Malthi is the name of the northern spur of the mountain range of Ramovouni in northern Messenia. The village of Vasiliko is situated some kms northeast of Malthi. In 1926 Natan Valmin came to the region and was shown two tholos tombs which he excavated the same year. Later on a third tholos was identified, but it was destroyed before there was time to excavate it. The tholos tombs are situated just west of the Malthi acropolis, by the small village of Malthi (former Bodia). Tholos I was robbed and contained a mixture of Mycenaean pottery sherds and later material. The diametre of the circular chamber was 6.85 m and the height was 5.80 m. Tholos II was partly collapsed at the time of excavation and this tomb had also been robbed. Both tombs were obviously cut out from the cliff (according to Hope Simpson & Dickinson, A gazetteer of Aegean civilization in the Bronze Age, Vol I: The mainland and islands, 1979, 174) and were not built directly on flat ground as Valmin states. The next year Valmin excavated two more tholoi: one west of Kopanaki and another between Vasiliko and Bouga-Kallirrhoi. The results are published in Bulletin de la Société Royale des Lettres de Lund 1926-1927, 190 ff.

The same year, 1927, the excavation of the settlement on top of the acropolis started. Excavations continued in 1929, 1933 and 1934. During these years the entire settlement, which is encircled by a wall, was uncovered. The area within the wall measures 140 x 80 m. Valmin stated that the earliest habitation was Neolithic. This he called Dorion I. Dorion II was larger och would, according to Valmin, belong to the Early Bronze Age. The wall around the settlement was erected during Dorion IV in the Middle Bronze Age. This habitation continued down into Mycenaean times.

Valmin describes how Dorion IV was divided into three separate parts: the central area where the architecture seemed to be more of a monumental character and where there were workshops in the northern part, the area which runs along the interior of the wall, and the empty areas where there was no habitation.

A number of 47 graves were excavated in the settlement within the walls. They were situated beneath and between the buildings. They are either simple pitgraves or cist graves, the sides of which consisted of stone slabs or were built by smaller stones. Single burials were most common, although some of the graves held two individuals and some held several. Two of the graves held no human bones. Nine of the burials were adults and the rest were children. Valmin searched in vain for chamber tombs in the region during all the excavation campaigns.

The Swedish Messenia expedition: Excavation at Malthi.

Excavation at Malthi. The Valmin Archive.

It is now believed that the earliest habitation at Malthi cannot be dated earlier than the Middle Bronze Age. The pottery which Valmin called coarse ‘Adriatic Ware’ and which he found throughout the layers in the habitation beginning in the so-called Neolithic settlement, has proved to be typical for the local Middle Bronze Age in Messenia ((R.J. Howell i W.A. McDonald, ‘Excavations at Nichoria: 1972-1973’, Hesperia 44, 1975, 111). The encircling wall is now dated to the Late Helladic period (P. Darque, L’architecture domestique mycénienne. Thèse du III° cycle, Paris 1980, 32f.).

A building or part of a settlement dating to the Late Bronze Age was excavated in 1936 in the same area, where the two tholoi were excavated in 1926.

In 1929 Valmin travelled around Messenia and some of his observations are recorded in Études topographiques sur la Messénie ancienne, 1930. After his travels Valmin saw reason to return and conduct excavations at two archaeological sites which he had found being of special interest. One of the sites was a temple to the rivergod Pamisos in Hagios Floros, ca 5 km east of Messene. The finds from this excavation indicate that this cult place had been in use from Archic down to Roman times. The other site was Koroni in southeastern Messenia (the colony of the inhabitants from Asine in the Argolid). Just north of the town Valmin excavated a Roman mosaic in a room supposed to have been a larger complex: a villa or a gymnasium. Dionysos is the central motif of the mosaic.

Many of the finds from the various excavations conducted by Valmin and his colleagues were restored and put on display in the local museum of Vasiliki. This museum is now closed. The finds from his excavation are now in the Kalamata Museum.

The following excavations under the direction of Valmin are published in The Swedish Messenia Expedition, 1938:

  • The two tholos tombs of Malthi (Bodia)
  • The temple of Pamisos at Hagios Floros
  • The Roman mosaic at Hagia Triada close to Koroni.

Ann-Louise Schallin