Category Archives: GREECE

Hercules Statue Unearthed in Northern Greece

Hercules Statue Unearthed in Northern Greece

Hercules Statue Unearthed in Northern Greece

On Friday, September 16, 2022, the excavation research was carried out by a team from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AuTH) in Philippi, with the director of the excavation Professor Natalia Poulos and collaborators Assistant Professor Anastasios Tantsis and Emeritus Professor Aristotle Menzos, was completed, the Ministry of Sport and Culture announced.

Twenty-four AuTH students (18 undergraduates, 3 postgraduates and 3 PhD candidates) participated in the excavation.

The research was funded by the regular budget of the University and the Research Committee, AUTH.

This year, the excavation continued on the eastern side of one of the main streets of the city, which at this point meets another main axis that passes further north.

The point of convergence of the two streets is formed by a widening (a square) dominated by a richly decorated building, probably a fountain.

The building had a special architectural decoration, fragments of which were uncovered.

Its decoration was completed by an impressive statue from Roman times (2nd century AD). The statue, whose size is larger than life, depicts Hercules with a youthful body.

The club, which has been found in fragments, and the lion hanging from the outstretched left hand attest to the identity of the mythological hero.

On the earl’s crest, he wears a wreath of vine leaves which is held at the back by a band whose ends end at the shoulders.

The specific statue adorned a building which, according to the excavation findings, dates to the 8th/9th century AD.

We know from the sources as well as from the archaeological data that in Constantinople statues from the classical and Roman periods adorned buildings and public spaces until the late Byzantine period.

This find demonstrates the way public spaces were decorated in the important cities of the Byzantine Empire, including Philippi.

The excavation will continue next year.

Archaeologists find Bronze Age tombs containing a trove of gold artefacts

Archaeologists find Bronze Age tombs containing a trove of gold artefacts

Archaeologists have discovered a trove of engraved jewellery and gold artefacts in two Bronze Age tombs that could shine a new light on life in ancient Greece.

The discovery was announced on Tuesday in Greece. The team had spent more than 18 months excavating and documenting their findings — including a multitude of cultural artefacts and beautiful jewellery — that could add to our understanding of early Greek civilization.

The University of Cincinnati (UC) archaeologists found a gold ring depicting two bulls flanked by sheaves of grain, which was identified as barley by a paleobotanist who consulted on the project.

Archaeologists find Bronze Age tombs containing a trove of gold artefacts
A gold ring depicts bulls and barley, the first known representation of domesticated animals and agriculture in ancient Greece.

“It’s an interesting scene of animal husbandry — cattle mixed with grain production. It’s the foundation of agriculture,” UC archaeologist Jack Davis said in a statement.

“As far as we know, it’s the only representation of grain in the art of Crete or Minoan civilization.”

Some of the artwork featured mythological creatures, as well. An agate sealstone featured two lion-like creatures called genii standing upright on clawed feet. According to UC archaeologist Sharon Stocker, they carry a serving vase and incense burner — a tribute to the altar before them, featuring a sprouting sapling between horns of consecration.

A 16-pointed star is seen above the genii. That same star appears on a bronze and gold artefact in the grave, researchers said.

“It’s rare. There aren’t many 16-pointed stars in Mycenaean iconography. The fact that we have two objects with 16 points in two different media (agate and gold) is noteworthy,” Stocker explained in a statement.

UC archaeologists found a seal stone made from semiprecious carnelian in the family tombs at Pylos, Greece. The seal stone was engraved with two lionlike mythological figures called genii carrying serving vessels and incense burners facing each other over an altar and below a 16-pointed star. The other image is a putty cast of the seal stone. (University of Cincinnati Classics Department)

The scientists believe the two tombs paint a picture of princely wealth and status.

“I think these are probably people who were very sophisticated for their time,” Stocker said. “They have come out of a place in history where there were few luxury items and imported goods. And all of a sudden at the time of the first tholos tombs, luxury items appear in Greece.”

“You have this explosion of wealth and people are vying for power,” she added. “It’s the formative years that will give rise to the Classical Age of Greece.”

New Thoughts on Societal Changes in Bronze Age Crete

New Thoughts on Societal Changes in Bronze Age Crete

A modern scientific analysis of ancient stone tools is challenging long-held beliefs about what caused radical change on the island of Crete, where the first European state flourished during the Bronze Age: the ‘Minoan civilization.’ 

New Thoughts on Societal Changes in Bronze Age Crete
Lead researcher Tristan Carter in front of a quarry obsidian exposure on Melos

About 3,500 years ago, Crete underwent significant cultural transformations, including the adoption of a new language and economic system, burial customs, dress and drinking habits – all of which could be traced to the neighbouring Mycenaean Greek mainland.

