Archaeologists have uncovered a trove of precious artifacts and evidence of animal sacrifices at the ruins of the ancient Temple of Artemis in Greece, shedding new light on the mysteries of this ancient site.
Chance Discovery Leads to Historic Find
The discoveries came about by chance last year during maintenance work on an irrigation canal running through the archaeological site in Evia, northeast of Athens (Source 1). Archaeologists were called in after the construction workers uncovered ruins and artifacts while trying to clear an underground pipe.
What they found has been described as an “exceptionally significant” find that offers invaluable insights into the archaic temple, dedicated to the ancient Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis (Source 2). The temple dates back to the 7th century BC, meaning it stood for over 1,000 years until its destruction.
Gold, Silver & Jewels Found Among the Ruins
The archaeologists uncovered over 200 clay figurines, precious jewelry made of gold foil, a golden wreath, and remnants of golden delicately patterned foil from ritual garments from the ruins of the archaic temple (Source 3).
They also found a silver ring and several bracelets, as well as a rare artifact – a golden three-pronged crown (Source 4). These discoveries point to the possibility of greater treasures still hidden on the site.
|Over 200 clay figurines
|Gold foil jewelry, golden wreath, gold foil from ritual garments, silver ring, bracelets, golden 3-pronged crown
Grisly Evidence of Animal Sacrifices
In addition to the treasures, the archaeologists found sobering evidence of ritual practices at the temple. In the center of the complex, they uncovered an ash altar containing burnt animal bones (Source 5).
The remnants included bones of baby lambs, piglets, calves, deer, rabbits, birds, tortoises, and sea shells, confirming historical accounts that the temple grounds were used for regular animal sacrifices to the goddess. Marks on the altar indicate some animals were burnt whole as offerings.
Temple’s Origins & Eventual Destruction
The Temple of Artemis in Evia is one of the earliest known temples dedicated to the revered Olympian goddess. It was founded around 700 BC, not long after the first settlements appeared on the island (Source 6).
The temple complex underwent upgrades and expansions over the centuries before its destruction. Based on the excavated artifacts which date as late as the 4th century BC, the temple endured until at least the first century AD when Greece fell under Roman rule. Ultimately the temple was likely demolished during the Roman era.
Ongoing Excavations & Further Discoveries Expected
The discoveries have spurred the Greek government to fund further digging and research at the site. Archaeologists believe they’ve only uncovered a fraction of the available artifacts and plan to slowly and methodically excavate the complex (Source 7).
Given the richness of the artifacts found so far, experts are optimistic that further precious items used in worship and other ceremony are waiting to be found. The excavation is expected to help reconstruct more details about the layout of the temple complex, religious practices of the era, and everyday life in ancient Greek settlements.
Conclusion & Significance
The series of revelations at the Temple of Artemis illuminates a key period of ancient Greek history and the role religious sites played in those times. It also demonstrates the enormous potential for archaeologists to uncover new knowledge from Greece’s bountiful ancient sites.
As team lead archaeologist Elena Korka remarked: “Each excavation adds a piece to the puzzle about how these sites were selected and constructed and their significance over the centuries.” (Source 8).
Many more discoveries from this ongoing excavation are likely still in store as experts have only begun to extract the temple’s long-buried secrets.
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