Ancient ruins unearthed in Elis, Greece, have been identified by archaeologists as the lost temple of Poseidon of Samikon described in the works of the great ancient Greek geographer Strabo.
Following leads suggested by previous explorers of the area, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Elis excavated the Kleidi location on the western side of the Peloponnese peninsula in collaboration with the Austrian Archaeological Institute, which co-funds the search project joined by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.
Parts of the foundation of a large 9.40-meter-wide building, whose carefully set walls have a width of 0.80 meters, were unearthed.
The first findings date the ruins to the Archaic period, which matches Starbo’s descriptions of an Amphictyonic League centered around a sanctuary of Poseidon in this region.
The Athens Branch of the Austrian Archaeological Institute explains in a Facebook post: “Thick layers of roof tiles fill the space between the walls. Based on the anomalies of the geophysics, a building of at least 28 meters in length can be calculated, which had two interior rooms as well as a pronaos and an opisthodome or adyton. The elongated large building can be nothing other than an archaic temple located on the site of the sanctuary of Poseidon, perhaps even dedicated to the god himself.”
It adds that in connection with the fragments of a laconic roof, the discovery of a marble perirrhanterion provides evidence for dating the large building to the Archaic period: “The large marble vessel itself, imitating a bronze bowl, is characteristic of the inventory of a sanctuary.”
Sanctuary of Poseidon a cult center
Dedicated to the Olympian god of the seas worshipped by the ancient Greeks, Poseidon, the sanctuary located by the lost town of Samikon was the religious center of the cities which formed part of the Amphictyonic League of Trifylia, according to researchers.
“For a long time, the location of the famous ancient sanctuary has been suspected in the plain below the ancient fortress of Samikon, which dominates the landscape from afar being positioned on a hilltop north of the lagoon of Kaiafa on the west coast of the Peloponnese,” the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Athens notes.
“Based on the information conveyed by Strabo in the 8th book of his Geographika, the regionally important cult [center] of the amphictyony of the cities of Triphylia was located here,” the institute added.
Archaeaologists believe that the discovery will shed light on the political and economic importance of the 6th-century BC amphictyony, as the sanctuary of Poseidon at Samikon formed the center of their religious and ethnic identity.
Five-year excavation project
Archaeological research at the site where the lost sanctuary of Poseidon was located will continue through 2026, as the five-year research program at Kleidi has only concluded its first excavation period.
The project aims to study the topography of the area and the sanctuary of Poseidon and to also locate the harbor at Samikon.
Geoarchaeological and geophysical investigations at the site were previously conducted in 2017, 2018, and 2021 by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Elis and the Austrian Archaeological Institute in cooperation with the universities of Mainz (Prof. Andreas Vött) and Kiel (Dr. Dennis Wilken).
The actual 2022 to 2026 research program is a collaboration between the Ephorate of Antiquities of Elis, headed by Dr Erofili Kolia, and the Athens Branch of the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, headed by Dr. Birgitta Eder.
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