Category Archives: GREECE

Urartian noblewoman buried with the jewelry found in the 2,750-year-old necropolis of Çavuştepe castle

Urartian noblewoman buried with the jewelry found in the 2,750-year-old necropolis of Çavuştepe castle

Greek archaeologists have discovered a virtually intact grave of an ancient noblewoman buried with her golden jewellery at a Roman burial monument on the island of Sikinos.

Her name, according to a burial inscription, was Neko – or using the Greek alphabet.

The box-shaped grave was found untouched in the vault of the Episkopi monument, a rare burial memorial of the Roman era, which was later turned into a Byzantine church and a monastery.

Greek archaeologists have discovered a virtually intact grave of an ancient noblewoman buried with her golden jewellery at a Roman burial monument on the island of Sikinos. Her name, according to a burial inscription, was Neko

Golden wristbands, rings, a long golden necklace, a female figure carved cameo buckle, glass, and metal vases, and fragments of the dead woman’s clothes were found in the grave.

The well-preserved mausoleum on the tiny island, in the Cycladic group southeast of Athens, was likely to have been constructed to shelter the grave, archaeologists said.

‘We were unexpectedly lucky,’ Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades Dimitris Athanassoulis told Reuters on Monday. ‘This is Neko’s mausoleum.’

‘It’s very rare. A monument, one of the Aegean’s most impressive, has got an identity. 

The box-shaped grave was found untouched in the vault of the Episkopi monument, a rare burial memorial of the Roman era, which was later turned into a Byzantine church and a monastery

‘We now have the person for whom the building was built, we have her remains, her name.’

Despite attacks by grave robbers in ancient times and the building’s various uses through the centuries, Neko’s grave was found intact mainly because it was well hidden in a blind spot between two walls in the basement of the building, Athanassoulis said.

He said that experts thought Neko had links to the island but it was not clear whether she was actually from Sikinos.

‘We are now trying to find out more about her,’ he said. ‘We are still at the beginning.’ 

2,500-Year-Old Lost City Atop a Greek Mountain Peak discovered by archaeologists

2,500-Year-Old Lost City Atop a Greek Mountain Peak discovered by archaeologists

A team of archaeologists working in Greece has made a sensational discovery that can lead to a new understanding of the ancient world.

The city’s acropolis is barely visible during a cloudy day on the Thessalian plains.

An international group of researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden announced last month that they had found the ruins of a 2,500-year-old metropolis buried atop the Strongilovoúni hill on the great Thessalian plains.

The unknown city, located near the village of Vlochos in central Greece, is believed to have been a metropolis according to the extent of the ruins found there, rather than an obscure settlement on a mountain.

Fortress walls, towers and city gates are clearly visible from the air.

“Most striking of the visible remains at the site are the well-preserved fortifications, at points still 8 feet high, but the lower slopes below the hill show clear indications of being the location of an extensive urban settlement, now covered by silt and sediment from the nearby river Enipeas,” says Robin Rönnlund, PhD student in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Gothenburg and leader of the fieldwork.

“A colleague and I came across the site in connection with another project last year, and we realised the great potential right away.

The fact that nobody has explored the hill before is a mystery,” he added.

The researchers believe that the presence of a major city in an area previously considered a backwater of the ancient world can deliver new findings on a tumultuous period in Greek history.

The sensational discovery comes just weeks after Egyptian archaeologist discovered a 7,000-year-old lost city along the Nile, also thought to have been an important metropolis.

While almost none of this is visible from the ground below, the 99-acre area contains a tower, the main square, walls and gates, and a street grid indicative of the city’s significance and size.

Thanks to pottery and coins found at the site, the researchers can estimate the city’s date. “Our oldest finds are from around 500 BC, but the city seems to have flourished mainly from the fourth to the third century BC before it was abandoned for some reason, maybe in connection with the Roman conquest of the area,” says Rönnlund.

