Category Archives: GREECE

Genome Study Reveals Family Ties in Bronze Age Greece

Genome Study Reveals Family Ties in Bronze Age Greece

Bronze Age family harvesting grain, as depicted by artist Nikola Nevenov.

If you wanted to hang on to your land in Bronze Age Greece, you could do worse than marry your cousin.

A team of international researchers analyzing the genomes of ancient human remains has discovered that, unlike in other European societies of the period, first cousins in Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece frequently married each other.

Experts from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, together with an international team of partners, analyzed more than 100 genomes of Bronze Age people from the Aegean.

The team behind the study, published Monday in the scientific journal, Nature Ecology & Evolution, say their findings provide “exciting insights” into the social order of the Aegean Bronze Age.

By analyzing the DNA of people buried in a tomb under the courtyard of a house in a Mycenaean hamlet,on the Greek mainland, the researchers managed to reconstruct the family tree of its inhabitants from the 16th century BCE.

I used DNA analysis to find my birth family and it sent me across three continents

Archaeologist Professor Philipp Stockhammer, one of the study’s lead authors, told CNN: “We wanted to have a look at how were people buried together genetically related and about what you can learn about the relevance of the genetic relativeness for the structure of society.”

“We managed to construct the first family pedigree for the Mediterranean. We can see who lived together in this house from looking at who was buried outside in the courtyard.

“We could see, for example, that the three sons lived as adults in this house. One of the marriage partners brought her sister and a child. It’s a very complex group of people living together.”

Even more surprising was the discovery that around half of those living on the islands married their cousins, while the proportion on the mainland was about a third.

“It’s not 100%, but not everybody has a cousin,” Stockhammer said.

“People have studied thousands of ancestral genomes and there’s hardly any evidence for societies in the past of cousin-cousin marriage. From a historical perspective this really is outstanding,” he added.

Stockhammer and his colleagues believe such unions were down to economics, to prevent family land from being divided.

He explained: “All of the driving force is to unite the land within the family. If you look at what people were growing, it was grapes and also olives for olive oil, but both grapes and olives might need to be at a certain place for decades.

“If you marry in your family it means that you focus on staying in the same area.”

He said that, by contrast, in other parts of Bronze Age Europe, women often traveled hundreds of miles in order to marry. Resources in those areas would have been more plentiful, he explained.

“In Greece, there’s not much space to grow things and things that you plant need decades to grow,” he said.

“We can completely see the cousin to cousin marriage from the genomic evidence. It’s too many people doing it to say it’s pure chance – but it isn’t 100%. I would say it was quite a strict practice.

“It’s an unwritten rule because everyone has done it.”

Stockhammer explained the significance of the discovery, saying: “With this knowledge we are basically forced to rethink the social organizations in this period and societies that were behind these amazing works of art and architecture.

“It’s a society where we have written records about palace administrations but we are now able to say something about the normal people.”

City Under a City: Metro Reveals Thessaloniki’s Ancient Past

City Under a City: Metro Reveals Thessaloniki’s Ancient Past

City Under a City: Metro Reveals Thessaloniki's Ancient Past

The metro construction in Greece’s Thessaloniki has brought ancient ruins from the city’s life back in the 4th century BC to the surface. The excavation has brought to light Thessaloniki’s central 6th-century highway, a marble plaza, a fountain and a headless statue of Aphrodite.

Thousands of ancient finds such as coins, mosaics and statues have also been uncovered.

“Thessaloniki is unique in that from its foundation in the 4th century BC until today there is city under a city,” Tania Protopsalti, an archaeologist told Greek Reporter.

The city of Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon. An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessaloniki was the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. It was conquered by the Ottomans in 1430, and passed from the Ottoman Empire to Greece on Nov. 8, 1912.

Most of the findings relate to the Byzantine era. However, Protopsalti says that, as excavations continue, new findings from the Roman era come to the surface.

