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.

No comments:

Post a Comment