Crypt of “Macedonian Type” from the Necropolis of Nymphaeum

  • Nadia O. Gavrylyuk Institute of Archaeology, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Keywords: corbelled vault crypt, Nymphaeum, thalamos, protalamos, architectural details, “Macedonian type”, Macedonian tradition.


The purpose of the article is to present the history and the results of the corbelled vault crypt research of the burial mound no. 3 excavated by the Eastern-Crimean Russian-Ukrainian expedition of the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine near Chelyadinovo village in the Crimea in 2009—2010. The urgent work on this site was caused by a real threat of its complete loss due to the robbers’ intensive activity. There was also a risk of stealing architectural details “under the order” including painted elements.

The funerary structure was located in the north-western sector of the mound. It was intaken to the pit with a depth of 3.30 m, arranged in the embankment of an earlier barrow mound. The funerary structure was a corbelled vault crypt, consisting of a rectangular burial chamber with a double-sided covering, a small covered threshold and a ground entrance with a five-step stairway. Overall dimensions of the structure are 4.44 m in length, 1.84 m in width, 2.36—2.70 m in height. The funerary chamber module (the ratio of height to maximum length) — 0.93 m. We attribute the crypt to type III (crypts with dromos and threshold) according to classification of corbel vault crypts developed by E.A. Savostina (Savostina 1986, p. 47—48).

Rectangular in section stairway, 3.5 m in length, 1.5—1.3 m in width with five steps and vertical sides, was located in the north-western part of the crypt. The facade of the threshold was built of limestone blocks. The entrance height was 2.35 m, the width — 1.4 m. The front doorway was closed by a mortgage limestone slab (1.0 × 0.65 m). This slab is a fragment of a profiled cornice with an ornament of palmettes on a sima. The shelf of the cornice is decorated with an ornament of a complex meander (Ermolin 2010, p. 68, fig. 7, 1).

The doorway led to a rectangular in section threshold (prothalamos) of the crypt, limited by two front slabs. The threshold was covered by a stepped gable three-raws arch. The entrance to the burial chamber (thalamos) is located on the same axis as the stairway. It is slightly offset from the longitudinal axis of the burial chamber concerning to the space of the crypt. This allows us to assign a crypt from the burial mound 3 to the crypts of group A by E.A. Savostina (crypts with a displaced axis and the threshold width less than the width of the burial chamber). The entrance to the burial chamber is framed by antae of the equal sizes. They are supported by the front slab — an architrave of the entrance to the burial chamber and a front slab with grooves for fixing the arch, both of which are slightly installed with an inclination to the center of the doorway. They have profiled bases, a smooth square in section barrel with a Doric warrant chapiter. The antae are made of dense marble-like limestone solidrock. It is preserved a polychrome painting on both chapiters. The crypt of the mound 3 refers to the tomb with paintings according to a presence of polychrome paintings on antae.

The burial chamber is rectangular in section (internal angles are strictly 90 °) and oriented to the north-west — south-east (2.89 × 1.84 m). The height of the structure from the bottom to the top slab is 2.70 m. The burial chamber vault is a two-sided stepped, leaning on the rectangular base of the bottom row of the chamber walls and on the notched cuts kerfed through the overlapping slabs on both sides in the frontal and the same end slabs of the vault for each of the slabs of the second and third rows. The arch slabs approach one another in three ledges. The fourth layer consisted of four slabs, which closed the vault and formed the roof of the burial chamber. The space between the slabs is filled with a dry mixture of lime, crushed packing and limestone. All the vertical walls of the crypt in the burial chamber and the dromos are set on horizontally lying flat slabs. The floor of the burial chamber, like the threshold, is earthy. Traces of the burial are not fixed. The only find from the crypt is the handmade pan with horizontal handles of the 2nd century BCE, which has analogies in the handmade pottery of Nymphaeum.

The closest analogy is the crypt from the burial mound of the second group of the Tarasov burial mounds of 1883. Designing the portal with antae was noted in the burial mounds Bolshaya Blyznitsa 2, Melek-Chesmenskyi and the group of Tarasov burial mounds. The architectural details of secondary use from the crypt and their ornamentation are dated by the first half of the 3rd century BCE. The crypt itself, decorated with antae with polychrome ornamentation, which uses both geometric and floral styles, is dated by a later time — the second half of the 3rd — the beginning of the 2nd centuries BCE. Thus, the crypt, found in the western part of the Nymphaeum chora, complements the group of Bosporus corbelled vault crypts built taking into account the Macedonian traditions.

Besides the crypt, under the embankment of the burial ground no. 3 an eshara altar, destroyed main burial of the 5th—4th centuries BCE in the center of the burial ground, the construction of the 19th century CE in the eastern part of the mound, were found.


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