“Eventually we hope to reach the remnants of the city when it was founded in the Cassander-era,” the Greek archaeologist said.

She added that some wall paintings and small sections of floor mosaics from the 4th century BC have already been uncovered.

The headless statue of Aphrodite

The excavations, filling in gaps in the city’s long history for archaeologists, have focused on the site of Hagia Sophia where a central metro station is being built.

It was there where a central 6th-century highway and marble plaza, two of the most exciting finds, were uncovered.

“The discovery of the marble plaza located south of the central highway gave us an invaluable insight into the urban planning in the 6th century,” archaeologist Stavroula Tzevreni told Greek Reporter.

The marbles have been carefully removed to be reinstated when the metro works are completed at Hagia Sophia.

The square was surrounded by impressive buildings decorated by mosaics that remain in good condition.

They were found in the south entrance of the station Hagia Sophia and are believed to be part of a nearly 315 square meter urban villa dated to the first half of the 4th century AD to the 5th century AD.

Decoration of the mosaic floors consists of geometric patterns, while one includes a central medallion, possibly depicting Aphrodite. The mosaics will be extracted, cleaned and exhibited at the same station they were excavated in.

At the southeast end of the square archaeologists found a 15-metre (nearly 50-foot) fountain structure believed to be one of the largest in the Roman world.

Alongside the stone-paved highway, the Decumanus Maximus, the remains of mud-bricked workshops were uncovered where jewellers plied their trade — as they still do today, in blocks of flats above the subway dig.

Scheduled to be operational in late 2020, the €1.5-billion ($1.7 billion) Thessaloniki metro will at first have 13 stations and run a distance of 9.6 kilometres (six miles).

A future expansion is planned to include the city airport.

Possible Archaic Temple of Poseidon Discovered in Greece

Possible Archaic Temple of Poseidon Discovered in Greece

The ancient Greek historian Strabo referred to the presence of an important shrine located on the west coast of the Peloponnese some 2,000 years ago.

Remains of such an Archaic temple have now been uncovered at the Kleidi site near Samikon, which presumably once formed part of the sanctuary of Poseidon.

Researchers of the Austrian Archaeological Institute in collaboration with colleagues from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), Kiel University, and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Elis unearthed the remains of an early temple-like structure that was located within the Poseidon sanctuary site and was quite possibly dedicated to the deity himself.

The Mainz-based team from the JGU Institute of Geography headed by Professor Andreas Vött contributed to the investigative work with their drilling and direct push techniques.

Use of the direct push system to examine the subsoil near the ancient temple at Kleidi to obtain evidence of changes to the coast and landscape. The hill in the background shows the remains of the walls of the ancient fortress of Samikon above Kleidi.
The famous ancient sanctuary has long been suspected in the plain below the ancient fortress of Samikon, which dominates the landscape from afar on a hilltop north of the lagoon of Kaiafa on the west coast of the Peloponnese.
The excavations undertaken in the autumn of 2022 revealed parts of the foundations of a structure that was 9.4 meters wide and had carefully positioned walls with a thickness of 0.8 meters.
In connection with the uncovered fragments of a Laconic roof, the discovery of the part of a marble perirrhanterion, i.e., a ritual water basin, provides evidence for dating the large building to the Greek Archaic period.

Exceptional coastal configuration of the Kleidi/Samikon region

The form of the western coast of the Peloponnese peninsula, the region in which the site is located, is very distinctive. Along the extended curve of the Gulf of Kyparissa is a group of three hills of solid rock surrounded by coastal alluvial sediments in an area otherwise dominated by lagoons and coastal swamps. Because this location was easily accessed and secure, a settlement was established here during the Mycenaean era that continued to flourish for several centuries and was able to maintain contacts to the north and south along the coast.

Professor Andreas Vött of Mainz University has been undertaking geoarchaeological surveys of this area since 2018 with the aim of clarifying how this unique situation evolved and how the coast in the Kleidi/Samikon region has changed over time. For this purpose, he has collaborated in several campaigns with Dr. Birgitta Eder, Director of the Athens Branch of the Austrian Archaeological Institute, and Dr. Erofili-Iris Kolia of the local monuments protection authority, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Elis.