Fragment of red-figure pottery from the late 6th century BC, probably by Attic painter Paseas.

In order to avoid disturbing the site, the archaeologists are using a ground-penetrating radar rather than excavating. The method has proven highly effective, as the structures discovered so far have all been recognized by the radar rather than dug up.

Monkeys from India Identified in Roman Pet Cemetery in Africa

Monkeys from India Identified in Roman Pet Cemetery in Africa

Polish archaeologists have discovered that ancient Romans and Egyptians imported monkeys from India as household pets.

Archaeologists from the Warsaw University’s Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology were in the process of excavating a vast animal cemetery when they came across the monkey skeletons.

Researchers found when examining monkeys buried in the animal cemetery in the Berenice Red Sea Port researchers found that the primates were rhesus macaques endemic to India, rather than some local species.

Archaeologists from the Warsaw University’s Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology were in the process of excavating a vast animal cemetery when they came across the monkey skeletons.

Researches have been working at this site for over a decade and during this time have uncovered monumental fortresses, defense walls and a massive underground complex

For years they assumed they belonged to guenon species, quite common in this area.

It was only by using 3D scanners and comparing the bones with others that they made the incredible discovery.

Professor Marta Osypińska, a zooarchaeologist from the Polish Academy of Sciences, said: “We believe that the influential Romans who lived in Berenice, a faraway outpost, in the first and second, wanted to make their time pleasant with the company of various animals. Among them were also monkeys.”

The archaeologists discovered trays of individual cat, dog and monkey burials.

The pets were carefully buried in an animal necropolis and arranged like sleeping children.

Additionally, one of them was covered with a woolen fabric. The other had two large shells by their heads, including one coming from the Indian Ocean or south-eastern shores of Africa.

On both sides of the animal, there were amphora fragments. In one of them there was a piece of cloth, and in the second one – a skeleton of a very young piglet, and next to it three kittens.

Researchers found that rather than the monkeys being local, they were instead rhesus macaques from India.

Osypińska said: “This is a unique finding. Until now, no one has found Indian monkeys in the archaeological sites in Africa. Interestingly, even ancient written sources don’t mention this practice.”

The settlement in Berenice existed since the pharaonic times. In the third century BC, it was used as a harbour for transporting African elephants used in battle and a military outpost.

However, it was only after the Romans took over Egypt, that the port flourished. It became a centre of transoceanic trade between Egypt, the Middle East, and India.

Previous findings in the port confirmed the frequent trade contacts with the Indian subcontinent. Spice, textiles, and other luxury goods were among goods transported across the Indian Ocean.

The Polish archaeological mission revealed perfectly-preserved organic (skins, textiles from China and India, sails) and botanical materials: rice, sesame, lotus, irises, frankincense, myrrh, coconuts, teak wood, as well as an offering of eight kilograms of black pepper in Indian jars found near the Great Temple.

The transport of monkeys from thousands of kilometres away was not small, especially since it was done only for entertainment purposes.

Professor Osypińska said: “It involved providing the animals with adequate food and water during a few weeks’ cruise across the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

“Unfortunately, after reaching Berenice the monkeys couldn’t adapt and died young. It was probably caused by s lack of fresh fruit and other necessary nourishment.”

Archaeologists from the Warsaw University’s Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, together with Americans from the University of Delaware have been working in Berenice since 2008, with cooperation from the Polish Academy of Sciences’ researchers.

During their work, the archaeologists uncovered the remains of monumental fortifications, defence walls, towers, and an enormous underground complex, as well as temples and the animal cemetery.

Greece: Ancient theatre unearthed on the island of Lefkada

Greece: Ancient theatre unearthed on the island of Lefkada

After archeological excavations on Koulmos hill in Lefkada, a huge new ancient theater was discovered, test sections were cut in the area, specifically on the hill ‘s northeast slope which forms a downward amphitheatric hollow, ending in a long, flat section.

