Category Archives: GREECE

Historic 3,000-year-old olive tree still producing olives to this day

Historic 3,000-year-old olive tree still producing olives to this day

The oldest olive tree in the world is located in the village of Ano Vouves of Kissamos in Chania, Crete, Greece. The ancient tree is 3000 years old, as determined by the international scientific community.

Historic 3,000-year-old olive tree still producing olives to this day
The most ancient olive tree in the world, in Crete, Greece.

The ancient olive tree in Vouves has a trunk with a circumference of 12.5 meters (41 feet), and a diameter of 4.6 meters (15 feet). It belongs to the local tree variety of tsounati and was grafted at a height of three meters onto a wild olive tree.

Because of the grafting, its trunk has been so beautifully shaped by nature that it resembles a sculpture. In 1990, after a unanimous decision in the prefecture of Chania, the Vouves Olive Tree was declared a Natural Monument of great importance due to its status as the world’s oldest tree of its kind.

The oldest olive tree still produces high-quality olives

The fruits of the ancient olive tree produce the best olive oil in the world, making the area the cradle of olive cultivation on the island of Crete. The trunk of the tree is now hollow as there is no heartwood, so the olive is renewed outward and the heartwood gradually rots away.

Since the olive tree is constantly renewing its wood, it has served as a a symbol of immortality since ancient times.

Thousands of tourists visit the stunning tree every summer to marvel at it and learn its history. They are mainly impressed by its enormous shape and the imposing volume of the trunk but also by the fact that it has remained alive and fruitful for 3000 years.

The site of the olive tree, including the entire hill on which several villages are situated, has thousands of olive trees and the villages are widely believed to produce the best olive oil in the world.

Why is the Olive Tree Important in Greece?

The olive tree has been associated with Greece for millennia.

It symbolizes peace and prosperity, as well as the hope of resurrection and prosperous life. The typically Mediterranean Greek landscape is dotted with these trees, and Greeks throughout the centuries have been inextricably linked with this plant.

For Ancient Greeks, the olive tree was one of two of the most respected mythical trees, along with the oak.

The deeply rooted love and respect shown to this tree by Greeks has survived throughout the centuries.

Greek olive oil

Greek olive oil, or “Liquid Gold,” as Homer called it, has been part of Greece’s history since antiquity. It is an irreplaceable nutritional component of the Greek diet.

Ancient Greeks also used olive oil as part of their efforts to enjoy a healthy life and to promote longevity, and used it as a cosmetic for the skin and hair. Today, Greek olive oil is considered by most as the best in the world.

The history of humanity’s use of the olive dates back to ancient history. In his work “Origine des plantes cultivées,” botanist Augustin Pyrame de Candole writes that our cultivation of the tree started some time around 4000 BC—and that its origin is from the coasts of Asia Minor.

Today, throughout the world, there are approximately 800 million olive trees—of which approximately 95 percent are cultivated in the Mediterranean basin, which has the best soil and climatic conditions for olive cultivation.

The olive is widely grown all over in Greece. Its cultivation, which is greater than any other type of fructiferous tree, occupies approximately 15 percent of cultivated agricultural land and 75 percent of arboraceous cultivations in the country.

A 3,400-year-old Minoan tomb has been uncovered in an unnamed farmer’s olive grove near Ierapetra on the Greek island of Crete

A 3,400-year-old Minoan tomb has been uncovered in an unnamed farmer’s olive grove near Ierapetra on the Greek island of Crete

The untouched Bronze Age tomb and the skeletons inside will hopefully provide archaeologists with information about the mysterious Minoan civilization.

A 3,400-year-old Minoan tomb has been uncovered in an unnamed farmer’s olive grove near Ierapetra on the Greek island of Crete
A covered coffin from the Minoan times found in Ierapetra, Crete, Greece.

In an extraordinary example of being in the wrong place at the right time, a Greek farmer just made a startling archaeological discovery.

A 3,400-year-old Minoan tomb was uncovered in an unnamed farmer’s olive grove near the city of Ierapetra on the Greek island of Crete. According to Cretapost, the farmer was attempting to park his car underneath an olive tree when suddenly the ground beneath him began to sink.

