Category Archives: GREECE

Piece of a skull found in Greece ‘is the oldest human fossil outside Africa’

700,000 years old Skull discovered in Greek cave, completely shatters the Out of Africa theory

The “Petralona man”, or “Archanthropus of Petralona”, is a 700,000-year-old human skull discovered in 1959. Since then, scientists have been trying to trace this skull’s origin, a process that has caused considerable controversy.

The skull, indicating the oldest human “europeoid” (presenting European traits), was embedded in a cave’s wall in Petralona, near Chalkidiki in Northern Greece.

The cave, rich in stalactites and stalagmites, was accidentally located by a shepherd. Dr. Aris Poulianos, an expert anthropologist, member of UNESCO’s International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences and founder of the Anthropological Association of Greece, was assigned research on the cave and skull.

Before that, Dr. Poulianos was already known for his thesis on “The origin of the Greeks”. His thesis was based on craniological and anthropometrical studies of Modern Greek populations, which proved that modern Greeks are related to ancient Greeks and that they are not the descendants of Slavic nations.

After the extensive study on the 700,000-year-old skull, he concluded that the “Petralona man” was not connected to the species that came out of Africa. His arguments were mainly based on the skull’s almost perfect orthography, the shape of its dental arch, and the occipital bone construction.

According to the “Out of Africa” theory, “anatomically modern humans” known as “Homo sapiens” originated in Africa between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago before spreading to the rest of the world. This theory was related to the fact that most prehistoric fossils were found in Africa.

In 1964, two German researchers, anthropologist E. Breitinger and paleontologist O. Sickenberg, who was invited to Greece, suggested that the skull was actually 50,000 years old, thus rejecting Dr. Poulianos’ theory.

Moreover, Breitinger claimed that the skull belonged to the “first African out of Africa”. A few years later, in 1971, US Archaeology magazine confirmed Poulianos’ statement.

According to the scientific magazine, the existence of a cave dating back more than 700,000 years and human presence in almost every geological layer were ascertained.

Additionally, the magazine affirmed that human presence became evident from the discovery of Paleolithic tools of the same age and the most ancient traces of fire that was ever lit by human hand.

The research continued from 1975 to 1983, when the excavation stopped and findings remained inaccessible to study until 1997.

Today, 50 years after the discovery of the “Petralona man”, modern methods of absolute chronology confirm Dr. Poulianos’ theory.

Most academics believe that the skull belongs to an archaic hominid with strong European traits and characteristics of Homo erectus, Neanderthals and sapiens, but they distinguish it from all these species. This incredible discovery raises new questions on human evolution and certainly challenges the “Out of Africa” theory.

Ancient ‘curse tablets’ discovered down a 2,500-year-old well in Athens

Ancient ‘curse tablets’ discovered down a 2,500-year-old well in Athens


Records of curse tablets have been found in 2500-year-old water well in Athens. The 30 small lead tablets were found engraved with ancient curses and hexes at the bottom of a 2,500-year-old well in the area of Kerameikos, in the ancient Athens main burial ground.

On behalf of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens, Dr. Jutta Stroszeck, head of the Kerameikos digging, said that the ritual text “invoking the underworld gods”  but the person that ordered the curse is never mentioned by name, “only the recipient”.

Previously discovered curses from tombs dating to the Classical period (480-323 BC) had been related to people that had died in an untimely manner and through what appeared to be plain old bad luck.

These folks were deemed as being most suitable for carrying spells to the underworld. According to an article in Haaretz, Dr. Stroszeck said there was good reason for the transition of “ill-will from graves to wells” in ancient Athens.

Since 1913 the excavations conducted by the German Archaeological Institute in the Kerameikos area have unearthed about 6,500 burials from ornate tombs and graves marked with stelai, reliefs, marble vases, and sculpted animals which were deemed important on the journey to the realm of the dead.

Graves in the classical section of the Kerameikos necropolis.

In 2016 Dr. Stroszeck’s team excavated the 33 foot (10 meters) deep well in which the curses were found during an archaeological project investigating the water supply to a 1st century BC bathhouse near the city-gate on the road to the academy.

Inside the well, according to the Haaretz report, items that were discovered included, “drinking vessels (skyphoi), wine mixing vessels (krater), clay lamps, cooking pots, special broad-mouthed clay pots used to draw water (kadoi), wooden artifacts including a trinket box, a scraper used by potters, a wooden pulley, part of the drawing mechanism of the well, a number of bronze coins, as well as organic remains such as peach pits. And the curses”.

Model sarcophagus and figurine made of lead, found at the bottom of the Kerameikos well, 5th century BC.

The 30 ancient tablets have been scientifically documented using “reflectance transformation imaging”, which is a new digital visualizing technique enabling the researchers to study even the smallest inscriptions scraped onto the faces of the lead tablets. And reaching for answers as to why the curses might have been created we have to look back to the time of Cicero (De Legibus II 66), Demetrios of Phaleron, who ruled Athens in 317-307 BC.

