Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Vapheio Tholos Tomb, September 2011

The tholos tomb at Vapheio in Laconia was famously excavated in 1889 by Christos Tsountas, pioneer Greek archaeologist of prehistory. The tomb is huge, only slightly smaller than the so-called Treasuries of Atreus and Minyas. Even at the time of excavation, it was in far worse shape than most tombs of this type, but still gave up two glorious gold cups with beautiful carved scenes depicting bulls in relief. Cups of this shape are now called Vapheio Cups. 

I first visited the tomb in the mid-nineties although I don’t think I walked down to the entrance then. We visited again on the way back from Mani in September 2011 and while Corinna fed Nausika, I took Ariadne to her first Tholos Tomb...

Vapheio Tholos Tomb
The tomb, from above and the south
The site is in pretty rough shape, despite a nicely paved walkway going most of the distance from the road to the tomb. The fence is in the standard Greek archaeological site fencing condition – or perhaps slightly worse, with the “cheeky little hole” (by which I mean to render «πονηρή τρυπούλα») being large and just next to the padlocked fence.

Shambolic fencing
Shambolic fencing that even a two year old can circumvent...

The fence closes off the tomb at the end of the dromos, which is more than 30m long, leading up towards the stomion.

Dromos of the Vapheio Tholos, September 2011
The stomion is in a pretty bad shape as well – it is thought that the blocks from the tomb have been incorporated into structures in the nearby sanctuary of Apollo Hyakinthos at Kleonae, so it is no surprise that very little remains above the third or fourth course.

Stomion of the vapheio tholos tomb
Stomion in bad shape...
The wooden planks put up, I don’t know when, are not surviving too well and it all looks like the tomb is going to have to fight to make it to the 125th anniversary of the excavation in any shape worth writing home about.

For the rest of the road trip, click:

2011 peloponnesian road trip
2011 Peloponnesian road trip

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