The farmer pulled his car out from under the tree and noticed that a huge hole which measured around four feet wide had opened up where his car had been sitting. When he peeked into the hole, the farmer knew he had stumbled upon something special. He called the local heritage ministry, Lassithi Ephorate of Antiquities, to investigate.

The four foot wide hole accidentally made by the farmer that ultimately led to the Minoan Bronze Age tomb.

The archaeologists from the ministry excavated the hole. What they found next was unprecedented.

The pit was approximately four feet wide and eight feet deep, was divided into three sections, and very apparently was a tomb.

In the first section, archaeologists uncovered a coffin and a variety of artifacts. The following niche held a second coffin, 14 Greek jars called amphorae, and a bowl.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the archaeologists identified that the tomb was Minoan and of the Bronze Age due to the style of coffin they found. The artifacts — funerary vases and the two coffins— were well-preserved despite their extremely old age.

The eight-foot deep pit contained two coffins and several artifacts.

The tomb was sealed off by a stone wall and only after thousands of years of wear and tear did it deteriorate enough to buckle under the weight of the farmer’s car.

“Soil retreat was a result of the watering of the olive trees in the area as well as a broken irrigation tube,” Argyris Pantazis, the Deputy Mayor of Local Communities, Agranian and Tourism of Ierapetra, told Cretapost. “The ground had partially receded, and when the farmer tried to park in the shade of the olive, it completely retreated.”

Pantazis also said that the fact that the tomb was untouched by thieves for millennia makes it an ideal site for archaeologists to learn as much as possible about the two people buried in the tomb and life for the Minoan civilization.

A look inside the coffin of one of the two Minoans buried in the 3,400-year-old tomb.

According to Forbes, the skeletons date back to the Late Minoan IIIA-B period in archaeological chronology, also known as the Late Palace Period.

So far, not much information is known about the Minoan civilization and their way of life, save for their labyrinth palatial complexes, showcased in classic myths like Theseus and the Minotaur.

Researchers also believe that the Minoans met their end because of a string of devastating natural disasters. Most other details of the Minoan’s history remain unclear.

Further analysis of the skeletons and artifacts in the tomb in Crete will hopefully help archaeologists fill in some blanks and answer questions about mysterious Minoan civilization.

Archaeologists unearth Greek helmet which may rewrite history of ancient tribal people

Archaeologists unearth Greek helmet which may rewrite history of ancient tribal people

Archaeologists unearth Greek helmet which may rewrite history of ancient tribal people
Archaeologists unearth Greek helmet which may rewrite history of ancient tribal people

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient Greek helmet from burial mounds in southern Croatia, shedding new light on the history of the Illyrians, a tribal people from the eastern Adriatic and the Balkans.

Near the village of Zakotorac on the Peljesac peninsula, approximately 70 kilometres northwest of Dubrovnik, a team of archaeologists, led by Hrvoje Potrebica from the University of Zagreb, uncovered various artefacts, including lavish jewellery and a Greco-Illyrian helmet.

The helmet is the second of its kind found in the area, following a similar discovery in 2020. Both items date back to the 5th or 6th century BC, a period when historians believe local Illyrian communities flourished.

Although little is known about Illyrian culture or language, they are known to have lived in tribes. The tribe inhabiting the Peljesac area of modern-day southern Croatia is believed to have thrived due to their control over strategically significant maritime trade routes around the peninsula.

How do the Greco-Illyrian helmets help rewrite history?

Greek-Illyrian helmet dating from 5th century BC

Despite being discovered in burial mounds, the helmets were not part of burial rituals. Experts speculate that they were deposited much later, possibly as votive gifts in a religious or ceremonial context.

“They were both found as separate objects, laid in a way which indicates that this was some kind of a cult practice,” explains archaeologist Hrvoje Potrebica from the University of Zagreb.

“These were votive gifts left to pay respect to deities or people buried here. We don’t think that they are related to any specific person buried here because the site contains remains of dozens of individuals.”

Numerous burial mounds have been discovered in recent years in the area and on nearby islands. While most remain unexamined, the recent findings from sites at Zakotorac and nearby Nakovana suggest these locations may have held special spiritual significance to 5th-century Illyrians from the region.

