Gigantic Hand of Hercules could be From the Tallest Marble Statue Ever Made
One glance at the giant hand is enough to recognize it was once part of a true masterpiece created by ancient builders. The hand belonged most likely to a massive statue of Hercules himself.
How and why the giant statue of Hercules was destroyed is unclear, but we can assume it was due to the region’s periodic catastrophic earthquakes.
There are many stories of Hercules, the Greek hero who was the son of Zeus. Whether he existed or not is unknown, but since he was worshipped in many temples all over Greece and Rome, one can suspect he was a real being.
The Temple Of Hercules, situated in the Forum Boarium on the eastern bank of the Tiber, is one of the oldest extant buildings in Rome, Italy.
Constructed between 162-166 CE during Marcus Aurelius’ Roman occupation of Amman’s Citadel, the temple is purported to be the work of the Greek architect Hermodoros of Salamina, who engineered a circular layout of 20 Corinthian columns orbiting around a central cylindrical stone block.
In ancient times, it was a huge place of worship. The great temple is larger than any in Rome itself.
Its portico faces east and is surrounded by six 33-foot-tall columns. Measuring 100-feet-long by 85-feet-wide with an outer sanctum of 400-by-236-feet, the fact that the rest of the temple remained unadorned by columns suggests to scholars that the structure was never completed, for reasons history has yet to reveal.
When archaeologists excavated the site, they discovered very few clues that could shed more light on why the mysterious and giant Temple of Hercules and the massive statue were destroyed. This abandoned place was once of great importance, but very little is known about its past.
The three gigantic fingers, one elbow, and some scattered coins have led archaeologists to conclude that these marble body parts belonged to Hercules himself a massive statue of Hercules himself. It is, therefore, logical to assume that the temple was also dedicated to him.
If the remarkable statue had survived, it would have measured upwards of 40-feet high, which would have placed it among the largest known marble statues to have ever existed.
The mighty statue of Hercules is gone, but the marble components of the Temple of Hercules have endured considerable deterioration over the two millennia.
In 1996, the Temple of Hercules was placed on the World Monuments Watch.
Tragic Loss: 2,500-Year-Old Olive Tree Burned to Ashes in Greek Fires
A 2,500-year-old ancient olive tree on the island of Evia was destroyed today in the ongoing wildfires consuming the region. The ancient tree was located in the olive grove of Rovia and was such an enduring symbol of the landscape that the ancient geographer and philosopher Strabo featured it in his writings.
The tree was large, with a trunk so wide ten people could fit along its diameter. The tree was fertile with olives all the way until it fell victim to the wildfire.
The tragic loss of the Evian tree was posted to Twitter by Apostolis Panagiotou, and the evocative image quickly gained over a thousand likes, with many Greeks leaving responses mourning the impact of the fires.
The ancient olive tree in Evia is one amongst many losses of the wildfires
The destruction of the treasured tree is just one of many losses experienced by the Greek people in Evia during the course of the wildfires.
In a statement that showcases the desperation and pain of the people of northern Evia, Giannis Kontzias, the mayor of Istiaia – Aidipsos, said that what the people are seeing now is ”the completion of a holocaust.”
”Truth be told, we could have saved much more,” he says. ”I’ve been up on the mountain from Wednesday at 2:30 PM making dramatic calls for more aircraft in the front that we managed to keep back for 30 hours.”
Kontzias described the dramatic turn of events when the wind changed direction and brought the fire to the northwest of Evia.
”The wind turned the fire towards the Municipality of Istiaia Aidipsos, multiplying the fronts,” he explains.
‘”We need more aircraft”
”I’m making a dramatic appeal (to the Greek authorities) to bring aircraft.”
”Very few of them arrived yesterday, but they were inadequate. Today, only seven of them are operating particularly near Artemisio,” the devastated mayor explains.
”One after the other our villages fall. One municipal unit after the other is being destroyed completely. What’s saved has been saved by volunteers and the soul of the residents of this land,” Kontizas noted.
”They remained the last ones to save something from their homes, something from which we’ll be able to hold onto in order to stay and live in this land.”
The day after
“Our children will never see the environment and our land in the same way we saw it,” the mayor stated. The mayor of northern Evia made a grim prediction. He stated that in order for this area of Greece to return to its former status, it will take decades.
