Kamilari Hikes in Kamilari The tholos tomb at Kamilari
The tholos tomb at Kamilari Print E-mail

The Kamilari tholos tomb is located on the hill of Grigori Korfi, about 80 m high, near by the sea and 1.9 kilometres south west of Agia Triada, and also very close to Phaistos. It was built on the north side of the hill, in a spot with a panoramic view of the Asterousia Mountains, Psiloritis and the Messara Plain. The tomb was discovered in the summer of 1959 following the excavations by Italian professor Doro Levi, who dated it to circa 2000 BC, detailing its historical phases on the basis of the cult and funerary finds. The tomb was used at different times, in 1800 BC, 1700 BC and 1500 BC - this last is the date of most of the offerings found during the excavation. The Kamilari tomb was half underground, built in the usual tholos tomb method, of stones of varying sizes and mud. The ground was levelled before the foundations of the tomb were laid and it is thought that the tomb had a stone roof (tholos).

To the east of the tomb there is an annexe of five rooms and north of these there was an area for offerings. It was here that the earliest pottery from the tomb was found together with some small stone vases. All the vessels had been placed upside down. Altogether 500 vases have been found in the area outside the tomb and 250 inside the tomb. Clay models reenacting different scenes have also been found.

The most interesting finds at Kamilari date from the LM IIIA burials - the last to be carried out here. Among the finds were three clay models depicting various scenes. One scene shows a banquet being offered to the dead. The religious nature of the event is clear from the horns of consecration and doves which have been attached to the clay model. Cretan funerary customs, as indicated by the excavation finds, were linked to the worship and honouring of the illustrious dead. The tholos tombs of the Minoan period were grand, imposing buildings, constructed with great care in a particular style of architecture, demonstrating the social organisation of the time. The care of the dead in Crete did not include only the standard rituals on the burial day, but also lasted for a considerable time afterwards, with memorial services, funerary repasts and offerings to the dead. The offerings and grave goods which the Cretans buried with the body provide historians with much important information on dead person's status. The second scene of the clay models shows two people standing in front of four seated people. It is possible that these two are making offerings to the dead. The final scene is of a group of dancers, now known as the "Kamilari Dancers", dancing in a way which is very similar to the traditional Greek dances still to be seen on the island. These finds are on display in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum today.

The internal diameter of the tholos tomb is 7.65 metres and the annexe was probably added at a later date, perhaps during MM IIIA. The tomb entrance faces east and was sealed with a large slab measuring 1.15 x 1.05m, all of which is very well preserved. Although the tomb is fenced in, the gate is now left unlocked so it is possible to enter the site. Kamilari tomb remains a very imposing structure and is well worth a visit. The views of the surrounding countryside are also quite spectacular.

In spring 2008, the walls of the annexe have been replastered and a wall which had collapsed has been rebuilt. The annexe is now looking really good.

The landscape around here is particularly beautiful and ideal for nature-lovers, with a magnificent view of the interior of the Messara and the Libyan Sea.

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