Kleidi-Samikon – Investigations of the Archaeological Landscape

Panoramic view of the coastal zone with the hills of Kleidi taken from the fortress of Samikon (photo: M. Börner)

The site of Kleidi consists of a group of small hills and lies west and below the classical Hellenistic fortress of Samikon and close to the modern village of Kato Samiko. Since the excavations of Wilhelm Dörpfeld in 1908 it is known as a Bronze Age settlement on the west coast of the Peloponnese, where he discovered remains of Cyclopean walls and Bronze Age pottery that were however never fully published. In 1954 Nikolas Yalouris excavated north of the main hill and published a circular tomb structure known as tumulus that contained burials dating from the beginning to the end of the Mycenaean period. At the beginning of the 1980s Eleni Papakonstantinou carried out extensive excavations on the plateau of the main hill and on its eastern side, where a cemetery of the late Middle Bronze Age and the Late Bronze Age was discovered. Finally, in 2007, Panagiotis Moutzouridis and Kostas Nikolentzos conducted excavations on the southeastern section of the northern hill plateau, where they also encountered middle and late Bronze Age settlement traces. [For the evaluation of the Bronze Age pottery in a regional context see Kakovatos and Triphylia in the 2nd millennium BC]

Kleidi and the fortress of Samikon from south (photo: T. Willershäuser)
The hills of Kleidi from north (photo: T. Willershäuser)

In 2017 a cooperation project between the Ephorate of Antiquities in Elis, directed by Erofili Kolia and Birgitta Eder from the Institute for Oriental and European Archeology (OREA), was devoted to the systematic survey of the terrain of the hill group of Kleidi. The aim of the geodetic survey is to prepare for the first time a plan of the morphology of the hills and the existing building remains. This plan should provide an important basis for the understanding of the character of the Bronze Age settlement as well as for the use of the landscape in historical times. The entire surroundings of Kleidi was recorded with the aid of a laser scanner.

Geo-archaeological borings in the plain east of Kleidi (photo: B. Eder)

In this context, geo-archaeological investigations were also carried out by a team of the University of Mainz under the direction of Andreas Vött that promise to develop the understanding of the palaeo-environment. Current research questions include the following: Where ran the coastline in the Bronze Age and later on? How close lay the settlement of Kleidi by the sea, and was it the location of a harbour? All this is of interest not only for the Bronze Age, but also for the subsequent periods of antiquity.

Since antiquity, the landscape around Kleidi was subjected to considerable changes that the current project aims to explore. The first results imply deep interferences with the archaeological landscape that have taken place since the investigations of Dörpfeld in 1908. Neighbouring limestone quarries in the Kaiafa Mountain are connected to numerous limestone kilns that were built in the immediate vicinity of Kleidi since the beginning of the 20th century. The reports of Dörpfeld still mentioned ancient enclosure walls of the settlement that were apparently later systematically dismantled for the production of lime.