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Ancient Past of Thessaloniki Unearthed During Metro Construction

ancient thessaloniki metro
Significant ancient finds have been discovered during construction of the metro system in Thessaloniki. Credit: Greek Reporter

A number of significant ancient archaeological finds have been unearthed in Thessaloniki during the excavations conducted for the construction of the Thessaloniki Metro.

This is a common occurrence in Greece, where such treasures are often unearthed during building construction.

The findings highlight the glorious ancient past of the modern Macedonian city; they are now being studied by a host of archaeologists and other scientists to uncover more details about the past.

In July of 2021, a court decided that the antiquities found in Thessaloniki can be removed from where they were found.

This acts as a rejection to three appeals which had been filed by scientists, professionals and nongovernmental groups against the Ministry of Culture’s move to remove the finds and place them in storage outside the city while the work is completed.

The Ministry now plans on replacing the finds and displaying them in the completed metro station, as has been the case in a number of Athenian metro stations, where beautiful artifacts are displayed in situ.

Ancient Thessaloniki and Roman Cemetery

Structures of an ancient city were discovered in 2012 during the excavations for the depot of the main metro line at Pylaia. The structures, dating back to the 4th century B.C., occupy an area of 31 acres.

Another interesting find is the Roman cemetery, from the 2nd – 4th century AD, which was discovered near Fleming Station, revealing aspects of an unknown settlement at the outskirts of ancient Thessaloniki.

The ancient cemetery to the east of the city was discovered while digging for the Syntrivani and Panepistimio stations of the metro.

These excavations brought to light thousands of graves which have enriched our knowledge about the organization and continued use of the space from the Hellenistic period to Late Antiquity. The graves held offerings of ceramic and glass vases, clay figurines, gold and silver jewelry and coins.

The excavations carried out at the two stations within the historical center of Thessaloniki, Agia Sophia Station and Venizelos Station, have unearthed findings that outline the urban planning of Thessaloniki from its foundation to late antiquity.

Byzantine-era city

The excavations at the two stations in the historic center of Thessaloniki also revealed parts of the Byzantine market along the main road, the so-called Avenue of the Byzantines.

The broad gravel road had an average width of 5.5 to 6.5 meters (21 feet). Connecting streets were discovered on either side, as well as buildings and arcades.

Archaeologists discovered workshops having to do with the manufacture of jewelry, metalwork, glass and ceramics along the Byzantine market area. Work benches, along with tools, jewelry-making matrices and unfinished ceramics were unearthed as part of the dig.

Minister vows Thessaloniki metro will be ready by 2023

Last year, a government minister promised the metro will be complete and operational by 2023.

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Kostas Karamanlis reiterated his pledge that the metro system will be delivered in full, and in operational order, by April of that year.

“In April 2023, the Thessaloniki Metro will not operate partly; it will operate in full, with the Venizelos station, which is the main station. This is a reality that we will adhere to,” the Minister declared in statements to the press during a visit to the construction site.

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