A part of a unique terracotta statue has been found at the Crimean bridge construction site during underwater diggings near the Ak-Burun Cape, the narrowest point of the Kerch Strait. The Kerch Strait connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, separating the Kerch Peninsula of Crimea in the west from the Taman Peninsula of Russia's Krasnodar Krai in the east. The strait is 3.1 kilometres (1.9 mi) to 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) wide and up to 18 metres (59 ft) deep. Since 1944, various bridge projects to span the strait have been proposed or attempted, always hampered by the difficult geologic and geographic configuration of the area. After the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea the government of Russia decided to build a bridge across the Kerch Strait. It is expected to be operational in 2019.

Mass production of terracotta artifacts began in the sixth century BC. Usually, figurines not more than 40 centimeters tall were made. However, the fragment unearthed during the current diggings, is believed to have been part of a bigger sculpture. Sergei Olkhovsky, head of the underwater unit of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, said on Wednesday:

"As far as we know, this unique artifact discovery is the first of its kind in the northern Black Sea area, such objects have never been found here before. In order to figure out what it was used for, when and where it was made, we will cooperate with the leading ancient Greek art experts and will also carry out a laboratory test of the clay."

Two diver teams are operating in the area where the artifact was found. The divers are manually digging in order to diminsh the risk of damaging valuable objects. The archeologists plan to conclude the excavation near the Ak Burun Cape by this summer. Meanwhile, the unearthed artifacts will be handed over to the Eastern Crimean Historical and Cultural Museum and Reserve.

The Crimea Bridge information Center elaborated that for more than 2,000 years, the Ak Burun Cape area of the Kerch Bay had served as the main shipping conduit and base on the trade route connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Azov. Some of the transported ceramics were thrown into the sea after being damaged, so large deposits of ceramic objects made in various historic periods were formed near the local piers. A significant volume of sediments containing ceramics were later swept by the sea’s currents to shallow areas of the Ak-Burun Cape thus forming a build-up of ceramic fragments that experts have been closely examining after the construction of the Crimea Bridge had begun.
The first results of the excavation research on the finds made at the Thessaloniki metro station, conducted by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Thessaloniki City, were presented by archaeologist Eleni Lambrothanasi at the 30th scientific meeting about the excavations in Macedonia and Thrace, which was organized by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Ministry of Culture. So far, thousands of artefacts have been unearthed in what is without question the largest excavation ever undertaken in the Macedonian capital of Thessaloniki in Northern Greece ahead of the construction of the new metro.

New finds at Thessaloniki metro station
Mosaic floor at the north entrance [Credit: ANA-MPA]

A crash course on the project for those who are new to the blog. In March of 2013, I blogged about an excavation conducted at the Venizelos metro station which brought to light a very well preserved 70-meter section of a marble-paved road, the remains of buildings dating back to the sixth to ninth centuries AD, as well as big public buildings of the 7th century; a rarity for the Byzantine world. Trouble was (and is) that the site of the find is part of a new subway tunnel and platform which are being built to transport 250,000 passengers daily, and thus decrease traffic congestion and air pollution in the city. The entire subway project has a price-tag of 3.5 billion euros (4.6 billion dollars), and was co-financed by the European Union. To keep the road, the entire subway project would have to be abandoned. To save the subway project, the road would need to be moved, or destroyed--the same thing, according to archaeologists.

By April it looked like Thessaloniki's government and archaeological institutions had found a solution to the problem: they were going to temporarily remove the finds during the station's construction and then restore about 85 percent to 95 percent after the station was completed. The solution proposed had a low cost--0,6 percent to 0.8 percent of the budget--with zero or only a few months delay to the works’ completion. Only a 45 square meter space (out of the area’s 1.600 square meters) would not be restored, due to the placement of vents and escalators.

By February of last year, word got out that the removal of the antiquities from the construction site was suspended in July of last year following a decision reached by the Council of State. In the beginning of April I blogged about the estimation that it will take at least another three years and some 40 million euros for the excavation of ancient ruins to be completed. Well, it seems that that was a careful estimate: the new numbers weren't pretty. the new completion date was somewhere in 2020 and it might cost another 42 million euros in funding for the archaeological work it has lined up to complete the digs, on top of 92 million already spent.