At roughly the same time, many important sites across the island were destroyed and warriors’ graves appeared at the famed palace of Knossos, leading scholars to long believe that these seismic changes had been the result of a Mycenaean invasion.

A new study, published online in the journal PLOS One questions that theory.

“Our findings suggest a more complex picture than previously believed,” explains Tristan Carter, a lead author of the study and professor in the Department of Anthropology at McMaster University who has conducted research in north-central Crete for nearly three decades.

“Rather than wholescale cultural change, our study has found evidence of significant continuity after the alleged invasion. While new practices can be initiated through external forces such as invasion, migration, colonialism, or cross-cultural intermarriage, we also know of examples where locals choose to adopt foreign habits to distinguish themselves within their own society,” says Carter.  

Rather than looking at things like burial, art, or dress, practices that tend to shift with fashion, archaeologists have begun to look more closely at more mundane, everyday practices as a better insight into a culture’s true character, he explains.   

For the study, the researchers analyzed a sample of tools the Bronze Age Cretans fashioned from obsidian, a black volcanic glass which is sharper than surgical steel when freshly flaked.  

Vassilis Kilikoglou, director of the Demokritos national research centre in Athens, used a nuclear reactor to determine the origin of the raw materials and found them to be from the Cycladic island of Melos.

When these results were considered together with the way the obsidian blades had been made and used for work such as harvesting crops, it was clear the community had lived the same way their predecessors had for the past thousand years, which continued to be distinct from life on the Greek mainland.

“Our analysis suggests the population had largely remained local, of Minoan descent,” says Carter and Kilikoglou.  

“This is not to say an invasion of Crete didn’t occur, but that the political situation across the rest of the island at this time was more complex than previously believed with significant demographic continuity in many areas.”

The researchers believe that while local elites were strategically aligned with Mycenaean powers, as evidenced by their conspicuous adoption of mainland styles of dress, drinking, and burial, most people continued to live their lives in much the same way as before.

Chicken bones and snail shells help archaeologists to date ancient town’s destruction

Chicken bones and snail shells help archaeologists to date ancient town’s destruction

Chicken bones and snail shells help archaeologists to date ancient town's destruction
Spring 107 BC destruction layer of the Seleucid settlement of Tell Izṭ abba.

According to new research, the combined analysis of animal and plant remains, as well as written evidence, is leading to more precise dating of archaeological finds.

“We can now often determine not only the year but also the season. This allows us to reconstruct the events that produced the finds much more precisely,” say archaeologists Prof. Dr. Achim Lichtenberger from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” at the University of Münster and his Tel Aviv University colleague Prof. Oren Tal.

“The destruction of the Greek town Tell Iẓṭabba in present-day Israel by a military campaign waged by the Hasmoneans, a Judean ruling dynasty in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, has so far been dated to between 111 and 107 BC,” say Lichtenberger and Tal.

“More recent research dates it to 108/107 BC, based on coin finds and the siege of the city of Samaria at the same time.

Now, using our multi-proxy approach that makes use of several analytical methods, we can for the first time date the events with certainty to the spring of 107 BC.”

“We came across chicken leg bones in the dwellings destroyed by the Hasmoneans. Analyzing them revealed residues containing medullary bone deposits in the marrow that served to produce eggshells during the laying season in spring.

This indicates that the chickens were slaughtered in spring,” explain Achim Lichtenberger and Oren Tal. “We also discovered the shells of field snails, which were often eaten at this time of year.”

Botanical examinations of the remnants of flowers on the floors of the dwellings reveal that these plants flowered in spring.

Analysis of the objects is always accompanied by an analysis of written evidence: “The contemporary Hebrew scroll of Megillat Ta’anit about the Hasmonean conquest, also known as the Scroll of Fasting, reports the expulsion of the inhabitants in the Hebrew month of Sivan, which corresponds to our May/June.”

‘Only the multiplicity of analytical methods makes precise statements possible’

“From an archaeological point of view, this makes spring the season of destruction,” says Lichtenberger and Tal, which underlines previous findings on Hellenistic warfare, as military offensives usually took place in spring and early summer.

“The individual data taken on their own would not justify determining such a clear chronology,” emphasizes Lichtenberger, who, together with his colleague Oren Tal and an interdisciplinary team comprising natural scientists, is leading a research project on the archaeology of the Hellenistic settlement Tell Iẓṭabba, in ancient Nysa-Scythopolis, a Greek city in the ancient Near East.