Roman conquest and its impact

Illyrian tribes, that lived along the eastern Adriatic since at least second millennium BC, were eventually brutally defeated by the invading Romans in the latter years of the 1st century BC.

Their cultural sites and settlements seem to have been deserted approximately 500 years after the time of the helmets.

Various pieces of jewellery found at Zakotorac
Various pieces of jewellery found at Zakotorac

Local historian Ivan Pamic states, “These mounds were likely robbed, probably by the Romans, who arrived here in the last decades of the 1st century BC. At the time Octavian, the future Roman emperor, led military expeditions against Illyrians on the eastern Adriatic.”

Other artefacts discovered include pins, jewellery pieces, buckles, glass beads, and fibulas (ancient brooches used for fastening clothes).

Challenging traditional colonial perspectives

Archeologists excavating by hand at near the village of Zakotorac

At the time, Greek city-states founded thriving colonies throughout the Mediterranean, some of the most important ones in the Adriatic were on the modern-day Croatian islands of Vis, Hvar, and Korcula – just across the narrow Peljesac channel from mainland Illyrians.

The findings appear to show just how wealthy local elites had been at the time.

“The wealth of this community, which lived here, which can be seen in many artefacts found in burial cairns, most likely came about because of trade and the control of trade routes passing from the southeast towards the northwest and on towards the interior of the Balkans,” says Domagoj Perkic, archeologist and curator at Dubrovnik Archeological Museum.

The findings may also help change the dominant perspective about the history of this part of the Mediterranean, which is traditionally told through Greek or Roman sources.

“In the past, we had no access to this data, we only had to rely on ancient sources and our knowledge of the Greeks, so we viewed these communities via the colonial lens, through the eyes of those who arrived here,” adds Potrebica.

“Nikasitimos Was Here Mounting Timiona,” 2,500-year-old erotic graffiti on Astypalaia, Greece

“Nikasitimos Was Here Mounting Timiona,” 2,500-year-old erotic graffiti on Astypalaia, Greece

“Nikasitimos Was Here Mounting Timiona,” 2,500-year-old erotic graffiti on Astypalaia, Greece

In 2014, an archaeologist working on Astypalaia, a remote Greek island of the Dodecanese discovered one of the world’s oldest erotic graffiti a pair of phallus carvings dating from the 5th century BCE and a proclamation of sexual conquest from the 6th century BCE.

Archaeologists believe it is the oldest record of erotic graffiti ever found, with inscriptions and etchings documenting an ongoing sexual relationship between two men in Ancient Greece.

Professor Dr. Andreas Vlachopoulos discovered the two carved penises while he was giving his students a tour of the island. They were found etched into a limestone outcropping on the island’s windswept, rugged peninsula overlooking Vathay Bay.

In an interview with The Guardian,  Professor Andreas Vlachopoulos, a specialist in prehistoric archaeology was surprised to find such sophisticated inscriptions in such an unlikely place. He called the inscriptions “monumental in scale”.

“They claimed their own space in large letters that not only expressed sexual desire but talked about the act of sex itself,” he told the Guardian. “And that is very, very rare.”

Even though sexual relations between men were not taboo in ancient Greece, these racy inscriptions and phalluses carved into Astypalaia’s rocky peninsula shed light on the very private lives of ancient Greece.

Carved on the side of the rock, archeologists found the name “DION” (ΔΙΩΝ). There was another inscription which was found 52 meters above sea level. “Nikasitimos was here mounting Timiona” (Νικασίτιμος οἶφε Τιμίονα), noted the inscription.

In addition to illuminating the intimate lives of the ancients, the graffiti demonstrated the degree of literacy at a period before the construction of the Acropolis in Athens.

The graffiti is written in the Greek alphabet, which was first developed in the 8th century BCE. It is written in a style known as “rustic,” which was popular in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE.

The letters have been expertly carved into the rock, demonstrating that regular island residents were also trained in the art of writing, in addition to philosophers, academics, and historians.

Remarkably, the erotic rock carvings have survived despite remaining exposed all these millennia to weather and erosion from the sea.

High-status Macedonian tomb discovered in ancient Aegae, Central Macedonia

High-status Macedonian tomb discovered in ancient Aegae, Central Macedonia

High-status Macedonian tomb discovered in ancient Aegae, Central Macedonia

In the ancient city of Aegae (present-day Vergina) in Imathia, Central Macedonia, during the construction of the sewerage network, tomb of a local noble, buried with his wife, was discovered.

