Underwater settlement and ancient pottery workshop discovered near Delos, birthplace of Sun God Apollo

Underwater settlement and ancient pottery workshop discovered near Delos, birthplace of Sun God Apollo

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The ruins of an ancient town, including a pottery workshop and kiln, have been discovered by archaeologists off the coast of the island of Delos, Greece. Until now experts believed the colonnades and walls were simply the remains of a port facility, but new investigations have found buildings, terracotta pots, and a kiln embedded in the floor of the Aegean Sea, indicating a busy manufacturing hub.

The National Hellenic Research Foundation , and the Ephorate of Undersea Archaeology have identified walls and several structures, and media outlets have been reporting the new find as “a small underwater Pompeii,” according to Discovery News , as Pompeii and Herculaneum excavations have revealed similar workshops. The artifacts were discovered a mere 6 feet (1.8 meters) below the water’s surface.

According to Archaeology News Network , structural elements such fallen colonnades and walls were found along the coastline, and large boulders were identified as part of the original breakwater, at one time used for stopping the power of the sea from battering the workshop and settlement.

Delos is one of Greece’s most important archaeological sites. During its height from the 8th until the 1st centuries B.C., it was a busy commercial port and a main center for slave trade.

Stone structures and monuments by the sea at Delos

Stone structures and monuments by the sea at Delos, birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Credit: Harry Meyer / flickr  

According to Greek mythology Hera, wife of Zeus, had banned a pregnant Leto from giving birth on ‘terra firma’ after discovering that Zeus was the father. Delos was a floating island, tethered neither to the land nor sea, which suited Leto’s needs. She gave birth to Apollo and Artemis, and Zeus secured Delos to the bottom of the ocean. The people of Delos accepted Leto, and in return her son Apollo favored the island.

Apollo (left) and Artemis featured on Attic red-figure cup

Apollo (left) and Artemis featured on Attic red-figure cup, circa 470 BC. Public Domain

In legend and practice, the birthplace of the god Apollo and sister goddess Artemis was a sacred island where deaths and births were not allowed. This restriction unfortunately did not prevent Mithridates VI of Pontus from attacking the island with troops in 88 B.C., killing 20,000 people. Eventually Delos was abandoned in 5 A.D., and many of the remaining ancient marbles were repurposed as building materials.

It is hoped that the newly-discovered underwater findings will shed new light on the commercial role of the island during the Roman period.

The Island of Delos, by Rottmann

The Island of Delos, by Rottmann, 1847. Public Domain

Featured Image: Clay pots embedded in the sea floor off Delos.  Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

By Liz Leafloor   

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