Seats of the theatre on the “Koulmos” hill

Archaeological excavations on the Ionian island of Lefkada have brought to light a previously undiscovered and sizeable ancient theatre, the culture minister announced on Wednesday. It said the find was made on Koulmou hill toward the end of the year.

Test ‘sections’ were cut in an area on the northeast flank of Koulmou’s middle hill, which forms an amphitheatrical downward hollow ending in a lengthy flat section, the ministry announcement said.

Part of the retaining wall of the koilon

It noted that archaeologists knew very little about the city’s ancient theatre, which was not mentioned in any ancient source.

Though the logs of an early 20th-century archaeological excavation under the direction of German archaeologist Ε. Κrüger, lasting only a few days, recorded the discovery of signs indicating the presence of an ancient theatre.

Part of the theatre’s orchestra

The Aitoloakarnania and Lefkada Antiquities Ephorate dug sections in 13 places, which confirmed the existence of the theatre and uncovered rows of seats, parts of the orchestra, and some of the retaining walls for the stage and other parts of the theatre.

Elongated retaining wall north of the theatre
The location of the theatre on Koulmou hill

The ministry said that six sections revealed seats carved from the rock, about 0.73 to 0.90 meters deep and 0.22-0.33 meters high.

Others found the orchestra and a section of a wall in a quadrant plan, up to 0.6 metres across. The sections also found portions of retaining walls.

The culture ministry said that continuing the excavation in order to reveal and protect the monument will be a priority for the ministry’s services, adding that the Lefkada Municipality and Ionian Islands Regional Authority have both supported the work.

Rare warrior tomb filled with bronze age wealth and weapons discovered

Rare warrior tomb filled with bronze age wealth and weapons discovered

The tomb of the Warrior of the Bronze Age, dated back 3500 years, has been discovered by archaeologists in Greece who are packed with more than 1.400 objects, including jewels, weapons, bronze, silver and gold vessels.

This gold ring with a Cretan bull-jumping scene was one of four solid-gold rings found in the tomb. This number is more than found with any other single burial elsewhere in Greece.

The Bronze Age warrior’s tomb dating back to about 1500 BC was discovered in Pylos, Greece, by an international research team led by The University of Cincinnati (UC).

“This previously unopened shaft grave of a wealthy Mycenaean warrior, dating back 3,500 years, is one of the most magnificent displays of prehistoric wealth discovered in mainland Greece in the past 65 years,” said Shari Stocker, a senior research associate in the Department of Classics, McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.

UC’s Sharon Stocker left, and Jack Davis, right, has worked in the Pylos region of Greece for 25 years. They led a team of 45 archaeologists and experts in various specialties as well as students during this summer’s excavations. Stocker stands in the shaft tomb the team uncovered.

UC archaeologist Carl Blegen, along with Konstantinos Kourouniotis, director of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, initially uncovered the remains of the famed Palace of Nestor in an olive grove in 1939.

Located near Pylos, the palace was a destination in Homer’s “Odyssey”, where the sacrifice was said to be offered on its beaches.

The king who ruled at the Palace of Nestor controlled a vast territory that was divided into more than 20 districts with capital towns and numerous small settlements.

“This latest find is not the grave of the legendary King Nestor, who headed a contingent of Greek forces at Troy in Homer’s ‘Iliad.’ Nor is it the grave of his father, Neleus,” Stocker said.

“This find maybe even more important because the warrior pre-dates the time of Nestor and Neleus by, perhaps, 200 or 300 years.

That means he was likely an important figure at a time when this part of Greece was being indelibly shaped by close contact with Crete, Europe’s first advanced civilization,” Stocker said.

Thus, the tomb may have held a powerful warrior or king, or even a trader or a raider, who died at about 30 to 35 years of age but who helped to lay the foundations of the Mycenaean culture that later flourished in the region.

A remarkable store of riches was deposited in the tomb with the warrior at the time of his death. The mere fact that the vessels in the tomb are of metal is a strong indication of his great wealth.

