Archaeologists in Athens unearth 2,500-year-old Greek mystery

Archaeologists in Athens believe they may have found some of the remains of an army raised by nobleman Cylon 2,500 years ago. Cylon — the first recorded Olympic champion — tried to take over the city of Athens and install himself as its sole ruler.

According to Thucydides and Herodotus, Athenian and Greek historians who wrote about the coup, Cylon enticed an army of followers to enter the city and lay siege to the Acropolis. They were defeated, but Cylon managed to escape.

Now archaeologists in Athens believe they may have found some of the remains of Cylon’s army in a mass grave in Phaleron, four miles (6 kilometres) south of downtown Athens.

The discovery of the 80 skeletons of men is “unequalled” in Greece, site project director Stella Chrysoulaki told the media. The men, young and well-fed, were found lying in the unmarked grave in three rows, some on their backs while others were tossed facedown on their stomachs.

All of the men had their hands in iron chains and at least 52 of them had their hands tied above their heads. They died from blows to the head, victims of a “political execution” that dates back to between 675 and 650 BC according to pieces of pottery found in the grave, Chrysoulaki said.

“We are going to use, roughly speaking, the methods made famous by television series on forensics crime science,” joked Panagiotis Karkanas, laboratory director and geoarchaeologist at the Malcolm H. Wiener Laboratory at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.

Karkanas’ team, though technically not crime scene investigators, will apply similar high-tech methods using some of the same tools.

They will perform a series of tests — particularly gene, radiographic and isotopic analyses — to uncover the mysteries hidden inside each skull and skeleton fragment.

The mass grave was uncovered in spring last year in one of the largest excavation sites Greece has ever unearthed.

Though the site was found a century ago, large-scale excavation of the complex only began in 2012, when archaeologists discovered a large cemetery containing over 1,500 skeletons dating back to between the eighth and fifth century BC.

*Image credit: AFP 

 

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.

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