In September, 2015, a new decision issued by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) favored the in situ preservation of the antiquities found, however, KAS rejected the proposal about the enhancement of the monument on the ground of lacking documentation and asked the Municipality to conduct a complete architectural proposal in collaboration with the relevant services of the Cultural Ministry and the Attiko Metro. The Thessaloniki Municipality claimed that the ministerial decision violated the constitutional principle of proportionality, but the court ruled that the ministerial decisions were legal and in line with the constitution.

More on New finds at Thessaloniki metro station
Selection of artefact from the pre-Cassandrian settlement of the 4th century BC at Pylea
[Credit: Ephorate of Antiquities of Thessaloniki City]

Five excavations were undertaken in 2016 at the main stations of metro line from Pylea Station to New Railway Station with a stopover on the 'Decamanus Maximus' which for centuries was the commercial heart of the city. The pre-Cassandrian settlement of the 4th century BC at the Pylea Station, the monumental complex at the junction of the main Roman road 'Decumanus Maximus' (Egnatia Odos) and the 'cardo' of Aghia Sofia (located on the axis of two important Early Christian monuments at the site of the Aghia Sofia church), and the rich burials from two ancient cemeteries spread over three other stations, have brought to light major discoveries. The archaeologists say:

"[The discoveries] complement our knowledge about the city from its inception in 316/317 BC by King Cassander of Macedon (who in fact named the city after his wife Thessalonike, half-sister of Alexander the Great and princess of Macedon as daughter of Philip II) to the development of a civitas libera in Roman times, and the reigning co-capital of Constantinople until its transformation into a modern European city."

You can read (and see!) a lot more about these discoveries and the history behind them here and here, over at the Archaeology News Network. Some of these finds are absolutely beautiful! I have been invested in this project for five years now and I am still shocked by the amount of support (both governmental and financial) this huge project has had over the years. To see it pay off so beautifully is just icing on the cake. I can't wait to read the reports of the first studies done on all that has been revealed!
Have you heard of the 'Greece is...' magazine? It was inaugurated in the summer of 2015, with its first issue dedicated to Santorini, one of the world’s most beloved and coveted travel destinations. The second issue, 'Greece Is Athens - Summer Edition', is a treasure trove of information on Athens from past to present, distributed exclusively at the Acropolis Museum. The third was about the Peloponnese and the fourth issue, 'Greece Is Democracy', was on the occasion of the 3D Athens Democracy Forum, celebrates and relates to the birth, reality and influence of Athenian democracy, through a compilation of original articles by esteemed Greek and international academics, authors and journalists. If you have not read them yet, you might want to invest the time!

After those came eight more magazines, on the Greek city Thessaloniki, the Greek city of Athens, the Greek island Mykonos and the last was on The Olympics. Then on Athens again, on wine, on the peninsula and regional unit of Greece named Halkidiki and finally on democracy.

Now there are four more: on the Greek city Thessaloniki again, Athens again, the new subject of health and what do you know, wine again! Enjoy!

Ancient Origins recently posted a very interesting article about something writer Jason König from The Conversation noticed on his last visit to Greece: that the money toward preservation and restoration of the ancient Hellenic monuments never ends up on the mountaintops.

Turbines on Arachnaion.

"The mountains of the Mediterranean are permanent reminders of the past. The ancient Greeks climbed to their summits to offer sacrifices to the gods for centuries, even millennia, and handed down stories from generation to generation of the battles and myths which played out on their slopes – Zeus’s defeat of the Titans on Mt Olympus in northern Greece, for instance; or the legendary cave on Crete’s Mt Ida where the goddess Rhea concealed the infant Zeus from his father Cronus to prevent him from being eaten.

There are still traces of these ancient places of worship today. We know of about ten mountaintop sanctuaries with surviving material in mainland Greece and the Aegean, and many more in other parts of the eastern Mediterranean, including dozens on Crete. You might think that these reminders of European life from thousands of years ago would be among the most cherished and protected sites in the world. Instead they are mostly neglected, unloved and ignored.

