Category Archives: GREECE

2,000-Year-Old Shipwrecks With Cargo Discovered Off Greek Island

2,000-Year-Old Shipwrecks With Cargo Discovered Off Greek Island

Three shipwrecks from the ancient and medieval periods and large parts of their cargo are discovered in the remote Aegean island of Kasos, the ministry of cultural affairs in Greece reports.

Examining the ship off the shores of Kasos’s tiny Aegean island, divers reported finding cannons, stone anchors, pottery, fine tableware, and many other valuable items in an extensive underwater survey that ended this week.

Kasos Island lies on a historic maritime trading route that connects the Middle East with the Egean between Crete and Rhodes.

Iron Cannon discovered in a shipwreck.

The oldest of the wrecks, the Greek Reporter said, was a 2,300-year-old trading vessel with five anchors in stone, fine tableware, and amphorae, which were large pots of clay used to transport food, oils, and wines. Two other vessels from the 1st and 8th-10th centuries BC were also found.

An article in the National Herald says this phase of the project required “67 divers” who together covered more than one-third of the designated site during the 2019 exploratory season and they plan to resume diving in 2020 and will continue towards the end of 2021.

Stone anchor from a late classic shipwreck.

The archaeologists still need to “discover, study and identify” the hulls of these ancient ghost ships that once sailed this important route which served as a cross-cultural conduit with the eastern cultures, for many centuries.

The 8-10th century AD (Byzantine era) ship was found with an ancient Greek ship believed to have sunk in the 1st century BC, but the oldest shipwreck that has been found at Kasos dates way back to the 4th century BC.

Fortunately, the most ancient ship was also the one that contained the most archaeologically valuable treasure in the form of four different types of ancient pottery.

Lifting Amphora from Byzantine era shipwreck.

Kasos and the region around it served as a sort of maritime crossroads for many centuries where exotic products of the east came into contact with civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean, however, not all the finds are from the old world.

According to the Greek Reporter, “the last shipwreck” recovered by the archaeological divers was a modern era ship carrying construction materials and another shipwreck was found dating to the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s.

Frames and pipes from the shipwreck of the years of the Greek revolution.

The 4th century BC shipwreck, with all the different pottery, dates to exactly the same century as another shipwreck which is suspected to be the world’s “ oldest intact shipwreck ” which an October article in The Guardian said was discovered at the bottom of the Black Sea earlier this year.

The 2,400-year-old, 75 foot (23 meters) vessel of ancient Greek origins, was discovered in a near-perfect state of preservation still equipped with rudders, rowing benches, and its mast.

Professor Jon Adams is the principal investigator with the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP), and he said the reason these shipwrecks are so well preserved at such depths is because of a lack of oxygen.

However, even with all his experience, he said finding surviving intact ships from the classical world beneath 1.24 miles (2 kilometers) of the sea is something he “would never have believed possible” and that such discoveries will “change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world”.

An article such as this, about ancient shipwrecks discovered in 2019, wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the April 2019 announcement in Daily Sabah of the incredible findings of a group of Turkish underwater researchers from Antalya University’s Underwater Research Department.

Just off the western shores of the city of Antalya, they found a 46 foot (14 meters) long Bronze Age shipwreck in 164 feet (50 meters) of water holding 1.5 tons of copper bullion. And dating to 3,600 years-old, if verified, this will be the world’s “oldest shipwreck”.

It is suspected that this shipwreck is older than a Greek merchant ship found off Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast in 2018 which dates back more than 3,400 years and described as the world’s oldest known “intact shipwreck”.

Built around 1,600 BC, Antalya Governor Münir Karaloğlu, told press at the time that the discovery of this shipwreck was the “Göbeklitepe” of underwater archaeology, a terrestrial site often referred to as Point Zero in cultural archaeology.

Newly-Discovered Remains Suggest Earliest Humans Came From Europe, Not Africa

Newly-Discovered Remains Suggest Earliest Humans Came From Europe, Not Africa

For 200,000 years on earth has been Homo sapien, give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory.

Everything we know has been assembled into the principles of evolutionary theory by deciphering fossil record. Nonetheless, new discoveries have the ability to refresh their information and bring researchers to new results that have not yet been considered.

