Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Magnificent House of the Tiles

The archaic ruins at Lerna in Southern Greece were a stunning discovery in 1952 when John L. Caskey unearthed these oldest ruins in Greece. The centerpiece of the site is the House of Tiles, which is the oldest of of the five periods of ruins there. To put the age of this structure in perspective, let’s look at a Greek history chronology.

3000 ---------Greece settled by Neolithic tribes
2200 ---------House of Tiles constructed
2000 ---------Indo-European invasion. House of Tiles destroyed
2000-1600 ---Middle Helladic period
2000-1400 ---Minoan civilization in Crete
1600-1100 ---Mycenaean civilization in Greece
1200 ---------Dorian invasion
1100-750 ----Dark ages of Greece
750 ----------Rise of the Polis

Lerna was a town on the coast of the Aegean Sea south of Argos. The map below shows its location.

There is substantial myth to be found in Lerna. The town was home to the Lernaean Hydra, a water snake killed by Hercules. Lerna was also one of the entrances into the underworld and the ancient Lernaean Mysteries of Demeter were celebrated there.

The House of Tiles was constructed around 2200 B.C. as a mansion for a chieftain or possibly an administration building. The building was two stories high, made of yellow brick on a stone foundation, and the roof was covered with terra-cotta tiles. It was destroyed by fire and the site was never re-built possibly out of reverence for the significance of the structure.

The photograph above shows the ruins.

Photo courtesy of Heinz Schmitz.




Geoff Carter said...

Good post - I want to go and find out more! (structural archaeologists like plans)

Sam said...

That's great. Nice research. the history of these houses are definitely interesting.

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Mike Anderson said...


I went to the House of the Tiles last September but arrived two hours after it closed for the day. Bummer.