Category Archives: GREECE

From Thebes to Nazi Germany: ancient vase returned to Greece

From Thebes to Nazi Germany: ancient vase returned to Greece

Upon his return to Athens, an amazing story about an ancient wine-cup given to the marathon champion of the first modern Olympics before being smuggled out of Greece by a notorious Nazi.

Spyros Louis, who was a water carrier when he surprisingly won the opening marathon in 1896, obtained the 6th century BC pottery vessel. It went missing then.

“When I was asked to review everything which happened in 2012. I started checking bibliographies and records. It was believed it had been inventoried in our archives but that is not at all the case,” said Georgios Kivvadias, curator of vase collections at the Athenian National Archeology Museum.

Two years of detective work began after the archeologist finally found a vessel at the University of Münster, Germany decorated with an image of two black-figured athletes with a clay-red background.

The double-handled cup – originally discovered in a tomb in Thebes – was acquired by the university in 1986.

From Thebes to Nazi Germany: ancient vase returned to Greece
The 6th century BC vessel will go on show in Athens before joining the Olympic collection in Olympia.

On Wednesday the cup was formally repatriated in a handover ceremony at the museum, where the university’s rector spoke of the “bittersweet” experience of giving it up, and Greece’s culture minister, Lina Mendoni, spoke of the gratitude of the Greeks for getting it back.

“The noble gesture of the University of Münster is a very important gesture of the German people to the Greek people,” she told an audience gathered at the museum. “Cultural heritage belongs to the people who created it.”

How the ancient vase got to Germany may have played no small role in the university’s decision to hand it back.

Kivvadias said: “After Louis was handed the pottery, it disappeared until 1934 when it re-appeared in the hands of Werner Peek, an archaeologist who had won a grant to work at the German Archaeological Institute in Athens.

Peek had amassed a collection of antiquities during his time here in the thirties and probably bought it on the art market in Athens.”

The connoisseur of ancient artworks and respected classical philologist was also an ardent Nazi sympathizer and antisemite.

Peek later confessed he handed his entire 68-strong collection to Hermann Göring, the notorious Nazi military leader when he paid a visit to Athens in 1934 – seven years before the Wehrmacht occupied Greece.

Göring, one of the architects of the Third Reich police state and later associated with the plundering of Jewish treasures, concealed the antiquities in diplomatic pouches.

“They were smuggled out of the country with the rest of his collection by Göring,” said Kivvadias. “Then when [Peek] returned in 1937 they ended up with him in East Germany, where he lived for years, was allowed to travel freely and taught as a professor.

“It was only when he went to the West in the late 1980s that he decided to sell the collection to the University of Münster, which acquired it without knowing the exact origins of the pieces.”

At a time when Athens has stepped up its campaign to retrieve the Parthenon marbles from the British Museum – ahead of the nation bicentennial independence celebrations – the repatriation of the cup could not be more timely.

The vessel, currently on display in the National Archaeological Museum, will remain in Athens until early next year, when it will be exhibited at a museum chronicling the history of the Olympics in ancient Olympia, the birthplace and venue of the original games.

Dr. Erofili Kollia, the director of the Archeological Museum of Olympia, said: “It will have pride of place here. The piece is hugely significant both as an artwork whose value is undisputed and because it was given to Louis, the victor of the first marathon when the modern Olympic games were revived. We are overjoyed that it will be here, with us, again.”

Discovery of hidden 3,500-year-old warrior grave stuffed with treasure could re-write ancient Greek history

Discovery of hidden 3,500-year-old warrior grave stuffed with treasure could re-write ancient Greek history

The 3,500-year-old remains of a prominent ancient warrior who has been buried alongside an assortment of riches have been uncovered by an American husband-and-wife team working in Greece.

In more than 65 years, it is considered the most significant finding made in continental Greece.

The undisturbed tomb, found in southwestern Greece by the University of Cincinnati archaeologists Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis, was discovered the hidden treasure.

For some time, the news of the discovery had been kept under wraps after the Greek authorities made the announcement. Stocker and Davis made the discovery while working near the Palace of Nestor, a site initially discovered back in 1939.

Four solid gold rings were uncovered, which is more than has been found in any other single burial in all of Greece

A pit of 5 feet deep, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long revealed during the excavation by the team.

The skeletal remains of a single individual—an unknown male between the age of 30 to 35 years—was found buried alongside an astounding assortment of riches, a strong indication that he was likely a warrior of significant importance.

Analysis of his remains suggests he was, in the words of the archaeologists, “strong, robust…well-fed.”

The unnamed warrior may have been royalty, the founder of a new dynasty, or even a trader who acquired his riches through commerce.

A stunning solid-gold necklace, measuring more than 30 inches long. It features two gold pendants on each end, decorated with ivy leaves.

The warrior was laid to rest with his many belongings, including fine gold jewellry, an ornate string of pearls, signet rings, silver vases, ivory combs, and a bronze sword with a gold and ivory handle.

The fact that he was buried alone and not in a common pit with others is yet another indication of his social importance.

A bronze mirror featuring an ivory handle.

The jewellery, adorned with figures of deities, animals, and floral motifs, was crafted in the style of the Minoans, a civilization that lived on the island of Crete from around 2,000 BC.

One of nearly 50 seal stones discovered. In all, some 1,400 objects were recovered from the grave.

The Mycenaean people spread from the Peloponnese across the eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd millennium BC, and represent the first advanced civilization in mainland Greece.

Mycenaean Greece came to end with the collapse of the Bronze-Age culture around 1,100 BC and inspired ancient Greek society, literature, and mythology.

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.