Saturday, April 28, 2018

Follow the telephone wires to Gargaliano Megas Kambos 1 (C390)

Gargaliani Megas Kambos is a Mycenaean site in Messenia that saw activity in the Late Helladic I-II and in the Late Hellladic IIIA – B.  We know about it  thanks to the Pylos Regional Archaeological Project which surveyed it in, I think, 1994.  The site is located in the extensive plains west of the town of Gargaliani in Messenia and is not very easy to find in all that flatness and in a landscape which is fundamentally nothing more than a carpet of olive trees.  As a result I’ve had it in the wrong position by about 300 m. ever since I added it to my Mycenaean Atlas.

Recently I acquired a copy of Davis and Bennet [2017] which is a retrospective of the PRAP effort and I have been revisiting many of the PRAP sites mentioned in my Mycenaean Atlas in the hope of finding additional information.  Here’s what Davis and Bennet have to say about Megas Kambos:

“The site lies on an elongated rise with a trigonometric point (104 masl) on top, ca. 3 km east of Marathopolis …  The rise is one in a series of knolls on the coastal plain west of the modern town of Gargaliani, and slopes gradually to the north, south, and west, with a more abrupt drop to the northeast.  On the southeastern slope is a bedrock cutting, perhaps a quarry.
Two distinct phases of ceramics are represented at the site: prehistoric, particularly LH I-II and III A-B, and Geometric-Roman.  A shaft-hole hammer-axe is probably of MH I date.”[1]

At the PRAP website there is additional material:

“The top is largely covered with maquis, dissected by goat paths, with some open grassy areas. The N and NW slopes are currently planted with grassy mature olives and there are occasional outcrops of bedrock. Intensive market gardening is being practiced on the E side of the hill. The S knoll has many exposed rock outcrops interspersed with grassy areas; at the bottom of the slope are extensive olive groves. On the SE slope is a bedrock cutting consisting of a vertical face with two short returns (perhaps a quarry)”[2]

So where is it?

There is one photograph in that book which, if it could be reproduced in Google Earth, would pinpoint the location of Megas Kambos.  Here’s the photograph:

Figure 1  Megas Kambos hill seen from the NE.   (Courtesy of The Department of Classics University of Cincinnati)

I’m using the color version which I found online.[3]   I encourage my readers to compare this post-processed photo with the original online.  One of my blog themes is that there is a lot of life left in these academic photos – but they need to be post-processed in order to bring out their full  potential.

Here is what the general area looks like in Google Earth:

Figure 2 Megas Kambos is somewhere in the center of this mono-cropped olive landscape.

The intersection of the two roads in the center of the picture is at 37.062327° N, 21.609643° E
Megas Kambos is in this picture – but where?  We are told that it is on a low hill; the ASL marker at the top is at 104 m. elevation.  But such a small hill is difficult to see in this landscape which has been terraformed for olive mono-cropping.

The key, believe it or not, is to locate in this landscape the telephone/electricity wires which are visible in Figure 1.  If you look carefully you’ll see that there is a near-by pole on the right and that it connects to two more poles that can be seen diminishing to the left (south).  The near pole is on a road and in my post-processed photo it’s clearer that this pole stands at an intersection of two field roads.  Can we find that pole/road/wire combination in this landscape?

Yes.   It turns out that we can.  If you look carefully at the clearest versions of these Google images (I’m using the Google Earth image from 11/28/2013) you’ll see a slight grey streak that turns out to be a telephone/electrical line.  Here’s the center of Figure 2 blown up with the lines indicated by arrows:

Figure 3 Wires at A.  They attach to a pole at B.

I traced every visible wire in this area to see whether I could create something recognizable.  Here’s the result:

Figure 4 Telephone wires marked in blue.  Poles marked and numbered at the vertices.

Here the wires are traced in blue.  The telephone poles at each vertice are marked.  The wire east of Pole 4 appears to end at a structure a few meters on.  The wire does continue past pole 3 to the south but I cannot trace it in Google Earth.  The wires to the north of pole 5 go back to the main grid.
The pole that appears to the right in Figure 1 is at position 1 here.  The two poles that are visible to the left in that photo are poles 2 and 3.  The wires in Figure 1 clearly connect 1,2, and 3 just as they do in Google Earth.   

Now I have to admit that I’m simply presenting the conclusion here and omitting all of my false starts; during this whole process I traced half the wires in northern Messenia.  But is this really the right solution?  If it is then it should now be possible to recreate the Figure 1 in Google Earth.  Here it is:

Figure 5 Megas Kambos Hill

Figure 1 reproduced for comparison

This is about as close as I can come in Google Earth to reproducing the photo in Figure 1.  I drew in the  poles using Photoshop.  The only real difference between this picture and Figure 1 is the wires that run from pole 1 to pole 4.  They show up in Google Earth but I can’t see them at all in Figure 1.  It’s possible that this line (to a single structure) was put up sometime in the quarter century since Figure 1 was taken.  I have no other explanation for that omission.

Well, time to wrap it all up with a map that shows everything in its place.  In the next photograph north is to the left.

Figure 6  White arrow marks photo position.  Megas Kambos is at the right.

In this photo the wires are as they were.  Megas Kambos hill is at the lower right.  The ‘low hill’ mentioned by Davis and Bennet is in the center.  It was from the lower slope of that hill (white arrow) that the photo of Megas Kambos was made.  The direction of the photo was to the south-west (and not to the north-east as Davis and Bennet would have it.[4]

The interested reader can safely download a .kml of this demonstration from Google Drive here

I still need to correct this in  Right now C390 is still in the wrong position and will be until I deliver a new database in the next couple of days.


A new database for the Mycenaean Atlas Project ( was delivered on April 23, 2018.  Approximately 73 new sites were added (based largely on Hood, Warren, Cadogan, Travels in Crete, 1962. BSA (59), pp. 50-99, 1964.  The new DB is rev 0058.

Also don't miss my review of the (overrated) Against the Grain by James C. Scott.  It's here:

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[1] Davis and Bennet [2017] 30, ‘D2 Gargaliani Megas Kambos (1)'

[3]   In Davis and Bennet [2017] this is Figure 17 on p. 30.

[4] Davis and Bennet [2017] 30, caption for Figure 17. This is stated correctly  on the web site.


Davis and Bennet [2017]: Davis, Jack L. and John Bennet, edd.   The Pylos Regional Archaeological Project, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2017.

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