[...]The lack of interest in these treasures is well illustrated by Mt Arachnaion in the Peloponnese region in southern Greece. Its highest point is home to the ruins of altars to Zeus and also Hera, queen of the Greek gods. It was a place for ritual and sacrifice dating back to the time of the Mycenaeans, Greece’s first ancient civilization (1600 BC to 1100 BC). Now it is the site of a wind farm. [...] Mountain archaeological sites are usually too inconspicuous to be targets for the deliberate destruction we have seen at Palmyra in Syria, but accidental damage is another matter. The summit of the great mountain of Jebel Aqra on the Turkish border with Syria is the site of the biggest surviving ash altar from the ancient world, 55 meters wide and eight meters deep, containing the remains of countless sacrifices. It now stands within a Turkish militarized zone, inaccessible to archaeologists."

The article ‘ Why Do We Ignore the Ancient Treasures on top of Mediterranean Mountains?’ by Jason König was originally published on The Conversation and has been republished under a Creative Commons license. You can read the full article on Ancient Origins or at the source site.
Proklos (Πρόκλος) was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Classical philosophers. He was alive from 8 February 412 AD to 17 April 485 AD, and amongst other things, he wrote five beautiful hymns about the Roman Gods, which can be interpreted for the Hellenic ones as well. The surviving works consist of two hymns to Venus (Aphrodite), one to the Sun (Helios), one to the Muses, and one to Minerva (Athena). Today, you are getting his hymn to the Muses, because I pray they give my mind and words wings today. Today, because one can never have enough love in their life, I'm sharing his hymn to Aphrodite (or Venus).

A CELEBRATED royal fount I sing,
From foam begotten, and of Loves the spring,
Those winged, deathless powers, whose gen'ral sway
In diff'rent modes all mortal tribes obey.
With mental darts some pierce the god-like soul,
And freedom rouse unconscious of control;
That anxious hence the centre to explore
Which leads on high from matter's stormy shore,
The ardent soul may meditate her flight,
And view their mother's palaces of light.
But others, watchful of their father's will,
Attend his councils and his laws fulfil,
His bounteous providence o'er all extend,
And strengthen generation without end.
And others last, the most inferior kind,
Preside o'er marriage, and its contracts bind,
Intent a race immortal to supply
From man calamitous and doomed to die.
While all Cythera's high commands obey,
And bland attention to her labours pay.
O venerable goddess! hear my prayer,
For nought escapes thine universal ear:
Whether t'embrace the mighty heav'n is thine,
And send the world from thence a soul divine;
Or whether, seated in th'aetherial plain
Above these seven-fold starry orbs you reign,
Imparting to our ties, with bounteous mind,
A power untamed, a vigour unconfined;—
Hear me, O goddess, and my life defend,
With labours sad, and anxious for their end;
Transfix my soul with darts of holy fire,
And avert the flames of base desire.
A 20-member scientific team was involved in the underwater research that took place in three sides of Ampelakia Bay on the eastern coast of Salamis island in the months of November and December 2016. They say they have discovered the site where the Hellenic fleet gathered for the Battle of Salamis against the Persians in 480 BC, after finding antiquities in the waters of the bay.

Salamis was a large port city located on the island of Cyprus. According to Homeric legend, Salamis was founded by archer Teucer (or Teukros)from the Trojan War. Salamis was believed to have been the capital of Cyprus as far back as 1100 B.C. Located on the eastern side of the island of Cyprus, it was considered a very important port city. Ships arrived from all over the world, making it a major hub of activity.

When the Persians invaded Greece in 480 BC, they sacked Athens and marched across the mainland after defeating the Hellenes at Thermopylae. The Persian navy then sought to destroy the rest of the Hellenic force in the naval battle at Salamis. If the Persians won at Salamis, Hellas would be lost, and so the site is of great historical value.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Sports, the 2016 main field of research (which is under a three-year program) was the inner (western) part of the Ampelakia Bay. A Ministry of Culture statement says:

"This is the commercial and possibly military port of the Classical and Hellenistic city-municipality of Salamis, the largest and closest to the Athenian state, after the three ports of Piraeus (Kantharos, Zea, Mounichia). It is also the place where at least part of the united Greek fleet gathered on the eve of the great battle of 480 BC, which is adjacent to the most important monuments of Victory: the Polyandreion (tomb) of Salamis and the trophy on Kynosoura. References to the ancient port of Salamis responded to works geographer Skylakos (4th c. BC), the geographer Stravonas (1st Century BC-1st Century AD) and Pausanias (2nd century AD).”