“Only by taking an overall view of the results from all analytical methods can we provide more precise information about the time of the destruction of Tell Iẓṭabba, and thus about the course of the Hasmonean campaign.” The finds must therefore be interpreted in the light of the seasons.

Pathogens Detected in Bronze Age Remains in Greece

Pathogens Detected in Bronze Age Remains in Greece

A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the British School at Athens and Temple University has found evidence of pathogens in the teeth of individuals from the Bronze Age that could explain why two ancient civilizations failed.

Pathogens Detected in Bronze Age Remains in Greece
Location of archaeological sites with evidence of Y. pestis and S. enterica subsp. enterica from the LNBA (A) Map of Eurasia indicating relevant LNBA sites with genetic evidence of Y. pestis (circles) and S. enterica subsp. enterica (triangles). Hagios Charalambos in pink, previously published sites in black. (B) Map of Crete showing the location of Hagios Charalambos (pink) and important Bronze Age palatial sites (black).

In their paper published in the journal Current Biology, the group describes their genetic study of teeth found inside a cave called Hagios Charalambos on the island of Crete.

Prior research has shown that the Old Kingdom of Egypt and the Akkadian Empire, both Bronze Age civilizations, experienced sudden declines in population several thousand years ago.

It has been suggested that climate change and/or other unknown factors led to the decline, which also resulted in damage to infrastructure, reductions in trade and major cultural changes.

In this new effort, the researchers have found evidence suggesting that diseases could have been behind the decline.

The work involved studying the teeth from the remains of people dated back to approximately 2290 and 1909 BCE that had been brought to them from the dig site on Crete.

They found evidence of typical bacteria found in the modern human mouth—the kind that can lead to tooth decay. But more importantly, they also found evidence of Yersinia pestis—the bacteria behind the plague—and Salmonella enterica, which is the bacteria responsible for typhoid fever.

The findings suggest that an epidemic could have been responsible for the population decline in either or both of the Bronze Age civilizations.

The researchers note that there is one caveat—the strain of Yersinia pestis they found was not the same one that devastated so much of Europe centuries later; it has gone extinct, as has the Salmonella enterica strain they found.

Thus, it is not known how transmissible either were, or how deadly. Still, the evidence of such pathogens means that historians must factor in the possibility of disease as a reason for the fall of the two major civilizations.

They suggest further genetic studies be done on other ancient samples to determine how widespread such infections may have been.

Archaeologists unearth a 3,500-year-old warrior’s grave in Greece

Archaeologists unearth a 3,500-year-old warrior’s grave in Greece

An undated picture released on October 26, 2105, by the Greek Culture Ministry shows an ivory comb, one of the items found in a 3,500 years old warrior tomb unearthed in the Peloponnese region of Greece

Archaeologists in Greece have made a rare and exciting discovery – an ancient unlooted tomb with the remains of an unknown warrior and a huge hoard of treasure.  The Greek Ministry of Culture announced that it is the most important treasure to have been discovered in 65 years.

The Ministry of Culture announced the finding today, revealing that two US archaeologists, Jack L. Davis and Sharon R. Stocker from the University of Cincinnati, made the discovery while excavating the 3,500-year-old Palace of Nestor on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula.

The Palace of Nestor, located at the top of the hill of Epano Englianos, near Pylos, is the best preserved Mycenaean Greek palace discovered. It once consisted of a two-storey building with reception rooms, baths, workshops, store rooms, and an established sewage system.

Photo of Nestor’s Palace taken in 2010.

The tomb, which measures 2.4 meters in length and 1.5 meters in width, was discovered on the site of the palace complex.

However, it had been placed there many years before the palace was built. Surprisingly, the tomb had not been looted in antiquity, unlike most of the other Mycenaean-era tombs found to date.

Inside the tomb, archaeologists discovered the remains of a wooden coffin containing the skeleton of an unknown warrior, aged between 30 and 35 years old. 

Next to him were his weapons – a bronze sword with a gold and ivory handle and a gold-hilted dagger.

Considering his place of burial and the treasures he was buried with, he is believed to have been a person of great importance.

According to the Ministry of Culture, the treasures also included gold rings, an ornate string of pearls, 50 Minoan seal stones carved with imagery of goddesses, silver vases, gold cups, a bronze mirror, ivory combs, an ivory plaque carved with a griffin, and Minoan-style gold jewellery decorated with figures of deities, animals, and floral motifs.

Archaeologists unearth a 3,500-year-old warrior's grave in Greece
A bronze mirror with an ivory handle was found in the grave of the warrior.

Many of the artefacts found in the tomb have been traced to Crete, the island upon which the Minoan civilization arose.

