Kakovatos and Triphylia in the 2nd millennium BC

Kakovatos is a significant site of the early Mycenaean period of Greece (c. 16th to 15th century BC) on the west coast of the Peloponnese (Zacharo, Nomos Elis) and became widely known through the excavations of three large tholos tombs by Wilhelm Dörpfeld in 1907–1908.

The tholos tombs

In addition to large palatial style amphorae dating to Late Helladic I-IIA (c. 15th century BC), the beehive tombs contained oval-mouthed amphorae, weapons, seals, jewellery made of gold, amber, lapislazuli and blue glass and furniture parts made of ivory. These finds illustrate the inter-regional connections between the residents of early Mycenaean Kakovatos and those of other contemporary settlements in southern Messenia and in the Argolid. The rich burial gifts suggest that the associated settlement site on the Acropolis most likely played a significant role in the surrounding region of Triphylia. The new documentation and analysis of the old finds from the tholos tombs of Kakovatos provide the rare opportunity to explore an early Mycenaean settlement site together with contemporaneous grave assemblages. Within the framework of her dissertation, Christine de Vreé has recorded the entire material from the three tholoi, which is now stored in the National Museum of Athens, and analyses the finds in a comparative manner with those from contemporaneous tombs of the Greek mainland under a supra-regional perspective.

Excavations on the Acropolis

Following a survey in 2009, excavations funded by the German Research Foundation were carried out in 2010–2011 on the western and northern edge of the plateau of the Kakovatos hill. The project was conducted within the framework of a cooperation between the Department of Classical Archaeology of the Institute for Archaeological Studies at the University of Freiburg (Birgitta Eder) and the 7th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in Olympia (under the direction of Georgia Hatzi-Spiliopoulou), under the auspices of the German Archaeological Institute and with the participation of Barbara Horejs. The recent investigations aimed to establish the character and the chronology of the Mycenaean site on the acropolis hill of Kakovatos.

Excavations on the Acropolis of Kakovatos in 2010–2011 uncovered the south-eastern corners of two early Mycenaean storage rooms, which had already been partially revealed by W. Dörpfeld’s excavations. Pottery and storage vessels were found burnt on the pebble floors and  indicate a destruction by fire, which can be archaeologically dated to the end of Late Helladic IIB. The 14C-analysis of the organic remains provide important absolute dates for the period of the fire destruction and will offer the first scientifically based dating evidence for the LH IIB phase from the Greek mainland. A kalathos-like bowl with interior handle, which was found in the destruction horizon, is of a type that is mainly known from Messenia und constitutes one of many other features that connect the material culture of Triphylia with that of the neighbouring region in the south.

A wall corner built of large stone blocks on the western slope of the hill was already known from Dörpfeld’s excavations. Its outer surface is built from up to 1 m wide stone blocks and impresses by its ‘Cyclopean’ dimensions. The function of this wall, which never was part of a surrounding fortification, may perhaps be explained as a supporting structure (terrace wall) of the overlying building complex. Its construction, which is also dates to the LH IIB period, is logically connected to the architectural layout of the building complex on the overlying plateau and therefore likely formed part of a purposive planning of the entire complex.

Currently, the various find groups from the excavations at Kakovatos are under study: ceramics (Birgitta Eder), incised pottery (Michaela Zavadil), items of the textile industry (Georgia Chatzi-Spiliopoulou, Kostas Nikolentzos), stone tools (Christos Matzanas), animal bones (Norbert Benecke / German Archaeological Institute Berlin), botanical remains (Simone Riehl / University of Tübingen) and the 14C-analysis of selected organic samples (Bernd Kromer and Ronny Friedrich / Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum für Archäometrie in Mannheim; Felix Höflmayer, OREA).

The Region of Triphylia

The exploration of the settlement patterns in Bronze Age Triphylia in a diachronic perspective belongs to the aims of our project. In cooperation with the colleagues Kostas Nikolentzos and Panagiotis Moutzouridis from the Greek Ministry of Culture, Mycenaean finds from other archaeological sites in Triphylia (Epitalion, Kleidi Samikon, Ag. Dimitrios) are studied in order to place the findings from Kakovatos in their regional context. Jasmin Huber has dedicated her studies to the comparison of Mycenaean pottery from Epitalion, Kleidi-Samikon and Kakovatos. As one of her first results, she could document the different periods of site use of the Mycenaean settlement of Epitalion in Northern Triphylia in comparison with Kakovatos. The date of the pottery from Epitalion ranges like that from Kleidi-Samikon from the end of the Middle Bronze Age to the Mycenaean palatial.

A comprehensive archaeometric program is dedicated to the analysis of the pottery from the four different Bronze Age sites of Triphylia and takes place in cooperation with Evangelia Kiriatzi from the Fitch Laboratory of the British School of Athens (petrography) and Hans Mommsen from the Helmholtz Institute for Radiation and Nuclear Physics in Bonn (Neutron Activation Analysis). The aim of the integrated archaeometric and archaeological research conducted by Georgia Kordatzaki and Jasmin Huber is to provide a thorough picture of the local and regional production and consumption of pottery and the circulation of imports (e.g. from Crete, Kythera and the Dodecanese) within a Late Bronze Age micro-region of the western Peloponnese.

