LM III Limenaria Cemetery at Mochlos

Minoan PeriodPrepalatial PeriodProtopalatial PeriodNeopalatial PeriodMycenaean Period
Years3000-1900 BC1900-1700 BC1700-1430 BC1430-1250 BC
Relative ChronologyEM IA to MM IAMM IB to MM IIBMM IIIA to LM IBLM IIIA to LM IIIB

Tomb 10Tomb 11Tomb 12Tomb 13Tomb 14Tomb 15Tomb 16Tomb 24Tomb 27

Cemetery Overview

The excavation has also uncovered 31 LM III chamber tombs located on a hill at Limenaria. These lie a short distance to the south of the LM III settlement and belong to the settlement. They are typical chamber tombs, most provided with a dromos, and an irregular chamber measuring 1.3 to 3 m. across and barely high enough for one to stand upright. All but one of the tombs are unplundered. Each normally held one or two burials that were placed in terracotta sarcophagi or in pithoi, most of which were decorated. The pithoi might be decorated with a rope pattern or a drip decoration. The sarcophagi were usually painted more carefully with scenes related to the afterlife. Perhaps the most interesting was decorated on the inside of its rim with two small figures; one wearing an animal mask that resembles the head of a jackal has been interpreted as a god of the underworld, a psychopompos who like Hermes conducts the deceased to the afterworld. Another sarcophagus was decorated with a triglyph-metope frieze which could have come right off a Doric temple. Many of the burials were sufficiently complete, if only a few were still semi-articulated, that it has been possible to identify age, sex and physical abnormalities. Perhaps the most striking observation about the burials is that many of the tombs were used by male-female couples. In those containing two burials, one of the burials was made later than the other, and the tomb was clearly reopened and the earlier burial relocated. In one tomb the bones of the earlier burial were broken up and relocated in a large cylindrical pyxis, of the kind used to hold cremations in the 12th century. Elsewhere the couples were buried in adjacent tombs and in one of these, Tomb 15, a tunnel was cut between the chambers. Some tombs contained no skeletal material and may have been used as cenotaphs.

Plan of LM III Limenaria Cemetery

In a typical tomb, 2 to 4 pots would be placed around the burial. Kraters for holding liquids, pitchers for pouring, and semi-globular bowls, used as drinking cups, as well as stirrup jars for holding oil and conical cups, used as lamps, are among the most popular shapes. But there is also considerable variation among the tomb gifts. Some tombs contained imported pottery, mainly stirrup jars from the mainland and from Chania in western Crete. Some contained objects that are usually identified as ritual objects, mostly differently shaped rhyta. In one tomb a rhyton shaped like a pomegranite and decorated with an octopus was placed with the second burial inside the tomb and an identical rhyton was smashed outside the blocking wall of the stomion. Other tombs contained rich, luxury objects. A bronze bowl, covered with a bronze mirror, was located in one tomb it held a collection of jewelry, including a necklace of ivy-shaped faience beads, a gold signet ring and a bronze dress pin. Two seals were found with the burial in one sarcophagus, one decorated with a sphinx, the other with a lion munching the hindquarters of a deer. Bronze weapons were located in a few of the tombs. The mortuary variations in the cemetery reflect variations in the population at large and reflect the social stratification of the LM III population at Mochlos which is probably typical of the other Mycenaean settlements in the area.

The cemetery has been fully published inĀ Mochlos IIA, IIB, and IIC. Period IV, The Mycenaean Settlement and Cemetery, The Sites, The Pottery, The Human Remains and Other Finds, Philadelphia 2008, 2010, 2011.

Tomb 10

Dromos with Sarcophagus
Close up of Sarcophagus

Tomb 10 is one of those used by a male-female couple. It held a tub-shaped larnax, and both individuals had been placed inside the larnax, but only one was still partly articulated. At least twelve articulated vertebrae and part of the skull were still preserved in the southern half of the larnax. Ribs and part of a scapula were also present. A preponderance of foot bones was found at the north end of the larnax, but otherwise the skeletal remains were disturbed and incomplete. Earthquake, ceiling collapse and rodent activity are all possible explanations for the disturbance of the bones noted in this tomb and others, but secondary, post-mortem handling is a fourth possibility, especially in the case of a tomb which was reused as this one was when the first burial had to be moved to make room for the second. A tall jug of LM IIIA:1 date lay inside the larnax on top of the bones and was the only object found inside the larnax.

