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Tholos tomb B

Apesokari Tholos Tomb B
Tholos tomb B

Tholos Tomb B lies a few hundred metres south west of the village of the same name. Like many of the EM II tombs in this area, the tomb complex is situated just above the Messara plain in the foothills of the Asterousia mountains. Two tholos tombs and a settlement have been excavated at Apesokari. Tholos Tomb A was excavated by the Germans during the Second World War. (You can see four photos of Tomb A right at the bottom of this page). At the same time some investigation was made of the settlement, southwest of Tholos Tomb B. The tomb photographed here is Tholos Tomb B together with its annexe. Altogether it occupies an area of 25m by 14m.

The tomb was originally excavated by Costis Davaras. A new project to examine the tomb, The Apesokari Tholos Tomb B Study Project, led by Giorgos Vavouranakis, is currently underway. You can find a link to their website in the resources menu.

Tholos tomb B dates from the Early Minoan period and it remained in use until the Middle Minoan period. Although sherds found at the site date back to the end of the neolithic, the excavators believe that the tomb itself was probably built in EM II. Sherds found from the neopalatial period do not indicate that it was still in use as a burial site at that time.

The tholos tomb is now in a rather sorry state, but originally it was built with at least two walls, one inside the other, as can be seen from the three photos of the tholos tomb itself, although it is thought the second wall did not go all the way round the tomb. The walls are up to 1.5 metres thick. The tholos tomb and its funerary buildings used the bedrock as the floor of the buildings. When discovered, the tholos tomb had already been thoroughly looted but fortunately part of the fill remained unlooted and the pottery sherds found here enabled archaeologists to date the period during which the tomb was in use with some accuracy.

The annexe

Apesokari: the entrance to the tomb
The entrance to the tomb can be seen here on the
left, minus the lintel across the top.

Tholos Tomb B is notable for the fact that burials did not only take place inside the tholos tomb, but also took place in some of the outer rooms which join the tholos tomb as well. Room 1, for example, which is actually attached to the outside of the tholos tomb and which was built possibly eight hundred or more years later, contained three burials and hundreds of small drinking vessels and remains from the jugs that served the drink. The drinking vessels spanned a period of 450 years.

Room 2 is the long, narrow room in the second photo below. The end wall, to the east at the top of the picture, was added after the room was built so originally the room was open at that end. When the final wall was added the room could only be accessed from above. This room was used for burials in larnakes and one larnax with an infant burial was found in situ. Since fragments of larnakes were found in the room it seems that old larnakes were removed or possibly broken up to be replaced by newer ones. Again cups and jugs were found, indicating communal drinking at funerals.

West of room 2 is an area named the "crypt" by the original excavator. It seems likely that this space was formed by the creation of a supporting wall for the tholos tomb. It is likely that the space was filled with earth once the supporting wall was completed. The inner wall of the tholos had boulders projecting from the wall. These may have been used as steps to reach the top of the tholos tomb until the second wall was constructed, which then blocked off these stone steps.

Room 3 was a corridor in which sherds from cups, bowls and cooking pot legs were found. The room was in use from EM III to MM II. Room 4 dates from the Middle Minoan period, being created when the east wall of Room 2 was built. Again, sherds of drinking vessels were found here but there does not seem to be any evidence to suggest that burials took place in Room 4.

Rooms 5 and 6 are preserved in such a poor state that it is difficult to say anything about their use. Room five was in use from MM I to MM IIIA. It may have been entered from the northeast corner or from above. Room six seems not to have an entrance and access may have been through the roof. Room six was also in use during the Protopalatial period. Open space 7 also failed to reveal very much about itself. Excavators think it was probably an open air paved court in use during the Protopalatial (Middle Minoan) period.

Room 9 also has no obvious entrance apart from above. In common with many other rooms here the finds were mainly drinking vessels. The pottery dates the room solely to the Middle Minoan period. It was probably the last building to be added to the complex and for some reason the orientation of the room is slightly different from the rest of the complex as can be seen in the second photo below, where room 9 is at the far end.

Running along side Room 2 was an ossuary, a pit full of human bones. The ossuary was most likely used for the reburial of bones from earlier burials. Originally they were contained within a single course of boulders laid out in the shape of a horseshoe. The human remains had, according to the pottery evidence, been placed here at two different times during the Protopalatial period. South of the tholos tomb the original excavator also discovered another pit which seems to have held pottery from the tomb. Its exact location is no longer known.

The tomb is signposted a short distance from the turn onto the road from Apesokari to Lendas. A ten minute walk along a dirt track will bring you to the site on the right of the track.

Apesokari showing the thickness of the walls
An indication of the thick walls used to construct
the tomb
Apesokari room 2
Room 2
Apesokari rooms 6, 1, 3 and 2
Room 6 in the foreground and behind it room 1
in front of the tomb entrance and corridor 3,
top left with room 2 beyond it
Apesokari paved area 7 with rooms 4 and 9
Paved area space 7 (left) with grassed over
Room 4 (right) and Room 9 beyond
Apesokari space 7
Space 7
Apesokari room 9
Room 9

Apesokari Tholos Tomb A

Apesokari Tomb A
Apesokari Tholos Tomb A
Apesokari Tomb A entrance
The entrance to Apesokari Tholos Tomb A
Annexe to Apesokari Tholos Tomb A
Annexe to Tholos Tomb A
Detail of annexe to Apesokari Tholos Tomb A
Annexe to Tholos Tomb A (detail)