The statement also confirms that submerged antiquities were found on three sides of the Ampelakia Bay (north, west and south:

"...which gradually sink and emerge depending on the change in sea level, with the ebb, especially the February, reaching half a meter. The ancient remains found in shallow waters include traces of harbor structures, fortifications and various buildings. After aerial photography, photogrammetric processing and topographical and architectural documentation of all visible data, the first underwater archaeological map of the region was created, which will be the basis for further research in the coming years."

At the same time, it said, the geophysics and geoarchaeological research conducted by the University of Patras team, generated high quality digital data that “should greatly contribute to the reconstruction of the coastal palaeography of the region.”

The research is the result of cooperation between the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities (EEA) of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, under the direction of the Head of the Inspectorate, Dr. Angeliki Simossi and the Institute of Marine Archaeology (HIMA), under the direction of Ioannina University professor and president of the Institute, Yannos Lolos, with the participation of the Laboratory of Marine Geology and Physical Oceanography at the University of Patras, under Professor George Papatheodorou and with financial support from the British Honor Frost Foundation.
Full disclosure before I start this post: I am a feminist, a nerd and a comic book geek. Of course I am also a fan of anything (ancient) Greek. As such, it won't surprise you when I say that every scrap of information (and video especially) released on the Wonder Woman movie makes me squeal and rewind several times. Feast your eyes on this, people:

For those of you who are not comic book geeks: Wonder Woman is a fictional superheroine appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. In her homeland Themyscira, she is known as Princess Diana, and outside of her homeland, she is known by as Diana Prince. Themyscira (pronunciation: them-IS-kair-ə) is a fictional, lush island nation on Earth. The island is named after the mythological city of Themiscyra, the capital of the Amazon tribe in Greek mythology. Wonder Woman's origin story relates that she was sculpted from clay by her mother and Amazonian Queen Hippolyta and given life by Athena, along with superhuman powers as gifts by the Hellenic Gods. However, in recent years artists updated her profile: she has been depicted as the daughter of Zeus, and jointly raised by her mother Hippolyta and her aunts Antiope and Menalippe. Her Amazonian-training helped to develop a wide range of extraordinary skills in strategy, hunting and fighting. She possesses an arsenal of advanced technology, including the Lasso of Truth, a pair of indestructible bracelets, a tiara which serves as a projectile, and, in older stories, a range of devices based on Amazon technology.

(Warped) Hellenic mythology is woven into her story at every turn. The 1987 (to present) relaunch of Wonder Woman establishes that the Amazons are the reincarnated souls of women slain throughout pre-history by men. Shaped from clay over 3,000 years previous and given new lives by five Olympian Goddesses--Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Hestia, and Aphrodite--the Amazons are granted immortality, great physical strength, highly acute senses, beauty, wisdom, and love for one another. They are tasked to teach the merits of virtue, love, and equality to the men of 'Patriarch’s World'. For centuries, the Amazons of Themyscira live in a perfect state of harmony with their surroundings, under a theocracy. They know no racism, do not think in terms of male gender ('police' instead of 'policeman'), and homosexuality is completely natural to them.

Their city is composed entirely of Greco-Roman architecture from 1200 BCE, and they wear Hellenic garb, togas, sandals, and period armor. The Amazons also all wear the Bracelets of Submission as constant reminders of their Enslavement and obedience to their patrons, although only Diana is able to deflect bullets with them. They are fervently religious, worshipping their Gods as living deities. Artemis is their primary Goddess, and they worship Her with a sacrifice of a deer. The Amazons celebrate their creation each year in a Feast of Five, remembering the Goddesses who brought them to life. A great range of Gods, Goddesses, mythological figures and items is featured in the coming. Beyond the above, Ariadne makes her appearance, Eris, Kirke,Khiron the Kentaur, Pegasos, Ladon, Athena's Aegis (reformed into Diana's bracers), and many more.

Of course, how much of that ends up in the movie, I do not know. Not much, I fear, but I still look forward to it. Womde Woman is a hero to me. I might be an Image Comics girl at heart, but DC has done good with Wonder Woman over the years (for the most part). If they live up to the legacy on June 2, 2017, we will see.