“The results of our investigations to date indicate that the waves of the open Ionian Sea actually washed up directly against the group of hills until the 5th millennium BCE. Thereafter, on the side facing the sea, an extensive beach barrier system developed in which several lagoons were isolated from the sea,” described Vött, who is Professor of Geomorphology at JGU.

However, evidence has been found that the region was repeatedly afflicted by tsunami events in both the prehistoric and historic periods, most recently in the 6th and 14th centuries CE. This tallies with surviving reports of known tsunamis that occurred in the years 551 and 1303 CE. “The elevated situation provided by the hills would have been of fundamental importance in antiquity as it would have made it possible to move on dry land along the coast to the north and to the south,” Vött pointed out.

In autumn 2021, geophysicist Dr. Dennis Wilken of Kiel University found traces of structures at a site at the eastern foot of the hill group in an area that had already been identified as of interest following previous exploration.

After initial excavation work under the supervision of Dr. Birgitta Eder in autumn 2022, these structures proved to be the foundations of an ancient temple that could well be those of the long-sought temple to Poseidon.

“The location of this uncovered sacred site matches the details provided by Strabo in his writings,” emphasized Eder, who is working for the Austrian Archaeological Institute.

An extensive archaeological, geoarchaeological and geophysical analysis of the structure is to be conducted over the next few years. The researchers hope to establish whether it has a specific relationship with a coastal landscape that is subject to extensive transformation. Hence, on the basis of the geomorphological and sedimentary evidence of the recurrent tsunami events here, the geomythological aspect is also to be investigated.

It seems possible that this location may have actually been explicitly selected for the site of the Poseidon temple because of these extreme occurrences. After all, Poseidon, with his cult title of Earthshaker, was considered by the ancients to be responsible for earthquakes and tsunamis.

Natural Hazard Research and Geoarchaeology team at JGU studies the processes of coastal change and extreme wave events

For the past 20 years, the Natural Hazard Research and Geoarchaeology group at Mainz University, headed by Professor Andreas Vött, has been examining the development of the coast of Greece over the last 11,600 years. They particularly focus on the western side of Greece from the coast of Albania opposite Corfu, the other Ionian Islands of the Ambrakian Gulf, the western coast of the Greek mainland down to the Peloponnese and Crete. Their work involves identifying relative sea level changes and the corresponding coastal changes . Another core feature of their investigations is the detection of extreme wave events of the past, which in the Mediterranean mainly take the form of tsunamis, and the analysis of their impact on coasts and the communities living there.

Innovative direct push sensing – a new technique in geoarchaeology

Based on sediment cores that document vertical and horizontal aberrations in depositional layers, the JGU team is able to posit scenarios of what changes occurred along the coasts and within the landscape.

The group now has an archive of some 2,000 core samples obtained mainly in Europe. Moreover, since 2016, they have been using an innovative direct push technique to investigate the underground. Direct push sensing involves using hydraulic pressure to force various sensors and tools into the ground to collect sedimentological, geochemical, and hydraulic information on the subsurface.

The Institute of Geography at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is the only institution of its kind in Germany that has the necessary equipment at its disposal.

Vatican Will Return Parthenon Sculptures to Greece

Vatican Will Return Parthenon Sculptures to Greece

Pope Francis will send back to Greece the three fragments of the Parthenon Sculptures that the Vatican Museums have held for two centuries, in the latest case of a Western museum bowing to demands for restitution of artifacts to their countries of origin.

