Unearthing the Lost City Built By Prisoners Of The Famous Trojan War
In a remarkable display of historical unraveling, a research program, led by archaeologist Dr. Elena Korkas, has completed its systematic archaeological research in Chiliomodi, Corinth, exploring the lost city of Tenea. This initiative, implemented by the Department of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture, has brought to light several significant findings, shedding new light on the famous area's ancient past.
Finding the Lost City of Tenea
In 2017, the Ministry released an aerial photograph of a group of 3000-year-old houses from the ancient settlement, and Elena Korka, Greece’s director of antiquities and cultural heritage, told the Associated Press that a team of archaeologists had successfully identified “distinctive door openings, walls and floors, and had unearthed additional pottery spanning the 4th century BC to late Roman times.”
For almost a decade Korka had searched for a lost city of Tenea which was reported to have been settled by war prisoners from the battle of Troy. According to a report about the discovery in The Washington Post, Korka followed clues left by the Ancient Greek philosopher Strabo who wrote that the city of Tenea enjoyed “an ideal location to the south of the bustling ancient port of Corinth, on the narrow strip of land connecting Greek’s mainland and its Peloponnesian peninsula.”
Among the a archaeologists’ first finds, according to a report in ABC News, were “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.” Archaeologists also discovered a pottery jar containing the remains of “two human fetuses” which is thought of as “unusual” because ancient Greeks typically buried their dead in highly-organized cemeteries which lay outside city walls.
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The Latest Discoveries
A notable discovery this year is a section of Hadrian's aqueduct. This find has accurately pinpointed the route of one of the most significant hydraulic projects of the 2nd century AD, which served to supply water to Ancient Corinth from Stymphalia.
The section of Hadrian's aqueduct in the area of ancient Tenea, now precisely determining the course of one of the largest hydraulic works of the 2nd century AD. (Greek Ministry of Culture)
The excavation also revealed a part of the prehistoric settlement of Tenea, dating back to the Early Bronze Age II (2,600 – 2,300 BC). This discovery confirms human habitation in the area before the fall of Troy, marking a crucial point in the timeline of ancient civilization.
Further excavations have uncovered a rich building complex from the late Archaic to Hellenistic periods. This complex includes areas of cult use and three exceptionally well-preserved tanks, one of which features a descending-ascending scale.
In 2018, these distinctive doorways and floors were found. (Greek Ministry of Culture)
Rare Ancient Greek Silver Coin Hoard
The archaeological significance of this site is further enhanced by the discovery of a hoard of 29 ancient Greek silver coins, along with a portable clay altar, a miniature vase, and a figurine of a horse with a rider. These coins, dating from the late 6th century BC to the 330s BC, represent some of the rarest and most historic coins of ancient Greece.
In addition to these finds, two building complexes from Roman and late Roman times were excavated, revealing structures with distinct laboratory facilities related to furnaces and an oil press, storage areas, and a building complex of 300 sq. m. with individual rooms surrounding an elevated, roofed portico-corridor.
The excavation team also explored pit graves from Roman times and a cluster of richly decorated archaic tombs. These tombs, which are varied in their design and contents, offer a deeper insight into the burial practices and social hierarchy of the time.
One of the many burials with grave goods. (Greek Ministry of Culture)
Ancient Records Materialize In The Modern World
In Ancient Greek legend, Helen’s abduction from Sparta sparked a 10-year-long Greek siege of Troy. When the Romans invaded Corinth in 146 BC the city was finally destroyed marking the beginning of the Roman conquest of Greece, but “Tenea was left unharmed.” Over the last two centuries, according to the Washington Post article, Tenea was “shadowed in the history books by more consequential ancient metropolises.”
In 2017, researchers found “a trove of riches while digging up what had been a dual-chambered burial ground at the Tenea site” and went on to discover nine burials, inscribed pottery, gold ritual artifacts, copper and bone jewelry and coins dating from the 4th century BC up to Roman times. Korka told press at the time that, “The citizens seem to have been remarkably affluent,” adding that the city was a prosperous trading center “on a key route between the major cities of Corinth and Argos in the northeastern Peloponnese.”
Reuters reported that “Among the findings was a golden coin to pay for the journey to an afterlife and an iron ring with a seal that depicted the Greek god Serapis sitting on a throne, Cerberus - a three-headed mythical dog that guards the gates of Ades - beside him.” And while so often ‘luck’ plays a big part in such magnificent historic discoveries, in this instance, it was the sheer application of skill, a claim made evident in that only last year, in a guest lecture at New York University Korka announced “Our ultimate goal was… the discovery of evidence which would help us to find remains of the settlement of ancient Tenea.”
The project, which is under the direction of Dr. Korkas's, included a team of archaeologists, postgraduate researchers, and experts from various disciplines. The team utilized modern photogrammetric recording techniques and 3D visualization to bring these ancient spaces and artifacts to life. The project also received substantial support from the Region of Peloponnese, the Municipality of Corinth, MYTILINEOS company, and local landowners who provided access to their properties for research.
The findings from the Ancient Tenea research program not only contribute significantly to our understanding of ancient civilizations in the Greek area but also highlight the rich cultural heritage of the region. This archaeological endeavor stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of ancient societies and the ongoing quest to uncover their secrets.
Top image: A selection of 29 rare Greek coins recently unearthed at ancient Tenea, Corinth, Greece. Source: Greek Ministry of Culture