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Archaeology

Lost city of Tenea, reputed home of Trojan war captives, is discovered in Greece

  • The citizens of the city, previously known mostly from ancient texts, appear to have been ‘remarkably affluent’
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2018, 3:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2018, 5:42am

Greece’s culture ministry said Tuesday that archaeologists have located the first tangible remains of a lost city that the ancient Greeks believed was first settled by Trojan captives of war after the sack of Troy.

A ministry statement said excavations from September to early October in the southern Greek region of the Peloponnese turned up “proof of the existence of the ancient city” of Tenea, until now known mostly from ancient texts.

Finds included walls and clay, marble or stone floors of buildings, as well as household pottery, a bone gaming die and more than 200 coins dating from the 4th century BC to late Roman times.

A pottery jar containing the remains of two human foetuses was also found amid the foundations of one building. That was unusual, as the ancient Greeks typically buried their dead in organised cemeteries outside the city walls.

The citizens seem to have been remarkably affluent
Archaeologist Elena Korka

Lead archaeologist Elena Korka, who has been excavating in the area since 2013, said her team had only been digging in the rich cemeteries surrounding Tenea until this year.

In one, antiquities smugglers dug up two remarkable 6th century BC marble statues of young men in 2010 and tried to sell them for 10 million (US$11.3 million).

“This year we excavated part of the city itself,” Korka said.

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Excavation work continues on the cemeteries, located near the modern village of Hiliomodi about 100km southwest of Athens.

Archaeologists discovered nine burials there this year, finding gold, copper and bone jewellery, pottery and coins dating from the 4th century BC to Roman times.

“The citizens seem to have been remarkably affluent,” Korka said, adding that the city probably did well out of trade, standing on a key route between the major cities of Corinth and Argos in the northeastern Peloponnese.

So far, not much was known about Tenea, apart from ancient references to the reputed link with Troy and to its citizens having formed the bulk of the Greek colonists who founded the city of Syracuse in Sicily.

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Korka said more should emerge during the excavations, which will continue over coming years.

“(The city) had distinctive pottery shapes with eastern influences, maintained contacts with both east and west … and had its own way of thinking, which, to the extent that it could, shaped its own policies,” she said.

Tenea survived the Roman destruction of neighbouring Corinth in 146 BC, and flourished under Roman rule. It appears to have suffered damage during a Gothic invasion in the late 4th century AD and may have been abandoned around the time of Slavic incursions two centuries later.