Art by Thebes and The palace of Kadmos

The palace of Kadmos

Dr. Anastasia Dakouri-Hild
Under the auspices of the 9th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and Dr. V. Aravantinos
Dr. M. Morgenstein (Geosciences Management International) & Dr. M. Johnson (University of Cape Town), petrographic and chemical analyses of pottery
Dr. K. Nikita (University of Nottingham), glass analyses
Ms. E. Tsota (Greek Archaeological Service) & Ms. C. Sulosky (University of Virginia), faunal material
Dr. T. J. Smith (University of Virginia), Iron Age pottery
Ms. L. Stylianopoulos (University of Virginia), Medieval and Ottoman pottery

Left: GIS map composite of the citadel of Thebes (after Dakouri-Hild, Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean, 2010)

Right: CAD drawing of the House of Kadmos site (after Dakouri-Hild, Annual of the British School of Archaeology, 2001)


The site Between 1906 and 1929, a massive building was excavated on the celebrated citadel of Thebes. The original excavator, Antonios D. Keramopoullos, interpreted the surviving portions of the building as the ruins of what was alleged to be, in Pausanias' time, the palace of Kadmos (Cadmus), the legendary founder of Thebes and brother of Europa. The building had been in use during the 14th c. BCE and appears to have been destroyed by a violent fire in the transition to the 13th c. The architecture, featuring an impressive footprint and distinctively palatial features, such as ashlar (hewn) masonry and pictorial lifesize processional frescoes, remains prominent today at the center of the contemporary city of Thebes. Other notable finds include various types of unfinished, incomplete and failed artifacts, mostly made of banded agate; gold jewelry in a hoarding context; and the largest cache of transport stirrup-jars (large amphora-like vessels for the long-distance transportation of liquid goods, many of which have been found to be Cretan imports and are inscribed with Linear B script). Such finds demonstrated the importance of the site already in the early 20th century, while ongoing archaeological work at Thebes as a whole has further substantiated the notion that the citadel accommodated an extensive palatial complex and a wide array of functions tied to the administration of the East Boeotian state. Thebes is evidenced to have been a top-rank center in the political and economic landscape of Mycenaean Greece, equivalent to Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos. Despite its significance, the archaeological assemblage from the House of Kadmos received publication only in the form of preliminary reports until the late 1990s, with the exception of the procession fresco (Reusch 1954) and the stirrup-jars (Raison 1968, Sacconi 1974).

2010 (final): study of select Early Bronze and Middle Bronze Age ceramic material; select Geometric, Archaic, Classical to Hellenistic, and Roman material (Dr. T.J. Smith); select Byzantine, Frankish and Ottoman material (Ms. L. Stylianopoulos, University of Virginia).
2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2002: Late Bronze Age pottery study.
2009: characterization of petrographic sections of fabric samples (Advanced Microscopy Lab, and Department of Earth Sciences, University of Virginia).
2008: preliminary sorting and study of the post-Mycenaean material (with L. Stylianopoulos).
2007: re-excavation of the pottery kiln adjacent to the House of Kadmos; extraction of misfired and additional ceramic samples for petrographic and chemical analysis.
2006: study of the intact and restored pottery; sampling of intact/restored and fragmentary ceramic vessels using portable X-Ray Fluorescence [XRF] (with Drs. M. Morgenstein & M. Johnson, then University of Berkeley).
2004: study of small finds and faunal material (the latter with Ms. E. Tsota, Greek Archaeological Service).
2002: recovery and digitization of the original excavation diaries (private archive, courtesy of the excavator's grandson, Dr. A.D. Keramopoullos); collection of ceramic samples for petrographic and chemical analysis.
2000, 1999: preliminary sorting of the ceramic material.
2001: study of the workshop material (mostly agate and quartz)
1998: clean-up and partial re-excavation of the architectural remains on behalf of the Greek Archaeological Service; detailed drawings, measurements, photographic archive; completion of a comprehensive study of the architecture (University of Durham).

The finds

The majority of finds date to the Late Bronze Age, but habitation at the site is also attested for the Early and Middle Bronze Age, as well as the Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish and Ottoman periods.
Terracotta artifacts: loom-weights, miniature vessels, Mycenaean, Archaic and Classical-Hellenistic figurines.
Metal artifacts: bronze arrowheads and vessel parts; gold jewelry, pre-processed raw material, and appliques; iron artifacts from the later habitation at the site; lead architectural parts.
Stone artifacts: banded agate and quartz jewelry, weapon parts, appliques, rough-outs, and raw material; carnelian jewelry; steatite rough-outs and conuli; ofite and marble vessel fragments, cipolin applique fragments; limestone, obsidian and silex implements.
Glass jewelry pieces.
Faunal remains: animal bones, horns, teeth, marine, terrestrial and brackish water shells.
Artifacts made of organic materials: bone, horn, amber.
Ceramic vessels dating to the Early and Late Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the Medieval-Ottoman periods, in complete/semi-complete/restored condition (356).
Late Bronze Age pottery sherds in a variety of ceramic fabrics and wares (ca. 25,000).
Early and Middle Bronze Age pottery (unstratified, selections to be published).
Select Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish and Ottoman pottery (unstratified, selections to be published).

Frescos from the walls of the Mycenaean palace of Kadmos, in Thebes,
dated from 14th to 13th century BC.

Jewels found in the room of treasures in the palace chambers.

Ivory pyxis (jewel box) from a tomb at Thebes,
Mycenaean period, 13th century BC.

A vase from Thebes,
Mycenaean period, 13th century BC. 

Early Helladic jugs from Boeotia, 
around 3000 - 2000 BC.
Middle Helladic jug from Boeotia, of the
2000 - 1680 century BC. 

Geometric jug from Boeotia, of the
early 8th century BC, with human
and animal figures.

Perfume vase
Sikyonian perfume vase from Thebes,
middle of the 7th century BC.
Louvre Museum.

Drinking bowl from Boeotia, of the middle
6th century BC.

The birth of Athena from the head of Zeus, from a jewel
case from Thebes Boeotia, 570 - 565 BC. Louvre Museum

The top of rim above