Prehistoric Settlement Of Poliochni


The prehistoric settlement of Poliochni is situated in the south-east part of Lemnos, in the broader area of Vroskopos, where the cove with the same name is found, and approximately 2 kilometers from the village of Kaminia. The settlement is considered as one of the oldest in the Aegean area with early urban features, and in 2006 it was added to the list of European Cultural Heritage monuments, characterized as the “oldest city in Europe”.

The favorable geographical position of the settlement, as well as of the entire island of Lemnos, as it is located close to the Dardanelles Strait and the coast of Macedonia, was a key factor in the development of the Aegean civilization since the prehistoric period. Movement of people and goods resulted in continuous transfer of knowledge, ideas, standards, and know-how, as indicated by the plethora of findings discovered in the area.

According to archaeological data so far, Poliochni covers an area of approximately 20,000 square meters and it is north – south / north-east – south-west oriented. It is located at the head of the cove, along the coastline, on top of an elongated hill with gentle altitudinal gradient. The settlement’s present layout is largely due to anthropogenic depositions, as a result of multiple and successive habitation phases, that date continuously from the mid-4th millennium to the end of the 3rd millennium BC, while individual movable findings indicate a possible and partial reuse of the region until 1,200 BC.

The docking capacity to the east of the neighboring cove and the fertile plains around the settlement, combined with the presence of water through the two streams created by neighboring sources which mark the settlement’s natural borders, appear to be the main factors that contributed to the general prosperity of Poliochni’s inhabitants.


In 1885, in the village of Kaminia, the accidental finding of an inscribed tombstone depicting a warrior, also known as the “Stele of Kaminia”, prompted the beginning of archaeological research to the east of Lemnos. Considering that the stele appeared to have significant language similarities to Etruscan inscriptions, the director, at the time, of the Italian School of Archaeology of Athens Alessandro Della Seta, archaeologist of Italian-Jewish origin, arrived in Lemnos in 1919. Following the trends of that time which was characterized by tracing his ancestors’ origins in order to form strong national morale by proving a historical continuity through nation-states, Della Seta was particularly interesting in studying this stele, as well as the broader area where it was found. In this context, in 1925, Alessandro Della Seta launched extensive archaeological research in the broader area of Lemnos, resulting in the discovery of the prehistoric settlement of Poliochni on August 21st, 1930. Excavations lasted until 1936 and revealed two thirds of the settlement. Three years later, in 1939, when the World War II started, due to his Jewish origin, Alessandro Della Seta was removed from management of the Italian School of Archaeology and Poliochni became a German minefield with military facilities scattered in the area. For their protection and safety, movable findings from excavations were transferred to Athens, Mytilene, and Lemnos.

After the war ended, in 1951, the Italian School of Archaeology of Athens returned to Poliochni with a new director, Doro Levi. Levi’s primary concern was to collect the excavation material of Poliochni. Therefore, he assigned the archaeological publication of the site to Luigi Bernabò Brea, student of the Italian archaeologist Della Seta and excavation expert in the area. For ten years, from 1951 to 1961, Luigi Bernabò Brea tried to put excavation data (journals, photos, reconstruction of the site’s stratigraphic sequence through new excavation research etc.) in order, and in 1964, the first volume which included the findings from excavation research in Poliochni (Poliochni I) was finally published in Italian. This volume includes material from the settlement’s early habitation phases, from the Black to the Red period. Twelve years later, in 1976, the second volume about the prehistoric settlement (Poliochni II) was published, including findings from the Yellow period of habitation in the region.

In 1986, Poliochni was back in the spotlight. Following concerted efforts by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, the competent, at that time, Ephorate of Antiquities, and the Italian School of Archaeology, a multi-year collective program was implemented, mainly concerning preservation interventions and small-scale excavation research, that were necessary for the settlement’s protection and promotion, as it had significant issues due to its many years of abandonment and to the extensive damage it suffered during World War II.

From 1994 to 1997, in view of signing the Declaration of Poliochni, the K’ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities proceeded to restoration and support works in a large part of the settlement. During that period, new building facilities were constructed, so that the site could be visitable.

In 2009, the Italian School of Archaeology proceeded to a new restoration program in certain parts of the settlement (ΥΠΠΟΤ/ΔΑΑΜ/2019/93536/22-11-2010), however they were implemented in some spots.

In 2016, the current Ephorate of Antiquities of Lesvos, within the framework of the Operational Program “Northern Aegean 2014-2020”, integrated Poliochni in a five-year promotion and restoration program entitled: “Restoration, preservation, and promotion of the archaeological site of Poliochni, Lemnos”. The main goal of the program was to modernize the visitable archaeological site, and its further scientific research. During this period, new excavations and support/restoration works took place, leading to new archaeological data. The existing visitors’ routes were expanded, Poliochni received new supervisory material, while new building facilities were constructed to better serve the public.