”We’ll be struggling for decades to bring northern Evia back to what it used to be,” he says, adding that they owe it to this land to do the best they can.
”The day after will have both financial and environmentally disastrous consequences,” Kontizas notes.
The mayor thanked everybody for their love and assistance and made a pledge for anyone who can assist in any way to do so.
Archaeologists discover a 6th-century coin hoard in ancient Phanagoria
“Treasures are not often found,” explains Vladimir Kuznetsov, head of the Phanagoria archaeological expedition of the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “As a rule, they are evidence of catastrophic events in people’s lives, as a result of which the one who hid money or valuable items was unable to return and use their savings.
A rare find made by archaeologists in July this year is associated with a dramatic and mysterious page in the history of medieval Phanagoria – the capital of one of the earliest Christian dioceses in Russia.”
This was the third season of the Phanagoria expedition of the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The archaeologists are examining when the city was destroyed in a fire, which may have taken place as the result of an attack by Huns or Turks. Residential buildings, wineries, public buildings perished in the fire, and a large amount of ash, soot, fragments of burnt wooden floors of buildings, broken dishes and the remains of burnt grain in amphoras speak of a significant scale of the disaster. Finds associated with this event include a broken marble countertop and a baptismal font, which bear witness to the destruction of an early Christian basilica nearby.
In previous years, a gold coin of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (527 – 565) was found in the layer of fire. It made it possible to establish the date of the catastrophe: the second or third decades of the 6th century. Not far from this find, in a layer of conflagration, the treasure of copper coins of the 2021 season was found.
“The very context of his find speaks of the extraordinary circumstances under which he was hidden, of the sudden attack of enemies,” said Vladimir Kuznetsov. “In a hurry, a resident of Phanagoria hid a bundle with 80 coins in the throat of an old broken amphora that had turned up under his arm and covered the hole with earth.
Similar events took place elsewhere. For example, in the neighbouring town of Kepy, the owner of one of the houses managed to hide the treasure in the hearth, but he himself was killed by an arrow near it. And at the settlement “Volna1” the treasure of gold was wrapped in a rag and thrown into a utility pit, its owner managed to put part of the coins under a stone, and spilled the other on the floor of the house. In the city of Kitey, on the opposite side of the Kerch Strait, the stater treasure was hidden in a home stove.”
Phanagoria was part of the Bosporan Kingdom, a Greco-Scythian state located in eastern Crimea and the Taman Peninsula in the Black Sea region. The kingdom lasted for about 800 years before declining at the end of the fourth century AD.
As the researchers explained, according to the composition of the treasure, one can determine what money was in use in the internal market of the Bosporus in the 6th century.
These are copper staters of the Bosporan kings of the late III – first half of the fourth century. The last issue of the Bosporan coin was carried out in 341; later, no money was minted in the Bosporan. However, a huge mass of staters made of cheap copper-lead alloy continued to circulate in the Bosporus for several centuries. The role of “expensive” money was played by Byzantine gold: that is why the treasure of copper coins and the solidus of Justinian were found almost nearby.
Researchers believe that the unique finds are associated with turbulent historical events in the Bosporus in the sixth century when the Bosporus cities voluntarily became part of the Byzantine Empire.
The transition of the Bosporus from the rule of the nomadic Huns to the rule of Byzantium took place during the reign of Emperor Justin I in 518-527. Perhaps the first mention of the episcopal see in Phanagoria in 519 is connected with this event: the Phanagorian bishop John put his signature on the documents of the Patriarchal Synod in Constantinople, to which the Phanagorian diocese was directly subordinate.
The Byzantine writer Procopius of Caesarea noted that Kepa and Phanagoria were “taken and destroyed to the ground by the barbarians who lived in neighbouring lands.” It is customary to associate these events with one of the two fires of the 6th century, traces of which archaeologists have identified in Phanagoria.
Who and when destroyed Phanagoria in the 6th century? Some researchers associate the events described by Procopius of Caesarea with the nomadic Huns.
