Ancient defensive wall of Mytilene revealed during salvage excavation on Lesvos island

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Ancient defensive wall of Mytilene revealed during salvage excavation on Lesvos islandThe Hellenistic Gallery at Epano Skala of Mytilene (photo: Greek Ministry of Culture).

A section of the ancient defensive wall in Mytilini that extended out to the sea was discovered recently during a salvage excavation on the Greek island of Lesvos.

The excavation was carried out in a field located in the northern part of the city's ancient port known today as Epano Skala, where Navmachias Ellis and Kioutachias streets meet, according to ANA.

The wall consists of massive, ashlar blocks from local stone and dates to the 3rd century BC and it carries obvious repairs from the Roman era, archaeologists said.

Sections of the wall have been found elsewhere in the main town of Lesvos island: on the site of the ancient commercial stoa dated to Hellenistic times, where the ancient wall forms the north or long section of the stoa as well on the site of the modern waste recycling plant, during excavations to lay pipes.

The salvage excavation of the 2000-year-old ancient remains will continue.

Castle of Mytilene  Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: ProtecTOR License: CC-BY-SA


Archaeological excavations at Mytilene

Archaeological investigations at Mytilene began in the late 19th century when Robert Koldewey (later excavator of Babylon) and a group of German colleagues spent many months on the island preparing plans of the visible remains at various ancient sites like Mytilene. Significant excavations, however, do not seem to have started until after the First World War when in the mid-1920s Evangelides uncovered much of the famous theatre (according to Plutarch it was the inspiration for Pompey's theatre in Rome in 55 BC, the first permanent stone theatre in that city) on the hill on the western side of town.

Subsequent work in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s by various members of the Archaeological Service revealed more of the theatre, including a Roman conversion to a gladiatorial arena. Salvage excavations carried out by the Archaeological Service in many areas of the city have revealed sites going back to the Early Bronze Age although most have been much later (Hellenistic and Roman). Particularly significant is a large stoa over a hundred metres long recently dug on the North Harbour of the city. It is clear from various remains in different parts of the city that Mytilene was indeed laid out on a grid plan as the Roman architect Vitruvius had written.

Near the village of Moría, these remains of an aqueduct, built at around 200, can be seen. It was constructed to lead water from Mt Olympus to Mytilene, and the simple fact that it is still standing today is a testament to the skill of roman engineering. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: Jonathan Lundqvist  License: CC-BY-SA


Archaeological excavations carried out between 1984 and 1994 in the Medieval Castle of Mytilene by the University of British Columbia and directed by Caroline and Hector Williams revealed a previously unknown sanctuary of Demeter and Kore of late classical/Hellenistic date and the burial chapel of the Gattelusi, the medieval Genoese family that ruled the northern Aegean from the mid-14th to mid-15th centuries of our era. The Demeter sanctuary included five altars for sacrifices to Demeter and Kore and later also to Cybele, the great mother goddess of Anatolia.

Among the discoveries were thousands of oil lamps, terracotta figurines, loom weights and other dedications to the goddesses. Numerous animal bones, especially of piglets, also appeared. The Chapel of St. John served as the church of the castle and as a burial place for the Gattelusi family and its dependents. Although conversion to a mosque after the Ottoman capture of the city in 1462 resulted in the destruction of many graves some remained. The great earthquake of February 1867 damaged the building beyond repair and it was demolished; the Turks built a new mosque over the ruins to replace it later in the 19th century.

Investigations near the North Harbour of the city

Other excavations done jointly with the K' Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities near the North Harbour of the city uncovered a multiperiod site with remains extending from a late Ottoman cemetery (including a "vampire" burial, a middle aged man with 20 cm (8 in) spikes through his neck, middle and ankles) to a substantial Roman building constructed around a colonnaded courtyard (probably a tavern/brothel in its final phase in the mid-4th century CE) to remains of Hellenistic structures and debris from different Hellenistic manufacturing processes (pottery, figurines, cloth making and dyeing, bronze and iron working) to archaic and classical levels with rich collections of Aeolic grey wares.

A section of the late classical city wall runs across the site which was close to the channel that divided the mainland from the off shore island part of the city. Considerable remains of the two moles that protected the large North Harbour of the city are still visible just below or just breaking the surface of the sea; it functioned as the commercial harbour of the ancient city although today it is a quiet place where a few small fishing boats are moored.

 Castle of Mytilene. Symbols of Palaiologos and Byzantium and Gattilusio. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: ProtecTOR License: CC-BY-SA


The city has two excellent archaeological museums, one by the south harbour in an old mansion and the other two hundred metres further north in a large new purpose built structure. The former contains the rich Bronze Age remains from Thermi, a site north of Mytilene dug by the British in the 1930s as well as extensive pottery and figurine displays; the former coach house accommodates ancient inscriptions, architectural pieces, and coins. The latter museum is especially rich in mosaics and sculpture, including the famous late Roman mosaic floor from the "House of Menander" with scenes from plays by that Athenian 4th-century BC playwright. There are also mosaics and finds from other Roman mansions excavated by the Archaeological Service under the direction of the archeologist Mme. Aglaia Archontidou-Argyri.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: ProtecTOR License: CC-BY-SA

 

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