This may just have happened a set of 8 million years old teeth. The upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape was recently examined by scientists.

Their findings suggest that the forebears of mankind may have originated in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin’s day.

Rethinking humanity’s origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley’s Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jawbones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the ’90s.

This upper mandible was found in Nikiti, northern Greece

Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, a genus of an extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jawbones.

They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil’s hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017.

Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too.

“It’s widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today,” he told New Scientists. “If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?”

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It’s worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

“Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa,” Begun said in a statement then.

“It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not in Africa.”

Humans Reached Greek Island Nearly 200,000 Years Ago

Early humans travelled to Greek islands 200,000 years earlier than believed and could even have WALKED to them when seas were low, scientists claim

The discoveries in the journal Science Advances were based on years of excavations and challenge current thinking about human movement in the region —long thought to have been inaccessible and uninhabitable to anyone but modern humans.

The latest evidence encourages researchers to reconsider the routes followed by our earliest ancestors from Africa to Europe and reveals their ability to respond to new environmental challenges.

“Until recently, this part of the world was seen as irrelevant to early human studies but the results force us to completely rethink the history of the Mediterranean islands,” says Tristan Carter, an associate professor of anthropology at McMaster University and lead author on the study.

He conducted the work with Dimitris Athanasoulis, head of archaeology at the Cycladic Ephorate of Antiquities within the Greek Ministry of Culture.

While Stone Age hunters are known to have been living in mainland Europe for over 1 million years, the Mediterranean islands were previously believed to be settled only 9,000 years ago, by farmers, the idea being that only modern humans — Homo sapiens — were sophisticated enough to build seafaring vessels.

Scholars had believed the Aegean Sea, separating western Anatolia (modern Turkey) from continental Greece, was therefore impassable to the Neanderthals and earlier hominins, with the only obvious route in and out of Europe, was across the land bridge of Thrace (southeast Balkans).

The authors of this paper suggest that the Aegean basin was, in fact, accessible much earlier than believed.

At certain times of the Ice Age, the sea was much lower exposing a land route between the continents that would have allowed early prehistoric populations to walk to Stelida, and an alternative migration route connecting Europe and Africa.

Researchers believe the area would have been attractive to early humans because of its abundance of raw materials ideal for toolmaking and for its freshwater.

At the same time, however, “in entering this region the pre-Neanderthal populations would have been faced with a new and challenging environment, with different animals, plants and diseases, all requiring new adaptive strategies,” says Carter.

In this paper, the team details evidence of human activity spanning almost 200,000 years at Stelida, a prehistoric quarry on the northwest coast of Naxos.

Map of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea showing Naxos in the center
Map of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea showing Naxos in the center

Here early Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and earlier humans used the local stone (chert) to make their tools and hunting weapons, of which the team has unearthed hundreds of thousands.

Chert tool, Stelida, Naxos
Kathryn Killackey/Stelida Naxos Archaeological Project

Reams of scientific data collected at the site add to the ongoing debate about the importance of coastal and marine routes to human movement.

While present data suggests that the Aegean could be crossed by foot over 200,000 years ago, the authors also raise the possibility that Neanderthals may also have fashioned crude seafaring boats capable of crossing short distances.

This research is part of the Stelida Naxos Archeological Project, a larger collaboration involving scholars from all over the world. They have been working at the site since 2013.

Pottering of potters: archaeologist traces the migration of ancient Greek potters

Pottering of potters: archaeologist traces the migration of ancient Greek potters

Archaeologists have been keen in recent years to apply all kinds of modern methods for monitoring prehistoric migration; they analyze DNA and strontium isotopes in human remains.

“To illuminate the migration of potters in ancient Greece about 3200 years ago by more traditional methods,” says Dr. Bartłomiej Lis, who carries out his research at the British School at Athens as part of a grant obtained thanks to the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions program.

His analysis shows that around 1200 BC, potters from the island of Aegina (near Athens) left their homes and began to make characteristic vessels in many places scattered along the Gulf of Euboea, north of Aegina.

Aegina seen from the shores of Attica

Dr. Lis drew his conclusion on the basis of meticulous analysis of ceramic vessels in terms of methods of their manufacture, from the moment of obtaining clay and its preparation for firing the vessels.