They defeated the Byzantine garrison in the city and killed the military leader (tribune). At the turn of the 520s and 530s, Emperor Justinian I dispatched a mercenary army, reinforced by the Goths. The city of Bosporus (Kerch) was returned to the rule of Byzantium. Perhaps at the same time, Kep and Phanagoria returned under the rule of Byzantium.
According to another version, the destruction of the cities of Kepa and Phanagoria, as reported by Procopius of Caesarea, took place already in the middle of the 6th century, when the Avars who fled under the pressure of the Turks approached the Bosporan Kingdom: a message about this event is found in Evagrius Scholastica’s “Church History”. The Turks themselves appeared in the region in the 570s.
In Phanagoria, as in other nearby cities, archaeologists have discovered two layers of 6th-century fires. The first, early layer of the conflagration, in which shells from throwing machines were found, testifies that in the first half of the 6th century Phanagoria was devastated and destroyed. These events are associated with the revolt against Byzantium of its vassal – the Hunnic leader Gord (Grod) in 528 or 534.
The second layer of the fire in Phanagoria dates back to the end of the 6th century and is associated with the events of 576 – the campaign of the Turks against the Bosporan Kingdom when most of the fortresses and small towns of the Kerch and Taman peninsulas were damaged.
“The gold coin of Justinian I found two years ago in Phanagoria serves as proof that the new treasure is associated with the second, late fire of the 6th century. But who exactly – the Avars or the Turks – destroyed the capital of the Phanagorian diocese remains unknown so far. The new treasure from Phanagoria is invaluable evidence of historical events and the economy of the early Middle Ages” added Kuznetsov.
A Greek Farmer Stumbled on a 3,400-Year-Old Tomb in His Olive Grove While Parking His Car
The Crete local was trying to park his vehicle when he accidentally unearthed the ancient Minoan grave. Sometime between 1400 and 1200 B.C., two Minoan men were laid to rest in an underground enclosure carved out of the soft limestone native to southeast Crete.
Both were entombed within larnakes—intricately embossed clay coffins popular in Bronze Age Minoan society—and surrounded by colorful funerary vases that hinted at their owners’ high status.
Eventually, the burial site was sealed with stone masonry and forgotten, leaving the deceased undisturbed for roughly 3,400 years.
Earlier this summer, a local farmer accidentally brought the pair’s millenia-long rest to an abrupt end, George Dvorsky reports for Gizmodo. The farmer was attempting to park his vehicle beneath a shaded olive grove on his property when the ground gave way, forcing him to find a new parking spot.
As he started to drive off, the unidentified local noticed a four-foot-wide hole that had emerged in the patch of land he’d just vacated. Perched on the edge of the gaping space, the man realized he’d unintentionally unearthed “a wonderful thing.”
According to a statement, archaeologists from the local heritage ministry, Lassithi Ephorate of Antiquities, launched excavations below the farmer’s olive grove at Rousses, a small village just northeast of Kentri, Ierapetra, in southeast Crete.
They identified the Minoan tomb, nearly perfectly preserved despite its advanced age, in a pit measuring roughly four feet across and eight feet deep. Space’s interior was divided into three carved niches accessible by a vertical trench.
In the northernmost niche, archaeologists found a coffin and an array of vessels scattered across the ground. The southernmost niche yielded a second sealed coffin, as well as 14 ritual Greek jars called amphorae and a bowl.
Forbes’ Kristina Kilgrove writes that the high quality of the pottery left in the tomb indicates the individuals buried were relatively affluent. She notes, however, that other burial sites dating to the same Late Minoan period feature more elaborate beehive-style tombs.
“These [men] could be wealthy,” Kilgrove states, “but not the wealthiest.”
Unlike many ancient tombs, the Kentri grave was never discovered by thieves, Argyris Pantazis, deputy mayor of Local Communities, Agrarian and Tourism of Ierapetra, tells local news outlet Cretapost.
In fact, the site likely would have remained sealed in perpetuity if not for the chance intervention of a broken irrigation pipe, which watered down the soil surrounding the farmer’s olive grove and led to his unexpected parking debacle.
“We are particularly pleased with this great archaeological discovery as it is expected to further enhance our culture and history,” Pantazis added in his interview with Cretapost. “Indeed, this is also a response to all those who doubt that there were Minoans in Ierapetra.”
