Archaiologia recently posted a very interesting article on the cemetery of Achlada in Florina (Macedonia). It's in Greek and my Greek is...let's go with "very limited". Thankfully, the Archaeology News Network recently posted a translation and it's a very interesting read because it's not only on the finds made at the cemetery but also on Lynkestis (Λυγκηστίς) or Lynchestia (Λυγκηστία) meaning "land of the lynx". It was a region--and in earlier times a Hellenic kingdom of Upper Macedonia--located on the southern borders of Illyria and Paeonia. The inhabitants of Lynkestis were known as Lynkestai (Λυγκησταί), a northwestern Hellenic tribe that belonged to the Molossian tribal state, or koinon, of Epirus. It's an area and cunture we have very little literary evidence on (a fact also mentioned in the text), so we rely heavily on finds like these. Let me give you the text, but visit either Archaiologia or the Archaeological News Network for more pictures (mostly of some of the amazing finds that were made). I, sadly, have not been able to find a link to the paper mentioned in the text.

Unique archaeological evidence about Lynkestis
A cup in the shape of a ram head
[Credit: Ephorate of Antiquities of Florina ]

A very interesting paper about the “Cemetery of Archaic and Classical times of Achlada in Florina” was presented by archaeologist Liana Gelou (Ephorate of Antiquities of Florina) during the 30th meeting of the Archaeological Work in Macedonia and Thrace, which was organized by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Ministry of Culture. In her paper Mrs. Gelou referred to the finds of the excavations at the site.

Since 2010, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Florina has been supervising the excavations for the mining of lignite at the mine of Achlada. The research has been funded by the Lignit Mines of Achlada. In December 2014, underneath building remains dating back to the Roman period, an organized cemetery was located. The finds were impressive and shed light on hitherto unknown aspects of the civilization developed in Lynkestis during the Archaic and Classical times.

Researchers had long ago pointed out the existence of an ancient settlement and burials on the left bank of Geropotamos, as the Ephorate of Antiquities of Florina informs us. The site was known to the archaeological service as a cemetery of Roman years – a conclusion based on the human skeletal remains in the basin of a stream, and on the inscribed grave stelai of the 2nd and 3rd c. AD which were found in the area and are now exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Florina.
In ancient Greek literature we find very few references to ancient Lynkestis. In addition to that, up to now there were no archaeological finds to fill in the gaps of our knowledge about the area – in particular, during the period prior to the unification of the Macedonian state by Philip II. Until recently, due to this lack of data, it was assumed that the area had been socially and culturally isolated.

We know from ancient Greek written sources that Macedonia was divided in Upper (mountainous) and Lower (plain) Macedonia. The modern regional units of Kastoria, Florina, Kozani and Grevena belonged to Upper Macedonia. Within the geographical boundaries of these regions the following tribes were living: Orestae, Lynkestai, Eordoi, Tymphaioi and Elimiotes. Upper Macedonia comprised kingdoms of related racial groups – races which had an organized social and political system. Macedonian society remained based on the aristocratic structure of the gene connected through royal power, and preserved its racial organization throughout  its history, even after the inclusion of the local kingdoms in the state of Aigai, in 358 BC, by Philip II.

According to Strabo, the Lynkestai come from the tribe of Bacchiads, which were expelled from Corinth in mid-7th c. BC. The first known king of Lynkestis, in mid-5th c. BC, was the son of Bromeros, Arrhabaios I, the granddaughter of which is considered to be Euridice, mother of Philip II. This tradition has been preserved in myths and shows the relationship of Upper Macedonia inhabitants with the Northeastern Pelopponese and the descent of the royal houses (The royal house of the Temenides of Aigai, the Bacchiads of Lynkestis) from Hercules and Argos or Corinth respectively.

The excavations in Achlada are still in progress and the burials found until now are more than 170. In most of these, the skeletal remains are in a bad state of preservation. They date from the 6th to the 4th c. BC, while the burial customs present similarities with other cemeteries of the same period in Macedonia, like the ones in Sindos, Aigai, the Archontikon  of Pella and Aiani. According to the burial customs of Macedonians, the deceased is buried with his/her personal items, like jewelry, which are status symbols, as well as with objects used in burial rituals and refer to beliefs about the after-life.

Men were buried with their weapons, reflecting the ideal of the warrior, and women were buried with their jewelry. Warriors are accompanied by one or two spears or javelins, iron swords and knives, weapons implying real rivalry for dominion and the establishment of territorial possessions. Weapons, jewelry and golden foils characterize the gender and the social status of the deceased, while clay and bronze pottery, figurines and utensils are related to burial rituals and beliefs about the after-life.

Golden mouth-pieces and eye covers with repousse and dotted decoration, golden rosettes and discs for the decoration of clothing, gold and silver-plated earrings were also found. The mouth-pieces, the eye covers and the rest of the foils are possibly related with the widespread belief that gold has a protective power. Due to its imperishable nature, gold has been linked from early on with the ideas of immortality and eternity. Furthermore, an abundance of bronze jewelry has been found. These include fibulae and pins, rings (simple or with depictions on the bezel), earrings and bracelets (simple or spiral ones).