Eight objects had been deposited on the floor of the tomb. These included three miniature jugs, two semiglobular bowls with spouts, the standard drinking vessel in LM III Mochlos, and a composite vase, all of which should probably date to the same period as the jug. A bronze bowl had been placed directly in front of the larnax. It was closed with a bronze mirror that served as a lid and was being used as a jewelry box. Inside were a bronze dress pin, a gold-plated ring, its bezel missing, and a complete necklace made up of 40+ faience beads, each one in the shape of an ivy-leaf, and a single gold bead which may have served as the centerpiece of the necklace.

The larnax was the only larnax of the four found in 1993 with elaborate painted decoration. It is decorated on the exterior of its long sides with two vertical spirals placed symmetrically on either side of a central panel, a decorative arrangement that has a close parallel in a larnax now housed in the Siteia Museum (SM 12033). Painted just beneath the rim on either side of the interior are two unusual figures, standing with hands on their waists, perhaps dancing, each wearing pointed shoes and what may be a dagger, and one wearing an animal mask looking very like the head of a jackal.

For full publication, see Soles and Triantaphyllou, Mochlos IIA, pp. 144-148.

Tomb 11

Tomb 11 is another of the tombs used by a male-female couple. In this case, however, only one of the burials was found in the sarcophagus. The first burial, which was female, was laid on the floor of the tomb and buried beneath a layer of earth 0.15-0.20 m. thick; the second burial was placed in a larnax which lay at an angle on top of this earlier burial, its south end higher than its north. Both burials were incomplete and badly disturbed, and both tomb and sarcophagus were filled up to the rim of the sarcophagus with earth fallen from the ceiling.

An amphora was found on top of the burial inside the sarcophagus and six additional vases were found along the north side of the chamber which also belonged to the second burial. These included a semiglobular bowl with spout, a pyxis, a jug very like the one from Tomb 10, but undecorated, a stirrup-jar, a miniature jug and shallow bowl and a bronze bracelet.

Among the objects found with the earlier burial in the earth beneath the larnax were three stirrup-jars, a miniature askos, a small collection of faience beads, a pin head and a bronze ring.

For full publication, see Soles and Triantaphyllou, Mochlos IIA, pp. 148-150.

Tomb 12

Tomb 12 contained no larnax, no pithos and no skeletal remains. It did contain six grave goods, however, which are typical of the objects found in the other tombs: an amphora, a jug and miniature jug, two semiglobular bowls with spouts, and a rounded cup. Clearly the chamber was once used as a tomb: either the body was removed at some point after burial, or the skeleton belonged to a child and completely disintegrated, or the tomb served as a cenotaph.

For full publication, see Soles and Triantaphyllou, Mochlos IIA, pp. 150-151.

Tomb 13


Tomb 13 is unusual in several respects. It is the most carefully designed of the tombs. Its dromos, ca. 3.55 m. long, was neatly cut with side walls slanting inwards toward the top and its stomion was provided with an actual doorway with jambs cut from the bedrock. It is also the richest of the tombs in finds. It is one of two tombs where objects had been placed outside the tomb chamber; they were located ca. 0.20 m. above the original floor of the dromos either against the outer face of the stomion wall or broken inside this wall. These included four stirrup jars found outside the wall and several vases placed inside the wall, one of which was a pomegranate-shaped rhyton (above), decorated with an octopus, which had been smashed into many small pieces.

As many as seven different individuals, male and female, were buried in the tomb, and some ceiling collapse had occured, particularly along the northern half of the tomb, in the interval between the burials. The latest burial appears to have been male and the disturbed remnants of his skeleton were found inside the sarcophagus. Two stirrup jars had been placed on the rim of the larnax with this burial, one an import from Chania, and as many as 20 other vases had been placed around the front and sides of the larnax on earth from the ceiling collapse. These included several stirrup jars and an unbroken rhyton identical to the one above, which was placed on its side in front of the larnax, on top of the other vases, apparently the last object placed in the tomb. Two lentoid seals of steatite with conical backs lay inside the larnax. One was carved with a lion munching the hindquarters of a deer, with a column behind, the other with a winged sphinx wearing a hat with two plumes.