Recently, in 2022, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lesvos integrated the site in a new promotion and restoration program, now focusing on the west sector of the prehistoric settlement. The project named: “Restoration of the west sector of the prehistoric settlement of Poliochni, island of Lemnos”, is implemented using the method of archaeological direct labor operations by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lesvos, co-funded by the National Recovery and Resilience Fund.


The Stele of Kaminia is one of the most important archaeological findings of Lemnos. It is a rectangular engraved tombstone, measuring 0.95 x 0.40 x 0.14 meters, on which the oldest written text of the language of Lemnos is found, during the Pelasgian period on the island. The stele is made of limestone and the front is engraved in very low relief, depicting a figure of a warrior in profile, holding a spear and a shield. Around the warrior’s head and on the lateral narrow side, there are boustrophedon inscriptions, two vertical and one horizontal.

The Stele of Kaminia was accidentally discovered in 1885, in the village of Kaminia, Lemnos, and was published in 1886 in a report of the French School of Archaeology in Athens. Twenty years later, the stele was found in Egypt, where Vasileios Apostolidis received it and in 1905, he gifted it to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, where it is kept to this day.


The first habitation phase in Poliochni dates from approximately the mid-4th millennium until 2,000 BC, yet movable findings indicate that that habitation activity in the area continued until 1,200 BC.

To better understand the area’s use in terms of time, the Italian experts used colors to indicate each successive building phase:

  1. Black period:

(Final Neolithic Period, 3,700 – 3,200 BC)

The first settlement of Poliochni was organized on the natural plateau of the hill, without any rudimentary urban plan, and it was close to the fertile valley which was ideal for agriculture, due to the river estuary in the area. Its inhabitants were living in oval or ellipsoidal shaped huts, built on a rock base with wood or reed superstructure.

Studies in the area suggested that the family type in the early settlement of Poliochni was unicellular. Each family consisted of 5 to 6 members and possessed domestic animals such as cattle, sheep, and pigs. The main occupation of the inhabitants was the cultivation of land. They extensively used unpainted vessels in their everyday life, while few of them had written decorations, such as white color on top of dark fond, a pottery type that was particularly prevalent during that period, originating from the neighboring Asia Minor.

The successive building phases in the settlement also date to the following centuries and indicate a continuous habitation activity in a particularly “alive” habitation area.

  1. Blue period:

(Early Bronze Age Ι, 3,200 – 2,800 BC)

The Blue period is divided into two secondary periods, the archaic and the late. During the archaic Blue period, the settlement was significantly expanded and covered a large part of the hill. Paved streets, wells, stone pipes and public buildings were constructed. Residences had a rectangular plan with stone walls, built facing each other from small stones and mud, their height reaching the roof. During this period a reconstruction of premises began, following the “mansion” type (see chapter 6.5 for more details), but a great fire destroyed a large part of the settlement.

During the late Blue period, Poliochni was further expanded with new residential buildings which followed a main plan and collective implementation in the context of a broader social, economical and political organization. The great precinct, impressive retaining constructions, as well as two important buildings, the famous “Bouleuterion” and the “Granary”, are among the public works implemented during this period.

During this period, the “mansion” type crystallizes and reaches its peak in the following eras, indicating an early form of rudimentary urban concentration in the settlement. In terms of urban planning, Poliochni is now of the earliest examples of linear layout in the Aegean.

Its population is approximately 800 – 1000 and the family type is of complex form, with a large number of persons with family ties (16 to 20 people) living in the residences. The main occupations were farming and fishing in the gulf, while consumption of seashells was extensive, the remains of which were used as connecting material when building walls. Domestic animal husbandry was still a major factor in the community’s financial activity. Each family owned small herds of animals, mainly sheep, cattle and pigs. The large number of millstones and mortars made of volcanic rocks, abundant on the island, shows their extensive use for food preparation, while it is plausible that they were exported in the context of commercial transactions.

  1. Green period:

(Early Bronze Age Ι/ΙΙ, 2,800 – 2,500 BC)

The Greek period marks the settlement’s prosperity, with the population now being 1,500 people according to estimates. The city expanded to the west and to the north, with the presence of retaining structures which were vital for withholding soil due to ground instability, and for preventing floods, due to frequent overflow of the adjacent river which seemed to be a constant threat during heavy rainfall seasons, mainly to the south-west part of the settlement.

During this period, Poliochni had a distinct urban planning, with residential blocks (islets) and roads in between. Main roads were built, while the entrance to the settlement’s west took the form of propylon. Each islet included one or more independent residences with north-south general orientation. Each residence included the main living quarters (megaron), the yard and auxiliary spaces (for storage and food preparation). Smaller narrow roads (parodoi) between residences of each islet served for circulation of inhabitants, while drainage pipes carried rainwater away from residences. At the end of this period, mainly for defensive reasons, the precinct was reformed and reinforced in certain areas. Today, the residential remains of the Green period are visible mainly in the south and west sector of the settlement.

