Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The location of Amarynthos: Palaiochoria (C1223)

I’ve been looking just now for the site of Amarynthos: Palaiochoria on Euboea.  This was a small Mycenaean habitation site in the LHIIIB and LHIIIC.  I have called this ‘C1223’ and I originally placed it at 38.386937°, 23.924491°.  I am now convinced that this is not correct and I found out about this in an interesting way.  Let’s start with the sources.

       a)      Sackett et al. [1966] say “This is a prominent hill, whose cliffs project slightly into the sea, about 2 km. to the east of Amarynthos and at the extreme east end of the Eretrian plain where Mt. Kotylaion reaches the sea.  Beyond it the road winds sharply over ridges to the long stretch of inhospitable rocky coast leading to Aliveri.  The hill is surmounted by two Byzantine churches (one set very prominently on the cliff’s edge) and the remains of a third, which was constructed partly on earlier foundations of ancient blocks. The surface of the hill (c. 250 x 150 m. in area) is flat and cultivated, as are the steep sides to east, north, and west.  The small sheltered beach immediately below the site to the east is the first possible landfall for a ship travelling westwards from Aliveri, and to the west flat land and a shelving beach stretch all the way to the harbour of modern Amarynthos.”[1]
      b)      Simpson [1981] says: “Palaiochoria (or Palaioekklisies) is a prominent low hill, about 2.5 km. east of Amarynthos, and at the eastern end of the plain of Eretria.  The cliffs on the south side of the site project slightly into the sea, and provide some shelter for the small beach immediately below the site on the east.  To the west of the site, flat land and a shelving beach stretch up to the harbour of modern Amarynthos.  The hill is crowned by two Byzantine churches and remains of a third, which was constructed partly on ancient foundations.  The upper surface of the hill, about 160 m. northeast to southwest by 85 m., is flat and cultivated.”[2]

What are we looking for:

1)      It is a hill.
2)      It is on the coast and projects slightly into the water.
3)      It is on the extreme E of the Eretrian plain
4)      It’s between 2 and 2.5 km. from modern Amarynthos.
5)      There are two churches on the hill; one next to a cliff or drop
6)      The surface of the hill is 250 x 150 m. in area.  Perhaps it is 160 m x 85 m.
7)      There is a beach below the site to the E.
8)      The hill is cultivated.

Now these are mostly weak and undiagnostic criteria.  Nos. 1, 2, 7 are useless because these three things are characteristic of much of this Euboean shore.  No. 3 is a little more interesting but too vague to be of much help.  No. 4 deserves special condemnation.  Not only can our authors not agree but they do not say when this distance was estimated, whether the distance is from the center or the edge of town, and whether it is straight line or by road.  No. 5 is not very useful because there is at least one other location on this shore where this is true.  No. 6 only tells us that the hill is of modest dimensions; like most of them in this area.  No. 8 raises another problem.  When was it cultivated?  Is it still cultivated more than half a century later?

What to do?

I tried looking for churches but the only one I could find was Aghios Konstantinos at 38.385011° N, 23.924209° E.   ‘Eureka!’, I thought.  Here’s a modest hill, right on the water, with a church and a sheltered beach on the east and it fits all the other vague criteria.  

That became my C1223 and I went on to the next site.

Dr. Alex Knodell of Carleton College has recently been kind enough to supply me with some geo-locational data for this area and he has placed my C1223, Amarynthos: Palaiochoria, at a very different  place:  38.3863153 N, 23.91034726 E, which is about 1220 m. to the W of my site.

I wasn't convinced.   ‘How can this possibly be?’, I thought.

Here's a photo of Dr. Knodell's site:

I took another look at his site and certainly there appeared to be a church on the edge of a cliff.  ‘Could this be?’, I wondered.

I went back to Sackett and took a look at his photograph of the site (I don't think that I'd done this originally).[3]  Here it is:

I improved the contrast of the original picture and added the arrows and labels.   'O.k., there's the church and what looks like the same tree in the right spot.'  But I wasn't truly convinced until I found this user supplied photo on Google Earth.   A vacationer had almost perfectly reproduced Sackett's photo.

The photo is pinned to  38.385969° N, 23.907693° E and here it is:

Photo by Nikos Nikos whose photo galllery on Panoramio is here.