“It is truly amazing that no ceramic vessels were included among the grave gifts. All the cups, pitchers, and basins we found were of metal: bronze, silver, and gold. He clearly could afford to hold regular pots of ceramic in disdain,” according to Stocker.

The weapons of bronze found within the tomb included a meter-long slashing sword with an ivory handle covered with gold.

Among the objects found within the warrior tomb were four complete solid-gold seal rings to be worn on a human finger, two squashed gold cups and a silver cup with gold trim, and a unique necklace of square box-shaped golden wires, more than 30 inches long with two gold pendants decorated with ivy leaves.

Silver cups, bronze weapons, several pieces of carved ivory, and precious stone beads were also found in the tomb.

The origin of Greek Civilization on a Pyramid Island

The origin of Greek Civilization on a Pyramid Island

A new discovery has possibly revealed the origin of Ancient Greek culture. In a remote and uninhabited pyramid-shaped islet, archaeologists have found evidence of a rich cultural and monumental landscape dating from earlier than the Minoan period.

The evidence so far is that it was a major religious center created with technical knowledge pre-dating that found at Minoan Knossos by at least 400 years, indicating that it played a significant role in the development of Greek civilization.

The Curious Pyramid Isle

The barren islet of Daskalio lies just of the coast of the island of Keros, which is one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, and was once part of Keros before sea-levels rose. Daskalio has been the subject of intense archaeological investigations since 2015 when an undisturbed site was located.

The research is being carried out by a multinational team, supported by the Greek government and the British School in Athens. The large-scale project is being funded by several international institutes.

Special Deposit South on Keros, with Dhaskalio in the background.

Earliest Greek Urban Center

The project is led by Colin Renfrew and Michael Boyd and has found ‘the earliest truly monumental complex of buildings ever unearthed anywhere in the Greek world’ reports The Independent.

The islet had a settlement with metal-working shops, buildings, and even indoor plumbing, and all of this a millennium before the Minoans, who are often thought of as the first European civilization. According to the Keep Talking Greece website, the team of archaeologists has uncovered ‘a complex, stratified and technically expert society’.

Daskalio has a distinctive pyramid shape which is due to the extensive engineering activities of the ancient people of the Aegean islands. They deliberately exaggerated the pyramidal shape of the rocky outcrop by creating a number of huge terraces on Daskalio, that measured in total about 1,000 feet (300 m).

There were 6 terraces and upon them were built a number of buildings, mostly in marble. Some of the buildings were two floors and had staircases and were built using marble. The cultural landscape was built within a four-decade period and based on a single design.

The island was sculpted with terraces and white stone to make it dazzle for miles around .

Ancient Religious Center

The complex has been dated to about 4,600 years ago. It is believed that the pyramid-island was a religious site that attracted pilgrims from far and wide, who buried small statues here as sacrifices to unknown deities. The summit of the pyramid- islet was an open-area possibly used for sacrifices or votive offerings. The identity of the gods that were worshipped here is unknown.

There is no arable land on the rocky outcrop and little on Keros. Therefore, the inhabitants of ancient Daskalio may have been dependent on religious pilgrims and also engaged in trade. 

Keep Talking Greece reports that archaeological finds indicate that the settlers’ “trade extended over a wide network reaching beyond the Cyclades.” There is evidence that the inhabitants specialized in metallurgy and they may have traded their metal products for food and other goods. Such a huge complex required a great deal of labor and organization, especially to bring the marble from the quarries on Naxos that was used in its construction.

According to the Independent, it is estimated that at “least 3,500 maritime voyages to transport between 7,000 and 10,000 tonnes of shining white marble.” This indicated that the builders of the complex were already great mariners and shipbuilders.

The huge scale of the work required would suggest a powerful and unified state or a league of smaller political entities. It is probable that the site was related to the first Hellenic state in history.

