Heritage Tourism in Greece: Nestor’s Palace

Nestor’s Palace © David Gill

The bronze age palace near Pylos was the findspot of a major archive of Linear B tablets that shed light on the economy of this part of Messenia. The location is popularly known as Nestor’s Palace.

The finds from the site are displayed in the nearby Chora Museum. Notice how the forecourt makes the visual allusion to the hearth in the palace.

Chora Museum © David Gill
Chora Museum © David Gill

Both locations attract significant numbers of tourists to this part of the Peloponnese. I have added data from the nearby museum at Pylos that also contains some regional finds.

Data Source: Hellenic Statistical Service. Chart © David Gill.

Tourism and the Minoan Palatial Centres

Kato Zakro © David Gill

In 2014 the Minoan Palatial Centres of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, Zakros, and Kydonia were placed on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The description outlines their importance:

“The palatial centres played a vital part in the evolution, development and propagation of Minoan civilisation and marked the social transformation from the proto-urban communities of the Early Bronze Age to a multifaceted and hierarchical society. The political, social, economic and religious reorganisation, the transformation of private life, and the unprecedented cultural development that emerged from the gradual centralisation of power and the accumulation of wealth, were focussed on the palatial centres, each of which covered a large populated area of Crete.

The Minoan palatial centres stand out for their unique monumental architecture, with its complex internal organisation, which passed into ancient Greek memory as the “Labyrinth”. They constituted the administrative, economic and religious centres of a wider geographical area and housed multiple activities. They not only contained the residences of the rulers and the priesthood, but were home to a multitude of people: artisans (metalworkers, potters, weavers, etc.), merchants, scribes. Various events and contests were held around the palaces.”

Figures from Hellenic Statistical Service. Chart © David Gill

By 2019 four of the palaces accounted for 1.1 million visits, with over 930,00 at Knossos itself. The Bronze Age sites of Mycenae and Tiryns in the Peloponnese account for just over 500,000 visitors (2019); they form part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Kato Zakro, the most remote of the four main palace centres, receives around 10,000 visitors a year. Mallia, next to a major resort, receives around 80,000 visitors a year, and Phaistos around 120,000.

St Breock Downs Monolith

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© Patrick Taylor

This monolith stands at about the highest point to the south-west of Wadebridge in Cornwall.  It was re-erected in 1956 and placed in State Guardianship in 1965 when it was provided with an MPBW sign (now replaced). Note that the original name was longstone rather than monolith.

Note that the stone is now dated from the Late Neolithic to the mid-Bronze Age, i.e. c. 2500–1500 BC; this contrasts with the view in the 1960s as used on the sign, 1800–600 BC.

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St Breock Down Monolith © David Gill

The site is now managed by the Cornwall Heritage Trust.

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St Breock Down Monolith © David Gill

Guidebook: Stanton Drew Circles

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Revised 1969

The series of stone circles at Stanton Drew in Bath and Avon (formerly Somerset) were placed under the protection of the Ancient Monuments Protection Act (1882). For an overview of the site see English Heritage.

The guide was prepared by L.V. Grinsell (who also wrote the guide for Hetty Pegler’s Tump). It consists of 7 pages (the back page is blank) and contains a plan of the three circles in the centre pages. There is a short history of the site (noting the date to between 2000 and 1400 BC) and then descriptions of the Great Circle and Avenue, the North-eastern Circle, the South-western Circle, the Cove, and Hautville’s Quoit. In addition there is a section on Stanton Drew in Folk Tradition, and a review of the literature from John Aubrey (1664) and William Stukeley (1776).

New Excavations at Sutton Hoo

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Sutton Hoo excavations, June 2018 © David Gill

Some investigatory excavations were taking place at National Trust Sutton Hoo this last week in preparation for the construction of a viewing tower adjacent to the mound where the ship burial was excavation. This HLF funded project will enhance the public experience of what is one of the most important archaeological sites in Suffolk.

Archaeologists from MOLA have been investigating a Bronze Age ditch feature (with some contextualised pottery).

In 2015 a temporary scaffolding tower was erected to see how it changed the way that the public viewed the mounds.

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Sutton Hoo excavations, June 2018 © David Gill

Ri Cruin Cairn

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Ri Cruin Cairn, Kilmartin © David Gill

Ri Cruin Cairn is one of the Early Bronze Age burials in Kilmartin Glen. Although damaged by the construction of a lime kiln, it was the subject of a series of excavations, including one by V. Gordon Childe in 1936. The site is in state guardianship and now is in the care of Historic Scotland.

The photograph, dated to July 1985, shows the Ministry sign located on the edge of the cairn. (This is a scan of the print.) The sign has since been removed.

 

The Palace of Nestor

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Archive Room, the Palace of Nestor © David Gill

One of my favourite archaeological sites is the ‘Palace of Nestor’ in the western Peloponnese overlooking Pylos. The Bronze Age palace contained a major archive of clay tablets written in Linear B that provide significant insights into the arrangements of Messenia in the Late Bronze Age.

Much of the site is protected by a specially constructed covering.

Nestor’s Guide

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One of my favourite sites is the Late Bronze ‘Palace of Nestor’ near Pylos in the Peloponnese. I first explored the site with a copy of the guide prepared by Carl W. Blegen and Marion Rawson in my hands: A Guide to the Palace of Nestor (The University of Cincinnati, 1967). There are 32 pages of text with 34 images along with an extremely helpful numbered plan printed inside the back cover. Among the illustrations are (black and white) reconstructions by Piet de Jong (see a review of his work here). The sections are:

a. Foreword. This has the helpful statement: ‘The purpose of this Guide is to help interested visitors to find their way about the Palace of Nestor’. (Writers of guides need to remember this!)

b. History of the excavations.

c. The site.

d. The palace.

e. Architecture.

f. Main building.

g. Southwestern building.

h. Northeastern building.

i. Wine magazine.

j. Northeastern part of citadel.

k. Tholos tombs.

l. Identification and date of the Palace.

The guide has now been updated with additions by Jack L. Davis and Cynthia W Shelmerdine, A Guide to the Palace of Nestor, Mycenaean Sites in its Environs and the Chora Museum (Princeton NJ: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2001).

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The illustrations include some of the colour reconstructions by Piet de Jong. The booklet includes a section ‘Life in Mycenaean Pylos’ based in part on the Linear B tablets. from the palace’s archive. There are helpful plans of the Chora Museum to help visitors around the exhibits.

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