  1. Red period:

(Early Bronze Age Ι/ΙΙ, 2,500 – 2,200 BC)

During the Red period, the residential area is found to the north of the settlement, with public buildings and commonly used residential areas still in operation. Although the urban planning remained the same, differentiations in construction technology and building orientation indicate a defensive disposition in terms of area planning, aiming to citizens’ protection and safety. In this context, as found in other fortified acropolises in the Aegean, the precinct underwent new repairs and reinforcements, the main gate’s width was reduced, taking the form of a defensive propylon, and the main roads were paved. The need for protection is confirmed through movable findings, as indicated by the large number of spearheads and axes found in the area. The discovery of a clay matrix for casting a metal axe is characteristic of this period.

  1. Yellow period:

(Early Bronze Age ΙΙΙ/ Middle Bronze Age, 2,200 – 2,000/1,900 BC)

During the Yellow period, a large fire broke out in the area, as a result of a strong earthquake. Consequently, the settlement was limited along the main road and between the two public plazas. Private residences were extended to the detriment of public space, indicating an introversion tendency or lack of available space compared to other periods. The new buildings now have negligent construction, formed by irregular stones and mud. The only important building is now located to the north of the main plaza and is associated with an important person of the settlement. It belongs to the “mansion” architectural type which was used throughout this period.

The end of the Yellow period marks the end of the settlement of Poliochni, which is almost entirely abandoned after a new destructive earthquake around 2,100 BC.

  1. Brown period:

(Early Bronze Age ΙΙΙ/Middle Bronze Age, 2,000 – 1,700/1,600 BC)

During the Brown period, few inhabitants returned and settled in the now abandoned Poliochni, among the ruins around the main plaza to the north of the settlement, where the highest section of the area is located. Together with residential remains in this area, scattered graves and burials of adults and children were located.

  1. Purple period:

(Middle Bronze Age – Late Bronze Age, 1,700/1,600 – 1,200 BC)

No residential remains, apart from some movable findings, are preserved in Poliochni during the Purple period and the last habitation phase, indicating a rudimentary activity in the area until 1,200 BC.


The settlement of Poliochni was enclosed by high walls which date from the Green period and onwards (2,800 – 2,500 BC), marking the city’s peak. The walls, or the grand precinct, have many additions and repairs, implemented in various periods in order to cover the defense and protection needs of inhabitants. During the Red period (2,500 – 2,200 BC), when the need for protection was at its peak, the precinct was reinforced by adding a possible supplementary section made of unprocessed plinths.

The main entrance gate is found to the west of the walls, and it was the starting point of one of the most central roads of the settlement (plaza). The road led to the south-north, it was paved, it exhibited intense elevations, and crossed the entire city. The main entrance was used for the circulation of inhabitants, inside and outside of the inhabited area, and it remained in use throughout the entire lifespan of Poliochni.

Apart from the large main road, a plethora of smaller, narrow and twisting streets (parodoi) allowed the circulation of inhabitants in the city and formed two private residential islets. Two paved plazas with wells were found in the area, one at the center of the settlement and one smaller to the north, while pipes drained water outside the city’s residential area.


  1. The grand precinct

The precinct of Poliochni is a significant public work and dates from the early Blue period, during which the settlements begins to have urban planning features of early urban type (from 3,200 BC and onwards). The first sections of the precinct were revealed during the period from 1933 to 1936 by the Italian archaeologists Puglisi, Begatti, Sestieri, Paribeni and Monaco. During that time, the south and west sections were also revealed, measuring 130 meters in length from the total length of 263 meters that the precinct appeared to measure. Its width is 0.70 to 2.80 meters, while the maximum height was not more than 4.50 meters.

In terms of construction, two main building phases can be seen in the precinct. The first dates from the end of the Black period until the end of the Blue period (3,100/3,000 – 2,800/2,700 BC) and along with its construction more impressive retaining technical projects were implemented, tangent to the precinct. They are four-sided areas that were required for supporting the slopes, with the most characteristic examples being Area 14 (“Bouleuterion”)  and the Area 28 (“Granary”).

The second building phase of the precinct dates from the beginning of the Green period to the end of the Red period (2,800/2,700 – 2,200 BC). The precinct was extended during this period. New sections were built while the existing ones were reinforced in terms of height and width. This new building phase of the precinct indicates the need to expand the residential area limits, that probably arose due to population increase, and the imperative necessity to deal with constant soil subsidence issues, mainly to the south and west of the settlement. During the Yellow period (2,200 – 2,000/1,900 BC), reconstructions and repairs took place in specific parts of the precinct.

In technical terms, three main building ways can be observed in the precinct. The first follows the “masonry system” with superstructure homogeneity. It consists of horizontal, overlapping stone lines of alternating, well-shaped, elongated, planar and cuboidal stones, accompanied by a thin layer of clay mortar (mud). This building way is observed during the first building phase of the precinct and lasted until the end of the second phase, covering the first residential stages of the settlement (3,100/3,000 – 2,200 BC).

