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Ancient Greek sanctuary to receive 2,200-year-old cargo

Better Late than Never - Ancient Greek sanctuary to receive 2,200-year-old cargo

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Over two millennia ago, a 10-metre column was ordered for the construction of a temple in one of the most important oracle centres in antiquity, Klaros, but it was sunk when the cargo ship carrying it went down near the Çeşme peninsula.  Now, 2,200 years later, the order will finally be fulfilled as the column has been recovered from the depths of the sea and will be returned to the site of the Apollo Temple in Klaros Oracle Centre.

The column, divided up into eight separate drums, was discovered in 1993 in a shipwreck off Kızılburun cape, just 40 miles from the temple for which they were intended.  They were removed in 2007 by six archaeologists under the coordination of the U.S-based Underwater Archaeology Institute. But it wasn’t until 2010 that archaeologist Deborah Carlson made the match.

Carlson used stable isotope analysis to test which quarry’s chemical signature it matched most closely and with these results, as well as others, she was able to link the column in the shipwreck to its intended destination, the Klaros temple, as well as to its origin, a marble quarry 200 miles away on an island in Turkey’s Sea of Marmara.

The fact that the column pieces were cut to the right size for the Temple of Apollo at Klaros suggests that the ancient Marmara quarry was filling custom orders. That's something archaeologists hadn't previously had evidence of in ancient temples.

Like the famous Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the Claros temple featured an oracle. When visitors came, the oracle, a priest, drank water from a sacred spring and made cryptic pronouncements on behalf of the god, who was associated with truth and prophecy. 

Construction on the temple probably started in the third century BC and continued for five centuries. The column in the shipwreck, which would have been the sixth column of the Apollo Temple, could have been a donation from a satisfied pilgrim. The temple was never finished, though not for lack of that column. It's possible the builders ran out of money. Ultimately it may have been destroyed by an earthquake or even dismantled by invaders.

Following the extensive cleaning of the column, the original plan was to display the column in Çeşme Museum but it has now been decided that it will be displayed in its original place, fulfilling a 2,200-year-old order.

By April Holloway

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