Category Archives: GREECE

U.S. Repatriates Ancient Coins to Greece

U.S. Repatriates Ancient Coins to Greece

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Chicago, alongside distinguished representatives from Greece and the National Hellenic Museum, conducted a repatriation ceremony on June 16 to return to Greece the largest number of stolen ancient coins seized by U.S. law enforcement officials in recent HSI history.

Federal agents, National Hellenic Museum conduct the largest repatriation of ancient coins to Greece in recent HSI history
U.S. Repatriates Ancient Coins to Greece

The artifacts included 51 ancient Greek coins that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intercepted via four separate examinations of merchandise entering the United States.

“Trafficking in antiquities is a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise, but when traffickers steal these antiquities from a country, they’re robbing from the cultural heritage of a nation – solely for their potential to generate profit,” said HSI Chicago Special Agent in Charge R. Sean Fitzgerald.  “HSI possesses the unique skills and determination necessary to disrupt this concerning practice.  At HSI Chicago, we have a dedicated unit with agents specially trained to track down lost and stolen pieces, ultimately contributing to approximately 20,000 artifacts that HSI has recovered and returned to over 40 countries since 2007.”

As a result of the original shippers’ and consignees’ inability or unwillingness to provide proper documentation of ownership, CBP seized the coins and turned them over to HSI.

The distinguished guests present at the repatriation included the Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandra Papadopoulou, Consul General Emmanuel Koubarakis, and Consul Georgia Tasiopoulou.

“This is a successful example of how when we join forces, we can make miracles,” said Papadopoulou.

“As these coins get back to Greece where they belong, I’m sure it will make an exciting, powerful display as part of our culture, as part of our shared identity, and as part of our close relationship with the United States.”

This return of these ancient coins was made possible by the investigative efforts of HSI Chicago, HSI’s Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities (CPAA) program, and law enforcement partners at CBP.

One of the primary goals of the CPAA program is to protect and preserve the world’s cultural heritage and knowledge of past civilizations.

CPAA conducts training and outreach, supports cultural property investigations, and enhances international relations by working with foreign governments and citizens to return their nation’s looted cultural heritage and stolen artwork.

“It is often extremely difficult to put a specific monetary value on an ancient historical coin,” said Fitzgerald. “That notwithstanding, as tokens of the world’s oldest democracy, Greece’s cultural property — in HSI’s view — is considered priceless.”

Since 2007, HSI investigations have led to the repatriation of over 20,000 objects to more than 40 countries and institutions. The repatriated objects have included paintings, sarcophagi, statues, coins, and illuminated manuscripts.

In the fiscal year 2022, HSI’s CPAA program repatriated cultural property to more than 15 countries, including France, India, Iraq, Italy, and Mali.

Among the repatriated items were cuneiform tablets, religious artifacts, and architectural drawings stolen from Jewish communities during the Holocaust.

World’s Oldest Intact Shipwreck Found at the Bottom of the Black Sea

World’s Oldest Intact Shipwreck Found at the Bottom of the Black Sea

The oldest intact shipwreck ever found has been discovered at the bottom of the Black Sea. The 75ft Greek trading vessel was found lying whole with its mast, rudders and rowing benches after more than 2,400 years. It was found in a well-known ‘shipwreck graveyard’ that has already revealed over 60 other vessels. During the most recent exploration in late 2017, the team discovered what has now been confirmed as the world’s ‘oldest intact shipwreck’ – a Greek trading vessel design previously only seen on the side of ancient Greek pottery such as the ‘Siren Vase’ in the British Museum. 

The ship, found 1.3 miles under the surface, could shed new light on the ancient Greek tale of Odysseus tying himself to a mast to avoid being tempted by sirens. The vase shows Odysseus, the hero from Homer’s epic poem, tied to the mast of a similar ship as he resisted the Siren’s calls. 

