The ancient Kerameikos was on he north-west fringes of ancient Athens and extended both inside and outside the walls which now traverse the site of the excavations. In the centre of the site, very close to each other, can be seen the two most famous gates of ancient Athens, the Dipylon and the Sacred Gate. The area around these gates was the most ancient and largest cemetery known in Attica. It was
also the burial site of the citizens honoured by the city of Athens.
Kerameikos, according to the traveller Pausanias, was named after Kerames, a hero of the deme of Kerameis. But most probably the name is due to a settlement of potters on the banks of the Eridanos river. (Kerameikos: ceramic or having to do with ceramics or ceramists). The ancient demos of Kerameikes included an area much larger than the one excavated. It is believed that it streched from the northwest limits of the Agora to the grove named after the hero Academos.