The second building way has a mixed application system of the “masonry system”, and it is characterized by medium-sized, cobble and planar-shaped stones of irregular or roundstones, as well as the use of the same mortar substance. The second building way follows the first and they may have been used simultaneously for a small period of time. It dates from the end of the late Green period to the beginning of the Red period (2,500 BC).

The third building way exclusively uses round large stones, alternating with small planar or irregular stones as filling material (wedges), and thin connection material, as seen in section D of the precinct (section 34 “rampart”). This subsequent technique was developed during the second building phase of the precinct and dates from the beginning to the end of the Red period (2,500 – 2,200 BC).

The prolonged use of the “casemate walls technique” from the Blue period to the second building phase of the precinct (3,200 – 2,200 BC) is particularly interesting concerning the formation and foundation of areas, as observed respectively in terms of geography from Anatolia to Egypt and the Greek territory with many variations, from the beginning of the Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age.

The casemate walls technique aimed to create terraces on which public or private buildings and fortifications were constructed. It included initially two thin parallel walls with a gap between them which was sometimes sealed with two more vertical walls, thus creating a casemate. Then, its interior was filled with collapsed building material. The advantages of this technique were many, such as the construction speed and the low cost, allowing the residents of a densely populated settlement to create residential areas fast. During wars or extensive communal construction projects, the casemate walls technique was used as a dense, compact wall, sometimes acting as fortification, and others in the capacity of retaining structure.

The solid construction of the precinct, proven by the height of this significant retaining project, that is preserved to this day, is due to a great degree by the presence of technical backfilling, mainly to the south and south-west of the settlement. In specific, already from the first building stages, the technical backfilling outside the foundation had begun, and it was consistently repeated along the entire retaining zone for stability and strength purposes. This took place in periods, and it was rapid, while the external backfilling height was altered each time the settlement limits changed.

In terms of stratigraphy, the backfilling consists of sandy clay soil in overlapping layers, sometimes softer and ashy, others more robust and yellowish. It was formed by a huge pile of collapsed building materials, together with ceramic shards, flint flakes, stone tools, metal parts, bones and seashells, giving the impression of a large landfill which formed gradually during the city’s peak, from everyday life remains of inhabitants.

High durability local crude stones were mainly used to build the precinct, such as sandstone and trachyte, stone conglomerates and individual hornstones. Furthermore, mortars and grindstones were used secondarily as building materials and found in certain spots which, due to their flat shape, facilitated the construction of horizontal surfaces. The binding material was loam soil with calcite, quartz and volcanic inclusions, together with seashell and ceramic debris.

  1. The main gate

One of the main entrances of the settlement is situated on the west side of Poliochni, where the large main road of the city ends. It was excavated by the Italian School of Archaeology of Athens from 1934 to 1935, and, together with the main road artery, belongs to the initial urban planning of Poliochni which was used throughout the entire lifespan of the settlement. The entrance’s initial opening was 2.50 meters wide, and it followed the precinct’s imaginary line, between the Area 14 (“Bouleuterion”) and the Area 26 (“Granary”).

Later, during the Green period (2,800 – 2,500 BC), as the settlement expanded to the west, the entrance opening was widened, reaching 3.70 meters. During the same period and successive building phases, it was reinforced to the north and south with robust buildings, probably of defensive character, forming a propylon.

  1. Construction in the main gate

Outside the precinct and to the south of the main gate, excavations in 1934-1935 revealed a reservoir or basin in the form of a tapered inverted pyramid. It dates from the Yellow period (2,200 – 2,000/1,900 BC) and it is formed by a large foundation plaque and four inclined, trapezoid slab stones in the capacity of sides. The construction is part of another, larger square, cube-shaped construction, measuring 2.50 x 3.00 meters, that Italian experts deemed it was used to water animals or as a water reservoir.

Similar constructions have been found in the prehistoric settlement of Palamari, Skyros, where excavation experts associated them as “plyntiria”, namely leather processing facilities. Today, the construction is embanked for protection reasons.

  1. The paved squares with wells

Poliochni has two main squares, and they are open-air public areas, formed according to the streets’ layout. Square 103 is at the center of the settlement and square 106 to the north. Both squares were paved and were approximately 8-meter deep or more, vital for providing water in the area.

The main square 103 is situated at a pivotal point of the settlement, where streets 102, 105 and 124 meet, outside building A of the islet VIII with the mansion 605, one of the most significant buildings of the last phase of Poliochni. Its surface was approximately 1,000 square meters and dates from the Blue period (3,200 – 2,800 BC). It has a paved floor made of large monolithic stones and seemed to be used as a public gathering space. Initially, the square was larger, but the gradual construction of buildings limited its size to the west and around the well. The square’s stone well was formed by rectangular stones, equipped with circular well, 1.63 meters in diameter, and a polygonal opening where a stone pipe began, following the downward slope of the ground and draining water from the area. In case of overflow, the pipe probably distributed water to the rest of the settlement’s areas. During World War II, the well was used as dumping ground for war material.