The 75ft shipwreck was been found lying whole with its mast, rudders and rowing benches after more than 2,400 years.
The shipwreck was found nearly 7,000ft under the sea in ‘remarkable’ condition, with some suggesting it has similarities to a ship shown on an ancient vase that depicts Odysseus tying the mast of a similar ship as he resisted the Siren’s calls

Archaeologist discover the worlds oldest shipwreck in the Black Sea

The 75ft shipwreck was been found lying whole with its mast, rudders and rowing benches after more than 2,400 years. The shipwreck was found nearly 7,000ft under the sea in ‘remarkable’  condition, with some suggesting it has similarities to a ship shown on an ancient vase that depicts Odysseus tying the mast of a similar ship as he resisted the Siren’s call. A remote-controlled submarine piloted by British scientists spotted the ship lying on its side about 50 miles off the coast of Bulgaria.

The ship lies in over 1.3miles of water, deep in the Black Sea where the water is anoxic (oxygen free) which can preserve organic material for thousands of years. A small piece of the vessel has been carbon dated and it is confirmed as coming from 400BC – making the ship the oldest intact shipwreck known to mankind. Jon Adams, the project’s chief scientist, said the wreck was very well-preserved, with the rudder and tiller still in place. 

 ‘A ship, surviving intact, from the Classical world, lying in over 2km of water, is something I would never have believed possible,’ he said

‘This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.’

Prior to this discovery ancient ships had only been found in fragments with the oldest more than 3,000 years old. The team from the Black Sea Maritime Archaeological Project said the find also revealed how far from the shore ancient Greek traders could travel. Adams told The Times the ship probably sank in a storm, with the crew unable to bail water in time to save it.

Ulysses and the Sirens in another piece of Greek artwork

The archaeologist believes it probably held 15 to 25 men at the time whose remains may be hidden in the surrounding sediment or eaten by bacteria. He said he plans to leave the ship on the seabed because raising it would be hugely expensive and require taking the pint joints apart.

The ship was both oar and sail-powered. It was chiefly used for trading but the professor believes it may have been involved in ‘a little bit of raiding’ of coastal cities. It was probably based at one of the ancient Greek settlements on what is now the Bulgarian coast.

He said: ‘Ancient seafarers were not hugging the coast timidly going from port to port but going blue-water sailing.’

 The find is one of 67 wrecks found in the area. Previous finds were discovered dating back as far as 2,500 years, including galleys from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Scientists stumbled upon the graveyard while using underwater robots to survey the effects of climate change along the Bulgarian coast.  Because the Black Sea contains almost no light or oxygen, little life can survive, meaning the wrecks are in excellent condition.

Researchers say their discovery is ‘truly unrivalled’. 

Many of the ships have features that are only known from drawings or written description but never seen until now.  Carvings in the wood of some ships have remained intact for centuries, while well-preserved rope was found aboard one 2,000-year-old Roman vessel. The project, known Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea MAP), involves an international team led by the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology. Ed Parker, CEO of Black Sea MAP, said: ‘Some of the ships we discovered had only been seen on murals and mosaics until this moment.

The ship lies in over 2km of water, deep in the Black Sea where the water is anoxic (oxygen free) which can preserve organic material for thousands of years.

‘There’s one medieval trading vessel where the towers on the bow and stern are pretty much still there.

‘It’s as if you are looking at a ship in a movie, with ropes still on the deck and carvings in the wood.

‘When I saw that ship, the excitement really started to mount – what we have found is truly unrivalled.’

Most of the vessels found are around 1,300 years old, but the oldest dates back to the 4th Century BC. Many of the wrecks’ details and locations are being kept secret by the team to ensure they remain undisturbed. Black Sea water below 150 metres (490 ft) is anoxic, meaning the environment cannot support the organisms that typically feast on organic materials, such as wood and flesh.

The wrecks, such as this one from the Medieval period, are astonishingly well preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below 150 metres (490 ft). This trading vessel was found with the towers on the bow and stern still mostly in place
Shown here is a shipwreck from the Ottoman period discovered 300 metres beneath the Black Sea. Many of the wrecks’ details and locations are being kept secret by the team to ensure they remain undisturbed
The researchers used two Remotely Operated Vehicles (pictured) to survey the sea bed. These have discovered a number of wrecks over a series of expeditions spanning three years, including the one pictured from the Byzantine period, found in October last year

As a result, there is an extraordinary opportunity for preservation, including shipwrecks and the cargoes they carried. Ships lie hundreds or thousands of metres deep with their masts still standing, rudders in place, cargoes of amphorae and ship’s fittings lying on deck. Many of the ships show structural features, fittings and equipment that are only known from drawings or written description but never seen until now.