According to Archaeology News Network, most Minoan settlements found on Crete are located in the lowlands and plains rather than the mountainous regions of Ierapetra. Still, a 2012 excavation in Anatoli, Ierapetra, revealed a Minoan mansion dating to between 1600 and 1400 B.C., roughly the same time period as the Kentri tomb.
This latest find offers further proof of the ancient civilization’s presence—as Mark Cartwright notes for Ancient History Encyclopedia, the Minoans are most renowned for their labyrinthine palace complexes, which likely inspired the classic Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
According to legend, Queen Pasiphae of Crete gave birth to the Minotaur, a fierce half-man, half-bull hybrid, after falling for a bull sent to Earth by the Greek god Zeus.
The Minotaur, doomed to an eternity spent wandering the halls of an underground labyrinth and killing anyone it encountered, was eventually defeated by the demigod Theseus, who relied on an enchanted ball of thread provided by the king’s daughter, Ariadne, to escape the maze.
Much of the Minoans’ history remains unclear, but Forbes’ Kilgrove reports that natural disasters, including the eruption of the Thera volcano, an earthquake and a tsunami, contributed to the group’s downfall, enabling enemies such as the Mycenaeans to easily invade.
Analysis of the excavated Kentri tomb may offer further insights into the Minoan-Mycenaean rivalry, as well as the Cretan civilization’s eventual demise.
Ancient Greek Pyramids: A Unique Phenomenon and an Archaeological Mystery
The so-called Greek Pyramids, also called the Pyramids of Argolis, are several frusta or truncated pyramidal shaped structures and “blockhouses”, located on the eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula in present-day Greece.
Although the structures are distinct in form and shape from typical Ancient Greek architecture, mention of the monuments in antiquity is scarce, with only the geographer Pausanias (AD 110-180) observing a single pyramidal monument (although associating Pausanias’s text with the Pyramids of Argolis is contested) in his Corinthiaka that states:
“Traveling from Argus to the region of Epidaurus, there is a building to the right that resembles very much a pyramid and bears relief carved shields of the shape of the Argolic shields.
In this place, Proetus had battled with Acrisius for the throne and they say that the battle ended without a winner; for this reason, they were later reconciled, as none could achieve a decisive victory.
It is said that this was the first time that men and armies equipped with shields clashed; for those that fell in this battle from both armies, since they were compatriots and even relatives, a common tomb was built in that place.”
Groups of possible pyramidal structures have been identified at Ligourio (Argolida), Kambia (Argolida), Viglafia (Lakonia), and Elliniko (Argolida), with the pyramid of Hellinikon at Elliniko being the best preserved and studied.
Dating of the monuments has been troublesome due to the lack of archaeological material, with previously disputed studies of ceramics from the Protohelladic II period dated to 2800–2500 BC, early thermoluminescence dating giving a range of 2500–2000 BC, but many proponents support the proposed construction during the Late Classical Hellenistic period, centred on the later 4th century BC.
Historical theories for the structures function have tried to establish an “Egyptian connection”, suggesting guard houses for Egyptian mercenaries, or burial practices that paralleled with the Ancient Egyptians, but these theories lack all credibility and without evidence.
The more likely theory looks at the structures’ presence of internal walls, small rooms, cisterns, the provision of a water supply, and internally fastened doors within the monuments, that Young (1957) and Fracchia (1985) proposed was for an agricultural function, possibly with a secondary function of providing a refuge in turbulent times.
Rare 20-million-year-old petrified tree measuring 62 feet tall discovered in Greece
A petrified tree 62 feet high complete with branches, leaves and roots has been discovered on the Greek island of Lesbos. It was found during salvage excavations at the site of roadwork in western Lesbos.
While the island is famed for its vast petrified forest, a national park, monument and designated UNESCO Global Geopark, most of the trees are trunks, either upright with their roots intact or fallen.
Trees with branches are rare — the last one before this was found in 1995 — and a tree of this scale with branches has never been found before.
The trees were mineralized and preserved in a series of massive volcanic eruptions that struck the northern Aegean 17 to 20 million years ago. The trees on the western part of the island were covered by volcanic lava and ash.