Pope Francis meets Archbishop of Athens and leader of Greece’s Orthodox Church, Ieronymos II at the Orthodox archbishopric in Athens, Greece, on Dec. 4, 2021. Pope Francis has decided to send back to Greece the three fragments of Parthenon Sculptures that the Vatican Museums have held for centuries, the Vatican announced Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. The Vatican termed the gesture a “donation” from the pope to His Beatitude Ieronymos II, the Orthodox Christian archbishop of Athens and all Greece, “as a concrete sign of his sincere desire to follow in the ecumenical path of truth.”
Vatican Will Return Parthenon Sculptures to Greece
The marble head of a young man, a tiny fragment from the 2,500-year-old sculptured decoration of the Parthenon Temple on the ancient Acropolis, is displayed during a presentation to the press at the new Acropolis Museum in Athens on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008. The Vatican announced, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008 that Pope Francis has decided to send back to Greece this and other two fragments of Parthenon Sculptures that the Vatican Museums have held for two centuries.

In announcing the decision Friday, the Vatican termed the gesture a “donation” from Francis to His Beatitude Ieronymos II, the Orthodox Christian archbishop of Athens and all Greece, and said it was “a concrete sign of his sincere desire to follow in the ecumenical path of truth.”

The return, which is expected to still take some time to execute, is likely to add further pressure on the British Museums, which has refused decades of appeals from Greece to return its much larger collection of Parthenon sculptures, which has been a centerpiece of the museum since 1816.

The 5th century B.C. sculptures are mostly remnants of a 160-meter-long (520-foot) frieze that ran around the outer walls of the Parthenon Temple on the Acropolis, dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom. Much of the frieze and the temple’s other sculptural decoration was lost in a 17th-century bombardment, and about half the remaining works were removed in the early 19th century by a British diplomat, Lord Elgin.

Aside from the British Museums, fragments have ended up in museums around Europe, and recently a small museum in Sicily decided to return its lone fragment to Greece in a loan that Greek authorities hope will be extended indefinitely.

The Vatican’s three fragments include a head of a horse, a head of a boy and a bearded male head. The head of the boy had been loaned to Greece for a year in 2008.

Greece’s Culture Ministry said it welcomed the pope’s donation, which it said followed a request by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

The decision helps Greek efforts for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum “and their reunification with those on display in the Acropolis Museum,” a ministry statement said. The Acropolis Museum, for its part, also welcomed Francis’ gesture.

The Vatican statement suggested the Holy See wanted to make clear that it’s donation was not a bilateral state-to-state return, but rather a religiously inspired donation from a pope to a primate.

The intent may be to avoid a precedent that could affect other priceless holdings in the Vatican Museums, amid broader demands from Indigenous groups and colonized countries for Western museums to return looted artifacts, and artworks and material culture obtained under questionable circumstances during colonial times.

In the case of the Vatican Museums, Indigenous groups from Canada have made clear they want the Holy See to return artifacts sent by Catholic missionaries to the Vatican for a 1925 exhibition and are now part of its ethnographic collection.

Jos van Beurden, who administers the “Restitution Matters” Facebook group that tracks the global restitution debate, suggested the use of the term “donation” for specifically religious purposes and “not a government to government affair” was deliberate and could inspire other groups to seek the return of items on similar grounds.

“Does this offer a chance to a claim of an Ethiopian diaspora group in the USA for the return of hundreds of ancient manuscripts looted from the Debre Libanos Monastery by the Italian fascist Enrico Ceruli during Italy’s occupation of Ethiopia?” he asked. “Or to the Ethiopian claim for eleven Tabots in the British Museums?”

He was referring to the 11 plaques that are a foundational part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and have been the subject of repeated appeals from Ethiopian patriarchs and others to the British Museum for restitution.

According to the Museum Association, the plaques were looted by the British in an 1868 battle but have never been displayed or photographed in recognition of their sanctity.

The British Museum recently pledged not to dismantle its Parthenon collection, following a report that the institution’s chairman had held secret talks with Greece’s prime minister over the return of the sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles.

The Parthenon was built between 447-432 B.C. and is considered the crowning work of classical architecture. The frieze depicted a procession in honor of Athena.