Aegae or Aigai was the original capital of the Macedonians, an ancient kingdom in Emathia in northern Greece. In antiquity, the city remained the burial place of the royal family after the capital was transferred to the city of Pella at the beginning of the 4th century BC.

This and other important findings of the archaeological excavations carried out during the rescue excavations in the necropolis of Aigai last year were presented by Angeliki Kottaridis, Honorary Director of Antiquities, at the 36th Annual Archaeological Meeting of the “the Archaeological Project in Macedonia and Thrace in 2023” in Thessaloniki.

The tomb, which dates back to the third century BC, was discovered in an area with mounds in the northwest corner of the necropolis.

The entranceway of the tomb enclosed by piles of stones was unearthed. The interior of the tomb measures 3.7 x 2.7 meters.

Helmet discovered by archaeologists in Aigai.

“This is an important tomb because the man buried here, the main deceased, had a shield reinforced with iron pieces, and the weapons preserved in sections show that they were made in a very good workshop, so it is probably one of the hetairai (Macedonian elite cavalry),” said Kottaridi.

The interior of the tomb is decorated with an encircling golden band with bows.

The colored mortars on the facade observed by the archaeologists belong to two phases and are explained by the later burial of his wife here, while a crown of gold myrtle attracted attention among the jewels found in the tomb.

The tomb that Dimitris Pandermanlis excavated in 1969 is located just 100 meters away from this one, and it contains two additional tombs. In the archaeologist’s opinion, it is most likely a group of wealthy tombs.

The marble head of God Apollo unearthed in an excavation at Philippi, Greece

The marble head of God Apollo unearthed in an excavation at Philippi, Greece

The marble head of God Apollo unearthed in an excavation at Philippi, Greece

The excavation, carried out by a group of students of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in the archaeological site of Philippi Kavala, brought to light important findings. Among other things, they discovered a rare head of Apollo dating back to the 2nd or early 3rd century AD.

 The statue dates back to the 2nd or early 3rd century AD and it probably adorned an ancient fountain.

Natalia Poulos, Professor of Byzantine Archaeology, led the excavation, which included fifteen students from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (11 undergraduates, 2 master’s, and 2 PhD candidates), Assistant Docent Anastasios Tantsis, and Professor Emeritus of Byzantine Archaeology Aristotle Mendzo.

Archaeologists say, this year the excavation continued east of the southern main road (decumanus) at the point where it meets the northern axis of the city (the so-called “Egnatia”). The continuation of the marble-paved road was revealed, on the surface of which a coin (bronze phyllis) of the emperor Leo VI (886-912) was found, which helps to determine the duration of the road’s use. At the point where the two streets converge, a widening (square) seems to have been formed, dominated by a richly decorated building.

Archaeologists say evidence from last year’s excavations leads them to assume it was a fountain.  The findings of this year’s research confirm this view and help them better understand its shape and function.

The research of 2022 brought to light part of the rich decoration of the fountain with the most impressive statue depicting Hercules as a boy with a young body.

The recent excavation (2023) revealed the head of another statue: it belongs to a figure of an ageneous man with a rich crown topped by a laurel leaf wreath. This beautiful head seems to belong to a statue of the god Apollo. Like the statue of Hercules, it dates from the 2nd or early 3rd century AD and probably adorned the fountain, which took its final form in the 8th to 9th centuries.

In classical Greek and Roman religion and mythology, Apollo is one of the Olympian gods. He is revered as a god of poetry, the Sun and light, healing and illness, music and dance, truth and prophecy, and archery, among other things.

Philip II, King of Macedon, founded the ancient city of Philippi in 356 BC on the site of the Thasian colony of Crenides near the Aegean Sea.

The archaeological site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016 for its outstanding Roman architecture, urban layout as a smaller reflection of Rome itself, and significance in early Christianity.

Roman-Era Wine Shop Excavated in Southern Greece

Roman-Era Wine Shop Excavated in Southern Greece

Roman-Era Wine Shop Excavated in Southern Greece
A view of the wine shop from the front.

