Skip to comments.Shrine To Hercules Unearthed
Posted on 01/21/2005 6:30:26 PM PST by blam
Shrine to Hercules unearthed
Archaeologists in Thebes discover remains of altar, dwellings used for more than 3,000 years
APPanayiotis Valmas, the head restorer at the Museum of Thebes, is pictured last month brushing a tiny ancient bronze statue of the mythological hero Hercules slaying a lion. The figure was found at an ancient prayer site. By Derek Gatopoulos - The Associated Press
THEBES - Rummaging in the dirt, Costas Kakoseos pulls up pieces of history steeped in legend.
It is an archaeological site dubbed Hercules House the place, experts say, that the ancient Greeks may have held to be the mythological heros birthplace.
Thebes, an unattractive town about 70 kilometers (about 45 miles) north of Athens, stands on a spectacular buried heritage. The latest excavation, begun last February, revealed the remains of an altar and ancient dwellings used for more than 3,000 years.
Vassilis Aravantinos, head of the regional archaeological service, said finds on the site tally with descriptions by the poet Pindar some 2,500 years ago of a shrine to Hercules built on his legendary birthplace.
We had waited for many years for this discovery but it never came... These findings support the ancient writings, Aravantinos said. There are signs of worship of Hercules.
Small bronze figures, including one showing Hercules grappling with a lion both characters standing as if posing for a photograph are a key piece of evidence.
While shaking soil through a mesh-bottomed crate, Kakoseos throws clay chips fragments of ancient pots into a plastic bag. A few are put aside and marked with labels for special attention.
Were still finding beads, bones and coins. There are so many, you cant imagine, said Kakoseos, who performs much of the labor.
The illegitimate son of almighty Zeus, Hercules was best known for the 12 labors imposed on him by the gods, including slaying a lion and a nine-headed serpent.
With most of the 335-square-meter site explored, archaeologists have recovered several hundred ceramic vessels, small bronze statues, animal bones, and a thick layer of ash created from burning animals sacrificed to the gods. Objects discovered date from the third millennium BC to the late Byzantine era. The dig and the findings began when construction workers were moving earth to build a hotel.
Hotel construction has been suspended indefinitely. Development in this ancient town comes with the risk of finding more history in the foundations.
Every bit of earth that is moved, we take a look at, said Aravantinos, whose archaeological service is currently excavating half a dozen Theban sites. We have to.
He said the latest discovery was long sought by archaeologists because of the legends about Hercules birthplace.
Other finds are still being pieced together at a small workshop beside Thebes tiny museum, where cats roam around ancient marble statues in the courtyard and the inside rooms are packed with some of the finest artifacts in Greece. Restorers, dressed and equipped like dentists, repair the statuettes and assemble vases and other pottery from an enormous array of fragments. Their room is filled with glued remains in stacked crates, and the tables littered with solvents, scalpels and adhesives.
The discoveries from Hercules House will not be properly displayed until a new museum still in the planning stage is built.
Shoot....I thought this was to honor the C-130.....
Looks like he's restoring more than the head.
descriptions by the poet Pindar some 2,500 years ago
Very cool! It's neat when they find something like this, than can be linked to classical writing. Brings us all together, somehow.
Well, he is Greek, after all...
Beware of Greeks baring myths.
That's paydirt if your an archeologist.
When they dig up XENA PRINCESS warrior let me know!
The reference to Pindar seems to be to a passage in the 4th Isthmian Ode:
"In his [Herakles'] honor, above the Elektran Gates
we citizens prepare a feast
and a newly built circle of altars and multiply
burnt offerings for the eight bronze-clad men who died,
the sons that Megara, Kreon's daughter, bore to him.
For them at sunset the flame rises
and burns all night long
kicking heaven with its savor of smoke."
(Translated by William H. Race)
In Pausanias' Description of Greece (2nd century A.D.), in describing Thebes (9.11) he says, "There is a Herakleion here, with a white stone statue by Xenokritos and Eubios of Thebes, called the Champion, and an ancient wooden idol the Thebans believe is by Daidalos." There is a footnote in the Penguin translation of Pausanias to the effect that the church of Hagios Nikolaos stands on this site.
I'm still burying the beads bones and coins, Herc! Beads bones and coins!
The Italian Rennaissance sculptor Vincenzo de' Rossi sculpted the event for the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence:
Who said Rennaissance art was boring?
Are you saying that punishment is mine?
Didn't he originate the Greek version of the silly walk and the dead parrot?
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