1. Vrina Plain Cremation tomb in April 2007

2. Vrina Plain Cremation tomb post conservation in June 2010

3. Vrina Plain Cremation Tomb: plan and elevation (BF)

1. Introduction

'The substantial remains of a masonry tomb can still be seen on the Vrina Plain, situated on a slight rise some 300m to the east of the settlement nucleus. The ruin was first recorded by Ugolini, along with other funerary remains in the late 1920's, more or less in the same condition it is to be seen today. The tomb survived the 1960's clearance of the Plain, and since it's exposure it has been employed as a sheep pen and as a shelter for shepherds on the otherwise exposed plain. A consequent and highly noticeable deterioration in the tomb's physical condition since the mid 1990's prompted a drawn, photographic and measured survey, in part as a heritage management excercise.

The tomb consists of two elements: a vaulted chamber with a solid tower-like superstructure above. Any traces of facing stones, or plastered outer surfaces, have long since disappeared. The surviving structure measures 2.85m wide across the vault and 1.80m along it's length. The vault walls average 0.57m in thickness and the entire lower section is 1.95m high. Above this, the superstructure is 1.40m in diameter and 1.24m high; the tomb presently stands 3.19m above ground level. Below ground it appears to be constructed on very shallow foundations.

The Tomb chamber itself is quite well preserved. This is a vaulted space 1.57m long, 1.50m wide and 1.06m high. In the centre of the eastern and western walls are two semi-circular loculi for cinerary urns. Each measures 0.44 x 0.42 x 0.56m.Their bases are raised 0.15m from the floor of the chamber. Both the northern and southern walls have largely been demolished to permit it's use as a shelter, though enough remains to show that the southern wall was once continuous. The access to the tomb chamber must, consequently, have been from the north, that is, from the side facing the lake. The surface of the interior (the vault, the floor and the loculi) is entirely covered with a layer of plaster up to 20mm thick. Limescale (sinter) covers much of the remaining plaster and may have contributed to it's survival. This does, however, make it difficult to discern whether the interior was ever painted.' ( Andrew Crowson and Oliver Gilkes: The archeology of the Vrina plain: An Assessment.)

The Vrina Plain is a flat treeless expanse prone to fierce Spring and Autumn storms which arrive swiftly with heavy rains and extreme lightning and thunder so it is no surprise that this vaulted masonry structure has been used as a shelter by man and beast alike. Nearby there is a modern memorial to a shepherd killed by lightning.

For conservation purposes the structure was first examined in the early summer of 2007 and the following major facts were noted:

1.1. That a large piece of the masonry forming the upper western section of the vault was detached from the monument resulting in a substantial diminution of support for the 'tower-like superstructure'

4. Illustrates: (a) the distance from the main mass of the fragment, (b) the source of the fragment and (c) the fragment itself (June 2007)

There is nothing to explain the distance from the monument at which the fragment now rests.

1.2. Loculi to west and east both broken into, as was infill to north and south.

5. Openings to all points of the compass (June 2007)

1.3. Poor condition of interior plaster.

5. Interior plasterwork. (June 2007)

Substantial sections of the inyerior plaster work remain intact. Although there is no obvious evidence of polychromy this plaster constitutes an important historic detail.

2. Conservation Plan.

2.1. To replace missing core work to the vault to strengthen support for the masonry above. At first it was thought that we could simply replace the missing section but this was found to be to heavy to lift carefully into place with the available equipment. it was also felt that to replace this section withouth the use of stainless steel pins to fix it in place would probably recreate the original instability that had caused the loss in the first place.The missing section was left to lie and replacement core was constructed from scavenged stones and lime mortar. The rebuilding of this section was felt to be a structural necessity.

6. Work in progress to rebuild supporting vault (June 2007 René Rice pictured)

2.2. To Fill openings to north and south and to prevent further damage to loculi to east and westby covering openings. The south opening had some of the original wall material in place and therefore it was decided to complete the rest of this opening with similar masonry. Preventing ingress into the monument's interior had to be a priority of our work. Barriers had to be strong and materially undesirable to avoid theft. The North opening had no original material and it was deceided to fill this with a single layer of concrete blocks, rendered over with a sympathetic roughcast mortar. The loculi were filled with core stone to match the surrounding stonework. All progressed smoothly except for the blockwork which was destroyed partially once by inquisitive hands and had to be rebuilt.

2.2.1. (South)

7. Existing masonry in south opening (June 2007)

8. Beginning of masonry infill (on plastic seperation layer) (June 2007) (Albana Hakani pictured)

9. Interior of south opening infill (June 2007)

10. South opening infill complete (June 2007)

2.2.2. North

The north opening was filled with concrete blocks and rendered over with a roughcast lime mortar.

11. North opening blocked-in (June 2007)

12. North opening roughcast rendered (June 2007)

2.2.3. Loculi: east and west

13. Eastern loculi opening blocked (June 2007)

14. Western loculi opening blocked (June 2007)

2.3. Conservation of interior plasterwork.

Fragile plasterwork was consolidated by filleting and strengthening broken edges and grouting voids where necessary,

15. Plaster conservation (June 2007)

16. Conservator (Albana Hakani) working on the interior plaster of the cremation tomb. (June 2007)

3. Conclusion

The conserved monument must be monitored at regular intervals to check the integrity of the blocked openings and prevent continued ingress of sheltering persons and beasts.

17. Conserved Cremation Tomb June 2010