The Geometric cemetary at Tsikalario

Near the village of Tsikalarió lies an ancient cemetery from the Geometric period (11th to 8th century BC), not far from the Venetian fortress Apáno Kástro. It is located within the granite landscape between the valley of Potamiá and the Tragaía and can be reached by a nice walk if you know how to find the way.

From the village of Tsikalarió it is a short walk to the Geometric cemetery.

An indistinct path leads from the last houses of the village into the granite landscape around Apáno Kástro and to the small plain where the ancient graves are located.

The landscape is made up of large granodiorite blocks.

In the beginning of May the sage-leaved rock rose is in bloom.

If you follow the valley to the end, you meet a menhir that marks the entrance to the cemetery.

the menhir with the Tragaía in the background

Towards the other direction one looks from the menhir onto the burial ground. The graves are surrounded by circles of upright stones. Here the largest of the stone circles.

Within this stone circle, smaller structures surrounded by stones can be recognized; these are the former individual graves.

On the little plain to the west lie at least six more stone circles.

One of the circles shows that it has recently been dug out.

The area formerly under by earth is not yet covered by lichens and therefore not whitish but reddish brown.

And another stone circle…

View back over the plain; in the background the Tragaía with mount Zeus wrapped in clouds.

In the other direction, one looks from the same place to the hill of Apáno Kástro with its Venetian castle.

From 1963 to ’66 the graves of the cemetery of Tsikalarió were excavated by archaeologists. Most of the graves had already been already looted long ago, but even the few untouched ones yielded relatively few finds. A total of 18 burial mounds (tumulus graves) of different size (7 to 12 m diameter) and shape (mostly round, two are rectangular) could be located. Two tumuli did not contain any graves at all, but were mere mounds of stone, thus probably memorials. Today, only the borders made of irregular, upright stones are preserved from the tumuli.

Most of the tumuli contained, as far as can be seen, smaller stone enclosures surrounding the individual graves. In the middle, sometimes also outside the stone circle, layers of ash were found, which originated from burning the dead or grave goods. Podsherds from the Geometrical epoch were found in the graves, as well as a few weapons and some gold jewellery. In addition, remains of bones, grapes, walnuts and figs were found, which were probably given as food offerings. In one of the burial mounds lay a large stone slab which probably served as a sacrificial table. Both within the tumuli and next to the burial mounds large clay vessels were found, which are interpreted as ash urns, although very few of them contained ash from bones: strangely, most contained sand. In one of the tumuli lay a stone cist grave – so the picture is quite inconsistent.

view onto two of the stone circles, from the museum in the Chóra, as also the following photos

drawing of two graves including the pottery found in them

large clay vessels from the tombs of Tsikalarió; probably ash urns, although most of them curiously contained sand

Some golden jewellery was found in the burial mounds. On the right the remains of grapes, figs and walnuts, which probably served as food offerings.

weapons from the graves

small clay vessels from the graves in Tsikalarió

Some human and animal clay figures were also found in the graves.

In the east of the site the foundations of two rectangular buildings with two or three rooms were found. In them stood hearths made of vertical stone slabs, and some coarse shards and stone tools were found, which, however, do not give much information. From the east, from the Tragaía, an ancient road leads up to the cemetery; at its end stands the remarkable menhir. The archaeological excavation of the cemetary provided only few artefacts that would bring light to the picture: Not much can be said with certainty except that it was a cemetery and that it dates back to the Geometrical period. Remarkably, it is the only Geometric cemetery with tumulus graves in Greece, and the menhir that marks its entrance is the only one of its kind in the whole of the Balkans.

see also: