Architectural reconstruction of tornbs I and II at the North Cemetery of prehistoric Gournia ίn Crete


  • Γιώργος Βαβουραvάκης University of Crete



The North Cemetery at Goumia is a well-preserved and thoroughly studied burial place in east Crete. Middle Minoan tombs Ι and ΙΙ are the best known burial complexes of the site. They have been built above the ground. Each tomb has two rooms. Their foundation is stone rubble, while their superstructure was probably mudbricks reinforced with timber. It is possible that the walls were covered with plaster. Α stone with a series of small shallow depressions, just outside the two tombs has been interpreted as a kemos. Along with a stepped altar it provided a focus of ritual activity. Literature review and field research have been combined in order to facilitate a series of computer based photorealistic reconstructions that aim to provide a view of both the monuments and their topographical setting. These reconstructions wish to review the established view of these tombs as house duplicates, with proper doors and doorframes, large double windows and alternating layers of timber rafters and mudbricks. Such view has produced the only architectural reconstruction of these tombs until today. Furthermore, it has allowed to reconstruct the social reality behind the archaeological record and argue that house-tombs Ι and ΙΙ were the burial places for the elite of Goumia, in contrast to the simple pit burials at the neighbouring site of Sphoungaras. The assumed elite is supposed to have been able to afford to erect burial buildings, provide the dead with valuable gifts, such as gold jewellery and also to host elaborate ritual happenings around the kernos and the stepped altar. The new photorealistic reconstructions make more modest use of timber reinforcements, allow the possibility of plaster οn the walls and provide altemative versions with or without doorways. They illustrate that tombs Ι and ΙΙ were not house duplicates. Rather they incorporated several features from domestic architecture in a selective manner. Thus, they did not have to be elite products, as much as they might have been so. Instead of the vision of the thriving power of the few, these tombs may be informative of the mechanisms through which the inhabitants of Gournia collectively created and re-negotiated their attitude towards death. Instead of a single black and white line drawing, and a single linear mono-causal explanation, the photorealistic reconstructions allow a multiple alternative reconstruction versions as well as a series of alternative approaches to the Minoan social reality behind the funerary edifices. Such multivocality becomes necessary in the age of multimedia applications that are able to generate persuasive images and thus soften the critical ability of the viewer. The alternative reconstructions of Gournia aim to keep such critical ability alert.

Author Biography

Γιώργος Βαβουραvάκης, University of Crete

Τμήμα Ιστορίας-Αρχαιολογίας
Πανεπιστήμιο Κρήτης



How to Cite

Βαβουραvάκης Γ. (2005). Architectural reconstruction of tornbs I and II at the North Cemetery of prehistoric Gournia ίn Crete. Ariadne, 11, 39–63.