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The Mycenaean domed tomb at Komiaki

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

Tholos tombs are typical for the Mycenaean epoch in Greece. During this epoch most people were buried in sometimes richly equipped shaft or chamber graves; in addition, however, the much more elaborate domed tombs now appear, which were reserved for the local rulers (lords). The Mycenaean domed 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 domed tombs have very different sizes from 1.9 to 15 m inner diameter.

The domed 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 domed tombs.

Mycenaean domed tomb Komaki Naxos
View to the village of Komiakí in the north of Naxos; the Mycenaean domed tomb is located on the right side of the picture next to the village.

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

Mycenaean domed tomb Komaki Naxos
The domed 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. During the excavation no artifacts were found except a few fragments of unadorned, simple pottery: The grave was probably already looted in antiquity.

Mycenaean domed tomb Komaki Naxos
Domed 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.

Mycenaean domed tomb Komaki Naxos
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.

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

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

Mycenaean domed tomb Komaki Naxos
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 BC, i.e. to the earlier Mycenaean epoch. As far as we know the settlement in Grótta in the north of the Chóra, which is already documented from the Neolithic epoch, developed during this epoch 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 domed tomb in Komiakí to have belonged to it. We must assume that domed tombs were built only for important local rulers. The fertile high valley of Komiakí was certainly inhabited in the Mycenaean epoch, 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 domed tomb was discovered near Moutsoúna, and a tiny church near Apíranthos (Panagía Chrysopigí) which originally was a Mycenaean tomb 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 Mycenaean (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) into “sti Náxo” Even today the inhabitants of the island often call themselves “Axiótes” and their island “Axá”.

continue: Panagia Chrysopigi near Apiranthos

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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