Thursday, October 20, 2016

Velouchovo Cave

In 2014, the Lidoriki Project concentrated on the survey of the acropolis of Ancient Kallion which housed the medieval fortified settlement of Velouchovo. The site was surveyed by Petros Themelis in the 1970s during the salvage excavations of the Mornos Reservoir, which ultimately submerged the modern village. In the 1980s, the Dutch Aetolian survey carried out a pedestrian surface survey (Bommeljé et al. 1987) and Joanita Vroom published the definitive study of the medieval occupation, where she identified Velouchovo as the medieval location of Lidoriki (Vroom 1993). Our job in 2014 was to create a detailed architectural study of the medieval kastro with aerial photogrammetry and measured survey. We produced a high resolution 3D-model of the site, seen above (Brenningmeyer, Kourelis and Katsaros 2015).

Although we did not conduct an artifact survey (as the Dutch had done in 1988-1991), we made close topographical studies. On the southwest slopes of the citadel, we identified the mouth of a cave. And right in front of the cave, we found two bullet casings. The initials "SMI" belong to Societa Metallurgica Italiana, the ammunitions company that armed Mussolini's invasion and occupation of Greece. After the Italian surrender in September 1943, the Greek partisans acquired a large number of weapons from the retreating Italians. This assemblage might, therefore, be interpreted as a site of partisan resistance. I would not want to make too many conclusions, but it helps us reconstruct the modern topography of the region. 

We photographed the two Italian bullets on graph paper (1/4 in grid).

Not far from the cave of Velouchovo, the British soldiers Chris Woodhouse and Eddy Myers were parachuted on September 28, 1942 to join the resistance. One of the caves in which they lived (near village Stromi) is now a national monument to the Greek resistance, commemorated every summer on July 6. 

Myers give detailed descriptions of the material culture of their precarious camps from the "wigwams," shelters built out of broken fir branches to the caves that were regularly used to store supplies and ammunition. Myers describes two caves.

"We had spent the previous night in pouring rain, huddled inside our parachute-rigged tent. We had the greatest difficulty in keeping this improvised structure intact, and one of it was blown away. The parachutes were poor protection against the rain, which soon seeped through and dripped on us whenever we were lying. We decided therefore to move into the cave and make it not only our store but or home as well. It was a funny home. I felt just like an animal wriggling my way in and out of it. But once inside, it was comparatively comfortable, even though it was poorly lit by the narrow beam of light which came through its tortuous entrance." (Myers 1955, p. 44).

"Our new cave had a wide entrance which let in plenty of daylight. It was far more congenial than the dark cavern-like one of the high stony plateau of Prophet Elias. Nearly an hour's climb from Stromi it was situated on a wooded mountain-side at the foot of a rocky escarpment about fifty feet high. It opened on the small patch of ground, around which closely packed fir trees obscured it from the opposite side of the valley. (Myers 1955, p. 49)

Caves need not be associated strictly with partisan activity. As in many mountainous regions in Greece, caves served the first line of shelter at times of danger. We know from our interviews at Lidoriki that during the burning of the village by the Nazis, the entire population withdrew to caves as far as 13 miles away. A more famous retreat into caves is found in the narratives of Nicholas Cage's Eleni (1985).

Although there is plenty of narratives on the German Occupation and the Civil War in Greece, there is little archaeology. One is hard-pressed to find a systematic or intentional fieldwork on war sites from the Greek War of Independence to the present.  A couple of new publications suggest the blossoming of a new discipline. I am grateful to a circle of socially active archaeologists for sharing exciting new work coming out of Greece. Here are four projects.

1.    In the field of pedestrian survey archaeology, the Antikythera Survey Project discusses a military assemblage found on the coast of the island (Bevan and Connely 2013, p. 78, and fig. 17). 

2.    Demetris Papadopoulos has surveyed the territories in Greece's northern border, the Prespa lake region land (Papadopoulos 2010, 2016)

3.    Although not a field project, Susan Hueck Allen has been mining US government archives for topographical, photographic, and personal information about the American involvement during the resistance. Allen presented her new research at the 2015 MGSA symposium (Allen 2015).

4.   Agni Karademou and Michalis Kontos have been conducting research in caves used by the Greek resistance in Macedonia. They presented their finds in the 2016 Architectural Dialogues conference in Lesvos (Karademou and Kontos 2016).

My sense is that the the archaeology of the contemporary world has caught up in Greece. There are many more studies about memory, historiography, and the intentional suppression of materiality. Yannis Hamilakis's essay on Makronissos opened up a new chapter on the study of Greek national memory a little over a decade ago (Hamilakis 2002). As an archaeological community, we must take up Hamilakis's challenge and see how much we can push the material documentation of this new socially-engaged practice. I feel that some day (maybe not yet) Makronissos might become the subject of an archaeological survey. 


Allen, Susan Hueck. 2015. "Like Pulling Teeth with EAM," 24th Modern Greek Studies Association Symposium, Atlanta (Oct. 16, 2015)

Bevan, Andrew and James Connolly. 2013. Mediterranean Islands, Fragile Communities and Persistent Landscapes: Antikythera in Long-Term Perspective, Cambridge.

Bommeljé, S. et al. 1987. Aetolia and the Aetolians: Towards the Interdisciplinary Study of a Greek Region, Utrecht

Brenningmeyer, Todd, Kostis Kourelis and Miltiadis Katsaros. 2015. “The Lidoriki Project - Low Altitude Aerial Photography, GIS, and Traditional Survey in Rural Greece,” in CAA 2015: Keep the Revolution Going. Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology, ed. Stefano Campana, Roberto Scopigno, Gabriella Carpentiero, and Marianna Cirillo, pp. 979-988, Oxford.

Cage, Nicholas. 1985. Eleni, New York.

Hamilakis, Yannis. 2002. “The Other ‘Parthenon’: Antiquity and National Memory at Makronissos,” Journal of Modern Greek Studies 20:2, pp. 307-338.

Karademou, Agni and Michalis Kontos. 2016. “Αρχαιολογία του Ελληνικού Εμφυλίου Πόλεμου: η περίπτωση των σπηλαίων της Δυτικής Μακεδονίας,” Σύνορα/Όρια. Αρχαιολογικοί Διάλογοι 2016, Mytilene (April 15, 2016).

Myers, E. C. W. 1955. Greek Entanglement, London.

Papadopoulos, Dimitris C. 2010. “Σχηματίζοντας τη λίμνη: Εμπειρία και διαμεσολάβηση του τοπίου στις Πρέσπες,” PhD diss University of the Aegean, Mytilini.

Papadopoulos, Dimitris C. 2016. “Ecologies of Ruin: (Re)bordering, Ruination, and Internal Colonialism in Greek Macedonia, 1913-2013,” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 20, pp. 627-640.

Vroom, Joanita. 1993. “The Kastro of Veloukhovo (Kallion): A Note on the Surface Finds,” Pharos 1, pp. 113-138.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States