The House of Kadmos project (Thebes, Greece)

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).

Select Theban bibliography

Andrikou, E. 1999. "The pottery from the destruction layer of the Linear B archive in Pelopidou street, Thebes", appendix in Aravantinos 1999: 45–102.
Aravantinos, V. 1995 (ed.). Proceedings of the Society for Boeotian Studies, 2nd International Conference (Leivadhia, 1992), Society for Boeotian Studies: Athens.
Aravantinos, V. 1999. "Mycenaean texts and contexts at Thebes: the discovery of new Linear B archives on the Kadmeia", in Deger-Jalkotzy, S., Hiller, S., & Panagl, O. 1999 (eds.), Floreant Studia Mycenaea: Akten des X
Internationalen Mykenologischen Colloquiums in Salzburg (vom 1–5 Mai 1995), Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Vienna: 45–102.
Aravantinos, V. 2000a (ed.) Proceedings of the Society for Boeotian Studies, 3rd International Conference (Thebes,4–8 September 1996), Society for Boeotian Studies: Athens.
Aravantinos, V. 2000b. "Νέα μυκηναϊκά ελεφαντουργήματα από την Καδμεία (Θήβα)", in Aravantinos 2000A, Vol. 3/A: 31–120.
Aravantinos, V. 2001a. "Contenu, contexte et fonction du 'trésor' du palais mycénien de Thèbes (Béotie): une approche économique et administrative", Ktema 26: 87–99.
Aravantinos, V., Godart, L. & Sacconi, A. 2001b. Thèbes, Fouilles de la Cadmée I. Les Tablettes en Linéaire B de la Odos Pelopidou (Édition et Commentaire), Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali: Pisa, Rome.
Aravantinos, V. Godart, L. & Sacconi, A. 2002. Thèbes, Fouilles de la Cadmée III. Corpus des Documents d'Archives en Linéaire B de Thèbes (1–433), Instituti Editoriale e Poligrafici Internazionali: Pisa, Rome.
Aravantinos, V. Godart, L. & Sacconi, A. 2006. Thèbes, Fouilles de la Cadmée II. Les Tablettes en Linéaire B de la Odos Pelopidou (Le Contexte Archéologique), Instituti Editoriale e Poligrafici Internazionali: Pisa, Rome.

Barber, R. 1992. "The origins of the Mycenaean palace", in Sanders, J. (ed.), Laconian studies in honour of Hector Catling, Athens: 11-23.

Catling, H. & Millett, A. 1965. "A study of the inscribed stirrup-jars from Thebes", Archaeometry 8: 3-85.

Catling, H. & Jones, R. 1977. "A re-investigation of the provenance of the inscribed stirrup-jars found at Thebes", Archaeometry 19: 137-46.

Catling, H., Cherry, J., Jones, R. & Killen, J. 1980. "The Linear B inscribed stirrup-jars and West Crete", BSA 75: 51-113.

Dakouri-Hild 1998. The 'House of Kadmos' at Mycenaean Thebes, Greece: a preliminary re-examination of the architecture, M.A. dissertation, University of Durham.

Dakouri-Hild, A. 2001a. "The House of Kadmos in Mycenaean Thebes reconsidered: architecture, chronology and context", BSA 96: 80-108.

Dakouri-Hild, A. 2001b. “Plotting fragments: a preliminary assessment of the Middle Helladic settlement in Boeotian Thebes”. In K. Branigan (ed.), Urbanism in the Aegean Bronze Age, Sheffield UP: Sheffield: 103-118.

Dakouri-Hild, A. 2002. “A fragmented landscape and the Digital Thebes project”, Boeotika Analekta 2002: 110-14.

Dakouri-Hild A. et al. 2003. “A Geographic Information System (GIS) in Boeotian Thebes: taking measures for heritage management, archaeological research and public outreach". In R. Laffineur & K. Foster (eds.), Metron: Measuring the Aegean Bronze Age, PASP: Liège: 49-56.

Dakouri-Hild, A. 2005. “Breaking the mould? Production and economy in the Theban state”, in Dakouri-Hild & Sherratt 2005 (eds.), Autochthon, Oxford: 207-224.

Dakouri-Hild, A. 2006. “Something old, something new: current research on the ‘Old Kadmeion’ of Thebes”, BICS 48: 173-186.

