Thursday 1 April 2010

(T) The Mycenean Tholos Tomb of Georgikon -Xinoneri and the Archaic Temple of Apollo in the Karditsa prefecture

Thessaly: Trikala: The Mycenean Tholos Tomb of Georgikon -Xinoneri and the Archaic Temple of Apollo in the Karditsa prefecture: Two of the most important monuments of Thessaly

In the greater area of ancient Metropolis two of the most important monuments of the Karditsa prefecture and of Thessaly in general have been found. These are the Mycenean Tholos tomb of Georgiko - Xinoneri and the Archaic Temple of Apollo at the "Lianokokkala" locality of Moschato, as is reported by Leonidas Hatziaggelakis, archaeologist, head of the 34th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. On the limits of the agricultural bounds of the Municipal departments of Georgiko and Xinoneri, at the locality called "Koufia Rachi" ["Hollow Hill"], the great Mycenean Tholos Tomb is to be found. The tomb, which is one of Thessaly's best preserved monuments, was built on the last low hill of a series of hills that starts in the plain and joins with the Agrafa mountain range in the west. This official archaeological site can be reached by following the country roads both from Georgiko and from Xinoneri. The Mycenean Tholos Tomb, according to the archaeologist, is considered one of the earliest, of a type found from the transitional phase onward. It consists of three basic parts: the dromos (road), or access corridor, the entrance and the built burial chamber, of a circular ground-plan. The chamber is covered by a tholos (dome) which is constructed using the corbelling technique. The tomb was discovered in 1917 already desecrated, by teams of workers, who were removing stones from the hill for construction purposes. It was then that the first excavations were carried out (by Ap. Arvanitopoulos, Ephore of Antiquities of Thessaly). Approximately forty years later, because of looting activity, which caused the partial destruction of the dome, part of the internal filling of the tomb was excavated (by Dim. R. Theocharis), where pieces of black-slip pottery were found, dating to the Leta Helladic I period, according to the excavator. Later, as mr Hatziaggelakis notes, the tomb was dated to the Late Helladic IIIB-C period (13th-12th century B.C.). In the mid '90s the monument was incorporated into the Net of Cultural Paths of Western Thessaly of the 2nd Communal Support Framework, marking the commencement of new excavational activities (B. Intzesiloglou). Of this impressive monument, notes the archaeologist, the circular chamber and the dome are preserved intact, after restoration. They have both a diameter and height of 8,80 m. The entrance to the chamber is 2,40 m. wide and 10,35m long and is partially roofed by large plaques. Although the tomb had been desecrated, some objects were discovered, small in size but important, as a gold ring, bearing the image of two Griffins attacking a goat. The most important fact concerning the hstory of the monument is that, outside the tomb large piles of stones were discovered, composed of many river stones. Under these shall vases were discovered, as were clay effigies and plaques bearing horsemen and other small male and female idols. This led the excavator - adds mr. Hatziaggelakis - to conclude that the site was used as a sanctuary of the ancestors from the beginning of the 5th century B.C. and later. The existence of such sanctuaries, rlated with the presence of Mycenean Tholos Tombs, is known from cases in southern Greece, and are related with rich local mythological traditions. In this case, explains the archaeologist, a portion of a tile bearing the inscription AIATIEION - found in the site during the excavations, links the creation of the sanctuary with the mythological person Aiatos. Aiatos, father of Thessalos, is considered in ancient sources to be the genitor of the Thessalian nation, and is linked with the arrival from Epeirus to Thessaly of the last pre-Thessalian tribes. According to the myth, Aiatos, son of Pheidippos and descendant of the Herakleis, with his sister Polykleia marched from their country to the West of Acheloos river against the Boiotians, who lived on the territory that would later be called Thessaly. There existed an oracle, according to which that he of their people who would first set foot on enemy land across the Acheloos would become the king of that land. After their army arrived at the river and was ready to cross it, Polykleia pretented that she had been hurt and asked her brother Aiatos to carry her accross. Aiatos lifted his sister in his arms and advanced into the river. As he approached the further bank, however, Polykleia jumped to the ground and told him that according to the oracle the new land would now belong to her. Aiatos, despite being thus deceived, was not angry, but admired her cunning, married her and they dominated the country, which taking its name from their son Thessalos was named Thessaly.

The Archaic Temple of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo. Photo: Mitropolis Town.