The clay or bronze vases are usually placed near the feet. In early burials, clay pots come mainly from local workshops and feature shapes which have a long tradition in the North Helladic region during the Archaic and Classical period. The oldest (unitl now) imported clay vases were produced in the Corinthian pottery workshop. They were made for aromatic oils and ointments and date to the 6th and early 5th c. BC.

By examining the Achlada pottery it can be concluded that the majority of the craftsmen were indigenous and had been influenced from big artistic centres, like that of Ionia, Corinth and Athens, areas with which the Macedonians had close trade relations. The local craftsmen adopted common types and motifs, the rendering of which depended on the extent to which the artistic trends had been assimilated and the local special characteristics and traditions. There were also foreign craftsmen, goldsmiths, potters, coropolasts, armorers etc. working in Macedonia during the Archaic times.

The burials of the 4th c. BC are accompanied by numerous Attic vases, with shapes which were very popular in cemeteries of the same period throughout the Helladic space. Of special interest is a black-glazed bucket (kados) with plastic decoration, with a relief head at the end of the handle and a sieve across the outflow hole. Also of interest is a vase in the form of a ram head with red-figured decorations and ivy leaves on its neck.

The finds of Achlada confirm the systematic commercial and cultural relations with important centres of south Greece and the colonies. These relations clearly influence the local production and show no differences to the cemeteries of the same period in the rest of the Macedonian territory.

Many answers were hidden in the soil of Achlada and the current research fills in the gaps of the written sources about the history of Macedonia and the national identity of Macedonians. Along with the finds of Aiani, the burial complex of Achlada enriches the archaeological map of the area, documents the historical knowledge and outlines the physiognomy of Hellenism of Upper Macedonia. The recent, unique in the area finds show vividly the unitary nature of Greek culture and prove that, parallel to the Macedonians of Lower Macedonia, the kingdoms of Upper Macedonia of the 6th and 5th c. BC are characterized by a robust economy, a high standard living and a high level of culture.
There are many household Gods in the Hellenic religion and without some background knowledge about how ancient Hellenic houses are built up, it can become a bit of a conglomerated mess when trying to worship all in modern times.  Which God watches out over which area? And where should you place your shrines in a perfect world? And in a realistic world? Why don't we try to suss things out today, hm?


Ancient Hellenic homes were simple structures, made from clay, wood, and stone. The roofs were covered with tiles, or reeds, and the houses had one or two stories. Most houses were small, just a few rooms, with a walled garden or yard in the middle. Others, like the house above, were much larger. They were not solely homes, but often doubled as offices, shops, entertainment areas, and as a place of worship. In many cases, a large wall with a single door connected the house to the street, while insuring maximum privacy tot he occupants of the house. Rooms at the front of the house often served as store rooms or work shops. Other rooms in the house served as bedrooms, as a kitchen, bathroom, and smaller store rooms. Symposia were held in special rooms, reserved only for men. The only women who entered the male-only rooms were serfs. These rooms were called 'andron' (ανδρών). Female-only rooms were called 'gynaikon' (γυναικῶν).

The courtyard of the home often held a bômos, a free standing, raised, altar where the majority of household worship took place. Some houses also had a wall niche, an indoor worship area, either in a room especially designated for worship, or in the main family room. These altars were used to worship the Ephestioi (Εφεστιοι), the most personal of the household Theoi. These almost always included: Hestia, Zeus Ephestios (Overseer of the Hearth), Zeus Kthesios, and Agathós Daímōn. Worship of these deities was highly personal, and many other Theoi could be added to this worship list.

Hestia was represented by the hearth fire that was always kept burning. If it went out, the male head of household would go to the prytaneion (Πρυτανεῖον), the structure where state officials met and where the city kept a fire for Hestia burning day and night, for a new flame. All fires in the house were lit from this one fire, so Hestia would watch over everything and everyone inside the house. Zeus Ephestios was and is a more active defender of the home. He shields the actual structure of the house. Where Hestia watches over the occupants, Zeus Ephestios guards the very walls, the roof, the floor, and any possessions inside the structure. He was worshipped at the main altar.

Zeus Kthesios guards the pantry, and was honored there as well, where he had his own shrine, often adorned with a kathiskos. Agathós Daímōn and the ancestors were also worshipped at the main altar, although they may have had small shrines to themselves, especially in the case of wall niches.

In the courtyard of the house, the Herkeioi (Ἑρκειοι) were honored: those of the herkos or front court. Most notably, this was Zeus Herkeios (Ἑρκειος), protector of the enclosure of the house.

Just outside the house, and especially near the gate to the street, small shrines and altars were placed in honor of the less personal protectors: Apollon (sometimes in his epithet of 'Aguieus' (Ἀγυιεύς), protector of the streets, public places, and the entrances to homes), Hermes Propylaios, Hekate, and especially in Sparta, the Dioskouroi. Hēraklēs sometimes took the place of Apollon.

