The Palace of Nestor was discovered and excavated by the American archaeologist C.W. Blegen in collaboration with the Greek archaeologist K. Kourouniotis, in 1939. Signs of human inhabitation on the hill of Ano Englianos are already attested since the Late Neolithic Era (4000 – 3100 BC). In the Middle Helladic period (2050-1680 BC) a settlement with a fortification wall was established. The palace complex consisted of four buildings. The oldest building – known as the Southwest building – is identified with the Palace of Nileos, Nestor’s father. The central building, now covered by a metal roof, is the famous palace of Nestor. On the eastern side of the building, there is the earliest palatial building, which was destroyed at the end of the 14th century BC.
The Palace of Nestor was a bi-level building with large courtyards, abundant storage spaces, private apartments, workshops, baths, stairwells and skylights, along with sophisticated drainage. The halls were decorated with remarkable wall paintings, while pictorial representations also decorated the palatial floors. The approximately 1000 clay tablets in Linear B script, which were brought to light during excavations in the wider area, confirm the site’s function as a financial, administrative, political and religious centre of Mycenaean Messenia.
The acropolis of Ano Englianos was not fortified contrary to other known Mycenaean citadels in mainland Greece which were surrounded by mighty cyclopean walls. The palace complex was destroyed in the early 12th century BC by fire, in a period of time that was characterized by a general agitation of the populace and while several uprisings took place in the control centres of the Mycenaean kingdoms. Two royal vaulted tombs were also found in the surrounding area, one of which was restored in 1957 by the Archaeological Service.
Fresco of hunter and stag, found in room 43 Linear B tablet from the palace at Hora Museum
In 1912 and 1926 two tholos tombs north of the Bay of Navarino were excavated. One contained three decorated jars and the other a collection of Early Mycenaean and Middle Helladic pots. A joint Hellenic-American expedition was formed with the Greek Archaeological Service and the University of Cincinnati.
Trial excavations of Epano Englianos were started on 4 April 1939. From the first day stone walls, fresco fragments, Mycenaean pottery and inscribed tablets were found. More than 600 Linear B script tablets were recovered in the first season of excavations. A systematic excavation was impossible throughout World War II, with excavations restarting in 1952.
From 1952 to 1966 the Palace was uncovered with areas around the acropolis being further explored. In the winter of 1960-61 the Greek Archaeological Service erected the protective metal roof over the central.
Vaulted Tomb of Ano Englianos
Near the palace of Ano Englianos lies the largest excavated Mycenaean vaulted tomb of the area. It was built in c.1550-1500 BC and was used throughout the 15th century, perhaps even until the early 13th century BC. It was a family tomb and it is estimated that it received at least 17 burials. Although it had been extensively looted in antiquity, the excavations brought to light interesting pottery and valuable small items. Some of them are now on display in the archaeological museum of Chora, while most of them are exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
Among those artefacts there are four golden plates in the shape of an owl and a golden seal depicting a griffin, the symbol of royal power. The presence of royal vaulted tombs in the area of Englianos proves that the hill was a large residential centre administering a wide territory in c.1500 BC.
The tomb was inspected in 1953 and its collapsed dome was restored in 1957 by the Greek Archaeological Service. To access the grave you ought to follow the main road Pyrgos – Methoni and you will find the tomb on your right hand right after your exit Chora.