(God, what is that?  A Coke slushee?)   Behind the miraculous floating drink is a nearly perfect recreation of the cliff, the church, the tree, and the hill.  Compare it to the photo just above.

So, there you have it.  We mustn't despise knowledge sources no matter how humble.  

In fact, I think everyone has known where this site is except me.  There's an extensive bibliography in Sackett and even Simpson gives a sketch map which, once you know the real location, makes perfect sense.  But if you look at it without knowing the real location it seems to fit my original location better.

Update on January 7, 2018

There was quite a bit of interest in this post.  Alex Knodell wrote in to clarify some of the terminology.  The two churches on top of this bluff are called 'Palaioekklisies' or just, 'those old churches'.  The one I referred to in the post is called the church of the Kimisis Theotokou (Panaghitsa).  The other, older, church is the church of the Metamorphosis.  If you look for them in Google Earth you'll notice a nice user-contributed photo of the older church, the Metamorphosis; the picture is labelled in Russian:  Древняя Часовня or 'Ancient Church'.  This photo is posted at 38.386612 N, 23.910107 E.  

Alex Knodell was kind enough to send me one of his own pictures of this area.  This photo was taken from behind the smaller and older church, the Metamorphosis, and facing W.  The larger church on the bluff is on the left of this photo along with a piece of the giant tree on the face of the bluff which I mentioned earlier.  It appears to be some kind of Eucalyptus.  On a side note there are too many of these hydrocarbon-bomb Australian natives in Europe.  Portugal is covered with them and they are the major culprit in the forest fires that P. experienced recently.   Anyway, here is Alex' picture:

I lightened the shadows in this picture, removed some of the blue from the shadows, and punched up the color somewhat.  You can see more of those Eucalypti.

There was some discussion about the nature of the drink in the user-supplied photo which I reproduced in the original post.  I thought it was some sort of slushee but the consensus is that the drink is a frappe and, in the interest of ethnographic documentation, I reproduce Alex Knodell's description of how these are made:

"..., the frappe is the quintessential Greek cold coffee drink, made of nescafe, sugar, and water,  whipped up with a little gizmo that looks like a milkshake machine. It will give your system a caffeine catapult into instant alertness while at the same time roiling your insides in an equally unique way."

Another correspondent, Jacquelyn, also identified this drink as a frappe.

Wikipedia is all over this; see the article: 'Frappé coffee' and especially the section entitled 'Greek frappé variations'.  I was curious about Alex' frappe maker and found one for sale on EBay.

Both Alex and Brady Kiesling brought to my attention the fact that Amarynthos is the site of the recent discovery of the sanctuary of Artemis Amarysia.  A recent account with photos is here.

You can see the excavation in Google Earth here:

Alex Knodell's latest book, Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity has now appeared.  You can learn more about it here.

Mycenaean Atlas Project.

New database (Rev 0.048) has been delivered to the MAP.   I am currently in the process of integrating geo-locational data for many places in central Greece and which was kindly supplied to me by Dr. Alex Knodell of Carleton College and Sarah Murray of the University of Toronto.

I always want to hear from people who have corrections or ideas about new sites that are not yet in the Atlas.

You can reach me at bobconsoli 'at' gmail.com

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[1] Sackett et al. [1966], 64, ’62. Amarynthos: Palaiokhora’.
[2] Simpson [1981], 55, ‘B 70 Amarynthos: Palaiochora’.
[3] Sackett et al. [1966], Plate XVI(a).


Sackett et al. [1966]:    Sackett, L.H., V. Hankey, R.J. Howell, T.W. Jacobsen and M.R. Popham.  "Prehistoric Euboea: Contributions toward a Survey", The Annual of the British School at Athens, 61, pp. 33-112, 1966.

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


  1. That "miraculous floating drink" is none other than a frappe!

  2. Hello Jacquelyn,
    Yes, the consensus of scholarly opinion is that that drink is a frappe. Alex Knodell of Carleton College concurs; he provided me with an elaborate description of how they are made. Disgusting.

    I'm going to be updating that post in the next day or two and I'll put the identity of that drink to rest. Thanks for reading and, even more, thanks for writing. I hope you'll continue to do both.

    Bob Consoli