The curse against the newlywed Glykera, focusing on her vulva, by someone jealous of her marriage.

Cicero enacted new legislation governing the management of tombs and created a new magistrate ’s office to oversee adherence to the law:   et huic procurationi certum magistratum praefecerat regarding what was called the ‘Black Arts ’.

One of the new laws forbade the placement of ‘ hexes’ in tombs and the public responded to the new decree by tossing their curses into wells.

Perhaps this happened because rivers and wells were not only thought of as having been protected “by nymphs” but it was also widely believed they provided “direct access” to the underworld and, as Dr. Stroszeck said, throwing the curse into a well would “activate it”.

The origins of such curses in ancient Athens, according to Dr. Stroszeck, might be found back in the mid 5th century BC during the dedication of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis.

At this time opposition was shown against the spending of federal (union) finds for municipal purposes in Athens. Pericles famously argued that as long as Athens was fulfilling its defense obligations, it owed “no accounting” to its allies regarding its spending of the tribute money.

However, during the famous speech of Thucydides, son of Melesias, against the vast construction program, his jaw suddenly broke and to the people, it looked like Thucydides had been cursed.

This single incident could explain the sudden increase of curse tablets in the Kerameikos during the 5th century BC. And the team of archaeologists hopes that their 3D imaging technology will help them learn the name of the actual nymph and the nature of curses in Athens during the late 4th century BC.

More than 80 shackled skeletons found in an ancient mass grave

More than 80 shackled skeletons found in an ancient mass grave

In Athens, Greece, archeologists excavating the necropolis of the Falyron Delta discovered the mass graves of 80 men skeletal remains, certain of them were clamped to their wrists with iron shackles.

The bodies were carefully laid side by side in a mass grave in a long line. The other was thrown into the pit more haphazardly, one above the other was the skeletons. Analysis of the teeth indicates these are the remains of young, healthy men.

It was in use from the 8th century B.C. to the 5th century B.C. and two small vases discovered in the mass graves were dated from the 675 B.C. to 650 B .. C. a time when the city was in the grip of series of political crises. Archaeologists speculate that the young men were executed during one of those crises.

More than 80 shackled skeletons found in an ancient mass grave
Shackled skeletal remains are piled on top of each other at the ancient Falyron Delta cemetery in Athens, Greece,

“They have been executed, all in the same manner. But they have been buried with respect,” Dr. Stella Chryssoulaki, head of excavations, said.

“They are all tied at the hands with handcuffs and most of them are very, very young and in a very good state of health when they were executed.”

The experts hope DNA testing and research by anthropologists will uncover exactly how the rows of people died. Whatever happened was violent — most had their arms bound above their heads, the wrists tied together.

But the orderly way they have been buried suggests these were more than slaves or common criminals.

One possibility the archaeologists are batting around is that these might have been the supporters of a failed would-be tyrant named Cylon. In 632 B.C., Cylon, an Athenian aristocrat and champion of the double-stadion race (ca. 400 meters) at the 640 B.C. Olympic Games attempted to take Athens with the backing of his father-in-law, Theagenes, tyrant of Megara. He had consulted the Oracle of Delphi and Apollo’s mouthpiece assured him that he should conquer the citadel of Athens during a festival of Zeus.

Shackled skeletal remains are piled on top of each other at the ancient Falyron Delta cemetery in Athens, Greece,

Prophecies are tricksy things, though, and the ancient sources report that he picked the wrong festival and he and his select cadre of noble young fighters met unexpected resistance. With their coup attempt quickly defeated, Cylon and his supporters took sanctuary near the statue of the goddess in the temple of Athena on the Acropolis. Cylon and his brother managed to sneak out, but the rest of his followers were stuck in the temple.

Thucydides describes the result of the failed coup in his History of the Peloponnesian War (1.126).

Now those that were besieged with Cylon were for want of both victual and water in very evil estate, and therefore Cylon and a brother of his fled privily out; but the rest, when they were pressed and some of them dead with famine, sat down as suppliants by the altar that is in the citadel. And the Athenians, to whose charge was committed the guard of the place, raising them up on the promise to do them no harm, put them all to the sword. Also, they had put to death some of those that had taken sanctuary at the altars of the severe goddesses as they were going away

Skeletal remains, with iron shackles on their wrists, are piled on top of each other at the ancient Falyron Delta cemetery in Athens, Greece,

The killing of suppliants was considered a profane act, a sacrilege that would take generations to expiate. The archon Megacles, who ordered the executions, and his extended family, the Alcmaeonidae, were exiled from Athens and cursed with a miasma, a “stain” that would taint the Alcmaeonidae for generations even after the archon Solon allowed them to return to Athens in 594 B.C. Pericles, the great statesman and general of Athens, was Alcmaeonid on his mother’s side and the miasma still caused him political trouble well into the 5th century.