“Thanks to this, I understood the process of making ceramic vessels in Aegina and I was able to compare these vessels with those found in other Greek regions”, the scientist says.

It turned out that the potters working on the island of Aegina were making their vessels in a very different way from other potters operating at the same time in Greece.

These differences concerned both the method of building the walls of the vessel without using a potter`s wheel, as well as other details of the production process.

In addition, potters from Aegina used to mark their products, which was probably associated with the fact that they shared kilns, but could also be their trademark.

“These observations led to the identification in many places along the Gulf of Euboea, the water corridor leading from Athens and the Saronic Gulf to the north, of the same characteristic vessels, but made of ceramic pastes different from those used in Aegina”, says Dr. Lis.

The analysis of ceramic pastes was deepened by the use of petrography, a technique borrowed from geology, in which the Fitch Laboratory at the British School specializes.

Dr. Lis learned this method under the guidance of the laboratory director, Dr. Evangelii Kiriatzi. Petrography allows to both determine the origin of the vessels and better understand the techniques of their manufacture.

The Polish scientist emphasizes that both aspects were crucial for the success of his project.

Dr. Lis during petrographic analysis

The researcher believes that the potters from Aegina left the island in at least two stages over the course of several decades.

In turn, the large variety of used pottery pastes clearly indicates the acquisition of raw material from various places and thus the production of vessels typical of the island of Aegina in many locations along the Gulf of Euboea.

“The first stage of migration may have resulted from problems with the sale of manufactured vessels. During this period, we observe a collapse of trade in pottery, which probably also affected the potters from Aegina. Seasonal wandering could be a way to take fate into their own hands”, the archaeologist speculates.

Pottering of potters: archaeologist traces the migration of ancient Greek potters
Examples of Aegina-type vessels made outside of Aegina, Pefkakia.

According to the researcher, the second stage was associated with the permanent relocation of potters, supposedly as a result of economic and political changes ca. 1200 BC. At that time, Aegina, as well as its immediate surroundings, were not a safe place to live.

“Many of the previously flourishing settlements were deserted, and people apparently moved to safer areas. In fact, the only trace of these movements are vessels made by potters who were part of these migrations”, Dr. Lis emphasizes.

Microscopic images of ceramic fabrics of the vessel made on Aegina (left) and near Pefkakia (right)

The scientist failed to unambiguously determine the sex of ceramics makers in Aegina.

“However, both the specialization visible in the production of vessels and the fact of their itinerant production, which according to ethnographic sources, women never undertook, suggest that they were men” – the scientist believes.

The Ancient Underwater 5,000- Year-Old Sunken City in Greece is considered to be the Oldest Submerged Lost City in the World.

The Ancient Underwater 5,000- Year-Old Sunken City in Greece is considered to be the Oldest Submerged Lost City in the World.

Pavlopetri is about 5 000 years old and one of the oldest populated city (oldest in Mediterranean sea). It is situated on the southern shore of Laconia, in Peloponnese, Greece.

The name Pavlopetri (“Paul’s and Peter’s”, or “Paul’s stone”) is the modern name for the islet and beach, apparently named for the two Christian saints that are celebrated together; the ancient name or names are unknown.

Discovered in 1967 by Nicholas Flemming and mapped in 1968 by a team of archaeologists from Cambridge, Pavlopetri is located between the Pavlopetri islet across the Elafonisos village and the Pounta coast.

The coast, the archaeological site as well as the islet and the surrounding sea area are within the region of the Elafonisos Municipality, the old “Onou Gnathos” peninsula (according to Pausanias).

It is unique in having an almost complete town plan, including streets, buildings, and tombs.

Originally, the ruins were dated to the Mycenaean period, 1600–1100 BC but later studies showed an older occupation date starting no later than 2800 BC, so it also includes early Bronze Age middle Minoan and transitional material.

It is now believed that the town was submerged around 1000 BC  by the first of three earthquakes that the area suffered. The area never re-emerged, so it was neither built-over nor disrupted by agriculture.

Although eroded over the centuries, the town layout is as it was thousands of years ago. The site is under threat of damage by boats dragging anchors, as well as by tourists and souvenir hunters.

