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300,000 Ancient Artifacts Found During Thessaloniki Metro Works

Thessaloniki ancient past
Many of the ancient artifacts discovered during the construction of the Thessaloniki metro will be displayed at the stations. Credit: Ministry of Culture

More than three hundred thousand ancient artifacts were discovered during the construction of the Thessaloniki metro system, Culture & Sports Minister Lina Mendoni said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Speaking alongside Transport & Infrastructure Minister Kostas Karamanlis, Mendoni added that a large selection of these artifacts will be displayed in two separate museums that will be built in the city.

The objects were brought to the surface during works at six of the twelve basic stations in Thessaloniki’s metro project: Aghia Sofia, Venizelou, Syntrivani, Panepistimio, Fleming, and Amaxostasio Plakas.

The archeological works, which according to Mendoni cost 169 million euros, revealed findings dating back to Hellenistic times, and they reflect the development of the city’s urban fabric, she added.

“All the findings are valuable, but not all are exhibitable,” she pointed out.

Ancient past of Thessaloniki unearthed during metro construction

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

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

Another interesting find is the Roman cemetery, from the second to fourth centuries 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 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.

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

Ancient Thessaloniki artifacts to be exhibited at metro stations

Dozens of findings will be exhibited at the metro stations of Venizelos, Agia Sofia, Sintrivani/Fleming and Democracy Square, Transportation Minister Costas Karamanlis said at the same briefing.

The largest archeological site will be at Venizelos station.

Another museum will be created in front of the Library of Thessaloniki University, a space of five thousand square meters. There, the section of the seventy-seven-meter-long Roman road, detached from the Agia Sofia Station, will be placed.

Work on the removal of the antiquities was completed on July 31, 2022, and their relocation is expected to begin within the first quarter of 2023.

The government hopes that the metro in Thessaloniki will begin operating in 2023.

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