Project leader Professor Jon Adams, of the University of Southampton, said: ‘This assemblage must comprise one of the finest underwater museums of ships and seafaring in the world.’

The expedition has been scouring the waters 1,800 metres (5,900ft) below the surface of the Black Sea since 2015 using an off-shore vessel equipped with some of the most advanced underwater equipment in the world. The vessel is on an expedition mapping submerged ancient landscapes which were inundated with water following the last Ice Age.

While the primary focus of the project is to carry out geophysical surveys, shipwrecks, including this one from the Ottoman period, have given new insights into how communities live on the shores of the Black Sea

The researchers had discovered over 40 wrecks across two previous expeditions, but during their latest trip, which spanned several weeks and returned this month, they uncovered more than 20 new sites.

Returning to the Port of Burgas in Bulgaria, Professor Jon Adams said: ‘Black Sea MAP now draws towards the end of its third season, acquiring more than 1300km [800 miles] of survey so far, recovering another 100m (330 ft) of sediment core samples and discovering over 20 new wreck sites, some dating to the Byzantine, Roman and Hellenistic periods.’  

The researchers are using two Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to survey the sea bed. One is optimised for high resolution 3D photography, while the other, called Surveyor Interceptor, ‘flies’ at four times the speed of conventional ROVs. The Interceptor carries an entire suite of geophysical instrumentation, as well as lights, high definition cameras and a laser scanner.  Since the project started, Surveyor Interceptor has set new records for depth at 5,900ft (1,800 metres) and sustained speed  of over six knots (7mph), and has covered 1,250 kilometres (776 miles). Among the wrecks are ships from the Roman, Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, which provide new information on the communities on the Black Sea coast.

Professor Jon Adams of The Black Sea Maritime Archaeology project holding a 3D model of a Greek shipwreck from 400BC, officially the World’s oldest intact shipwreck, at the Wellcome Collection, London.
After three years of highly advanced technological mapping of the Black Sea bed, scientists confirm that a shipwreck lying intact on the sea floor has been officially radiocarbon dated to 400BC

Many of the colonial and commercial activities of ancient Greece and Rome, and of the Byzantine Empire, centred on the Black Sea.  After 1453, when the Ottoman Turks occupied Constantinople – and changed its name to Istanbul – the Black Sea was virtually closed to foreign commerce.  Nearly 400 years later, in 1856, the Treaty of Paris re-opened the sea to the commerce of all nations.

The scientists were followed by Bafta-winning filmmakers for much of the three-year project and a documentary is expected in the coming years. Producer Andy Byatt, who worked on the David Attenborough BBC series ‘Blue Planet’, said: ‘I think we have all been blown away by the remarkable finds that Professor Adams and his team have made.

‘The quality of the footage revealing this hidden world is absolutely unique.’

Oldest evidence of humans in Greece is 700,000 years old, a quarter of a million years older than previous record

Oldest evidence of humans in Greece is 700,000 years old, a quarter of a million years older than previous record

Oldest evidence of humans in Greece is 700,000 years old, a quarter of a million years older than previous record
Stone tools crafted by hominins from and Choremi 7 in Greece.

Several prehistoric sites in Greece reveal that our human ancestors hunted hippos and elephants between 280,000 and 700,000 years ago. The oldest site pushes back the earliest known hominin presence in the region by up to 250,000 years.

It’s not clear which ancient hominin (a term that includes humans and our ancestors) used the site, but researchers suspect it was archaic Homo sapiens.

Sitting about 124 miles (200 kilometers) southwest of Athens, the Megalopolis Basin in Arcadia hosts one of the largest lignite mines in Greece. Although archaeologists have known for decades that the site harbored ancient fossils, little targeted excavation had been carried out.

Recently, though, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture & Sports and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens launched a five-year excavation to better understand the context of the Megalopolis sites. 

Mining activity revealed five new sites in the basin, which “exposed the fossil-bearing sediments to a much greater depth, thus revealing older remains,” Katerina Harvati, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany and co-project lead, told Live Science in an email. 

The most recent site, Choremi 7, dating to around 280,000 years ago, yielded stone tools as well as deer bones with evidence of cut marks. Tripotamos 4, at 400,000 years old, had a large concentration of stone tools and evidence of new methods of stone working compared to older sites.