Overview of Pavlopetri.

The fieldwork of 2009 was largely to map the site. It is the first submerged town digitally surveyed in three dimensions.

Sonar mapping techniques developed by military and oil prospecting organizations have aided recent work.

The city has at least 15 buildings submerged in 3 to 4 meters (9.8–13.1 ft) of water. The newest discoveries in 2009 alone cover 9,000 m2 (2.2 acres).

Position of Pavlopetri.
Position of Pavlopetri.

As of October 2009, four more fieldwork sessions are planned, also in collaboration with the Greek government as a joint project. Those sessions will do excavations.

Also working alongside the archaeologists (from the University of Nottingham) are a team from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, who aim to take underwater archaeology into the 21st century.

They have developed several unique robots to survey the site in various ways.

One of the results of the survey was to establish that the town was the center of the thriving textile industry (from the many loom weights found in the site). Also, many large pitharis pots (from Crete) were excavated, also indicating a major trading port.

The work of the British/Australian archaeological team was assembled in an hour-long BBC documentary video, “City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri”, broadcast by BBC Two in 2011.

The city of Pavlopetri is part of the underwater cultural heritage as defined by the UNESCO in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

All traces of human existence underwater which are one hundred years old or more are protected by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

This convention aims at preventing the destruction or loss of historic and cultural information and looting. It helps states parties to protect their underwater cultural heritage with an international legal framework.

3,300-Year-Old Chamber Tombs Filled With Bones Discovered in Greece

3,300-Year-Old Chamber Tombs Filled With Bones Discovered in Greece

In an interesting burial ground in Greece in the Mycenaean era, two big chamber tombs dating back to around 1300 BC were discovered.

Previously discovered tombs in the area were extensively looted, but these two are completely intact, offering exciting new insights into the culture and period.

In the course of a study supported by the Corinthian Ephorate of Antiquities, the Greek Minister for Culture announced that it had been found under the guidance of Konstantinos Kissa, Assistant Professor of Archeology in Graz Universities in Austria and Trier in Germany.

The tombs are located in the south of Greece, at Aidonia, not far from the modern town of Nemea, in the hilly terrain of the Peloponnese. 

They are also near the historic Nemea site, which is rich in archaeological ruins, including a famous temple of Zeus. Aidonia is also known for its cluster of ancient tombs, but most of them had been raided in the 1970s.

One of the newly discovered tombs with an intact roof and sealed orifice.

Mycenaean Cemetery

According to Kathimerini, the tombs are at the eastern section of the Mycenaean cemetery.

The Mycenaeans were a Late Bronze Age civilization that was very influential on the culture of Classical Greece. This culture was famed for its palaces and its aristocratic warrior-culture. This period is often associated with the Homeric epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The tombs are believed to date ‘’from 1400 to 1200 BC’’, from the Late Mycenaean period according to Greece News. The first tomb found was roofed and contained two burials where the bones of 14 people were unearthed.

These are secondary burials as the ‘’remains had been transferred from other tombs’’ reports Global News.  The second tomb’s roof had collapsed but three burials were found at the site.

A burial found in a chamber at Aidonia. 

3000-Year-Old Grave Goods

Both the chamber tombs had burial goods that are over 3000 years old. Archaeologists found a number of clay utensils, some figurines and smaller objects, including buttons.

In the tomb whose roof had not collapsed, archaeologists found some ‘’pots, false amphoras and narrow-leaved basins’’ reports Kathimerini. gr . These were probably offerings to the dead, a common practice at the time.

The two recently discovered tombs are from the high-point of the Bronze-Age culture when the Mycenaeans were building monumental palaces such as those found at Mycenae.

According to the Pressroom, the finds made in the two tombs are being compared with those found at burial sites of the early Mycenaean period (ca. 1,600 – 1,400 BC), which were excavated in previous years at Adidonia.

The cemetery contains a number of tombs that date from 1700-1100 BC and is not far from a major Mycenaean settlement.

The tombs also contained clay pots and basins.

Grave Robbers

What makes the discovery of the two tombs so remarkable is that they are intact, unlike the other burials in the cemetery. The other Mycenaean tombs had “been extensively looted, probably in 1976-77’’ according to Global News.