Heavy rains turned the ash into fast-moving mudflows that blanketed the forest. The subtropical forest of pines, oaks and Sequoia-like giants, plus leaves, fruits and roots were fossilized.
The latest discovery was preserved almost to its last leaf thanks to a coating of fine-grained volcanic ash which coated the whole thing and kept it intact in one piece exactly where it fell in the eruption. It was not moved or dragged by the mudflows.
It simply toppled over where it stood, was covered by a thick layer of fine ash and gradually turned to stone. Underneath it was a bed of fruit leaves, also preserved and mineralized by the volcanic ash. Nearby the excavation team unearthed a spectacular cache of 150 petrified logs one on top of the other in a single pit.
The discovery of an entire tree lying on a bed of leaves was not only unprecedented but down to pure luck. “Constructors were about to asphalt that part of the highway when one of our technicians noticed a tiny branch.
The road work stopped, we starting excavating and quite quickly realised we had chanced upon an incredible find,” said [University of the Aegean geology professor Nikolas] Zouros. “It will now form part of the open-air museum we intend to create.”
Geologists around the world have described the find as a breakthrough.
“We have a case of extraordinary fossilisation in which a tree was preserved with its various parts intact. In the history of palaeontology, worldwide, it’s unique” said the Portuguese palaeontologist Artur Abreu Sá. “That it was buried by sediments expelled during a destructive volcanic eruption, and then found in situ, makes it even more unusual.”
Because the road will still be built over the find site, the tree will have to be moved. The staff of the Natural History Museum of the Petrified Forest have been working assiduously for the past few weeks to complete the excavation of the tree and preserve it.
A custom splint has been wrapped around the trunk and branches to support them and ensure the tree remains intact. A metal grate has been built to transport the tree to an area 100 feet away where a protective shelter is being constructed for its display.
Bent Sword Found in 5th-Century Soldier’s Grave in Greece
Live Science reports that Errikos Maniotis of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and his colleagues have uncovered seven graves, including a 1,600-year-old soldier’s arch-shaped grave, in an early Christian basilica discovered in 2010 ahead of subway construction in northern Greece.
The soldier was buried with a shield, a spear, and a spatha, a type of long straight sword used from about A.D. 250 to 450, that had been bent. “Usually, these types of swords were used by the auxiliary cavalry forces of the Roman army,” Maniotis said.
The discovery of the folded sword was “astonishing,” because the soldier was buried in an early church, but the folded sword was part of a known pagan ritual, said project co-researcher Errikos Maniotis, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Byzantine Archaeology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.
Although this soldier, who was likely a mercenary, may have “embraced the Roman way of life and the Christian religion, he hadn’t abandoned his roots,” Maniotis told Live Science in an email.
The soldier’s burial is the latest finding at the site of a three-aisled paleochristian basilica dating from the fifth century.
The basilica was discovered in 2010, during an excavation ahead of the construction of a subway track, which prompted researchers to call the ancient building the Sintrivani basilica, after the Sintrivani metro station. The station is in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, which was an important metropolis during Roman times.
The basilica was built over an even older place of worship; a fourth-century chapel, which might be the oldest Christian church in Thessaloniki, Maniotis said.
In the seventh century, the church was damaged and only poorly renovated before it was eventually abandoned in the eighth or ninth century, Maniotis said.
During recent excavations, archaeologists found seven graves that had been sealed inside. Some of the graves contained two deceased individuals but didn’t have any artefacts. However, an arch-shaped grave contained an individual buried with weapons, including a bent spatha — a type of long, straight sword from the late Roman period (A.D. 250-450).
“Usually, these types of swords were used by the auxiliary cavalry forces of the Roman army,” Maniotis said. “Thus, we may say that the deceased, taking also into consideration the importance of the burial location, was a high-ranking officer of the Roman army.”
The archaeologists still have to study the individual. “We don’t know anything about his profile: age of death, cause of death, possible wounds that he might have from the wars he fought, etc.,” Maniotis said. However, they were intrigued by his folded sword and other weapons, which included a shield-boss (the circular center of a shield) and spearhead.
