Sunday, July 29, 2018

C5708: Volakas Cemetery in Siteia on Crete

Giorgos Vavouranakis, in his Funerary Landscapes East of Lasithi, describes the burial sites around Hagios Georgios in Crete.  Of the Volakas Hill site he says this:

"The second burial site is on the south slope of the Volakas hill, just outside the modern settlement (of Hagios Georgios), to the northwest off the main road ... Nine chamber tombs with a roughly circular chamber and a dromos were excavated  ..., but were found looted and, generally, disturbed.  According to the pottery, the place was used throughout the Postpalatial period (LM IIIA-C)."[1]

The Volakas site is the location of several chamber tombs and was used for a very long time: from the Early Minoan III to the Late Minoan IIIC.  The site mentioned, outside Hagios Georgios, is in Siteia, eastern Crete.  Hagios Georgios is indicated by the arrow on this first photo:

Here is a close-up of Hagios Georgios.  But where in all this wilderness of hills and field roads is the Volakas site?

Vavouranakis provides a photograph of the site which you see here:

This picture leaves a lot to be desired.  By the time these photos appear in academic publications they've been stepped on so many times that there usually isn't much left.  In their published state these photos aren't nearly as helpful as their creators suppose.  And yet there's much that can be done to rescue these old pictures.  Applying judicious transformations in photoshop gives us this:

The real problem with the original is that the contrast is too low.  Major improvements were achieved by increasing the contrast and by sharpening (which is a kind of micro contrast increase).

We're looking at a footpath which leads up to a large rock with bush on top of it.  Behind the rock, and at no great distance, is a characteristic ridge covered with emergent rock and maquis.  Between the rock and the ridge is a dark mass that we must interpret as a grove of trees, probably olives.  Also, overhead, we can see at least two wires.  In this photo they've been aliased into a series of dashes but there's no mistaking what they are.  To the left (in this case SW) of the path is a complex of chamber tombs.  Vavouranakis' arrow points to them.

In the next picture I label all these features:

But where is this on the ground?   Well, it turns out that, because of the wires, there are only a couple of places where this could be.  Let's look:

In this photo I've drawn in the wires in blue.  These wires cross roads at only two places, here marked 'A' and 'B'.    In the next illustration I tried to recreate the view from point A in Google Earth:

If we compare this picture to the original photograph it's obvious that we're close.  The characteristic bumps on the ridge to the N match up well.  But we're really not close enough to that ridge.  Point A doesn't really match up to what we're expecting to see.  Let's try Point B.

This looks a lot better.  Not only is the characteristic ridge (with its bumps) visible but the wires match up better.  In this picture, though, there is a prominent tertiary road which is not visible in the original photograph.  Here's the view from above:

I'm convinced that this is the right place.  I've labelled all the features that I could.  The rock, the wires, the grove are all in their expected places and, if you click on this to enlarge it, you'll see what looks very much like Vavouranakis' chamber tomb dromos.  The only discrepancy is that the path in the original photograph has now disappeared.

This is chamber tomb cemetery C5708 and it is at: 35.125530 N, 26.064386 E.  I'm embarrassed to say that, on the website, it has been in the wrong position (near Point A) for several weeks.  I'll fix that with the next DB release.


[1] Vavouranakis [2007] 43.


Eaby [2007]: Eaby, Melissa Suzanne, Mortuary Variability in Early Iron Age Cretan Burials, Dissertation for Ph.D. submitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 2007.  Online here.  Eaby discusses the cemetery at Ammoudoplaka which is C5888 in the Atlas.  Ammoudoplaka is contiguous to the Volakas site discussed here.

Sakellarakis [1966]:    Sakellarakis, I. 1966. Αρχαιότητες και μνημεία κεντρικής και  ανατολικής  Κρήτης.  Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον 21, Β2 (Χρονικά): 405-419.  (I have not seen this.)

Vavouranakis [2007]:    Vavouranakis, Giorgos.  Funerary Landscapes East of Lasithi, Crete, in the Bronze Age, BAR International Series, no. 1606, 2007.  Online here.


With a correspondent I've been discussing the question of whether putting exact locational information online is a good thing or a bad thing.  I'd like to hear from my readers on this question - do you have qualms about putting this kind of information online?  You can respond to this post or use my e-mail which is bobconsoli at gmail dot com.

There have been recent database updates on which show more sites on Crete (mostly).  Also the Elevation Report page and the Gazetteer report page have been updated with some extra features.  You might check this out.

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

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

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

Most researchers in this field use some product like Microsoft's Excel to create a 'DB'.  This is fine; it's what is generally referred to as a 'flat file'.  That is, a single table representation of your data of interest.

