The Mycenaean Tholos tomb at Komiaki

On Naxos exist only relatively few testimonies from the Mycenaean period (approx. 1,700 to 1,150 BC). One of them is the Mycenaean tholos tomb (dome tomb) near Komiakí, one of only three tholos tombs discovered in the Cyclades.

Tholos tombs are typical for the Mycenaean period in Greece. During this epoch most people were buried in sometimes richly equipped shaft or chamber graves; in addition, however, the much more elaborate tholos tombs now appear, which were reserved for the local rulers (lords). The Mycenaean tholos tombs are large stone constructions; they consist of a round chamber with a false dome and a straight passage leading to this chamber. The dome vault is created by the stones protruding inwards towards the top (false dome); a larger stone slab is sometimes used as a cap stone. The domed tombs were often immersed in the ground and always covered by a large heap of earth or stone. The Mycenaean tholos tombs have very different sizes from 1.9 to 15 m inner diameter.

The tholos tomb of Naxos is located near the village of Komiakí in the north of the island in one of the most fertile and green mountain valleys. With an inner diameter of 3.3 m and a height of 2.4 m it belongs to the small tholos tombs.

View to the village of Komiakí in the north of Naxos; the Mycenaean tholos grave is located on the right side of the picture next to the village.

The valley of Komiakí is one of the greenest and most fertile areas of Naxos. The tholos grave is situated in a wine terrace called “Axós” (in the middle of the picture).

The tholos tomb lies under the trees visible in the foreground. Originally, it was completely covered by earth. In 1908 it was discovered by a farmer who worked the field. It . During the excavation no artifacts were found except a few fragments of unadorned, simple pottery: The grave was probably already looted in antiquity.

Tholos tombs consist of a dome-shaped burial chamber covered with a mound of earth or stone and a passage leading to it. Here you can see the 3 m long passage into the burial chamber. On the left you can see a terrace wall of the vineyard.

View into the burial chamber. The large stone covering the entrance is visible; it is 1.5 m long. The east-facing entrance was only 1.15 metres high.

Before the excavation nothing was visible of the tomb, until the farmer accidently broke though the dome (in the middle of the picture) while working in his vineyard.

The tomb is made of unworked slate stones of medium size that continually protrude towards the center, so that the walls incline inwards (false dome).

The top of the dome is covered with a large stone slab.

As only insignificant, undecorated remains of pottery and no other artefacts were found in the tomb in Komiakí during the recent excavations, its dating must remain uncertain. According to the characteristics of the construction it seems to belong to the end of the 15th century B.C., i.e. to the earlier Mycenaean period. As far as we know the settlement in Grotta in the north of the Chora, which is already documented from the Neolithic period, developed during this period for the first time into a larger and more organized city. This was the only significant Mycenaean settlement on Naxos, of whose existence we know so far, and it is much too far away from the tholos tomb in Komiakí to have belonged to it. We must assume that tholos tombs were built only for important local rulers. The fertile high valley of Komiakí was certainly inhabited in the Mycenaean period, although no traces of a settlement have been found so far. It looks as if a principality existed here whose rulers were buried in this tomb. Another small Mycenaean tholos tomb was discovered near Moutsoúna, and a tiny church near Apíranthos (Panagía Chrysopigí) might originally have been a Mycenaean grave as well.

I would like to quickly point out that the area where the tomb lies is called Axós by the villagers. It has been speculated that this was the old Mykenaean (or maybe even older, Pelasgian, i.e. pre-Greek) name of this principality which has been preserved in this field’s name, and that this name was later used for the whole island, transforming “stin Axó” (to/in Axó) was transformed into “sti Náxo”? Even today the inhabitants of the island often call themselves “Axiótes” and their island “Axá”.

see also:

used literature:
Όλγα Φιλανιώτη, Ο θολωτός τάφος της Χωστής στην Κωμιακή Νάξου, in: Η Νάξος δια μέσου των Αιώνων, Πρακτικά του Γ Πανελλήνιου Συνεδρίου, Επιμέλεια: Ιωάννης Κ. Προμπονάς, Στέφανος Ε. Ψαρράς, Αθήνα 2007

Κατερίνα Παπαθωμά-Μαστοροπούλου, Το τοπωνύμιο Αξός στην Κωμιακή Νάξου, in: Αρχατός, Πολιτιστικός Ιστορικός Οικολογικός Όμιλος Νάξου, Τεύχος 1, Καλοκαίρι 2005

Στάθης Β. Φατούρος, Νάξος ή Αξός, in: Αρχατός, Πολιτιστικός Ιστορικός Οικολογικός Όμιλος Νάξου, Τεύχος 2, Σεπτ-Οκτ-Νοεμ 2005