HISTORY
DESCRIPTION
SITE MONUMENTS
THE MUSEUM
INFORMATION
PHOTOGALLERY
 
 
© Ministry of Culture and Sports, © 13th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities
Aerial photography of the archaeological site
The large and well-organized prehistoric settlement of Dimini sits on a low hill overlooking the Pagasitikos bay, northwest of the modern village of Dimini, five kilometres from the city of Volos. It is the most important settlement of the Late Neolithic period and one of the best known in Greece. Dimini and Sesklo are the most systematically excavated Neolithic sites in Thessaly and provide valuable information on prehistoric architecture and economic organization. Dimini's location made it ideal for habitation and accounts for its longevity (Late Neolithic to the end of the Late Bronze Age). Today Dimini is three kilometres from the sea, but in the fifth millennium BC it was located only one kilometre from the coastline, which gave it easy access to the maritime trade routes of the Central Aegean. It was also surrounded by fertile flatlands suitable for agriculture and animal husbandry.

The earliest settlement at Dimini dates to the Late Neolithic period (end of the fifth millennium BC). It was an organized community of 200-300 people living in 30-40 houses. Agriculture, animal husbandry and probably fishing were the main occupations. The settlement is contained within six concentric stone enclosures built in pairs. The purpose of this unique architectural feature may have been both to retain the soil and to define the settlement's limits. The houses were built between these enclosures, of which the smallest one at the centre contained a large court, or 'square'. The decorated pottery found in the settlement features dark geometric motifs on a light-coloured background. Other finds include a large number of obsidian, chert, stone and bone tools, figurines and jewellery. The funerary customs of the inhabitants of Dimini are unknown. Only a few burials of small children inside vases were discovered within the settlement.

In the Early and Middle Bronze Age, the settlement moved into the flatlands south and east of the hill. We do not know the size of this settlement or whether occupation was continuous until the Mycenaean period. In the Middle Bronze Age the hill was used as a cemetery, of which sixteen cist graves have been revealed to date.

In the Late Bronze Age a large township and a palatial centre occupied the plain southeast of the hill, towards the sea. The township was tentatively identified with Mycenaean Iolkos, where the legendary Argonauts started off. It was founded in the mid-fifteenth century BC and flourished in the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BC, and consists of a large street lined with houses and workshops, enlarged and refurbished during three major construction phases. A large pottery kiln at the edge of the settlement and two large tholos tombs, probably for the local rulers, belong to the first phase (Late Helladic IIIA2). The early thirteenth century BC (Late Helladic IIIB1) saw the construction of a palace for the ruling class. The palace, unique in the region, was the centre of political, economic and religious power, and had commercial contacts with the known Mycenaean centres. It consists of two large 'megara', surrounded by smaller buildings and connected by an internal courtyard. The building was completely destroyed by fire at the end of the thirteenth-beginning of the twelfth century BC, while the entire settlement was abandoned without evidence for destruction at the end of the thirteenth century BC (Late Helladic IIIC). The site was not inhabited again until modern times.

V. Stais and C. Tsountas first excavated the Dimini in the early twentieth century BC. Lolling and Walters investigated the first tholos tomb in 1886, while the second tholos tomb, at the top of the hill, was excavated by V. Stais in 1901. N. Verdelis conducted conservation work of the Neolithic settlement in the 1950's. Excavation and conservation continued in 1974-1977 under G. Chourmouziadis, whose aim was to re-investigate the Neolithic settlement's architecture and particularly the use of the enclosures. Excavation of the Mycenaean township began in 1980 and continues under V. Adrymi-Sismani. The Neolithic settlement was conserved again in recent years and the archaeological site has been landscaped to suit visitors.
Author
Dr V. Adrymi - Sismani, archaeologist
 
 
Chronology
5th - 3rd millenium BC