A long-lost temple dedicated to the Goddess Artemis that was finally discovered in Evia, Greece after 100 years of archaeological research is revealing more of its secret treasures.
The temple was discovered by a team from the Swiss Archaeological School and Greek Archaeological Service after working out that ancient directions to the site were wrong.
They switched their dig from the ancient city of Eretria to a site at the foot of a hill near the small fishing village of Amarynthos.
They were looking for a legendary temple to the Goddess Artemis, one of the most widely venerated deities of Ancient Greece.
Several ancient sources mention the sanctuary of Artemis Amarysia. The main public documents (decrees, treaties), engraved on steles, were displayed there. The festival Artemisia was celebrated every spring by the Eretrians to honor the goddess.
On this occasion, a grand procession of 3,000 armed warriors, 600 horsemen, and 60 chariots made the twelve-kilometer journey to the sanctuary. The festival attracted citizens of the cities of Euboea but also representatives of other Greek cities.
Following painstaking work, the team of archaeologists discovered a stoa, or gallery, that could have formed part of the temple, and began excavating in earnest in 2012.
Amarysia Artemis temple was finally discovered in Evia, Greece
Analysis proved correct when the team finally cut through the gallery walls in 2017 to reveal the core of the sanctuary of Amarysia Artemis.
The team has since uncovered buildings ranging from the 6th to 2nd centuries BCE, including an underground fountain, and, crucially, inscriptions and coins bearing the name Artemis—the guardian goddess of Amarynthos.
These confirm that the site was the destination for the annual procession from Eretria by local worshippers of the goddess of the hunt.
Further excavations by the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece (ESAG) and the Ephorate of Antiquities in Evia brought to light the existence of two successive temples and a rich deposit of offerings.
The first temple, built around 650 BC, was destroyed at the end of the 6th century. A second, more monumental temple was rebuilt shortly after around 500 BC.
Rich offerings were deposited on this occasion; the excavations brought to light over 600 objects, including ceramic and bronze vessels, painted terracotta figurines, gold jewelry, silver, faience, glass and semi-precious stones, orientalized seals in the shape of scarabs, as well as weapons (including a helmet and a shield).
The Swiss Archaeological School in Greece says that remains in the sanctuary attest to the site’s deep history. The earliest structure dates back to 3000 BC. Sanctuaries are sacred spaces usually consisting of an altar, a temple—the house of the deity—and annex buildings, delimited by an enclosure. The sanctuary of Artemis Amarysia is no exception to the rule.
In addition to the monumental portico excavated in recent years, two altars related to the successive temples have been uncovered. Animal sacrifices took place on the altar, as selected parts were burned to ashes as offerings to the goddess. Such rituals performed at Amarynthos by the Eretrians were meant to attract the goodwill of Artemis.
The ancient site of Eretria, Evia
The excavations indicate that the foundation of the temple of the goddess Artemis at the edge of the fertile plain east of Eretria is connected with the fortifications found at the border of the ancient city.
Excavations of ancient Eretria began in the 1890s and have been conducted since 1964 by the Greek Archaeological Service.
Today it is the home of the Evia Ephorate of Antiquities, and it boasts an archaeological museum—the most significant in Evia—and an ancient theater dating back to the 5th century BC that hosts Ancient Greek tragedies and modern plays.
The most important site that has been discovered there is the Temple of Apollo Daphnephoros. Artifacts found at this ancient site are displayed at both the Louvre and National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
However, some pieces have remained in place at Eretria, notably the terracotta centaur from Lefkandi, dating back to the 10th century BC.