So far, the folded sword is the most revealing feature in the grave. “Such findings are extremely rare in an urban landscape,” Maniotis said. “Folded swords are usually excavated in sites in Northern Europe,” including in places used by the Celts, he said. This custom was also observed in ancient Greece and much later by the Vikings, but “it seems that Romans didn’t practice it, let alone when the new religion, Christianity, dominated, due to the fact that this ritual [was] considered to be pagan,” Maniotis said.
The bent sword is a clue that the soldier was a “Romanized Goth or from any other Germanic tribe who served as a mercenary (foederatus) in the imperial Roman forces,” Maniotis wrote in the email.
The Latin word “foederatus” comes from “foedus,” a term describing a “treaty of mutual assistance between Rome and another nation,” Maniotis noted. “This treaty allowed the Germanic tribes to serve in the Roman Army as mercenaries, providing them with money, land and titles. [But] sometimes these foederati turned against the Romans.”
The archaeological team recently found ancient coins at the site, so they plan to use these, as well as the style of the sword’s pommel, or the knob on the handle, to figure out when this soldier lived, Maniotis noted.
“The soldier’s armament [weapons] will shed light to the impact that the presence of the community of foreign mercenaries had in the city of Thessaloniki, the second greatest city, since the fall of Rome and after Constantinople, in the Eastern Roman Empire.”
Mosaic and cemetery
The discovery of the ancient basilica has revealed other ancient artefacts. Archaeologists led by Melina Paisidou, an associate professor of archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, have also excavated the building’s beautiful mosaic floor, Maniotis said.
The mosaic shows a vine with birds on its stalks, including the mythical phoenix with a halo that has 13 rays at its center. Only seven other depicted birds have survived, but the archaeological team posits that there were originally 12 birds, and that the mosaic is likely an allegorical representation of Christ and the 12 apostles, Maniotis said.
In addition, a discovery at the site in 2010 revealed about 3,000 ancient burials in Thessaloniki eastern cemetery, a burial ground that was used from the Hellenistic period (about 300-30 B.C.) until just before late antiquity (A.D. 600-700), according to Ancient Origins.
Shackled Skeletons Unearthed in Greece Could Be Remains of Slaughtered Rebels
In the Faliron Delta district of southern Athens, two mass graves containing 80 ancient bodies have been found. Young men’s bodies from the 7th century BC were placed side by side, their arms shackled over their heads.
One skeleton had an arrow stuck in its shoulder, which suggested the young men may have been murdered, prisoners. Researchers believe they may have been captured for being followers of ancient would-be tyrant Cylon of Athens.
The findings, presented by chief archaeologist Stella Chrysoulaki, were made when builders were preparing the ground for the new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC).
Given ‘the high importance of these discoveries,’ the council is launching further investigations, the culture ministry said.
Two small vases discovered amongst the skeletons have allowed archaeologists to date the graves from between 650-625 BC, a period of great political turmoil in the region,’ the ministry said.
The skeletons were found lined up, some on their backs and others on their stomachs. A total of 36 had their hands bound with iron. One of the men, the last one to be found in March, also had his legs tied with rope.
It remains a mystery as to why the men had their arms tied above their heads rather than behind their backs. Archaeologists found the teeth of the men to be in good condition, indicating they were young and healthy.
This boosts the theory that they could have been followers of Cylon, a nobleman whose failed coup in the 7th century BC is detailed in the accounts of ancient historians Herodotus and Thucydides.
Cylon, a former Olympic champion, sought to rule Athens as a tyrant.
But Athenians opposed the coup attempt and he and his supporters were forced to seek refuge in the Acropolis, the citadel that is today the Greek capital’s biggest tourist attraction.
The conspirators eventually surrendered after winning guarantees that their lives would be spared.
But Megacles, of the powerful Alcmaeonid clan, had the men massacred – an act condemned as sacrilegious by the city authorities.
Historians say this dramatic chapter in the story of ancient Athens showed the aristocracy’s resistance to the political transformation that would eventually herald Athenian democracy 2,500 years ago.
The skeletons were found in an ancient necropolis at around two and a half meters from the surface.
So far, only half of the Faliron Delta has been excavated so far.
The site served as a port for Athens in the classical age.
Archaeologists said the excavation will continue, and the culture ministry is set to make a decision on whether to build a museum on the site.