Archaeological Site of Lerna, 'House of Tiles' & Stone Enclosure

The settlement of Lerna on the west side of the gulf of Argolida, in the modern village of Myloi, is one of the most important Prehistoric sites in Greece. It was in use for 5000 years from the Neolithic to the Mycenean period (6th – 1st millennium BC). Houses of the Early and Middle Neolithic periods (Lerna I and II: 6th -5th millennium BC) have been excavated in the deeper levels. Today only a Middle Neolithic house is visible. The heyday of Lerna is associated with the Early Helladic II phase (Lerna III: 2700-2200 BC), at which the settlement acquired a strong wall with a gate and two towers on the south side. Among the rectangular houses of this period a monumental building stands out, 12 x 25 m in size, with the main entrance on the east and a row of rooms running East-West and corridors on its long sides. It was a two-storey construction built with stone foundations and a superstructure of unbaked brick, and it had a tile roof. Many o them were found in the destruction level and gave the buildings its name ‘House of Tiles’. In the southernmost of the two small rooms that could be accessed only from the outside of the building were found more than 150 clay sealings bearing the impressions of some 60 seals. These clay lumps, with which the contents of containers were sealed, testify to the existence of an early urban system of central authority. In the EH III phase (Lerna IV: 2200-2000 BC) a mound, 19 m in diameter, with a stone enclosure was built on top of the destroyed building; it was not used for burials and is therefore thought to have been a mark of respect for illustrious forebears. Habitation continued during the EH III phase and the Middle Helladic period (Lerna V: 2000 – 1700 BC) in rectangular apsidal houses. The changes in architecture, burial customs and pottery types (introduction of the wheel) are attributed to invasions associated with the first Greeks of Indo-European origin. At the time of the transition from the Middle Helladic to the Late Helladic period (Lerna VI: 1700-1600 BC) two shaft graves were dug into the ruins of the House of Tiles. The continuing inhabitation in the Mycenaean Palatial period (Lerna VII: 14th -13th centuries BC) attests the existence of a flourishing, although satellite, town in the environment of the powerful Acropoleis of Argolida. In spite of the fact that in historical times Lerna was a site of minor importance, it was here that myth placed the bottomless lake of Alkyonia and the spring of Amymone, which was the den of the Lernaian Hydra, slain by the demigod Herakles in his second exploit. The finds from the Lerna excavations are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Argos.