists was that it was a habitation or, perhaps, a place of tile or vase manufacture and d) the archaeologists were later interested in a mound found further E (Tourkokivouro, C132). [4]

My correspondent also sends along some pictures that he took there and which I reproduce here:

First a Google map that shows how photos 1 and 3 were taken:

The next photo, Photo 1, is facing Mount Ithome and shows the clay pit/quarry to the left:

Some of the debris and plant-life found in the quarry.

Photo 2 is a close-up shot of the overgrown quarry.

Next, photo 3 is a shot of one of the piles of rock debris that lie around the site.   Here we're facing W (towards Ithome, visible)  and the back of the workshop:

And, finally, we have a spectacular panorama of the entire quarry and back of the lot:

In this last picture we're facing N.  The red lines indicate the angular scope of the panorama.  Certain things visible in the pano such as the telephone pole and the pine trees are indicated on the diagram.

So that's it then, quarry found again thanks to a valuable correspondent!


In my last post I discussed the issue of Google starting to charge for its maps and how that affects Helladica.info.

In response to Google's change I have redelivered the Place Key report and the Feature Key report pages - re-written to use maps from Open Street Maps and ESRI.  This conversion work will be ongoing.

If you like these posts then please follow me on Twitter or Google Plus (Robert Consoli).

You can e-mail me (and I hope you will) at  bobconsoli   at   gmail.com

And please remember - Friends don't let friends use Facebook.

If you'd like to have a copy of the Mycenaean Atlas database then e-mail me and tell me about your project.  And remember that useful .kml and/or .csv files can be generated directly from all the windows of the website helladic.info   Try it out!


1. Messenia II:  "77B Tourkokivouro (Lambaina)", 235.

2. Messenia III:  "77B. Tourkokivouro", 157.

3. Simpson [1981]: "F 120 Lambaina Quarry", 129.

 4. Tourkokivouro described in Simpson [1981]  129, 'F 120 Lambaina Quarry'.


Messenia II:   McDonald, William A. and Richard Hope Simpson, 'Further Exploration in Southwestern Peloponnese: 1962-1963'.  American Journal of Archaeology. (68:3). (Jul., 1964), pp. 229-245.

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.

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.,  "D 122 Lambaina: Tourkokivouro", 159.

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Migrating away from Google Maps (Wonkish)

Google has decided to begin charging for the downloading of its maps by websites although they claim that the first 100,000 downloads per month on any website are free.  helladic.info uses Google maps throughout and it is very unlikely that helladic.info would ever experience 100,000 map downloads and so this new policy would not seem to concern us.

However Google wants my payment information anyway (something it has never done before) even though helladic.info would fall into the 98% of sites that will not be affected by this policy.  The payment information is the sticking point .. along with some controversy about what 100,000 downloads really means.  I don’t wish to be exposed to this risk.

Therefore I have decided to move away from Google maps and reprogram the map pages to use Open Street Map and ESRI maps.  Indeed the first two rewrites (Place Key Report and Feature Key Report) pages are already delivered.

The new maps have more feature layers - you can try it out yourself – and they function just like the old pages did.  I don’t anticipate any impact on the way the site is used by making this change.  There is, however, significant rewriting still to do and I’m not certain that I can complete this by June 11 which is the cutoff date.

I’ll try to let you all know in advance if things change or if features are broken.  You can help me by reporting problems that you may experience during this time of refit.  

Maps on the Internet are a constantly changing and improving scene and, as I find new appropriate functionality, I will try to incorporate changes that I think useful.

Thanks for your understanding.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A minor (but frustrating) error in a Cretan gazetteer

“They said they were hair-dressers but … kind of hard to believe.”
Play It Again Sam
Woody Allen

I’m currently taking Mycenaean and Minoan sites from Crete and putting them into the Mycenaean Atlas Project database.  Today I was spotting sites in the very valuable gazetteer article:  Goodison and Guarita [2005].  Everything was going fine until I reached this:

Location: After turning off the Ayii  Deka-Heraklion road towards Gangales,  140m on (just after the river) pass tiny chapel on left of road. 30m further on, cut across fields to the right (180m). The tomb is a few metres NW of a barn.” (1)

This tomb, possibly Early Minoan, is a circular tomb and mound of about 11 m. in diameter.  It was robbed in antiquity and, I suspect, of no really great importance or significance in itself beyond helping to fill out the picture of the extent of circular tombs in the Mesara during the EM.  Therefore the most important thing about it would be its exact position and that's what I want to establish.  There are a number of ambiguities in the directions to this tomb so I decided to take this down to the ground and provide a full description of what our authors are trying to tell us.

The main north-south road through the center of Crete runs from Heraklion to a junction with a major east-west road and very near to the town of Aghii Deka. (just a few km. further on one comes to Gortyn.)   And what our authors are saying is that if one turns towards Gangales (away from Ayii Deka to the east) then, after 140 m. one comes to a small chapel and then a road to the right which will lead to this tomb.

I tried every possible way to move 140 m. to the E from the N-S road to the main E-W road but nothing worked.  Actually 140 m. hardly gets you out of Ayii Deka.  There is a river in Ayii Deka and everything almost fit but didn’t quite.  Especially vexing was my inability to spot any tiny chapel on the edge of Ayii Deka. 