The engineering, complexity of the organization, shipbuilding and metal-working needed to achieve the building of such a place indicates that this civilization was already quite advanced by this time indicating the culture had existed and had been developing for hundreds of years or more. This political entity was at least contemporaneous with and may have influenced the development of the Minoans in Crete and later the Mycenaeans.

One-handled cup with grooved decoration from Dhaskalio.

Influence of Ancient Egyptians?

It appears that the Bronze Age complex was part of a wave of similar monumental buildings that occurred around the world at this time. This was a result of new technologies or the exchange of new ideas, spread via trade routes.

The pyramid shape of the islet would seem to indicate the influence of Ancient Egypt, who associated this shape with their creator-god. It is possible that the pyramid-shaped island represented to the early Greeks, the land rising from the primordial sea, a belief inspired by Ancient Egyptian myths.

The construction of the pyramid-shaped complex is arguably related to the importance that the Greeks attached to mountains in their religion. For example, Mount Olympus was regarded as the home of Zeus and the other deities in their mythology.

It is reasonable to assume that the idea that mountains were sacred may have originated in the Cyclades and indicates that the Aegean islands played a decisive role in the religious development of the Ancient Hellenic World.

The Independent quotes Michael Boyd, saying that the team’s research “suggests that these very early Greeks were organizationally, technically and politically much more advanced than previously thought.” This may indicate that the Cyclades Islands were possibly the cradle of Hellenic civilization. Their religious ideas, technology, and political organization may have influenced the Minoans and in turn the Greeks on the mainland.

It seems likely that the pyramid-island will continue to provide more insights into some of the earliest Hellenic societies.

Newly discovered mass graves could be filled with an ancient greek Tyrants followers

Newly discovered mass graves could be filled with an ancient greek Tyrants followers

A former Greek athlete named Cylon tried to overthrow the government thousands of years ago. It didn’t finish right.

Two mass graves near the Greek capital, including 80 skeletons of the men who may have been followers of ancient would-be tyrant Cylon of Athens discovered by the Archaeologists.

The bones – which had teeth intact – were found in two graves between 675 and 650 B.C., Agence France-Presse reported. They rest in an ancient cemetery where the National Library of Greece and the National Opera are being constructed.

The remains of men buried in a mass grave found in an area of the Falirikon Delta in South Athens

Regional archaeological services director Stella Chryssoulaki laid out the theory as she unveiled the findings at the Central Archaeological Council, the custodians of Greece’s ancient heritage.

Given “the high importance of these discoveries”, the council is launching further investigations, the culture ministry said in a statement.

Two small vases discovered amongst the skeletons have allowed archaeologists to date the graves from between 675 and 650 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.

They were discovered during excavations at an ancient cemetery on Athens’ seaside outskirts, on the construction site of the new National Library of Greece and National Opera.

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 in 2,500 years of Athenian democracy.

The ancient buried city of Akrotiri, Santorini: Greece Pompeii

The ancient buried city of Akrotiri, Santorini: Greece Pompeii

The ruins of a Bronze Age sophisticated settlement that thrived centuries before being eradicated by a major volcanic eruption are tucked away from the southern tip of Santorini.

The remains of the Minoan town of Akrotiri are remarkably well preserved, like the Roman ruins of Pompei. In the middle of the second millennium BC, the settlement erupted, when Thera sat on a volcano, and its people fled.

The volcanic matter enveloped the entire island of Santorini and the town itself, preserving the buildings and their contents, and visitors can still identify houses and pots. 

The archaeological site of Akrotiri.

The settlement of Akrotiri is one such site. Unlike Pompeii, however, no literary evidence for the destruction of Akrotiri is available to us. As a matter of fact, the city was only discovered by an archaeological excavation conducted in 1967.

Akrotiri was a Bronze Age settlement located on the south west of the island of Santorini (Thera) in the Greek Cyclades. This settlement is believed to be associated with the Minoan civilization, located on the nearby island of Crete, due to the discovery of the inscriptions in Linear A script, as well as similarities in artifacts and fresco styles.