The Archaic Temple of Apollo is situated in the Municipal Department of Moschato of the Plastiras Municipality, at the locality called "Lianokokkala", to the west of the modern settlement of Metropoli, on a plateau to the south of the river Lapardas or Gavrias. The excavations started in 1994 because of some illegal excavations, and brought to light a Ekatombedos Doric temple with and external and an internal collonade, oriented from East to West and dimentions of 31,00 x 13,75 m. The temple is dated slightly before the middle of the 6th century B.C. based on the bronze cult statue and the type of the Doric capitals.

It was dedicated to the God Apollo, according to a dedicatiry stele that was found in the sekos (cella). The temple - says mr Hatziaggelakis - had five Doric columns on each narrow side and eleven of the long. For the columns of the pteron a soft psammitic stone was used of a grey colour, originating locally. The capitals of the pteron are important for the history of the monument but also for the history of ancient Greek architecture. Their echinos bears relief decoration composed of repeated motifs of closed and opened lotus flowers. The capitals show morphological differences concerning the profile of the echinos but also concerning the treatment of their relief decoration. this rare characteristic of the temple can also be found on the older temple of Hera in Posidoneia of Lower Italy (Magna Graecia). The differences of the capitals may be an indication that the temple had originally been constructed with wooded columns on the pteron, which were gradually replaced by stone ones.

The cella, having dimensions of 24 x 8,50 m., was built with orthostates (covering blocks) of the same soft psammite that had been used for the columns of the ptero and over these it was constructed with unbaked bricks. Internally the sekos had 5 wooden columns or piers along its axis, as is indicated by the preserved stone bases and a single pilaster in the middle of the western wall. In front of the third column and in contact with it there is a rectangular base, that was designed to bear the cult statues of the temple. Fallen on it was discovered - broken in two - the statue of Apollo of the hoplite type. In a second construction phase, adds mr. Hatziagellakis, the adytum was created, with the addition of a wall at right angles made of mud bricks at the level of the fifth, counting from the entrance, column. According to the

The cult statue of Apollo
Photo: Mitropolis Town.

excavator, this construction phase included the prolongation of the length of the base and the construction of a bench along the internal northern wall of the cella and along the the eastern wall of the adytum.

During the excavations no architectural parts were found that could belong to an architrave or to triglyphs or metopes. Thus the entablature of this temple must have been wooden. The temple had a double-sloping roof with pediments along the narrow sides of the temple, with a wooden construction internally and clay tiles. The tiles were of the Corinthian type and along the long sides of the temple ended in antefixes of a triangular form with relief decoration. The upper covering tiles of the roof bore relief flowers and plants. Along the narrow sides the temple had pediments that might have carried clay relief compositions. Over the pediments there was a sime (rainpipe) coloured in various shades and a geisum, while it is also possible that acroteria stood on the central, at least, corners of the pediments.

The movable finds include clay vases and idols, a small clay chest, a vessel for liquid offerings, parts of a bronze statue and - most importantly - the well-preserved intact bronze statue of a male form which represents the form of an hoplite [warrior]. The statue wears a helmet, breastplate, arm- and leg platings. Although the items it held in its hands are not preserved, it is possible that it held a lance in its right and a laurel branch in its left hand. This type of hoplite was the cult statue of the God Apollo and its identification as a godly figure was confirmed by the text of an inscribed offering stele, which was found in pieces inside the temple.

The temple was destroyed by fire in the 2nd century B.C., according to the finds in the destruction layer. During its long existence the temple seems to have undergone repairs and modifications, such as the replacing of wooden elements by stone ones, rearrangement of the interior of the cella and replacement of roof tiles.

The proclaimed archaeological site covers a surface of 18,5 stremmata (18,500 sq. m.), after expropriation in favour of the Ministry of Culture. Access is possible from the south via a country road, that comes from the regional road Mitropoli-Moschato. The temple is covered by a protective metal roof, which covers a surface of 735 sq. m.

"The Archaic Temple of Apollo - underlines the archaeologist, head of the 34th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, is the best preserved ancient monumental temple in the wjole of Thessaly and is a source of information, not only for the history and the cult practices of the region but also for the development of techniques in architecture and sculpture."

In order to show it up moderate interventions in the natural surroundings are suggested, that will offer the functionality of an organised archaeological site. These include installations of points entry and services for the public, fencing, creation of paths for the visitors and the installation of a roofed area for educational programmes, concludes the archaeologist.

Source: ANA-MPA, 23.03.2010

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