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The ten greatest archaeological discoveries for 2012

05 January 2013 / 16:01:05  GRReporter
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2012 was an eventful year. These events were not always positive for archaeology, either. The Grand Theft in Olympia marked the year, although the exhibits were discovered and returned to their place. Major archaeological exhibitions in Athens and Thessaloniki, conferences which promoted important new excavations and discoveries, restoration works of the Acropolis, projects under the EMPA programme, and the introduction of digital technologies in museums are just some of the steps leading this sector forward. In 2012, the Ministry of Culture was reduced in rank to a Directorate of the Ministry of Education - a step which has so far proved to be negative. The change of political leadership and expected sale of its headquarters, budget cuts and gutless policy of some archaeologists caused pessimism. Major excavations in Greece proved to be a life-saving remedy, thanks to major construction projects such as the subway in Thessaloniki.

1. Thessaloniki

The marble-paved road

In Thessaloniki, an astonishing 28,000 items from the city's past were gathered thanks to the construction of the subway.The marble-paved Roman road, with a length of 82.50 metres and a width of 4 metres, with a square, is the most important discovery of the past year. It is located at Agia Sofia subway station, at the site of one of the 26 small towns around the Thermaikos Gulf which, in 315 BC, were united by King Cassander and created Thessaloniki.

2. Zominthos

The secrets are revealed

On the road to Ida and the cave of Ideon Andron, Zominthos reveals its secret. Archaeologist Effi Sapouna-Sakelaraki's team discovered the luxury of the building that covers 120 square metres on Mount Psiloritis in Crete, as well as many religious objects, including bronze idols, a metal cylinder with snakes drawn on it (a priest sceptre), censers, copper aids and cups, vows showing that the building had chambers for official ceremonies and that it was a sacred place. Following recent excavations, it became clear that this could have been a building used by priests from the sanctuary in Ideon Andron during the winter months, when they brought their important activities there.

3. Ancient Iolkos

Palace policy of 3,500 years

A building from the 13th century BC, which had ceremonial and banquet functions was discovered in the coastal village, which was once the port of Iolkos and was directly connected with Diminios Palace. Burnt animal bones are evidence of the rituals performed there, and the great number of items, mainly vessels, is associated with the production and distribution of food to table-companions. The excavations are directed by Anthi Badziou-Efstathiou. Large earthen jars, cooking pots, containers for transportation and distribution of food, amphorae with aromatic oils, remnants of shark bones were also discovered. These discoveries are associated with policies of the palace centres which organised banquets to strengthen their image and public position.

4. Nies

The submerged prehistoric settlement

Half in the sea at a depth of a few centimetres to 2.5 metrеs, and the other half on land, this prehistoric settlement dates back to the middle Bronze Age (about 1700 BC). It is named after the ships that Myrmidons built in the bay of Pagasitikos in order to go to Troy. The village covers an area of more than 10 acres and, according to the discoveries of archaeologists, it had the characteristics of a typical town from the middle Bronze Age: weaving, from which weaving weights were discovered, pottery with a lot of vessels, etc. Homes are difficult to distinguish, however, they form a large coverage of stone and child graves are located on their floor, in the yards or near the homes.

5. Aetolia-Acarnania

The awakening of a region

The construction of the Ionian Highway prompted the development of archaeological research over a huge area of the region. A cemetery of the Classical and Hellenistic periods in Rigeika in Messolongi was discovered, where 245 funerals have been studied so far, with discoveries implying the conclusion that it belonged to the city of Alikirna. Settlements in the area of the ancient city of Makinia (early Classical to middle-Hellenistic Age) were also discovered, as well as Gavrolimni, a large settlement from the 4th century BC in western Amfilohia, a tombstone near Kalidona (of the Classical Hellenistic period), a priest's vessel at Agios Thomas, where 15,000 pieces of female figurines and vessels were also discovered.

6. Zea

Holds of a maritime battle

These holds, excavated by the Danish Archaeological Institute in the middle port of Mounihia (today Mikrolimano), probably housed some of the triremes which took part in the Battle of Salamis against the Persians in 480 BC., and which belonged to the Delian League. The remains of six holds that date back to the late 6th - early 5th century BC are located about 35 metres from the current shoreline, at a depth of more than 2 metres. Another 7 uncovered docks, with a length of 8 metres each, discovered in the ancient port of Zea, were probably used for large warships.

7. Koutroulou Magoula

Stone houses dating back to 7,000 years ago

At one of the biggest artificial hills in Greece (near the village of Vardali and Neo Monastiri in Fthiotida), several hundred people created a community during the Middle Neolithic period (c. 5800-5300 BC). They created a place with embankments, built moats surrounding the village and erected stone houses with stone floors. Excavations are co-directed by archaeologists Nina Kyparissi and Yiannis Hamilakis. A large number of clay figurines was discovered, the total number of which exceeds 300 - one of the greatest amounts for such finds.

8. Corinth

The colours of the tomb

The surprising portrait of a beautiful young woman who is depicted lying on a bed, covered with a red cloth, decorated with yellow, white and azure blue fringes, and garlands, ribbons and peacocks on the chamber and walls, make this funeral of the late Roman Era extraordinary. The colours, which are completely preserved, the manner of painting - a mixture of ancient and Faiyum techniques - make it unique. The tomb was discovered during the construction of the new Corinth-Patras Highway. It is subterranean, with arches, and the roof was destroyed. It dates back to the third century AD., with dimensions 2.40 x 2.30 metres and inside it has 2 chambers - one of the woman's burial.

9. Didymoteicho

The mosaics of Plotinopolis

Impressive mosaics were discovered during the excavations of Plotinopolis, a Roman town near Didimotiho. Portrayals of the God of Eurus River on one of them, located in a Roman villa (2nd -3rd century) and a female image, probably Plotini, the wife of the Roman Emperor Traianus who founded the city and named it after his wife, bring together history and art. The other mosaics are outstanding as well - Nereids, dolphins, fantastic animals such as fish-centaurs, birds, plants and various geometric shapes are depicted in the mosaic unearthed.

10. Mountainous Arcadia

What does Artemis show

The temple of Artemis Likoatida, the only one so far in Greece dedicated to the goddess, was found in Arahamites during excavations in Arcadia by the Finnish Institute in Athens. Two inscriptions were discovered on roof tiles of a neighbouring building, which made it clear to whom it was dedicated. Thus, the little town of Likoa housing the temple of Artemis Likoatida and mentioned by Pausanias, was located in Agia Paraskevi. Moreover, the ancient valley of Menalos is identify today as Arahamites Valley, and the ancient mountain of Menalos is associated with today's Agios Ilias.

Tags: archaeology excavations discoveries Thessaloniki Crete Didymoteicho Arcadia
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