Francis last met with Ieronymos in 2021 in Athens where he issued an appeal for greater unity between Catholics and Orthodox. At the time, Francis “shamefully” acknowledged the “mistakes” that the Catholic Church had inflicted on others over the centuries, actions which he said “were marked by a thirst for advantage and power.”

Babylonians used the Pythagorean theorem 1,000 years before it was ‘invented’ in ancient Greece

Babylonians used the Pythagorean theorem 1,000 years before it was ‘invented’ in ancient Greece

Babylonians used the Pythagorean theorem 1,000 years before it was 'invented' in ancient Greece
The tablet was used by a surveyor to accurately divide up the land.

A 3,700-year-old clay tablet has revealed that the ancient Babylonians understood the Pythagorean theorem more than 1,000 years before the birth of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who is widely associated with the idea.

The tablet, known as Si.427, was used by ancient land surveyors to draw accurate boundaries and is engraved with cuneiform markings which form a mathematical table instructing the reader on how to make accurate right triangles. The tablet is the earliest known example of applied geometry.

A French archaeological expedition first excavated the tablet, which dates to between 1900 and 1600 B.C in what is now Iraq in 1894, and it is currently housed in the Istanbul Archeological Museum. But it is only just now that researchers have discovered the significance of its ancient markings.

“It is generally accepted that trigonometry — the branch of maths that is concerned with the study of triangles — was developed by the ancient Greeks studying the night sky,” in the second century B.C., Daniel Mansfield, a mathematician at the University of New South Wales in Australia and the discoverer of the tablet’s meaning, said in a statement.

“But the Babylonians developed their own alternative ‘proto-trigonometry’ to solve problems related to measuring the ground, not the sky.”

According to Mansfield, Si.427 is the Old Babylonian period’s only known example of a cadastral document, or plan surveyors used to define land boundaries. “In this case, it tells us legal and geometric details about a field that’s split after some of it was sold off,” Mansfield said.

The tablet details a marshy field with various structures, including a tower, built upon it. The tablet is engraved with three sets of Pythagorean triples: three whole numbers for which the sum of the squares of the first two equals the square of the third. The triples engraved on Si.427 are 3, 4, 5; 8, 15, 17; and 5, 12, 13. These were likely used to help determine the land’s boundaries.

The tablet’s significance went unrecognized for more than 100 years until it was tracked down.

Though the tablet does not express the Pythagorean theorem in the familiar algebraic form it’s expressed in today, coming up with those triples would have required understanding the general principle that governs the relationship between the length of the sides and the hypotenuse.

In 2017, Mansfield had discovered a tablet from the same period, named Plimpton 322, which he identified as containing another trigonometric table. But it wasn’t until he saw the triples on Si.427 that he was able to piece together that the ancient Babylonians were using rudimentary trigonometric theory to split up parcels of land.

Si.427 is thought to pre-date Plimpton 322 — and may have even inspired it, Mansfield said.

“There is a whole zoo of right triangles with different shapes. But only a very small handful can be used by Babylonian surveyors. Plimpton 322 is a systematic study of this zoo to discover the useful shapes,” Mansfield said, referring to the fact that different types of right triangles can have different interior angles.

“This is from a period where land is starting to become private — people started thinking about the land in terms of ‘my land and your land’, wanting to establish a proper boundary to have positive neighbourly relationships. And this is what this tablet immediately says. It’s a field being split, and new boundaries are made.”

Although the reasons behind the calculations of land boundaries on the tablet aren’t entirely clear, Si.427 does mention a dispute over date-palms on the border between the properties of a prominent individual called Sin-bel-apli and a wealthy female landowner, according to Mansfield. “It is easy to see how accuracy was important in resolving disputes between such powerful individuals,” he said.

Even though 1,000 years would pass between the creation of the tablets and the birth of Pythagoras of Samos in 570 B.C. — leading to the formalized Pythagorean rule students are taught in school today — experts have long known that the Greeks inherited mathematical teachings from Egyptians, and the Egyptians in turn from the Babylonians.

