|Summary:||Archaeologically important Early Bronze Age settlement.|
Early Bronze Age
Middle Bronze Age
Lerna is one of the largest (ca. 180 sq. m.) prehistoric mounds in S Greece and probably owed its importance to its position on the narrow strip of land between sea and mountains that formed the route from the Argolid to the S Peloponnese.
It is located in the marshy area on the Gulf of Argos (10 km S of Argos). Early Bronze Age Lerna had substantial fortification walls and a palace or administrative center in a central building referred to as the "House of Tiles." This was a large two-story building with terracotta rooftiles and several storage rooms where clay sealings were found. In Classical times the area was claimed as home of the Nereids, place where Herakles slew the Hydra and location of the entrance to Hades (through the Aleyonean Lake).
After a long period of Neolithic occupation (Lerna I and II) the site seems to have been deserted for a time before it was levelled off and reoccupied in the Early Helladic II period (Lerna III). The new settlement had a double ring of defense walls with gates and towers and a number of substantial buildings within. The largest building has been named the House of Tiles because of the unusual early occurrence of terracotta roofing tiles associated with the building. The walls of the large building are nearly 1 m thick and stairs indicate an upper story. The building was perhaps still under construction when the whole settlement was destroyed by fire.
In the Early Helladic III period (Lerna IV), the inhabitants (who supposedly destroyed the earlier settlement) covered the site of the House of Tiles with a low tumulus surrounded by a ring of stones, as though to mark off a sacred area.
In the Early Helladic III period Lerna was an open settlement of smaller buildings, some of them having an apsidal megaron floor plan. Bothroi, or "rubbish pits" were an unusual characteristic of this settlement. The Early Helladic III levels at Lerna produced, in addition to the typical pottery of that period, a few examples of a pottery type known as "Minyan" ware, which was sometimes wheel-made and is a common feature of the Middle Helladic period. The clearly defined Middle Helladic level at Lerna (Lerna V) follows without a break.
The settlement at Lerna continues to exist throughout the Middle Helladic period, but does not continue into the Late Helladic or Mycenaean period. At the end of the Middle Helladic period, 2 rectangular shaft graves were cut into the tumulus of the House of Tiles, indicating that the meaning of that monument had been forgotten.
Excavations: 1952-58, J. Caskey, American School of Classical Studies.