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APOLLO LETROS

Mon, Jan 19, 2015

Archaeologists Investigate Ancient Greek Temenos on Black Sea Island

Sozopol, Bulgaria—A team of archaeologists are discovering new finds on a tiny island just off the Black Sea coast near Sozopol, Bulgaria—finds that may shed additional light on the location and features of a lost temple to Apollo erected by Archaic Greeks in the late 6th century BCE.

Epigraphic sources document that a temple to Apollo was raised on an island near the ancient Greek colony of Apollonia Pontica, which is located near present-day Sozopol. But there has been no evidence to suggest where the temple was actually located—until recently, when an archaeological team under the direction of Kristina Panayotova of the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, unearthed a fragment of East Greek pottery with an inscription dedication to Apollo.

The ancient temple was famous for another reason: It was here, in front of the temple, where a colossal 13-meter high bronze statue of Apollo was raised and dedicated to the Apollo letros (the Healer), the patron deity of Apollonia Pontica.

“In 72 BCE the Romans under Marcus Lucullus sacked the city and the colossal sculpture was taken to Rome as a trophy,” state Panatoyova and colleagues in a summery of their excavations project on the island. “It was exhibited for several centuries on the Capitoline Hill.”* It has been lost to the world since the advent of the Christian era, as has the exact location of the temple.

Panayotova’s teams have been conducting excavations at the site since 2009, and have thus far uncovered evidence of Greek settlement here going back as far as the 7th century BCE and a late 6th-early 5th century BCE Archaic Greek temple complex which may be the lost temple of Apollo. Other finds included remains of a temple from the 4th century BCE Hellenistic  period; an ancient Greek tholos; an ancient Greek copper foundry; an early Byzantine basilica and necropolis; two ritual pits from the Archaic period containing numerous artifacts; several early Christian 5th century CE graves; structures dated to the Archaic period; and many other finds.

Apollonia Pontica is considered among the earliest urban Greek settlements on the Western Black Sea coast. The city acquired its name in honor of its patron deity, Apollo, and was founded by the philosopher Anaximander and Miletian colonists around 610 BC., becoming an important center of trade between ancient Greece and Thrace. Strong, prosperous and independent for centuries, it was finally conquered by the Roman legions under Marcus Lucullus in 72 BCE. The city thereafter became known as Apollonia Magna, or Great Apollonia.  Its name was changed to Sozopol during the Christian period in the 4th century CE.

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apolloniapontica2Found at Apollonia Pontica, terracotta plaque frieze fragment artifact shows two hoplites. Marie Lan-Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons

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apolloniapontica3Found at Apollonia Pontica, a lot of 4 Greek silver coins. Wikimedia Commons

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Panayotova and colleagues plan to return to continue excavations at the site in 2015, and will be operating a field school for students and volunteers. “The Field School Season 2015 envisions excavations at the top of the island, in the area of the Archaic and Classical Greek and Hellenistic temples, Ancient Greek copper foundry and the Early Christian basilica and necropolis, where the excavations from 2012 take place,” state Panayotova and colleagues.*

More information about Apollonia Pontica and the field school can be obtained at the project website.

See the earlier news article published by Popular Archaeology in 2013.

THE LADY OF ELCHE

I personally have no interest in the ancient astronaut or ancient alien theories and with attributing all of mankind’s accomplishments (historical or prehistorical) to some unknown source or to alien entities.

I am however greatly interested in evidence (and I think that there is an ample and rapidly accumulating body of evidence) that many previously little-known or unknown civilizations have existed in this world in the past, both in mostly historical ages and in prehistorical epochs.

I am also becoming ever more convinced that such civilizations were not mere isolated enclaves but probably engaged each other in vigorous trade exchanges via well-traveled oceanic exploration and  shipping routes.

Which in this case would explain the Hellenistic influences.

So this may very well be evidence of one such civilization or culture.


The mysterious Lady of Elche

The stunning yet mysterious Lady of Elche

In 1897, archaeologists uncovered a stunning artifact on a private estate at L’Alcúdia in Valencia, Spain. This find was a statue – a polychrome bust of a woman’s head. Believed to date back to the 4th Century BC, the bust features a woman wearing an elaborate headdress. Now seen as one of Spain’s most famous icons, the bust is known as the Lady of Elche.

It is said that a young boy of fourteen had overturned a stone when he came across the bust. The bust shows the woman’s head, neck and shoulders, and extends down to her chest. However, it is possible that the bust was originally part of a larger, full-body statue.

The complex headdress features two large coils known as “rodetes” on either side of the head and face. It is thought that this was a ceremonial headdress, and that the woman may be a priestess. The headdress runs across the forehead, with a pattern of raised marble-shaped bumps. Tassle-like pieces hang in front of the ears, and elaborate necklaces grace her chest. The woman’s face contains an expressionless gaze, and when it was found, contained traces of red, white, and blue decorative paint. The composition of the stone indicates that it was carved at L’Alcúdia.

The Dama de Elche bust

The Dama de Elche bust. Credit: Luis García (Creative Commons)

The origin of the sculpture is puzzling and has become a matter of heated debate. Some scholars suggest that the sculpture is Iberian, and may be associated with Tanit, the goddess of Carthage, while others have proposed the work reflects an Atlantean Goddess. The unusual features of the sculpture, such as the apparent elongated head and the spools on the side of the head, have also prompted numerous alternative theories to be proposed. For example, according to some independent researchers, the spools are not part of a unique headdress, but are in fact a type of technological headgear that reflects the highly advanced nature of the supposed Atlantis civilization.

Dama de Elche bust

Some independent researchers have argued that the woman’s head is elongated and the spools reflect a type of technological headgear.

 There are others who argue that the statue doesn’t deserve the attention it receives because it is, in fact, a forgery. Art historian John F. Moffitt argues that the shape of the lady’s eyes and nose are “too delicate to have been carved in pre-Christian Spain.” This argument has been dismissed by many other scholars, who view the bust as a great accomplishment of the early Iberian civilization.

Painting based on the Lady of Elche

Painting based on the Lady of Elche, ‘Jepthah’s Daughter’. James Tissot. (Public Domain)

In 1997, the Mayor of Elche fought to have the bust of the Lady of Elche returned from the National Archaeological Museum of Spain in Madrid to the city of Elche, to be on display during celebrations of the city’s 2000th year. It was to be a special exhibit, but the petition to have the bust returned was denied. The government commission that denied the request asserted that the bust was too fragile to survive the 250-mile journey from Madrid to Elche. However, others believe that this denial was based upon political motivations. The director of Elche’s archaeology museum, Rafael Ramos argued that it was “preposterous” to say that the statute could not survive the journey, noting that more delicate pieces are transported around the world regularly. His belief is that those in Madrid worry that Elche would not want to return the statue, and that many other cultural relics would be removed from Madrid if the Lady of Elche bust were allowed to be transported. This has created many issues of pride on both a local and regional level. To those in the area, a cultural relic of Elche belongs in Elche.

The disputes and theories regarding the Lady of Elche illustrate the cultural importance of the bust. As a famous ancient icon of Spain, the bust represents Spain’s cultural past. Every Spanish schoolchild learns about the bust and the stories behind the priestess. While the disputes and theories about the bust may continue indefinitely, it is likely hoped by all that the bust will remain safely preserved as a culturally significant symbol of ancient history.

– See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/artifacts-other-artifacts/stunning-yet-mysterious-lady-elche-002305#sthash.lLdmNy7o.dpuf

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