What is surprising to Mansfield, however, is the level of theoretical sophistication the tablets reveal the ancient Babylonians to have had at such an early stage of human history.

“Nobody expected that the Babylonians were using Pythagorean triples in this way,” he said. “It is more akin to pure mathematics, inspired by the practical problems of the time.”

Roman-Era Odeon Uncovered in Crete

Roman-Era Odeon Uncovered in Crete

Roman-Era Odeon Uncovered in Crete
Ancient odeons like this one in Crete were used for lectures, literary and musical contests, or theatrical performances.

Tucked into a mountain-ringed cove in southwest Crete are the ruins of Lissos, an ancient town whose archaeological remains are accessible only by sea or a long hike. Because of its isolation, Lissos had not been investigated by archaeologists for several decades. New work at Lissos, though, has uncovered an odeon, similar to a modern auditorium and indicative of the prosperity of the town.

Previous research showed that Lissos was inhabited long before its name made it into history books in the fourth century B.C. Its location across the Mediterranean Sea from Cyrene, a major ancient Greek city in present-day Libya, likely meant that Lissos was an important stop on Mediterranean trade routes.

Structures from various time periods at Lissos are relatively well preserved, including a unique temple to Asclepius, the ancient Greek god of medicine; a residential area; an impressive cemetery with two-story tombs; Roman baths; and Christian churches.

Archaeologists have now added an odeon to this list of structures following the first excavation at Lissos in more than half a century.

Katerina Tzanakaki, deputy head of the Department of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and Museums at the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chania, directed the new project and told Live Science in an email that odeons “were used for lectures, literary and musical contests or theatrical performances.” 

During excavations, archaeologists found part of the odeon’s stage, 14 rows of seats and two vaulted side chambers.

In the first phase of the odeon’s excavation, Tzanakaki and her team found part of the stage, 14 rows of seats and two vaulted side chambers.

The odeon dates to the Roman period, roughly the first to fourth centuries A.D., a time when the sanctuary to Asclepius at Lissos was transformed into a political centre with a new mosaic floor and portraits of the Roman emperors Tiberius and Drusus. 

Unfortunately, the odeon was heavily damaged in antiquity by large falling boulders, likely as the result of a powerful earthquake in A.D. 365.

Jane Francis, a classical archaeologist at Concordia University in Montreal who was not involved in this project, explained in an email to Live Science that “a tsunami with destructive force as far away as Alexandria, Egypt, was associated with the earthquake.

The whole site of Lissos was uplifted by several meters, so the town would have been larger than today and the theatre thus closer to the coast.”

The ancient ruins of Lissos in Crete are accessible only by boat or a lengthy hike.
The new excavation is the first one at Lissos in more than half a century.

As the odeon was adjacent to the city center, Tzanakaki thinks it also might have operated as a bouleuterion, a building for meetings of the city council. Francis and her husband, George W. Harrison, a classical archaeologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, told Live Science by email that the size and date of the building mean that it was most likely an odeon, but the fact that “it was designed and used as a covered theatre does not preclude secondary use as a council house.”

While the precise definition of the newly uncovered building may have to wait for future work, “the discovery of a public service building at a central point of the ancient city, near the temple to Asclepius, adds new information to the archaeological and historical horizon of the area,” according to a translated statement from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports. Francis and Harrison agree that the discovery is rare. “There aren’t many well-preserved theatres on Crete and even fewer bouleuteria,” they said.

Future work will help Tzanakaki determine whether there was an outside wall supporting the odeon, and that finding will influence the restoration work. In the meantime, the archaeological site of Lissos remains open to the public; it is accessible by a short boat trip or a two-hour hike from the nearby town of Sougia.