The Mycenaean Atlas database, on the other hand, is a relational database with several tables that was built using MySQL.  Dumps of this DB are available but you need MySQL (or similar) and a knowledge of Structured Query Language (SQL) to run it.  Otherwise it doesn't make much sense to ask for it.  But If you'd like to have a copy of the Mycenaean Atlas database anyway 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 (including the new reports pages) of the website   Try it out!   I'm also willing to generate custom .csv or .kml files from the atlas if you need something specific.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

On New Elevation Analysis and Gazetteer Report

I have always wanted this site to provide more than maps showing Mycenaean sites.  

Therefore I am happy to announce the release of new software for the site which provides more detailed reports and which I hope the community will find useful.

Additional text  has been placed on the 'Using the Atlas' page that explains what these reports do and how to access them.  

This blog entry is intended to familiarize users with these new pages and how they work.

The report page can be triggered both from the Controls Page Combo Map Box as well as the Combination Map itself. 

When, from the Controls page, you select some criterion such as the region name ‘Salamis’ you can then click on the new ‘Report’ button.

Choosing Reports from the original Controls page.  Select one, two or
three criteria (region, type, or ceramic horizon) and click on the new 'Report' button.

You can also reach the new reports pages from the Combination Map page by pressing the new report button.  The reporting criteria will be those that you selected when generating the map.

Main Report Page

The resulting REPORT page characterizes the sites which fit your criteria.

It provides a site breakdown by the number of times sites fitting your criteria are tagged with specific types. This gives you an idea of the dominant use of your chosen sites. There is also a site breakdown by regions. In this example using ‘Salamis’ all the sites are in that region and no other.

If you selected some criterion other than region you will get a table that lists all the regions containing sites that fit that criterion. For example if you chose the type ‘Fort’ the table would show all the regions that contain a site typed as ‘Fort’. Here those include ‘Boeotia’, ‘Thessaly’, ‘Corinthia’, ‘Locris Opuntia’, ‘Argolid’, and ‘Achaea’.

The basic REPORT page also has two buttons, ‘Elevation’ and ‘Gazetteer’ that, when clicked, will provide more detailed reports.

Close-up view of the detailed reports buttons.

The Gazetteer Report button provides a basic interative list of all the sites that fit your criterion. Clicking the Elevation report button provides further analysis of the elevations of the sites fitting your criterion.


The elevation report provides several sections. The first is for basic statistical parameters.

Sample appearance of the parameters section of the Elevation Report.
In this case for Achaea.

 The parameters listed here are:

- Arithmetic mean of elevations of the sites that fit this criterion. This is the sum of the elevations divided by the number of sites.

- Median elevation. The median is another measure of central tendency. It is that actual elevation which falls halfway between the lowest and the highest elevations.

- Standard deviation

- Variance

- Skew The skew shows how much the bulk of the observations are displaced from the arithmetic mean. It is an indication of symmetry in the curve – or the lack of it. If the skew is positive then the bulk of the observations are displaced to the left of the mean; if negative then the bulk of the observations are displaced to the right of the mean. If the skew is 0.0 or close to it then the distribution is more or less symmetrical. Skew might be either positive or negative but in interpreting the meaning of any partiular skew I use the absolute value. So the skew parameter is interpreted as follows:

0.0: The distribution is symmetrical

0.0 to 0.5: The distribution is approximately symmetrical

0.5 to 1.0: The distribution is moderately skewed

> 1.0: The distribution is highly skewed

Kurtosis This is a parameter that indicates how much of the population is in the tails as opposed to the shoulders of the distribution. For more information about skew and kurtosis and how to interpret them see this.

The elevation report also provides two graphs. The first shows the frequency of various elevation ranges; that is, it maps the elevations into the frequency domain. The horizontal axis is elevations from 0 to highest elevation in the set. The vertical axis shows the frequency of sites whose elevations are in that range.

The second graph is a straight-forward plot of sites against their elevations in the order of increasing elevation. The horizontal axis consists of the site place keys in order of elevation from lowest to highest. The vertical axis is elevations.

Charts on the elevation report page.
Here for sites in Arcadia

Beneath the charts are two tables. The left-most table is a list of all the sites fitting these criteria which have elevations lower than the arithmetic mean. The right-most table is a list of all the sites fitting these criteria which have elevations greater than the arithmetic mean. The columns in both tables are sortable. The place key numbers in those tables, when clicked, will bring up a place key report for that site.

The next illustration shows the full elevation report page.


The Gazetteer report is a simple list of all the sites which meet the specified criteria. The criteria themselves are listed on the top of the page. A sortable and clickable list of all the relevant sites follows this. The list is sortable by clicking on the column heads.

Gazetteer Report Page

On the both the elevation and the gazetteer pages there are buttons for generating .kml and .csv files.  These will be implemented shortly.


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

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

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 (except the new reports pages) of the website   Try it out! 

Photographs of section Pe of the Cyclopean Wall

 I mentioned in a previous post that my associate, Mr. Peter Barkevics, has confirmed the location of segment Pe of the 'Cyclopean'...