These robberies led to a number of digs that were carried out by the Greek Archaeological Service. Archaeologists led by Kalliopi Crystal-Votsi and Constantina Kaza made a number of important discoveries in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In total, some 20 chamber tombs were unearthed. Despite being previously looted, the burials still yielded a ‘’a stunning array of jewelry’’ according to the Pressroom.

Among the other items found were weapons, storage vessels, and even tableware. 

Some of the golden objects that had been previously looted from these tombs were recovered by the Greek government. They came to light after an attempt to auction them in New York in the 1990s.

Newly-discovered chamber tomb with fallen roof and two pits.

The newly discovered tombs can help us to understand the development of the site and the region in the Mycenaean period. The nature of the tombs can be contrasted with earlier examples. More importantly, the burial goods and their design can tell us much about the material culture of civilization.

There are plans to excavate the site further as more burials may come to light. 

Archaeologists Have Finally Found Greece’s Lost City Of Tenea

Archaeologists Have Finally Found Greece’s Lost City Of Tenea

The story goes, that Tenea was founded by the survivors of the Trojan War in the 12th or 13th century BC, Until now, its location (and very existence) was entirely reliant on the words of historical text.

But the Ministry of Culture of the country announced the discovery of jewelry, pottery and even infrastructures by a team of archeologists, seemingly confirming where it was on a site near the village of Chiliomodi in southern Greece.

It’s a city that the ancient Greeks thought was settled by Trojan captives of war after the sack of Troy in the 12th or 13th century BC and up to now showed up only in texts.

Tenea Project Photo by Ministry of Culture and Sports, Greece

Also found were household pottery, a bone gaming die, and 200 coins dating from the 4th century BC and up to later in the Roman era.

Specifically, coins discovered were dated to the era of Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who ruled from 193 to 211.

Past digs have found clues near the city, but the most recent excavation uncovered the “city’s urban fabric,” including floors, walls and door openings, the culture ministry said, according to USA Today.

Satellite map

An unsettling discovery was a pottery jar containing the remains of two human fetuses, within the foundations of a building. Usually in Greek culture, the dead were buried in cemeteries.

Legend says the city thrived until the end of the Roman Empire, at which point it seems to have been damaged in a Gothic invasion. According to the Ministry, the city may have been left deserted in the 6th century CE during the Avar and Slavic raids.

Photo by Ministry of Culture and Sports, Greece

Lead archaeologist Elena Korka told the Associated Press that the discoveries indicated the citizens of Tenea had been “remarkably affluent.”

The city would have been located on a trade route between the cities of Corinth and Argos in the northern Peloponnese.

“(The city) had distinctive pottery shapes with eastern influences, maintained contacts with both east and west… and had its own thinking, which, to the extent that it could, shaped its own policies,” she told the AP.

Pottery found on location.

Throughout history, not much was known about Tenea, apart from ancient references to the reputed link with Troy and to its citizens having formed the bulk of the Greek colonists who founded the city of Syracuse in Sicily.

Korka said more should emerge during the excavations, which will continue over the coming years.

″(The city) had distinctive pottery shapes with eastern influences, maintained contacts with both east and west … and had its own way of thinking, which, to the extent that it could, shaped its own policies,” she said.

According to Reuters, among the findings was a golden coin to pay for the journey to an afterlife and an iron ring with a seal that depicted the Greek god Serapis sitting on a throne, Cerberus, which is a three-headed mythical dog that guards the gates of Ades, beside him.

Trojan War

The Trojan War is believed to have taken place near the end of the Bronze Age, around 1200 B.C. It took place around the time that a civilization called Mycenaean was active in Greece. They built palaces and developed a system of writing.

The earliest accounts of this war come from Homer, who lived around the eighth century B.C., several centuries after the events that took place. They do not appear to have been written down until even later, likely during the sixth century B.C.

The site of Hisarlik, in northwest Turkey, has been identified as Troy. It was inhabited for almost 4,000 years starting around 3000 B.C. After one city was destroyed, a new city would be built on top.

“There is no one single Troy; there are at least 10, lying in layers on top of each other,” writes University of Amsterdam researcher Gert Jan van Wijngaarden in a chapter of the book Troy: City, Homer, and Turkey.