James C. Wright, the director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, told the New York Times that the finding of the tomb “will help scholars understand how the state cultures that developed in Crete were adopted into what became the Mycenaean palace culture on the mainland.”

Artefacts were recovered from the grave of the ancient warrior.

Archaeologists now plan to carry out a DNA analysis on the warrior’s remains to try to determine his origin.  They also plan to carry out radiocarbon tests on the plant material recovered from the tomb, which may allow more accurate dating of the burial.

The Rare Metal Of Atlantis – Orichalum – Recovered From Shipwreck

The Rare Metal Of Atlantis – Orichalum – Recovered From Shipwreck

According to the legend, there was an 8th continent known as Atlantis. This mysterious continent was said to have sunk a long time ago and when it did it took all of its orichalum with it.

Orichalum is a metal that is mentioned in several ancient writings including the story of Atlantis in the Critias dialogue, which was recorded by Plato around 360 BC. According to the dialogue, orichalcum was very valuable and was second only to gold in value.

Now a team of divers say they have recovered no less than 39 blocks of this precious metal from a shipwreck that is believed to have happened 2600 years ago.

This ship was likely from somewhere in Greece or somewhere in Asia Minor and was carrying this metal to Gela in Southern Sicily when it was then caught in a storm and sank to the bottom of the ocean about 300 meters from the port.

The Rare Metal Of Atlantis – Orichalum – Recovered From Shipwreck
According to Sebastiano Tusa, of Sicily’s Sea Office.

“Nothing similar has ever been found, we knew of orichalum from ancient texts and a few ornamental objects.” 

In the aforementioned Critias this metal was mined only on Atlantis and was used to completely cover the inside of Poseidon’s temple.

Many scholars today, agree orichalum is a brass-like alloy, made in antiquity by cementation. This process was reportedly achieved with a reaction to zinc ore, copper metal and charcoal in a crucible.

The 39 ingots, which were found, were analyzed with X-Ray fluorescence by Dario Panetta, of Technologies For Quality and, sure enough, the metal turned out to be made with 75-80% copper, 15-20% zinc, and a small percentage of nickel, iron and lead.

Tusa also stated: 

“The finding confirms that about a century after its foundation in 689 B.C., Gela grew to become a wealthy city with artisan workshops specialized in the production of prized artifacts.” 

He says this because the 39 ingots were destined for workshops in Gela and were used in very high-quality decorations.

Tusa’s team of divers plans to excavate the entire shipwreck to shed some more light on the history of Sicily, and possibly, Atlantis.

Archaeologists find a skeleton in Alexander the Great-era tomb

Archaeologists find a skeleton in Alexander the Great-era tomb

Archaeologists in Greece have uncovered a skeleton from a tomb dating back to the era of Alexander the Great. The excavation has refuelled rumours about the Greek conqueror, whose final resting place remains a mystery.

Archaeologists find a skeleton in Alexander the Great-era tomb

Greece’s Culture Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that an excavation site in the country’s north had once again produced exciting results, namely, that of a skeleton.

The remains would “be studied by researchers,” the Culture Ministry announced in a statement.

Archaeologists discovered the skeleton under the third chamber

An archaeological team digging roughly 600 kilometres (370 miles) north of Athens near the city of Amphipolis in recent months discovered the bones in the third chamber of the massive tomb.

According to preliminary information, parts of the skeleton were strewn around a rectangular wooden casket, which had been buried under the floor (pictured) of the cavernous room.

The occupant was probably some “outstanding personality, a great general,” head archaeologist Katerina Peristeri said.

Peristeri is to disclose the findings in detail at the end of November.

Nearly intact statues and expansive mosaics have fascinated the team, which is gradually making its way through the mysterious tomb. While the opulence points to a final resting place for an important person, the archaeologists on site still do not know to whom it belonged.

The discovery of a skeleton was “a very important find because it will help us learn the sex of the person buried there, and possibly their approximate age,” University of Thessaloniki archaeology professor Michalis Tiverio, who is not participating in the dig, told the Associated Press news agency.

The tomb houses intricate mosaics including one of the Rape of Persephone

Tomb fuels speculation

The tomb dates back to the time during which Alexander the Great ruled much of the surrounding region. Born in 356 BC, the young king of Macedon launched a successful military campaign through the Middle East, pushing into Asia to modern-day India, as well as into northeastern Africa.

Following his death in 323 at the age of 32, his wife, Roxana, and their son, Alexander, were exiled to Amphipolis. They, along with his mother, brother and sister-in-law were later murdered there.

Alexander the Great’s final resting place is believed to be in Alexandria, Egypt.

However, the findings of the current excavation in northern Greece have re-fuelled speculation that perhaps he had been buried closer to his home after all.