If archaeologists are able to successfully extract DNA from the remains, it’s possible they may be able to help narrow down who they were, although I seriously doubt they can pinpoint participants in the Cylonian Affair. Best case scenario they figure out the method of execution, probably through osteological analysis. They didn’t die in a plague, that’s for sure, and there’s no way of doing any kind of kinship analysis, so I don’t see how DNA can link them to Cylon.

The skull of a child is seen inside a clay jar, a common practice for the burial of babies and children in ancient Greece known as pot-burial, at the ancient Falyron Delta cemetery in Athens, Greece.

More than 1,500 bodies were buried in the Falyron Delta necropolis during its centuries of use. It was the cemetery for regular people; Athens’ rich and famous were buried in the Kerameikos cemetery.

Now part of a vast park in the shadow of the new opera house and library between downtown Athens and the port of Piraeus, the necropolis continues to be excavated. Chryssoulaki hopes it will eventually become an open-air museum.

Leucocarpa, the Dazzling White Olive From Magna Graecia

The Unique Ancient Tree that Produces Pearly-White Olives

A unique variety of olive trees is known as leucolea, found mostly in southern Italy. It is found in the area known historically as “Magna Graecia” or Greater Greece.

The name of the leukocarpa or leukolea olive is primarily derived from the Greek words for white (Leucos), olive (elaea) and seed (carpos), though developing in its small form. But its fruit is delicate in ivory or pearly-white during the process of maturation.

Experts claim that this particular seed was most probably first introduced to the south of Italy during the years of the Greek colonization of the Italian peninsula and Sicily.

This unique white olive tree is part of the broader family of olives, known to the scientific world as ”Olea Europea”, which means European olive.

The south of Italy is not the only place where this ancient olive is produced, but this region is the main area of production for Leucocarpa olives in modern times.

The Greek colonies of Southern Italy and their dialects

Similar white olives are found in Greece today but they are quite rare. They can also be spotted in some areas along the Mediterranean coasts of northern Africa and all the way west to the Atlantic shores of Portugal.

However, the Leucocarpa olive is mostly known by different local names, and its products are not exported in an organized and systematic way.

The Leucocarpa was traditionally used in past centuries by the communities of the Mediterranean, mainly for religious purposes, since its white color became synonymous with purity.

There is evidence that even the Christian churches of the region were known to use the special olive oil produced from this variety to anoint emperors and kings, for example.

Unfortunately, for unknown reasons, the Leucocarpa was propagated less and less over the years, and its olives and oils are now rare products, but its delicate beauty is truly quite arresting.

Anyone who is interested in seeing how this ancient olive or olive oil tastes will have to be extremely persistent since it is not very easy to find them in regular supermarkets!

Greek Farmer Finds Ancient Cemetery Full of Naked Statues

Greek Farmer Finds Ancient Cemetery Full of Naked Statues

A farmer in Atalanti, Central Greece, wanted to plant olive trees but found an ancient statue of a Kouros instead.

While the farmer was preparing the soil in his plot, his tools hit something that looked like a statue.

He informed authorities that started a broader excavation and the result was: four Kouros statues and a part of an Ancient Greek cemetery that suggests it belonged to the ancient city of Opus.

A Kouros is a name given to free-standing ancient Greek sculptures that first appear in the Archaic period in Greece and represent nude male youths. In Ancient Greek kouros means “youth, boy, especially of noble rank”.

Although Kouroi have been found in many ancient Greek territories, they were especially prominent in Attica and Boiotia.

The discovery of the first Kouros statue took place in the middle of October, the Greek Culture Ministry said in a statement, adding that the excavation the followed discovered more amazing findings.

Archaeologists unearthed four limestone statues of natural size and a part of a base for a statue.

After the first statue was discovered, the head of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Fthiotida and Evritania instructed archaeologist Maria Papageorgiou to conduct field trials.

Two more statues were unearthed.

The archaic statues were not intact and the parts that were found had a height of 0.86m to 1.22m.

The excavation was conducted in a small part of the field only. In earth layers deeper than where the sculptures were found, an organized cemetery with so far seven graves has been discovered.

The graves seemed to have been used from the 5th century BC until the 2nd century BC. The existence of the ancient cemetery in proximity to the modern city of Atalanti suggests that part of the organized cemetery of the ancient Opus has been probably identified.

Opus is the ancient name of Atalanti, believed to be one of the most ancient towns in Greece.

Pindar’s ninth Olympian ode concerns Opus. It was said to have been founded by Opus, a son of Locrus and Protogeneia; and in its neighborhood Deucalion and Pyrrha were reported to have resided.

It was the native city of Patroclus and it is mentioned in the Homeric Catalogue of Ships as one of the Locrian towns whose troops were led by Ajax the Lesser, son of Oileus the king of Locris, in the Iliad.