Stone spheres could be from Ancient Greek board game

Stone spheres could be from Ancient Greek board game

Archaeologists from the University of Bristol have suggested that mysterious stone spheres found at various ancient settlements across the Aegean and Mediterranean could be playing pieces from one of the earliest ever board games.

There has been quite a lot of speculation around these spheres found at sites on Santorini, Crete, Cyprus, and other Greek Islands with theories around their use including being for some sort of sling stones, tossing balls, counting/record-keeping system or as counters/pawns.

Previous research by the same team from the University of Bristol indicated that there was variability in sphere size within specific clusters and collections of spheres.

Groups of spheres from Akrotiri.

Following on from this the team wanted to explore potential patterning within these sphere concentrations, to help give an insight into their potential use. 

The latest study published this week in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports by Drs Christianne Fernée and Konstantinos Trimmis from the University of Bristol’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology examined common features on 700 stones – which range from around 4,500 to 3,600 years old – found at the Bronze Age town of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini.

The stones, which are smaller than golf balls, are in various colours and made from different materials. The analysis put the stones into two groups larger stones and smaller ones. In addition, in Akrotiri and in other settlements across the Aegean there are stone slabs with shallow cup marks where the spheres could have sat or been placed.

Dr Ferneé said: “The most important finding of the study is that the speres fit two major clusters (one of smaller and one of larger stones).

This supports the hypothesis that they were used as counters for a board game with the spheres most possibly have been collected to fit these clusters rather than a counting system for which you would expect more groupings.”

If these spheres are in-fact part of a boardgame, they will be one of the earliest examples, along with similar examples from the Levant and Egypt, such as the Egyptian Mehen and Senet.

Dr Trimmis added: “The social importance of the spheres, as indicated by the way they were deposited in specific cavities, further supports the idea of the spheres being part of a game that was played for social interaction. This gives a new insight into the social interaction in the Bronze Age Aegean.”

The next stage of the research is to apply a similar methodology to the slabs to see if there is clustering in the cup marks and trying to associate the spheres and slabs together. The team also hope to use artificial intelligence techniques to determine how the game was actually played.

The Basilica cistern, which is said to have the sarcophagus of Medusa or the Mysterious Snake Woman, was restored

The Basilica cistern, which is said to have the sarcophagus of Medusa or the Mysterious Snake Woman, was restored

The Basilica cistern, which is said to have the sarcophagus of Medusa or the Mysterious Snake Woman, was restored

The Basilica Cistern, one of the magnificent ancient structures of Istanbul, was restored. Besides being the greatest work of the Roman period, the cistern is the focus of interesting narrations.

The two Medusa heads, used as supports under the two columns at the northwest end of the cistern, are considered the reason why the cistern is mentioned in strange rumours, except that it is a great work of the Roman period.

The Basilica Cistern is located southwest of Hagia Sophia. This large subterranean water reservoir was built for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565), and is known as the “Yerebatan Cistern” among the public due to the buried marble columns. It is also known as Basilica Cistern since there used to be a basilica at the location of the cistern.

In 2017, Istanbul Municipality started restoration work on the Basilica Cistern. Istanbul Municipality President Ekrem İmamoğlu announced on his Twitter account that the restoration work, which lasted for 4 years, has ended and the visits to the Basilica Cistern will begin at the weekend.

The entrance and exit sections of the Basilica Cistern, which have not undergone extensive restoration work for 1,500 years, were arranged.

Due to the large number of people who wanted to visit the cistern and the narrowness of the entrance area, the visitors were forming long queues at the gate. The restoration covered the entrance area with glass eaves and a waiting area was made. Necessary plan changes were made in the exit section of the cistern, and a suitable and useful area was created for the building.

The Basilica Cistern is located in a rectangular area 140 meters long and 70 meters wide. The building, which has a water storage capacity of approximately 100,000 tons in an area of 9,800 m2, is accessible by a 52-step stone staircase.

There are 336 columns, each 9 meters high, inside the cistern. The columns are 4.80 meters long, forming 12 rows of 28 columns each.

