16 July 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Archaeologists discovered the earliest Iron Age house in Athens and Attica

A research team from the University of Göttingen discovered the earliest  Iron Age house in Athens and Attica.

Archaeologists from the University of Göttingen have discovered the earliest Iron Age house in Athens in Thorikos (Greece) south of Athens.

This is an important, unexpected, and unique finding for early Greek history: no building structures from this early period, from the 10th to the 9th century BC, have been excavated anywhere in Attica.

The ancient settlement is located in the area of ancient silver mining, 60 kilometers south of Athens. Here one can see Mycenaean domed tombs and a classical settlement with dwellings, factories, sanctuaries, a theater, and burial grounds. What is striking is the unprotected location only 20 meters above the sea coast – so there was apparently no danger from the sea at the time. Only in the course of the 8th century BC did settlement activity shift to the more than 100-meter-high, safe hilltop plateau. After geophysical investigations of the southeastern slope, the scientists found a tomb from the 5th century BC.

In 2019, an exposed corner of the wall initially indicated a classic tomb building. “But it turned out that there was no burial there before, but a building from the 10th to 9th century BC,” says Prof Dr. Johannes Bergemann, Director of the Archaeological Institute of the University of Göttingen. Over the past year, the scientists continued to research the extent of the building and identified five to six rooms. In the largest room there were still numerous pebbles in association, which indicate a paved courtyard. An analysis of inorganic and organic features of the rock confirmed a use from about 950 to 825 BC.

Iron Age house from the 10th to the 9th century BC. in Thorikos (Attica/Greece): wall corner and door cheek. The walls consisted of layered stones at the base and air-dried mud bricks above. Photo: Thorikos Archaeological Project Gent-Göttingen
Iron Age house from the 10th to the 9th century BC. in Thorikos (Attica/Greece): wall corner and door cheek. The walls consisted of layered stones at the base and air-dried mud bricks above. Photo: Thorikos Archaeological Project Gent-Göttingen

“Existing grinding stones for grain indicate a function as a residential building. The differentiated structure of the residential building speaks for either a complex society or an already developed social hierarchy,” says Bergemann. “Scientific analyzes will show whether there was animal breeding here and whether the silver ore typical of the area was mined at this time.”

The Gerda Henkel Foundation is now funding the continuation of the excavations with around 82,000 euros.

With the funding received, this unique find is now to be completely excavated, archaeologically and scientifically examined, and analyzed. The excavations will continue in cooperation with the University of Ghent (Belgium) in July/August 2023 and 2024.

University of Göttingen

Cover Photo: Iron Age house from the 10th to the 9th century BC. in Thorikos (Attica/Greece): courtyard with adjoining rooms. Photo: Thorikos Archaeological Project Gent-Göttingen

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