The second square (106) is situated to the north of the city, following the main street, and it was smaller than the first. It was also paved and had a well. The well had a square-shaped drain and it was deeper than the first, so that the water could successfully end to the same aquifer as the main square well.

  1. The residences

Residences in Poliochni were built according to the “mansion” type, as found respectively in other Early Bronze Age settlements in the north-east Aegean and Asia Minor.

The term mansion or “megaron” appears for the first time in Homer and the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) used it to describe palaces or the main areas of palaces, during the late Mycenaean period in mainland Greece. The term’s use was gradually expanded, describing residences that included the main living quarters, an elongated single or double chamber and a lobby, as well as rectangular or arched buildings of the same formation that were independent and without any space surrounding them. In the Greek territory, the “mansion” type appears during the Neolithic period, while it is prevalent in residential architecture of the Bronze Age as a free or complex building.

The main residence types in Poliochni are the “complex mansion-type residence” and the “row of mansions”. Generally, access to residences was achieved from the street, leading to the courtyard and from there to the lobby, an open space on the long side of the house. The lobby led to the main chambers of the mansion which were the main living quarters of the family. Access to the rest of the areas was possible only from inside the mansion. All residences were surrounded by a precinct and did not have visual contact with the street. The walls were made of stone and the doors were carefully made and the handles were placed on the right side, indicating that the door opened clockwise. The interior floors were made of soil and the exterior floors were paved.

  1. Area 14 “Bouleuterion”

Area 14, also known as “Bouleuterion” was located in the south-west corner of the settlement and to the south of the main gate. It was a large rectangular building, measuring 11.95 x 4.10 meters, with a preserved height of up to 1.80 meters. In its interior, the presence of stepped desks, formed from long slab stones along its longer sides, led the first experts from the Italian School of Archaeology in 1934, to believe that the building was used as a public gathering and meeting area.

The first construction phase of the building dates from the late Blue period, and it was a rectangular elongated building with carefully made integrated building system, similar to the one found in the “Granary”. Initially, the area seems to have been designed as the face of the slope, supporting the retaining capacity of the precinct, within the framework of the casemate wall technique. During this period, the building appears to be open from the east and north. During the Green period (2,800 – 2,500 BC) the desks were built along the building walls, while a little later, for reasons of support from the precinct side, a wall section was installed outside the building, increasing the final thickness to approximately 2.50 meters. The building underwent subsequent modifications and repairs until the Yellow period (2,200 – 2,000/1,900 BC) which marks the last construction phase of Area 14. During this period, the east wall was built, cancelling the east seats, as well as wall sections on the north and south side. Furthermore, the west seats were modified, and an entrance was built to the south of the building.

In terms of interpretation of the way Area 14 “Bouleuterion” was used, the Italian expert Luigi Bernabò Brea, wrote:

«… questa caratteristica fece pensare che il vano fosse adibito in questa fase a locale di riunione e che i due gradini costituissero qualche cosa come i sedili di un primitive teatro o bouleuterion…» (Poliochni I.II, 1964, 177)

“… this feature indicated that the room was used as a gathering place during this stage, and that the two steps were reminiscent of an early theater or Bouleuterion…”

Despite the fact that area 14 was interpreted as a “Bouleuterion” in the official literature, the gradual building and reconstruction stages, touching a section of the precinct, indicates that the initial use was of retaining character, that was modified each time according to the settlement’s changes, both in terms of social-economic level, as well as of urban planning level.

  1. Area 28 “Granary”

Area 28 is the largest site in Poliochni in terms of dimensions and it is known as the “Granary”. It was excavated during the years 1934 and 1936 by the Italian School of Archaeology in Athens and it dates from the late Blue period, while it remained unchanged until the end of the Red period (2,200 BC). It is a large, elongated building, 16.80 x 3.75 meters internally and 19.50 x 6.50 meters externally, with south/south-west – north/north-east orientation. It is formed by thick walls, up to 1.50 meters thick, on top and 2 meters on its base, with a height that varies from 4.50 to 5.40 meters. It has an “integrated building system” with an obvious effort to form horizontal dividing zones. During excavation works, earlier residential remains were revealed under the building’s foundations, that date from the early phase of the Blue period.

Initially, Area 28 appeared to be an individual construction, following the casemate wall technique standard, with the east wall acting as a structure retaining the slopes. During the following building phases (Green and Red period, 2,800 – 2,200 BC), when Poliochni expanded to the west, the building formed part of the city’s residential core and became an additional area for use.

The area’s similarities with respective storage facilities in Anatolia, led Italian experts to define it as a “Granary”. Today, Area 28 is filled for the most part in order to protect the residential remains found in lower layers, as well as the retaining support of the neighboring walls.