Zeus Herkeios' altar stood in the courtyard and He, from the inside of the house, protected against anyone wanting to harm the house or the family living in it. These altars were most often pillars, on or around which the offerings could be placed. Hermes, Apollon, and Hekate were represented by a pointy four-sided post. The top was reserved for Apollon, the bottom often held a niche where Deipnon offerings could be placed to Hekate, and Hermes' face (and sometimes his genitalia) was sometimes carved into the post. Hermes sometimes got his own post, called a 'herm', which was a rectangular post, with His face carved on top, and his genitalia carved out on the front.

So how does this translate to modern worship? The structure of houses has changed--many people don't even live in a house but in an apartment without a garden. So, how are the areas divided then? Let's start with a picture of a house with a garden, leading to the street:


The house itself is 'circle' one. It's the realm of the Ephestioi. Their influences reaches right up to the walls. If you live in an apartment, this circle encompasses your entire home. This is where your bômos is, where you might have a pantry shrine to Zeus Kthesios, where you might have a shrine for Hestia if you don't have a fireplace, and so on. This is the main circle of worship.

Then we move out to the garden: anything from the house onward that still belongs to you. In an apartment, this would be the balcony if you have one and arguable also the elevator or staircase and hallway leading to your apartment door. This is the domain of the Herkeioi. You could set up a small shrine near the front door to pour out some libations into. Do you live in an apartment? A flowerpot or plant is a perfect way to hide your little shrine. Do you want to bring things together even more? Zeus is whom is honored here most, and his sacred tree is the oak. Why not plant some acorns and water them with libations of water? This second 'circle' spans the area from the house to the street.

The third 'circle' is not a circle at all: it's a barrier. Just like ancient Hellenic cities often had gated walls, so does the home. There where the driveway, garden fence or building door meets the street, Hekate, Apollon and Hermes (amongst others)  stand tall to guard against any harmful influence from outside. It thus stands to reason that your shrine for Them belongs at that spot.

This third is of course the most tricky of shrines. It's a very visible spot and if you live in an apartment complex, you might not even have the option to put anything of yourself there. I have a friend who lives in an apartment in New York. She has a little mailbox in the entry hall, close to the outer door. At the back of it, she'd put a little bowl and leaves small offerings there whenever she goes to collect her mail. Inventive, hm? Another option would be to 'pull back' this barrier to the door of your house and make a shrine just inside or outside of it. That's what I did when I still lived in an apartment.

I hope this makes things a little clearer and you have a few more handholds to base your worship on.
Phobos (Φοβος) is the God of fear, dread and terror, and his twin-brother Deimos (Δειμος) the god of panic fear, flight and battlefield rout. They are sons of Ares and Aphrodite and often accompany their father into battle, driving His chariot and spreading fear in Their wake. As sons of Aphrodite the twins also represented the fear of loss.

I have been feeling the influence of Phobos and Deimos the last few years. I think the whole world is. Elections that swing to the far right, the 'angry white men', the daily terrorist attacks everywhere in the world. Two days ago, some asshole drove his car into a group of people crossing London Bridge. At least forty were injured and five killed. The attacker then attempted to enter the Houses of Parliament, stabbing a police officer as he tried to force his way in. He was shot and killed by police.

This was by far not the only attack this month alone. Somalia, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Mexico, France, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, Mali, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen all saw attacks by a wide variety of war and religious extremist parties. The death toll is around the 400 mark in March alone.

People are afraid but I think... I think they are also getting angry. Angry at the right source this time, not at their local governments or refugees but at the people committing these acts of violence. They see now, with Trump's continued idiocy and the uselessness of the screaming right wing, that their anger might have been misplaced.

Full disclosure: I do not like England's Prime Minister Theresa May. I hold her almost personally responsible for the flusterfuck that Brexit will be. But in the wake of the London Bridge attack, I saw in her the voice that's rising more and more: the voice not of fear but of someone fed up with lunacy. Her voice was echoed on the streets, by people interviewed. England will not be afraid and it will not bent to the will of the extremists.


Perhaps the sentiment that is rising now is Phobos and Deimos' influence too: with a fear of loss comes a courage to defend. When exposed to terror enough, one can become almost immune. When flight and fear don't bring safety, people are only left with the option to stand tall. I hope we will feel more of that in the times ahead. I hope we will become stronger in the light of all of this horror. I hope we will become wise.

The people of The Netherlands voted for our own personal Trump, but they voted much more for everyone else. On the whole, on March 15, we voted for the status quo and stability. France is next, then Germany and both have their own national Trumps. Here is to hoping that enough exposure to Phobos and Deimos will have made these voters courageous, unyielding, and immune to the right wing's manipulative message of fear.

I pray for this, and feel a strong debt to those who died to harden us. We owe it to them to do better. Vote better. Act better. I am proud of the Dutch and how they voted. I am proud of the Brits who refuse to break. I am proud of the Belgians who survived a year since their subway bombings and speak of hope. Perhaps we need Phobos and Deimos for that, but I do hope their reign comes to an end soon.
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.