Archaeologists in Greece have discovered a 1,600-year-old wine shop that was destroyed and abandoned after a “sudden event,” possibly an earthquake or building collapse, left broken vessels and 60 coins scattered on the floor, according to new research.

The shop operated at a time when the Roman Empire controlled the region. It was found in the ancient city of Sikyon (also spelled Sicyon), which is located on the northern coast of the Peloponnese in southern Greece.

Within the wine shop, archaeologists found the scattered coins, as well as the remains of marble tabletops and vessels made of bronze, glass and ceramic.

The wine shop was found on the northern end of a complex that had a series of workshops containing kilns and installations used to press grapes or olives, archaeologists noted in a paper they presented at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, which was held Jan. 4-7 in Chicago.

The Roman-era shop in Greece was destroyed in a sudden event.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any direct evidence of the types of wine that may have been sold. We have some evidence of grape pips (Vitis vinifera), but we aren’t able to say anything more specific than that right now,” said Scott Gallimore, an associate professor of archaeology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, who co-wrote the paper with Martin Wells, an associate professor of classics at Austin College in an email.

In addition to wine, other items, such as olive oil, may have been sold in the shop.

Most of the coins date to the reign of Constantius II, from 337 to 361, with the latest coin being minted sometime between 355 and 361, Gallimore told Live Science in an email.

The wine shop is on the northern end of a complex. It contains a number of workshops and appears to have been used to make pottery and process wine and perhaps olive oil
One of the coins discovered on the floor of the destroyed wine shop.
A slightly broken coin from the shop. The coins fell on the floor while the destructive event was happening.

Destructive event

The wine shop appears to have suffered a “sudden event” that resulted in its destruction and abandonment, Gallimore said. The 60 bronze coins found in the floor are from the shop’s final moments.

“The coins were all found on the floor of the [shop], scattered across the space,” Gallimore said. “This seems to indicate that they were being kept together as some type of group, whether in a ceramic vessel or some type of bag. When the [shop] was destroyed, that container appears to have fallen to the floor and scattered the coins.

“We’re not sure what type of event this was — possibly an earthquake, or possibly a roof collapse due to environmental conditions, like too much rainfall,” he added.

After the destruction people dumped in debris and sediment “but no effort was made to recover anything from within it.”

The complex that the shop is part of appears to have been abandoned in the early fifth century, possibly at the time of the event.

A 2,700-Year-Old Temple Discovered on the Greek Island of Evia

A 2,700-Year-Old Temple Discovered on the Greek Island of Evia

A 2,700-Year-Old Temple Discovered on the Greek Island of Evia
An aerial view of the horseshoe-shaped altar located inside the temple.

Archaeologists in Greece have discovered a 2,700-year-old temple that houses a horseshoe-shaped altar overflowing with offerings.

Constructed of bricks, the temple is 100 feet (30 meters) long and is located next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis, a sanctuary dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis, which researchers found in 2017 on the island of Evia, according to a translated statement from Greece’s Ministry of Culture. 

During excavations in 2023, archaeologists found the second temple.

“One of the peculiarities of this temple is the significant number of structures found inside it,” the researchers wrote on Jan. 9 in a translated Facebook post detailing their findings.

Those structures included several hearths located in the temple’s nave, including the ash-caked altar stacked with offerings such as pottery; vases; Corinthian alabaster, or the carved mineral gypsum; gold and silver jewelry studded with coral and amber; amulets; and bronze and iron fittings. The altar also contained several pieces of charred bone.

Archaeologists unearthed several bronze figurines shaped like bulls and a ram as well as a bull’s head made of clay.

Some of the pottery pieces predate the newfound temple and were fired during the late eighth century B.C., leading researchers to suspect that the altar may have once resided outside the temple and was later moved indoors.

In the sixth century B.C., brick partitions were placed at the sanctuary’s heart for added support, leading researchers to think that the temple was “partially destroyed” by a fire, according to the statement.

Under the temple, archaeologists found several dry stone walls from a different building that once stood at the site, along with several bronze figurines shaped like bulls and rams.

They also unearthed remnants of buildings from the eighth and ninth centuries B.C. next to the first temple, as well as a fortification system dating to the more recent early Copper Age, or roughly 4000 to 3500 B.C.