The earliest evidence for human habitation of Akrotiri can be traced back as early as the 5 th millennium B.C., when it was a small fishing and farming village. By the end of the 3 rd millennia, this community developed and expanded significantly.

One factor for Akrotiri’s growth may be the trade relations it established with other cultures in the Aegean, as evidenced in fragments of foreign pottery at the site. Akrotiri’s strategic position between Cyprus and Minoan Crete also meant that it was situated on the copper trade route, thus allowing them to become an important center for processing copper, as proven by the discovery of molds and crucibles there.    

Remarkably preserved artifacts are revealed from the ruins of ancient Akrotiri, Greece.

Akrotiri’s prosperity continued for about another 500 years. Paved streets, an extensive drainage system, the production of high-quality pottery, and further craft specialization all point to the level of sophistication achieved by the settlement. This all came to an end, however, by the middle of the 2 nd century B.C. with the volcanic eruption of Thera. Although the powerful eruption destroyed Akrotiri, it also managed to preserve the city, very much like that done by Vesuvius to Pompeii.

The volcanic ash has preserved much of Akrotiri’s frescoes, which can be found in the interior walls of almost all the houses that have been excavated in Akrotiri. This may be an indication that it was not only the elites who had these works of art.

The frescoes contain a wide range of subjects, including religious processions, flowers, everyday life in Akrotiri, and exotic animals. In addition, the volcanic dust also preserved negatives of disintegrated wooden objects, such as offering tables, beds, and chairs.

This allowed archaeologists to produce plaster casts of these objects by pouring liquid Plaster of Paris into the hollows left behind by the objects. One striking difference between Akrotiri and Pompeii is that there were no uninterred bodies from in the former. In other words, the inhabitants of Akrotiri were perhaps more fortunate than those of Pompeii and were evacuated before the volcanic dust reached the site.

Plaster castings of the corpses of a group of human victims of the 79 AD eruption of the Vesuvius, found in the so-called “Garden of the fugitives” in Pompeii. No such remains exist at Akrotiri, indicating the people had time to evacuate.
‘Spring flowers and swallows’ detailed in a delicate Akrotiri fresco

In 2016, Russian cybersecurity expert Eugene Kaspersky gave archaeologists interested in excavating Akrotiri a huge economic boost by funding three major projects at the ancient site. This is how he explained his reason for financial support:

“What I find magical about Akrotiri and the decades-long, ongoing archaeological research is the sense of an unpredictable past. The fact that following a volcano eruption 3,500 years ago, we modern people are trying to comprehend how these people lived back then. And I believe that we have plenty to discover. Do you think that 3,500 years from now anyone will be interested in finding out how we lived?”

The eruption of Thera also had an impact on other civilizations. The nearby Minoan civilization, for instance, faced a crisis due to the volcanic eruption. This is debatable, however, as some have speculated that the crisis was caused by natural disasters occurring prior to the eruption of Thera.

The short term climate change caused by volcanic eruption is also believed to have disrupted the ancient Egyptian civilization. The lack of Egyptian records regarding the eruption may be attributed to the general disorder in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period.

Nevertheless, the available records speak of heavy rainstorms occurring in the land, which is an unusual phenomenon. These storms may also be interpreted metaphorically as representing the elements of chaos that needed to be subdued by the Pharaoh.

Some researchers have even claimed that the effects of the volcanic eruption were felt as far away as China. This is based on records detailing the collapse of the Xia Dynasty at the end of the 17 th century B.C., and the accompanying meteorological phenomena. Finally, the Greek myth of the Titanomachy in Hesiod’s Theogony may have been inspired by this volcanic eruption, whilst it has also been speculated that Akrotiri was the basis of Plato’s myth of Atlantis.

Thus, Akrotiri and the eruption of Thera serve to show that even in ancient times, a catastrophe in one part of the world can have repercussions on a global scale, something that we are more used to in the better-connected world of today.