Archaeologists have unearthed more artifacts from the ruins of the ancient Greek sanctuary of Poseidon at Helike, on the northern coast of the Peloponnese, southern Greece.
The omonymous town, which had remained lost in an ancient lagoon for more than 2,300 years since a tsunami wipped out the area, was redisovered in 2001.
The sanctuary, believed to have been dedicated to ancient Greek god Poseidon and one more unidentified deity, was first excavated in previous research seasons.
During the latest wave of excavations, which took place May 2 – June 23, experts discovered the ruins of two more buildings close to the sanctuary, and brought to light more artifacts dated further back in time than previous finds.
Major religious center of ancient Greece destroyed by earthquake
The ancient Greek town of Helike, a member of the Achaean League, was founded in the Bronze Age and listed in Homer’s Iliad among the towns that took part in the Trojan War.
It developed into a major panhellenic religious center thanks to its worship of Poseidon.
According to ancient texts, the site was known throughout the classical world, and was second only to Delphi in terms of religious importance.
The arched building of a sanctuary that has been excavated in recent years is dated to 710 BC, with an older altar from 750 BC, but the finds from the two new buildings unearthed during the latest excavation season confirm the religious use of the site since even earlier, circa 850 BC.
Copper and clay figurines, which served as offerings to the god, are thought to confirm that this was the famous site of worship of Helikonian Poseidon, but also suggest that a second deity was also worshiped at the same sanctuary.
This second deity is expected to be identified after further study of the new finds.
The fascinating rediscovery of the submerged city in an ancient lagoon
Ancient scripts describe how the town of Helike was dramatically destroyed by an earthquake in 372/3 BC.
An accompanying tsunami submerged the entire area, extinguishing all signs of life from the vibrant Helike.
The ancient world atributed the catastrophe to the wrath of Poseidon.
Ancient scholars Strabo, Eratosthenes, Pausanias, Diodorus of Sicily, and Ovid, all wrote about their visits to the site, sailing above the ruins of the submerged town, which was still visible under the waters for many centuries later, until the late Roman times.
Modern interest in the rediscovery of Helike was rekindled in the 18th century, with many scholars and travelers contributing their knowledge until the site was eventually unearthed in 2001 from an ancient lagoon near the village of Rizomylos.
The destruction layer, discovered in 2012, was in good agreement with the ancient texts describing the catastrophe.
Regular excavations have been carried out since, which help the scientific community reimagine what life in Helike felt like, from Prehistoric times to its terrible end and the area’s final abandonment.