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Tholos

A tholos tomb unearthed

Tholos

There were two main types of Mycenaean tomb: chamber tombs and tholos tombs. The former predates the latter and consisted of a rhomboidal chamber cut into rock/earth and finished with a square stone pyramid on the top. No examples of these tombs have been found in modern times, however they are detailed in ledgers of the ancient Babylonian city of Uruk.

The latter, which became the more common tomb after 1500 BCE, is of a grander design. Tholos tombs, which resemble the shape of a beehive, were conical, false-domed chambers built out of mud bricks and stone. The bricks were laid in a circle on top of one another up to a tapered centre point. The entire dome was then covered by an earthen mound (tumulus).

These beehive tombs were accessed via a long approach corridor, or passage, that was known as a dromos, which culminated in a large entranceway, called a stomion. The stomion consisted of a large rectangular brick opening commonly flanked by two stone columns and topped with a single giant stone mantle. Above the mantle a triangular hole was often filled with a decorative relief sculpture.

Inside, off the main conical chamber, lay an antechamber, which was typically rectangular. This could be used either for burials – other family members – or more likely grave goods, such as jewellery and weapons. There’s evidence that both the antechamber and main stomion were installed with wooden doors, the latter set slightly back from the main façade.