The cooperation with the geoarchaeologist Andreas Vött and his team from Mainz University is directed at the regional palaeoenvironment. The systematic exploration of the surrounding geography of Kakovatos and Kleidi by means of core drilling is aimed at the reconstruction of the Bronze Age coastline and of potential anchorages. [see also Kleidi-Samikon – Investigations of the Archaeological Landscape]

Conference on Early Mycenaean Greece

In order to discuss the Early Mycenaean landscape of Triphylia within the framework of contemporary developments in the Peloponnese, Birgitta Eder and Michaela Zavadil organised a conference on "(Social) Place and Space in Early Mycenaean Greece" in October 2016 at the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Athens.

Program and further information




Kakovatos Dörpfeld's Excavation

  • W. Dörpfeld, Tiryns, Olympia, Pylos, Athenische Mitteilungen 32, 1907, VI–XVI.
  • W. Dörpfeld, Alt-Pylos I: Die Kuppelgräber von Kakovatos, Athenische Mitteilungen 33, 1908, 295–317.
  • K. Müller, Alt-Pylos II: Die Funde aus den Kuppelgräbern von Kakovatos, Athenische Mitteilungen 34, 1909, 269–328.
  • W. Dörpfeld, Alt Pylos III. Die Lage der homerischen Burg Pylos, Athenische Mitteilungen 38, 1918, 47–139.

Research on habitation site of Kakovatos

  • M. J. Boyd, Middle Helladic and Early Mycenaean Mortuary Practices in the Southern and Western Peloponnese, BAR International Series 1009, Oxford 2002, 189–190.
  • B. Eder, Zur historischen Geographie Triphyliens in mykenischer Zeit. In: F. Blakolmer, G. Nightingale, C. Reinholdt, J. Weilhartner (Hrsg.), Österreichische Forschungen zur Ägäischen Bronzezeit 2009. Tagung vom 6. bis 7. März 2009 am Fachbereich Altertumswissenschaften der Universität Salzburg, Wien 2011, 105–117.
  • K. Kilian, Zur Funktion der mykenischen Residenzen auf dem griechischen Festland. In: R. Hägg, N. Marinatos (Hrsg.), The Function of the Minoan Palaces. Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium at the Swedish Institute in Athens, 10–16 June, 1984, Skrifter utgivna av svenska institutet i Athen, 4°, 35, Stockholm 1987, 33 mit Abb. 9.
  • K. Kilian, L’architecture des residences mycéniennes: origine et extension d’une structure du pouvoir politique pendant l’âge du Bronze Récent. In: E. Lévy (Hrsg.), Le système palatial en Orient, en Grèce et à Rome. Actes du Colloque de Strasbourg, 19–22 juin 1985, Université des sciences humaines de Strasbourg, Travaux du centre de recherche sur la Proche-Orient et la Grèce antiques, 9, Strasbourg 1987, 212 mit Abb. 8.
  • J. Rambach, Die Funde der Ausgrabung in Kavkania. In:  X. Arapojanni, J. Rambach,  L. Godart (Hrsg.), Kavkania: Ergebnisse der Ausgrabung von 1994 auf dem Hügel von Agrilitses, Mainz 2002, 164–166.

Premliminary reports 2009-2011 on excavations in Kakovatos


  • X. Arapojanni, J. Rambach, L. Godart, Kavkania: Die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabung von 1994 auf dem Hügel von Agrilitses, Mainz 2002, 159–163.
  • W. Dörpfeld, Die homerische Stadt Arene, Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung 33, 1908, 320–322.
  • K. Nikolentzos, Μυκηναϊκή Ηλεία: Πολιτιστική και Πολιτική Εξέλιξη, Εθνολογικά Δεδομένα και Προβλήματα. Athen 2011, 53–60.
  • E. Papakonstantinou, Κάτω Σαμικό, Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον B 36, 1981, 148–149.
  • E. Papakonstantinou, Κάτω Σαμικό, Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον B 37, 1982, 133–135.
  • E. Papakonstantinou, Κάτω Σαμικό, Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον B 38, 1983, 108–110.
  • N. Yalouris, Mυκηναϊκoς τύμβoς Σαμικoύ, Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον A 20/1, 1965, 6–40, 185–186.


  • P. G. Themelis, Thryon – Epitalion, Αρχαιολογικά Ανάλεκτα εξ Αθηνών /1, 1968, 201–204.
  • J. Huber, Epitalion an der Mündung des Alpheios: die mykenische Keramik. Unveröffentlichte M.A. Arbeit, Universität Freiburg 2013.

Agios Dimitrios

  • C. L. Zachos, Ευκτιτον Αιπυ, Annual of the British School at Athens 79, 1984, 325–329.