  1. Building A – Megaron 605 (Islet VIII)

The areas of building A (601-616) are found in the central and east section of islet VIII. They date from the Yellow building phase of the settlement (2,200 – 2,000/1,900 BC), with the presence of later building phases, mainly in terms of additions and formations of new openings. At first, the complex mansion-type building faced the paved plaza (103) which was a public gathering area and an urban crossing junction. Later, the building was separated from the plaza and its entrance was through a narrow walkway (601-602) which led to the paved yard (603). The yard ended in the lobby (604) and from there to the main area of the building, also known as “megaron” (605).

The entrance of the megaron was in the south narrow side of the building, with the door handle still intact on the right side. Stone constructions (benches) are found in its two corners (south-east and south-west), while a paved section is still preserved in the north side, with the typical floor of an indoor space. An opening to the north-west of the megaron served as entrance to the rest of the building’s auxiliary spaces (606-609), that were built together with the megaron and situated on its west side. Area (606) was probably used as a stairway, while the following spaces (607 & 608) were used for storage, as indicated by the large number of pithoi found there. The south space (609) leads outside the main building and to a narrow walkway (611). From there, through a second “internal” courtyard (616), between the two buildings of the same age (A & B) and on the same islet, one could access smaller rooms.

The building’s lighting and ventilation was achieved from the east via street 105, from the west through the walkway (611) and the internal courtyard (616), and from the south through the main courtyard (603). A stone pipe along the walkway (616) contributed to the drainage of the roof’s water, as well as to the general building’s drainage, probably ending to the well of the plaza (103).

During the last building phase, the building was framed by new constructions on the paved plaza and the main street 105. This new management of private space to the detriment of the public one indicates new social reforms, according to which private areas were increased, while the residential limits of the city remained the same.

Both the building’s position at the center of the settlement, as well as its size, combined with its careful construction and the significant findings located inside, make it one of the most important residences in Poliochni during that period. One of the rarest findings of the Bronze Age in the Aegean was found inside the building. It is a cylindrical seal made of ivory, of north-Syrian type, depicting humans and animals, which appears to belong to a person of standing that lived in the building.

  1. Building ΧΙΙΙ (Islet XIII)

Building XIII is an integrated, independent and complex mansion-type construction. It dates from the Red period (2,500 – 2,200 BC) and it underwent three construction phases, that took place in a short period of time, mainly in terms of additions and arrangements of communication openings.

The building has a surface area of 353 square meters and covers the entire islet with the same name. It is located within a low precinct, and it was accessible from the north through the neighboring road. An internal paved courtyard (831) led to the megaron area (832), while to the west, a second, smaller, internal paved courtyard (828) around which multiple spaces were located, ensured additional lighting and ventilation to the megaron. During the last building phase, new areas were added to the east and on the main courtyard (833 & 834). Access to these areas was once again achieved through this courtyard, while, in spite of these new construction changes, the external limits of the islet remained unchanged.

Το κτήριο ΧΙΙΙ αποτελεί ένα ενιαίο, αυτόνομο, σύνθετο μεγαροειδές κτίσμα. Χρονολογείται στην Ερυθρή περίοδο (2.500 – 2.200π.Χ.) και παρουσιάζει τρεις κατασκευαστικές φάσεις, οι οποίες πραγματοποιήθηκαν σε σύντομο χρονικό διάστημα και αφορούν κυρίως προσθήκες και διευθετήσεις ανοιγμάτων επικοινωνίας.

Building XIII is a prime example of architectural construction of its period, as it has a complete plan with clear purposes. Furthermore, both the megaron and its courtyard appear to have had a retaining purpose, in the context of casemate walls technique, mainly to support the fragile slopes to the west due to the stream that surrounds Poliochni. This double function of the building is another example of a socially and technologically advanced society.

A number of bronze weapons and tools found inside area 829 provides additional information about the area and its residents.

  1. Megaron 317

Megaron 317 is located at the highest point of Poliochni’s hill, independent from other buildings and free in the region. It has a trapezoid plan, and its internal dimensions are 7.50 x 2.70-3.90 meters. Access to the megaron was possible through main street 105, where the second and smaller plaza of the settlement with its well was found. An opening on the south narrow side, through the lobby, was the entrance of the building.

In terms of architecture, Megaron 317 is the sole example in Poliochni region. It is a robust and sturdy construction with strong walls made of pebbles and large local, monolithic sandstone slabs up to 1.80 meters tall. Externally, on the east wall, standing slab stones acted as pillars. Both the building’s monumental form, as well as its position in the area, close to the settlement’s plaza yet far from the surrounding buildings, combined with its unchanged orientation from the Green to the Yellow period (2,800-2,000 / 1,900 BC), led experts to associate it with a public worship area.

At the end of the Yellow period, the large earthquake around 2,100 BC caused significant damage to the building, while two inhabitants that were inside at that moment, did not manage to evacuate the building and they were trapped under the ruins.


The thousands of clay, stone, metal and bone items found and collected during excavations in the site are valuable tools in understanding the life of people that lived continuously in Poliochni for almost 1,500 years.

