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These remarkable, and often beautiful, megalithic constructions are unique to Euboea—which in itself is an odd fact. There are over 20 of them which have been identified on the island, mostly in the areas of Mount Ochi and of Styra. They are characterised by their construction method which employs mas sive, relatively flat stone slabs, meticulously corbelled roofs, and monolithic door posts and lintels. Most are rectangular: some have windows and indented niches or shelves inside. They are mostly solitary, and intentionally panoramic; but at Palli-Lakka be low the acropolis on Styra, by contrast, they exist in a small group and in a more hidden position with limited visibility.
Their rarity and the remoteness of their sites have invited much speculation about both their date and purpose—ranging from those who wish to see them as prehistoric temples, to those who simply see them as sturdy animal pens. Buildings—as Ruskin observed—don’t tell lies, as writers often are prone to do. The architectural milieu from which these buildings emerge is undoubtedly the world of late Classical and Hellenistic constructional practice: it is sufficient to compare design and masonry—especially of the drakospito on the summit of Mount Ochi—with, say, the Hellenistic fortified complex of Aghia Triada on Amorgos, to see that they belong to the same ‘family’ and epoch. The corbelling of the roof is a result of the properties of the natural stone in the area where they are found: it easily splits into large flatschists, making a corbelled roof the most logical and easiest solution for covering an open space. The majority of the drakospita are in the vicinity of stone-quarries on mountain sides, where refuges were necessary for the workers who lived among the quarries. Those that are not found near quarries, would appear to have served for surveillance. Most of the artefacts found at the same sites confirm a 4th–3rd century bc date. While it is true that objects of the 6th century bc and earlier have also been found at these sites, this does not necessarily indicate a date for the constructions, but only good evidence that their site was also frequented before the buildings were erected.
An interesting similarity has been noted between the drakospita and certain stone constructions in Asia Minor—namely dwellings said to have been built by the Lelegians, probably in the late 5th century bc in a distinctive masonry which employs corbelled vaults, in the area of Syangela (Alazeytin) and Theangela (Etrim), near Halicarnassus/Bodrum in Turkey. ‘Lelegians’ are a people hard to define: they are generally considered to be pre-Greek predecessors of the Carians. They have left no inscriptions, and appear to have been considered a culturally inferior people to the Carians, whose servants they were. Strabo (Geog. XIII, 1.59) says that they served the Carians as soldiers and became ‘scattered throughout the whole of Greece, so that the tribe disappeared’. It is not impossible that some of them ended up on Euboea as quarry-workers, once again doing the heavy labour of social inferiors, and putting up constructions here in the only way they knew how.
Euboea Island, Greece
Kos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.