A large cylindrical pyxis lay on the floor of the tomb at the southwest corner of the larnax; it held the remains of a female skeleton, aged 24-48, which had been broken up to fit inside. She was apparently an earlier burial in the tomb and probably an earlier occupant of the sarcophagus who was removed, broken up and redeposited when the later burial was made. Two bronze finger rings, found in the larnax, and eight carnelian, rock crystal and faience beads, found scattered throughout the tomb, the remnants of larger necklaces, may have belonged to her. Three stirrup jars and two conical cups which lay on the floor of the tomb may have belonged to the grave goods deposited in the tomb with earlier burials.

For full publication, see Soles and Triantaphyllou, Mochlos IIA, pp. 151-157.

Tomb 14

Tomb 14 contained one large pithos and no other finds. The pithos lay on its side and was carefully supported with rocks placed at its base and along its sides to keep it in place. It was broken by ceiling collapse and was quite empty. There is no doubt, however, that this pithos was intended to be used as a burial pithos since it was cut open along its upper side like other burial pithoi in the cemetery in order to accommodate a burial and its mouth was closed with stone slabs. The earth inside the pithos was carefully sieved but contained no skeletal remains. Rodent activity in the cemetery may account for their removal.

For full publication, see Soles and Triantaphyllou, Mochlos IIA, p. 157.

Tomb 15

Tomb 15 with Sarcophagus

Tomb 15 is unusual because it appears to have been connected by a small tunnel to the tomb on its south. It and its neighbor to the south, Tomb 16, were excavated, and both had their own dromoi and entrances from the west. Each contained a single burial and the disposition of the tombs suggests that the two individuals were related in some way.

Tomb 15 contained a chest larnax with a gabled roof; the side facing the dromos was decorated with a triglyph panel in raised relief. The roof of this tomb had completely collapsed, but the roof of the larnax, though broken, was still in situ on top of the larnax and preserved a semi-articulated skeleton inside. Belonging to an adult male, it lay on its side in a contracted position with head to the south facing west.

Thirty objects had been placed outside the larnax at the southern side of the tomb. These included an amphoroid krater which contained a jug and semiglobular bowl with spout, three other jugs, including one decorated with an octopus, the handle and spout of which had been broken off before its deposit in the tomb, and 13 other cups or bowls, an undecorated kylix, the only one found in the cemetery so far, two piriform rhyta, and two conical rhyta, one which was decorated placed inside one which was undecorated. Three shallow conical cups had also been placed in the tomb as lamps. Three bronze objects were also uncovered: two blades and a pair of tweezers.

For full publication, see Soles and Triantaphyllou, Mochlos IIA, pp. 157-161.

Tomb 16

Burial Pithos
Close up of Skeleton

The roof of this tomb had also collapsed, and the burial pithos which lay inside had broken in two. The bottom half of this pithos had been wedged in place with stones when it was originally placed in the tomb lying on its side in an east-west direction. It lay still intact in its original position, while the top half which had broken off had slid down to the western end of the pithos. The semi-articulated skeleton of a young woman lay inside shielded by the broken top half of the pithos. She had been placed in the pithos head-first in contracted position, and her hands lay together by her chin. She wore three bronze rings on her fingers, one of which was still in place, and three necklaces, including one with gold and faience beads which lay still around her neck.

For full publication, see Soles and Triantaphyllou, Mochlos IIA, pp. 161-162.

Tomb 24

Burial Pithos

This tomb held a single burial belonging to a young adult male. He was placed in a pithos which had been cut open so he could be laid on his side in a contracted position with head toward the mouth of the pithos. After burial the cut sides of the pithos were placed over him and the mouth of the pithos was closed with a green schist slab. Like many of the poorer burials in the cemetery, he received only two grave goods, a trefoil-mouth jug placed at the foot of the pithos and a pulled-rim bowl placed above its mouth, both dating LM IIIA.

For full publication, see Soles and Triantaphyllou, Mochlos IIA, pp. 173-175.

Tomb 27

Burial Pithos
Jug from Altar
Skyphos from Altar

This tomb is the only tomb that was disturbed in the whole cemetery. Sometime in the 7th Century BC, the stones that filled its dromos were removed and the tomb chamber was reopened. The upper side of the burial pithos was lifted off the pithos, the skeleton was removed from the pithos, the pithos was filled with earth, a tall alabastron was placed on top of the earth and the tomb was refilled with earth and closed. An altar was erected above the chamber at the end of the dromos with the removed upper side of the burial pithos at its center and a skyphos and small alabastron placed at each side.

For full publication, see Soles and Triantaphyllou, Mochlos IIA, pp. 177-179.