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Kouloures at Phaistos

a Pleiades place resource

Creators: Ciara L Wisecup Copyright © The Contributors. Sharing and remixing permitted under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (cc-by).
Last modified May 12, 2022 09:43 PM History
Circular, stone, pit-like structures built into the ground at the edge of the West Court of the Minoan palace at Phaistos.

35.05123, 24.81377

architectural complex


The kouloures (singular kouloura) at Phaistos are ring-like sunken structures made of stone. They were so named by Arthur Evans from the Greek term for ring-shaped bread. They were built in the ground, with the tops of the structures barely above ground level. While appearing in other sites in twos or threes, the kouloures at Phaistos are four in number, although the second one was partially demolished in a later phase of the palace to make way for a road. The location of kouloures also vary from site to site. At Phaistos, the kouloures are located in the southern portion of the west court. The use of the kouloures has been debated heavily, with various theories accepted by different scholars. The first theory, proposed by the excavator himself, Arthur Evans, explained them as receptacles for the disposal of garbage. Now more scholars accept their interpretation as either cisterns or granaries, although both hypotheses have flaws. They were not waterproofed, as would be necessary for use as cisterns, and the climate as well as lack of protection from pests suggests grain storage on this scale to be unlikely. Other less widely-accepted hypotheses about their  function interpret them as religious offering spaces or tree pits. 

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Ciara L Wisecup, Jeffrey Becker, and Adam Rabinowitz, 'Kouloures at Phaistos: a Pleiades place resource', Pleiades: A Gazetteer of Past Places, 2022 <> [accessed: 27 February 2024]

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