  1. Clay items

“depas ampikypellon”

One of the most known vessels of Myrina, found in the prehistoric settlement of Poliochni and Koukonisi respectively, is the one named “depas amphikypellon”. The name “depas” originates from the Proto-Indo-European root dheup- which means deep, hollow and is found for the first time in written sources in Homer’s Iliad, in the 8th century BC. It is described as a luxurious vessel with double ceremonial use, sometimes as a utility mug for wine consumption and others as a ceremonial vessel for offerings:


Excerpt 1:

«πρ δ δπας περικαλλς, οκοθεν γ γεραις,

χρυσεοις λοισι πεπαρμνον· οατα δ ατο

τσσαρ σαν, δοια δ πελειδες μφς καστον

χρσειαι νεμθοντο, δω δ π πυθμνες σαν.

λλος μν μογων ποκινσασκε τραπζης

πλεον ἐόν, Νστωρ δ γρων μογητ ειρεν»

(Homer, Iliad, L, 632-637)


«στερνά την ώρια κούπα, ο γέροντας που ‘χεαπ᾿ την Πύλο φέρει, 
την πλουμισμένη με χρυσόκαρφα, και τέσσερα τη ζώναν 
αφτιά᾿ σε κάθε αφτί δεξόζερβα χρυσά βοσκολογουσαν 
δυο περιστέρια, κι από κάτω της διπλοί βρίσκονταν πάτοι. 
Γεμάτη αv ήταν, άλλος δύσκολα να την κουνήσει μπόρειε, 
μα ο γέρο Νέστορας ανέκοπα την έφερνε στα χείλια»

(translation by N. Kazantzakis and I. Th. Kakridis)


Excerpt 2:

«ἔνθα δέ οἱ δέπας ἔσκε τετυγμένον, οὐδέ τις ἄλλος 
οὔτ᾽ ἀνδρῶν πίνεσκεν ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ αἴθοπα οἶνον,
οὔτέ τεῳ σπένδεσκε θεῶν, ὅτε μὴ Διὶ πατρί.
τό ῥα τότ᾽ ἐκ χηλοῖο λαβὼν ἐκάθηρε θεείῳ
πρῶτον, ἔπειτα δ᾽ ἔνιψ᾽ ὕδατος καλῇσι ῥοῇσι,»

(Homer, Iliad, P, 225-229)


 «Μαστορεμένη κούπα εφύλαγεν εκεί᾿ με τούτην άλλος
άντρας κρασί ποτέ δεν έπινε φλογόμαυρο, και μήτε
σε άλλο θεό σπονδές επρόσφερνε, μόνο στο Δία πατέρα.
Την πήρε τότε απ
᾿ την κασέλα του, την πάστρεψε με θειάφι,
με λαγαρό νερό τρεχούμενο την ξέπλυνε κατόπι»

(translation by N. Kazantzakis and I. Th. Kakridis)


During the 2nd – 3rd century BC, Athenaeus, in his Deipnosophistae (XI, 387), refers to “depas amphikypellon” as a biconvex mug, while much later, in the 19th century, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) adopted this term to describe specific bowls characterized by a tall cylindrical body and two vertical curved or heart-shaped handles, that he found in Troy II (Early Bronze Ear 2,500 – 2,200 BC), mistakenly thinking that he studied Troy’s later period, to which Homer referred to in his works.

The “depas amphikypellon” is an iconic vessel for the Aegean civilization and has many varieties. It dates from the end of the Early Bronze Period (2,200 – 2,050 BC), indicating communication networks along the entire area of the Aegean region, the Balkan peninsula, the Central and North-Eastern Anatolia, as well as Northern Syria.

In Poliochni, this type of vessel makes its first appearance long after Troy, during the Yellow Period (2,200 – 2,000/1,900 BC) and it is classified into two main categories: the more intricate vessels with thin walls, polished and coated belong to the first category, while the heavier and more durable vessels, suitable for everyday use belong to the second category.

In terms of the vessel’s utility, its inability to stand raises concerns, and the question whether it was an everyday use or ceremonial vessel still remains unanswered. 


A plethora of utility vessels have been found in the settlement and served everyday needs of inhabitants. Clay cauldrons, tripodal or not, with vertical or horizontal grips, were used to prepare food, as well as heat and light sources. Findings of cauldron shards in courtyards of residences indicate that the cooking procedure took place outside the house and in an open space. In the cases of commonly used courtyards, this view is particularly interesting, as it is shown that food preparation was a collective procedure which appears to connect members of neighboring residences.


Large storage jars found in the settlement constitute vessels of high complexity and specialized work. They were made of clay, inside special thermal constructions, thus ensuring their maximum lifespan.

  1. Stone items

Stone items in Poliochni mainly consist of tools, weapons, figurines and jewelry, some of which indicate raw material as well as end product transportation networks. The abundant volcanic rocks of the island were used by the settlement’s inhabitants as raw material for crafting stone tools and grinders. It is worth noting that when some of the tools were no longer usable, they were used as structural material, as indicated by the presence of millstones and grinders in various masonry of residential areas in the settlement.