These sites are important for understanding the technological development of the Lower Paleolithic period (3.3 million to 300,000 years ago), according to a statement from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture & Sport.

At a site called Marathousa 2 dating to 450,000 years ago, the researchers discovered evidence that ancient human relatives were killing and presumably eating hippopotamuses, as part of a hippo skeleton had stone tool cut marks on it. A nearby site, Marathousa 1, shows evidence of elephant butchering. 

An ancient deer skull, as found at Kyparissia site 4.

“The cut marked hippopotamus bones from Marathousa 2, which were also found together with a lithic artifact, are the only such findings from the Middle Pleistocene of southeast Europe,” Harvati said. The team found that megafaunal exploitation was likely common during this time period.

A surface survey showing the artificial levels of the Megalopolis lignite mine in Greece.

About 230 feet (70 meters) below the surface, the team discovered the site of Kyparissia 4. Dating to 700,000 years ago, it is the oldest archaeological site from the Lower Palaeolithic era in Greece.

The researchers found numerous stone tools as well as remains of extinct species of giant deer, hippo, rhino, elephant and macaque.  When glaciers covered much of Europe during a major ice age between 500,000 and 300,000 years ago, this region would have been ice-free.

The sites Kyparissia 3 and 4 in the stratigraphic sequence of the lignites.

“Our research reconstructing the paleoenvironment of the basin has indicated that it would have functioned as a refugium during Ice Age conditions,” Harvati said, “allowing animal and plant populations — but also hominin groups — to survive during harsh glacial times when they would have disappeared from more northern parts of the European continent.”

The “outstanding and highly unusual preservation conditions” in the Megalopolis basin mean that the team is recovering not only stone tools and fossils but also remains of small animals, wood, plant remains and even insects, according to Harvati.

The basin has provided evidence that spans almost the entire middle Pleistocene, an important discovery considering southeastern Europe is relatively unexplored for this time period.

“The Megalopolis basin therefore provides a crucial piece of the puzzle of human evolution in Europe,” Harvati said.

2,000 Ancient Figurines Unearthed on Greek Island

2,000 Ancient Figurines Unearthed on Greek Island

An excavation of the ancient acropolis on the Cycladic island of Kythnos has unearthed more than 2,000 intact votive figurines deposited by worshippers at the sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone over the course of seven centuries.

Hundreds of clay figurines of women, children, actors, Dionysian characters, pigs, turtles, lions, rams, birds and many other animals were recovered, as were hundreds of lamps, miniature vases, marble and alabaster vessels, copper, silver bone and glass jewelry.

One of the oldest settlements in the Cycladic Islands, the ancient city of Kythnos was continuously inhabited from the 12th century B.C. to the 7th century A.D.

The sanctuary complex was built on the northern part of the plateau overlooking the ocean.

It was constructed in stages, with the earliest building dating to the 7th century B.C.

The temple complex was in active use until the 4th century A.D.

Recent excavations have focused on three buildings (3, 4 and 6). In 2021, votive offerings were found under the last floor of Building 5, but the motherload of votive figurines was discovered in Building 3.

They were concentrated in the abandoned embankments in the eastern side of the building. Natural recesses in the rock walls appear to have been used as niches for votive offerings.

Another concentration was found along the south wall of the western part of the building.

Flat stones projecting off the wall at regular intervals at the same height suggest there was once a long wooden shelf where votive objects were left.

An inscribed monumental slab was found inside the door of Building 3. It had been moved from its original location.

The inscription dates to the late Hellenistic period and is the name of a magistrate, likely an official of the sanctuary itself. Several inscribed drinking vessels and votives were also found referring to the two deities of the sanctuary.

The excavation by Greece’s University of Thessaly and the Culture Ministry also found luxury pottery imported from other parts of Greece, ornate lamps, and fragments of ritual vases used in the worship of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis, an ancient Athens suburb.

It is unclear to what extent the site on Kythnos was associated with Eleusis — one of the most important religious centers in ancient Greece, where the goddesses were worshipped during secret rites that were only open to initiates forbidden to speak of what they saw. The sanctuary at Eleusis is known to have owned land on the island.

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.”