Further Incidents of Travel (at Hellenicon)
The Search for the Forgotten Pyramids of Greece
|As our nights sleep was continuously interrupted by mosquitoes dining on our flesh, it was a lethargic, itchy and bleary eyed start to the day. But thankfully our quarry was not far away and after a couple a double espressos, it was only a short drive around the sparkling bay to the village of Kefalari and the Hellenicon pyramid. This is the most intact and scrutinised Greek pyramid and is mentioned in the writings of Pausanias in the 2nd century AD. He says it marks the burial site of the casualties in an ancient battle between two factions from the nearby city of Argos, one in which shields were used for the first time in warfare. Triangular shields were typical of this region in historic times and in the absence of any real evidence, it's a nice story that's been happily accepted until recently.|
|In the early 1990's, a team from Edinburgh University applied the new dating technique of optical thermoluminescence to this structure and came up with 2700 BC and not 4 BC that was previously assumed to be about right. This is almost mind blowing as it would make it the oldest pyramid in the world yet found. So what did we think....|
Well, it's unlikely to be any kind of burial site, it's built on top of a rock outcrop and incorporates large protruding stones directly into it's base. It is also constructed in the same non-rectangular jigsaw style stonework that we saw at Sikion.
Is it a pyramid ?
Well, yes but only the bottom half of one. Although it's not exactly square because of the arched hallway on one side that is the entrance, it does have four corners and walls which are angled inwards on all four aspects.
It's also not solid and the internal chamber has notches cut into the top stones for wooden beams, indicating a flat roof.
Like Sikion, it's most likely purpose would seem to be of a defensive nature, it's commanding views of the bay below making it an ideal outpost to watch for invading fleets.
We're forming some theories but we'll need to see the remains of the others pyramids before drawing any firm conclusions.
|Our next target funnily enough was not a pyramid at all but a small church a few miles away. As with many ancient monuments, the temptation to use the readily available stone they offer was too much and the pyramid of Dalamanara was broken up and transformed into a Christian church some time in the 19th century. This whole region is a citrus fruit producer and despite our best efforts, we literally couldn't find our church for the tress. We came across more than a dozen amongst the myriad farming hamlets that are scattered amongst the seemingly endless orchards but none which matched our photo. After a couple of hours, we decided it really wasn't worth spending any more time looking for something that wasn't even a pyramid any more and so headed back to base. On our way back, we checked out an ancient site called Tiryns, a Mycenaean fortress with walls 20 metres thick in places. The stonework here is the same style as Sikion and Hellenicon and as this empire had had it's day by 1200 BC, the 4BC date for Hellenicon was looking less and less likely.
With the weekend hustle and bustle over, Nafplio was transformed. Waiters sat at their own tables and the trinket shops were empty so we just about had the run of the place, which suited us just fine.