The majority of the columns, most of which are understood to have been compiled from ancient structures and sculpted of various kinds of marble, are composed of a single part and one of them is composed of two parts. The head of these columns bears different features in parts. 98 of them reflect the Corinthian style and part of them reflect the Dorian style.

The restoration work of the Basilica Cistern took 4 years.

The two Medusa heads, used as supports under the two columns at the northwest end of the cistern, are considered the reason why the cistern is mentioned in strange rumours, except that it is a great work of the Roman period.

The fact that the structure from which the Medusa heads were taken is not known is a very remarkable detail. The researchers often consider that it has been brought for being used as support to the column at the time of construction of the cistern.  However, this has not prevented myths about the heads of Medusa.

During the research on the Medusa heads in the Basilica cistern, some documents mentioned in Kara Kaplı, a diary kept by Sultan Abdülhamit II, were found. These documents in Kara Kaplı have carried the Medusa narrative to a very different dimension.

In 1456, a delegation of Italian origin income from Venice to meet with Fatih Sultan Mehmet. They demand to meet with the Sultan, but the Sultan assigns the grand vizier to meet with the delegation. The delegation tells the vizier about the treasure in the Basilica Cistern, but they say that they can only tell the Sultan the location of the treasure.

Medusa heads, Basilica Cistern

The subject attracts Sultan’s attention and he agrees to meet with a member of the delegation. The chosen representative tells the Sultan that the treasure in the Basilica Cistern is not a material thing, but a corpse. The committee, which offered a lot in return for this corpse and the sarcophagus (coffin) in which it was found, could not get what it wanted. According to what is mentioned in Kara Kaplı, this delegation is a member of a paganist sect.

After Fatih Sultan Mehmet, Abdulhamit Han took a close interest in the Medusa sarcophagus. When a delegation was sent to Abdülhamit Han to discuss this issue several times, the Sultan’s interest in Medusa increased and he asked for research on this subject. Abdülhamit Han, who decided to take out the sarcophagus in line with the information learned from the research and the delegations, and the people he assigned in this regard, find the sarcophagus in one of the corridors of the Basilica Cistern.

Inside the sarcophagus is the deteriorated mummy of a terrifying creature. The head of this creature resembles a human head, but with its entire body curves, it resembles a giant snake. This sarcophagus is taken under protection by the order of the Sultan. It is decided that the sarcophagus, which is wanted to be hidden from the public first, will be brought to light later on the condition that its cover is not removed.

The news of the sarcophagus of Medusa was published in Resimli Gazeta.

One day, a child entered one of the corridors and saw the corpse inside and said to the people of Istanbul, “I saw Şahmeran!” event is heard. This sarcophagus weighing tons is brought to light with great difficulty and taken to the courtyard of Fatih Mosque and shown to the public for a short time.

By order of Abdülhamit Han, the photograph of the corpse was taken and published in the newspapers of that period. Today, there is no trace of the newspapers in which the photographs of this sarcophagus were published.

Although it is known that many foreigners are after the Medusa sarcophagus, it is also said that the delegations that came to the Sultan held rituals around this sarcophagus for years. It is a matter of curiosity whether these delegations have anything to do with the confiscation of the newspapers and the cover-up of the event.

The news is titled “Our Sultan has found Medusa”.

The legend of Şahmeran: The legend tells about the great love of Şahmeran, a half-snake half-human woman, with Tahmasp. He mentions that Şahmeran is hidden in a cave, that he knows the secret of the world and that the one who eats his flesh will be healed. Those who seek Şahmeran for the health of the sick sultan find him thanks to Tahmasp and at the end of the legend, the vizier kills Şahmeran. Although it is not known what happened to Şahmeran’s body after he died, Tahmasp may have hidden Şahmeran’s body in a sarcophagus.

Perhaps we will never find out if Şahmeran and Medusa are the same women. However, these legends, which have been going on for centuries, will continue to circulate centuries later.