House of the Tiles

Remains of stairway.

The House of the Tiles is a monumental Early Bronze Age building (two stories, approximately 12 x 25 m) located at the archaeological site of Lerna in southern Greece.[1] It is notable for several architectural features that were advanced for its time, notably its roof covered by baked tiles, which gave the building its name.[1][2] The building belongs to the "corridor house" type.[3][4]



The building site was excavated by the American School of Classical Studies under the direction of John Langdon Caskey from the University of Cincinnati.[n 1]


The structure dates to the Early Helladic II period (2500–2300 BC) and is sometimes interpreted as the dwelling of an elite member of the community, a proto-palace, or an administrative center. Alternatively, it has also been considered to be a communal structure, i.e., the common property of the townspeople.[5] The exact function remains unknown due to a lack of small finds indicating the specific uses of the building.[5] The house had a stairway leading to a second story, and was protected by a tiled roof.[6] Debris found at the site contained thousands of terracotta tiles having fallen from the roof.[7] Although such roofs were also found in the Early Helladic site of Akovitika[8] and later in the Mycenaean towns of Gla and Midea,[9] they only became common in Greek architecture in the 7th century BC.[10] The walls of the "House of the Tiles" were constructed with sun-dried bricks on stone socles.[2]


Carbon-14 dating indicates that the House of the Tiles was finally destroyed by fire in the 22nd century BC.[7] Not long after the destruction, the place was cleared in such a way as to leave a low tumulus over the site.[7] The destruction of both the building and the building site was first attributed by John Langdon Caskey to an invasion of Greeks and/or Indo-Europeans during the Early Helladic III period.[11] In reality, the elaborate structure of the tumulus built by the Early Helladic III people over the ruins of the House of the Tiles indicates a "showing of respect for their predecessors that one would not expect of invaders of a different culture."[12]


  1. "John Langdon Caskey, Professor of Archeology". New York Times. The New York Times Company. 8 December 1981. CINCINNATI, Dec. 7— John Langdon Caskey, professor emeritus of classical archeology at the University of Cincinnati, died Friday of amyotrophic laterial sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. He was 72 years old. Dr. Caskey directed the American School of Classical Studies in Athens from 1949 to 1959. He led the excavation of Lerna, the legendary site of Hercules's conquest of the nine-headed monster, Hydra, and is credited with exposing the House of Tiles as a clue to early Helladic culture. The building, named for its roof of rectangular terra cotta slabs, is said to have been built in the second millennium B.C. It is about six miles south of the modern town of Argos, and is considered one of Greece's foremost neolithic and Bronze Age settlements, dating to 6,000 B.C. His discoveries in the excavation of the island of Kea led to a new study of Aegean beliefs and cult practices. On that Greek island, a temple and several statues of ancient deities were uncovered. Dr. Caskey headed the University of Cincinnati classics department from 1959 to 1972. He was the 1980 winner of the Gold Medal for Distinguished Archeological Achievement by the Archeological Institute of America.



  1. 1 2 Cline 2012, p. 202: "The House of the Tiles was named for the enormous quantity of fired clay roof tiles associated with the building. It was built of mud brick over a substantial stone foundation course (ca. 12 x 25 m), with traces of wood-sheathed doorjambs and stucco-plastered walls in some rooms. It was two stories high, as indicated by traces of stairways, and may have had several verandas upstairs, partially covered by a pitched roof, as suggested by Shaw (1990). The House of the Tiles was preceded by an earlier structure of similar type, House BG. Those buildings sometimes also incorporated elaborate clay hearths that are decorated with stamped-seal impressions."
  2. 1 2 Overbeck 1969, p. 5.
  3. Shaw 1987, pp. 59–79.
  4. Pullen 2008, pp. 36, 43 (Endnote #22): "A corridor house is a large, two-story building consisting of two or more large rooms flanked by narrow corridors on the sides. Some of those corridors held staircases; others were used for storage."
  5. 1 2 Overbeck 1969, p. 6.
  6. Overbeck 1969, p. 5; Shaw 1987, p. 59.
  7. 1 2 3 Caskey 1968, p. 314.
  8. Shaw 1987, p. 72.
  9. Shear 2000, pp. 133–134.
  10. Wikander 1990, p. 285.
  11. Caskey 1960, pp. 285–303.
  12. Coleman 2000, p. 106: "The people of EH III constructed an elaborate tumulus over the ruins of the EH II "House of the Tiles (Caskey 1960; 1965:144–145) showing respect for their predecessors that one would not expect of invaders of a different culture."


Coordinates: 37°33′04″N 22°43′06″E / 37.5512°N 22.7183°E / 37.5512; 22.7183

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