  1. Metal items

The metal processing art in Poliochni is found during the early habitation phases. Considering that the island of Lemnos did not have mineral deposits, metal items in Myrina and Poliochni were either imported or manufactured on site, upon supply of raw materials, mainly including tools, weapons and jewelry.

Studies in terms of the origin of the settlement’s metal objects led to the conclusion that raw materials or end products came from the broader area of the Aegean and sources in Anatolia, while during the last habitation period, when Poliochni was a major part of commercial activities in the Aegean, it appears that tin copper imports from Pontus and Anatolia had increased.

The resilience of brass contributed to the extensive use of brass tools which played a major role in improving agricultural and livestock production, in fishing and other everyday uses. As a matter of fact, the metal’s good quality contributed to the extensive use of the next generations of tools and weapons made of brass, such as daggers and axes.

Jewelry and clothing accessories hold a special place in the category of metals and mainly include pins and amulets made of silver and brass.

In 1956, the discovery of jewelry by Bernabὸ Brea’s partners in Room 643, at a building neighboring megaron 605, was one of Poliochni’s most significant findings. It is the veritable “treasure of Poliochni”, that included 1,598 artifacts, 1,276 of which were gold, 320 were silver, one was brass, and one was made of sardonyx. A pin with spirals and birds, ear tags, neckbands, buttons and necklace beads dating from the Yellow habitation period (2,200 – 2,000/1,900 BC) were among the most significant gold findings. The jewelry of rare elegance, along cutting-edge processing for that era, which combined the filigree technique with the forged plate and chain technique, are similar to respective jewelry of the same period, belonging to the “treasure of Priam” on the other coast of the Aegean, in Troy. As now metal activity was found in Poliochni, all jewelry was imported by a center in Anatolia and was probably intended for a prominent woman in the settlement.

  1. Seals

Clay, brass, alabaster and ivory seals have come to light to this day in Poliochni. They represent all habitation phases of the region and reveal the existence of complex social and economic structures. The stamping surfaces mainly bear linear and geometrical motifs, such as grids, a cross with angle systems in each quadrant, parallel rhombuses, wave patterns, concentric dotted circles etc. Apart from the brass seal which dates from the Red period (2,500 – 2,200 BC) and is one of the earliest samples in the Aegean, the rest bear grips and a hanging hole. The cylindrical ivory signet, 0.50 meters long, adorned with a complex pictorial representation including groups of animals, human and abstract patterns is particularly interesting. It was found in Building A – Megaron 605 (Islet VIII) and it is another significant finding in the site, similar to Syrian type signets in terms of style.


The transition of the prehistoric settlement of Poliochni from a small, open-type village with huts scattered in the area to densely organized city with complex residences placed within marked zones inside a built precinct, is a significant chapter in the history of area planning, as it requires the mutual acceptance of its members, as a group that is different from other communities found within this zone. This led to a collective identity that separated inhabitants “inside” the precinct from inhabitants that were active “outside” it. In this case, the settlement’s precinct marked the community’s activity limit, which was interpreted as an advanced social structure, the result of expertise, production intensification, and the ability to store surplus with the ultimate goal being the general economical and social welfare of its inhabitants.

Poliochni’s leading role in all these areas, and its uniqueness among other known prehistoric settlements in Europe, characterized it as the oldest city in Europe. Despite the fact that today, both archaeological data and research concerning prehistoric settlements with features similar to Poliochni have been particularly enriched, the earliness, the importance and the achievement influence of this considerable prehistoric settlement in its geographical and cultural context remains indisputable.



Even though Poliochni was not inhabited again after its definitive abandonment, indications of human activity, both within the settlement and the surrounding area, have been marked during historical times.

In specific, building remains of the late Byzantine period have been found outside the urban area, while box-shaped tombs dating from the Byzantine period (12th – 13th century) have been found within the city, scattered among prehistoric buildings. This indicates a rudimentary historical continuity in the region, with sections of the abandoned prehistoric city still being visible at the time.


The prehistoric settlement of Poliochni is protected by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lesvos as the protection body, in accordance with the effective provisions of the archaeological legislation (Law 3028/2002 (Government Gazette A 153/28-06-2002). Protection of antiquities and Cultural Heritage in general – Ministerial Decree 15794/19-12-1961 – Government Gazette 35/Β/2-2-19624 (about designation of historical monuments and archaeological sites), Ministerial Decree ΥΠΠΟ/ΑΡΧ/Α1/Φ20/5372/234/1-2-1999 – Government Gazette 126/Β/18-2-19995 (declaration of archaeological site of Poliochni, Lemnos – demarcation of archaeological site supplement), and Ministerial Decree ΥΠΠΟ/ΑΡΧ/Α1/Φ20/5372/234/1-2-1999 – Government Gazette 126/Β/18-2- 19996 (definition of Zone A as an area of protection against building and land use within the limits of the archaeological site of Poliochni, Lemnos).

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