Kythera Island Project

Mortuary Landscapes

Principal Investigator:
Laura Preston (Cambridge)

Minoan tomb near site 001
Second Palace tomb near Site 001. Photography by C. Broodbank 1999.

Definite and possible tombs in the KIP survey area have been investigated not only by field survey and geoarchaeologists, but also as a specialist endeavour. Indeed, an important observation to emerge from this dedicated study is the fact that normal tract-walking is relatively poor at detecting tombs, and demonstrably missed several examples in dense undergrowth. Gridded collections of sites detected rather more, but the majority were in fact found through a mixture of local information and (especially important) judgement-driven reconnaissance. All the tombs discovered were found to be empty.

The great majority of the tombs encountered are Second Palace (Minoan Neopalatial) rock-cut chamber tombs of varying elaboration and Classical-to-Roman built or rock-cut cists and chamber tombs. The pattern of Second Palace tombs is especially interesting and the Palaiopolis region around Kastri reveals easily the largest number. Moreover, only here are the big four-to-six chambered tombs found, along with the smaller three- and one-chambered examples. In addition to documenting and confirming several tombs identified by field teams in 1999-2000, a highlight of work in the Vothonas valley was the discovery of five definite and four possible chamber tombs close to those excavated by Coldstream & Huxley, including several large multi-chambered examples, one indeed of which is larger than any known to date. Clearly, the Kastri cemetery was considerably larger than previously known. In other parts of the survey area, Second Palace tombs are rarer, but are sometimes found a short distance from apparent settlement scatters. Possible earlier First Minoanising pithos burials are also reported or suggested near coastal scatters in Palaiopolis.

Classical-to-Roman tombs concentrate around Kastri (1st millennium BC Skandeia), where the surrounding bluffs have clusters, but are also sometimes found inland, not least around Gonia (Site 010) and Hellinika (Site 005), with an example now also known from the Livadi area. Probable cemeteries no doubt also exist near to the polis of Palaiokastro (but this zone is not within the KIP survey area).

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