The Mycenaean Age: A Study of the Monuments and Culture of Pre-Homeric Greece

By Chrestos Tsountas; J. Irving Manatt | Go to book overview

APPENDIX B THE FORTRESS OF GHA AND OTHER MINYAN WORKS AT LAKE COPAÏS

THE spade of the archaeologist is not the sole revealer of the buried monuments of Greece. One can hardly dig a cellar without bringing antiquity to light. And a purely economic enterprise -- the draining of Lake Copaïs -- has now brought into full relief a whole series of the greatest public works of the Mycenaean age.1 Some of these works had long been known, and we have notices of them by travelers from Wheler ( 1723) to our own day. Among others, Leake2 gave a good account of the katabothrae and the great shafts in the Kephalari Pass; but the importance of the island-fortress of Gha quite escaped him.3 The first searching investigations were made by Forchhammer ( 1836), and followed up by Ulrichs ( 1840); then the region was neglected again until Schliemann undertook his excavations at Orchomenos; and it was not until the great work of draining the lake, originally undertaken by a French company, had been carried through by their English successors ( 1893) that the vast complex of prehistoric engineering at the bottom of Copaïs, as well as above and around it, came fully to light.

Copaïs was at once the largest and the shallowest lake in Greece; fact, it was rather a marsh than a lake, except when fed by the winter rain-fall and the melting snows of the great watershed (Helicon and Parnassus) whose basin it forms. Then its waters covered an area of 90 square miles, while in summer the lake bed for the most part was dry. The higher arable portions were so fertile as to yield two crops year, while the lower were rank meadows feeding great herds of cattle

____________________
1
See Kambanis, "Le Desséchement de lac Copaïs par les Anciens", in Bull. de Corr. Hell., xvi. ( 1892), 121 ff. and xvii. ( 1893) 322 ff.; de Riddler, "Fouilles de Gha", ib. xviii. ( 1894), 271 ff.; Noack, "Arne", Ath. Mitth. xix. ( 1894), 405-481. Cf. Curtius, Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie, 1892, pp. 1181 ff., and Gesammelte Abhandlungen, i. 266 ff.
2
Northern Greece, ii. 281 ff.
3
He gives it no place on his map, and merely mentions it, in passing, as "an island surrounded by cliffs, the summit of which is encircled by the remains of a Hellenic (?) wall. In the enclosed space, I am told by some peasants who have been there, are some foundations of buildings, but no columns."

-374-

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