I spent a couple of hours on this and finally I just tried a guess.  Perhaps 140 was a mistype for 1400 (or something).  I started again tracing a 1400 m. route from the easiest turn-off from the N-S road to the east (another guess).  At the end of the 1400 m. trace I discovered everything together, the river, the chapel, the barn … everything.   And the ‘tiny chapel’ really was very tiny indeed; in Greece such a thing is known as a kandylakia – a roadside shrine/contribution box shaped like a full-size church.  And standing next to it was another even smaller and even more elaborate kandylakia  The people of Greece sometimes erect these kandylakia at a place where a traffic death has occurred.  They form a kind of small refuge where a person might stop and pray during the day or light a candle or give a donation.

I don’t know what these kandylakia are called in Crete but ours look like this:
Chapel on L, kandylakia on R.

What about the route itself?

In this aerial photo the 1400 m. route is shown in light brown.  The river which Goodison & Guarita mention is in blue.  

Since our authors don't precisely say here is a close-up of the actual exit that Goodison et al. are referring to when they reference the start of this 1400 m. route.  Here's an aerial photo of it:

The route marked in red is the main highway from Herakleion to Ayii Deka.   The outskirts of Ayii Deka are shown on the left (W).  The turn that you make is labelled 'To the Tomb'.

If you're driving towards Ayii Deka then that turn is shown in the next photo from Google Street View.

Time for a close-up of the route's end and a tentative location for the tomb being sought.

This photo shows the route that you're driving on in light brown.  The river that you pass is in blue and the arrow A marks the position of the 'tiny chapel' and the kandylakia.  The line in purple is the 180 m. path that you take 'to the right'. 

Here is a close-up of the east end of the route.  The blue line is the river that Goodison et al. call out.  The lat/lon pair is the position of the 'tiny' chapel.  The circle is centered by the kandylakia and is 30 m. in radius.  Not surprisingly that brings us directly to the road 'on the right' which leads south 180 m. to the tomb.  Our authors say: 'Present structure: Barely discernible raised irregular circular mound of stones, overgrown by vegetation.   D: ?c. 11 m.  ...' (2)

In this picture there is some ambiguity because the tomb cannot now be seen.  I supposed that maybe the structure was to the SE and there is a circular feature there.  But it is not large enough.  Its diameter is only about 2.7 m. and we're looking for a feature with a diameter of 11 m. (approx.).  I also want to point out the feature that I've called a 'Burn Circle' at the lower left.  I often see these more or less circular features in the olive orchards of Greece; they are really just circles of ash where the farmers have burnt orchard rubbish.  Wishful thinking often converts these things into tholoi.

Goodison et al. would have done their research before 2005.  I was able to find the 11/16/03 image of this area in Google Earth.  It does appear to show an anomaly about 7.5 m. to the NW of the NW corner of the barn.  No other image that I examined shows anything at all in that position.  I have drawn a circle of 11.0 meters in diameter centered on that spot to suggest where the tomb may have been.  I emphasize that this is supposition based on what our authors have told us.

So, perhaps the best position for our sought-after tomb is  35.056539° N, 24.982953° E.

No one claims that their work is error-free.  Substituting 140 for 1400 is a tiny error in a really fine and useful article.   In the field of computer science this would be labelled as just a bug.  I shudder to think how many of these things there must be in my own work.  It does illustrate, however, one of the real advantages that digital representation has over traditional print venues for scholarly work.  This article is going to be around for a long time and the description for Tomb no. 31 will be misleading people for as long as it exists.   If the information in Goodison et al. [2005]  (and several hundred others that I could name) were in the form of a database then such a flaw could be repaired for free and turned around in seconds.  It's just like software in that respect.  No professional expects software to be completely free of errors.  No moral opprobrium attaches to this.  Software authors recognize better than most other professionals that, when it comes to details, the human mind is basically trash.  As a result a large part of software implementation consists of making provision for keeping flaws under control.

One of those devices is the version numbering system.  As hideous as it may sound to an academic it may be time to start versioning articles and books.  The versioning information goes along with the article/book and would explain what has changed since the last version and why.  Of course this can only happen if these articles/books are online.   A consummation devoutly to be wished.

Of course I also think that articles and books shouldn't be printed at all.  It's outmoded.  Why commit errors to epistemological prison?

Finally, let me express my gratitude to Goodison and Guarita for providing this gazetteer from which I've learned so much.


A new database for the Mycenaean Atlas Project (www.helladic.info) was delivered on May 11, 2018.  Approximately 35 new sites were added in the Siteia region of Crete.  The new DB is rev 0059.

Also don't miss my review of Against the Grain by James C. Scott.  It's here: http://mycenaeanatlasproject.blogspot.com/2018/02/some-notes-on-james-c-scott-against.html

If you like these posts then please follow me on Twitter or Google Plus (Robert Consoli).

You can e-mail me (and I hope you will) at  bobconsoli   at   gmail.com

And please remember - Friends don't let friends use Facebook.

If you'd like to have a copy of the Mycenaean Atlas database then e-mail me and tell me about your project.  And remember that useful .kml and/or .csv files can be generated directly from all the windows of the website helladic.info   Try it out!


(1) Goodison and Guarita [2005],  186.
(2) idem.


Goodison and Guarita [2005]:   Goodison, Lucy and Carlos Guarita, 'A New Catalogue of the Mesara-Type Tombs', Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolici [47], pp. 171-212, 2005.