Apesokari Tholos tombs

Tholos A

Apesokari Minoan Tholos Tomb A, in Messara south Crete
Apesokari Minoan Tholos Tomb A, in Messara south Crete
Apesokari Minoan Tholos Tomb A, in Messara south Crete

Located in the Asterousia Mountains on Crete, Tholos Tomb A was excavated in 1942 by August Schörgendorfer. The tomb’s architecture is unique, featuring a circular burial chamber and a rectangular annex. This design suggests a deliberate plan to accommodate both primary and secondary burial rituals. The tomb was in use for an extended period, from the Middle Minoan IA to the Middle Minoan IB periods.

The main chamber of Tholos Tomb A was used for primary inhumations, with bodies laid directly on the floor. However, due to the tomb’s long use and subsequent disturbances, the original positions of the interments are unclear. Grave goods found within the chamber include pottery vessels, miniature stone vessels, and a possible lamp fragment. These items suggest rituals involving drinking, pouring libations, and potentially offerings to the deceased.

The annex rooms of Tholos Tomb A served various purposes related to funerary practices. Room D, located to the right of the tholos entrance, contained a significant concentration of skulls and bones, indicating its use for secondary burial ceremonies. The presence of miniature clay cups and other vessels suggests that drinking rituals accompanied these secondary burials. Other annex rooms, such as Room E, may have served as temporary repositories for decomposing bodies before their remains were moved to the main chamber or Room D.

The tomb’s exterior also played a role in funerary rituals. A paved area with an open-air altar was discovered east of the annex. This area yielded miniature stone vessels, pouring vessels, and drinking and serving vessels, suggesting that collective ceremonies took place here during burial events. The presence of a small stone idol near the altar hints at the potential for rituals related to fertility.

Tholos B

Apesokari Minoan Tholos Tomb B, in Messara south Crete
Apesokari Minoan Tholos Tomb B, in Messara south Crete
Apesokari Minoan Tholos Tomb B, in Messara south Crete

Tholos Tomb B, located southwest of the village of Apesokari, is another significant Early Minoan burial site in the Asterousia region. This tomb complex, which includes the tholos itself and an annex with multiple rooms, was in use from the Early Minoan to the Middle Minoan period.

The tholos tomb itself was looted, but the annex rooms provided valuable insights into burial practices. Room 1, a later addition to the tholos, contained multiple burials and hundreds of drinking vessels, suggesting communal drinking during funerary events. Room 2 was used for burials in larnakes (clay coffins), with evidence of infant burials and the replacement of older larnakes with newer ones. Other rooms in the annex also contained drinking vessels, indicating their use in funerary rituals.

An ossuary, a pit filled with human bones, was found alongside Room 2. This ossuary likely served as a repository for the reburial of bones from earlier burials. The presence of pottery sherds dating to the Protopalatial period (Middle Minoan) suggests that the ossuary was used at two different times during this period.

Key Points: Apesokari Tholos Tombs A and B

  • Construction Period: Early Minoan II – Middle Minoan (c. 2600-1700 BC)
  • Location: Asterousia region, southern Crete, Greece
  • Dimensions: Tholos A: diameter of ca. 4.85m, Tholos B complex: 25m by 14m
  • Historical Significance: Early Minoan burial sites providing insights into funerary practices, rituals, and social organization
  • Current Status: Tholos A: excavated and partially restored, Tholos B: under study by the Apesokari Tholos Tomb B Study Project


Minoan period
Earth Road

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