Dakouri-Hild, A. 2010a. “Thebes”. In E. H. Cline (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean, OUP: Oxford: 690-711.

Dakouri-Hild, A. 2010b. “Boeotia”. In E. H. Cline (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean, OUP: Oxford: 614-630.

Dakouri-Hild, A. 2011a. “Thebes”. In M. Finkelberg (ed.). The Homer Encyclopedia, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford.

Dakouri-Hild, A. 2011b. “Hypothebes”. In M. Finkelberg (ed.). The Homer Encyclopedia, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford.

Dakouri-Hild A., in press a. “Theban workshops and the construction of prestige”, in V. Aravantinos & E. Kountouri in press (eds.), A century of archaeological work at Thebes (1900–2000), Athens.

Dakouri-Hild A., in press b. “Craft and sensory play in Late Bronze Age Boeotia”. In J. Day (ed.), Making Senses of the Past: Toward a Sensory Archaeology, Center for Archaeological Investigations Occasional Paper no. 40, Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University: Carbondale, IL (expected 2012).

Dakouri-Hild A., in press c. “Making a difference: production and consumption of prestige artifacts in Late Bronze Age Boeotia”. In M. L. Nosch & R. Laffineur (eds.), Jewellery, Adornment and Textiles in the Aegean Bronze Age, PASP: Liège.

Day, P. & Haskell, H. 1995. "Transport stirrup-jars from Thebes as evidence of trade in Late Bronze Age Greece", in Gillis, C., Risberg, C. & Sjoberg, B. (eds.), Trade and production in premonetary Greece, Jonsered: 87-107.

Demakopoulou, K. 1990. "Palatial and domestic architecture in Mycenaean Thebes", in Darcque, P. & Treuil, R. (eds.), L'habitat égéen préhistorique, Athens: 309-17.

Edwards, R. 1979. Kadmos, the Phoenician: a study in Greek legends and the Mycenaean age, Hackert: Amsterdam.

Immerwahr, S. 1990. Aegean painting in the Bronze Age, London.

Keramopoullos, A. 1909. "Η oικία του Κάδμου", Αrchaiologike Εphemeris 1909: 57–122.

Keramopoullos, A. 1917. Θηβαϊκά: Ανασκαφαί εν Θήβαις, Vol. 1, Archaiologikon Deltion 3, Archaeological Society at Athens: Athens.

Keramopoullos, A. 1930. "Αι βιομηχανίαι και το εμπόριον του Κάδμου", Αrchaiologike Εphemeris 1930: 29–58.

Konsola, D. 1981. Promykenaike Theva: Chorotaxike kai oikistike diarthrose, Athens.

Nikita, K. & Henderson, J. 2006. “Glass analyses from Mycenaean Thebes and Elateia: compositional evidence for a Mycenaean glass industry”, Journal of Glass Studies 48: 71-120.

McArthur, J. & McArthur, J. 1974. "The Theban stirrup-jars and East Crete: further considerations", Minos 15: 68-80.

McArthur, J. 1978. "Inconsistencies in the compositions and provenance studies of the inscribed jars found at Thebes", Archaeometry 20: 177-82.

Melena, J.L. & Olivier, J.–P. 2003. Tithemy. The Tablets and Nodules in Linear B from Tiryns, Thebes and Mycenae. A Revised Transliteration (2nd edition, with the addition of Midea), Minos Supplement 18, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca: Salamanca.

Porada, E. 1981. "The cylinder seals found at Thebes in Boiotia, with contributions on the inscriptions from Hans G. Güterbock and John A. Brinkman", Archiv für Orientforschung 28/1: 1–78.

Raison, J. 1968. Les vases à inscriptions peintes de l'âge mycénien et leur contexte archéologique, Rome.

Reusch, H. 1954. Die zeichnerische Rekonstruktion des Frauenfrieses im bootischen Theben, Berlin.

Spyropoulos, Th. & Chadwick, J. 1975. Thebes Tablets II, Minos Supplement 4, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca: Salamanca

Symeonoglou, S. 1973. Kadmeia I: Mycenaean finds from Thebes, Greece: excavation at 14 Oedipus st., Goteborg.

Symeonoglou, S. 1985. The topography of Thebes from the Bronze Age to modern times, Princeton.


Updated Feb 14, 2011