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Metro extension works unearth the Hellenistic past of Piraeus

The works to extend the Athens metro Line 3 towards Piraeus have included large-scale salvage excavations by archaeologists to depths unusual for such projects, with associated finds that include rare wooden remains from homes and even tree branches of antiquity. The excavations have brought to light more details in the history of ancient Piraeus.

The stations being built in Piraeus and the shafts sunk into the earth have been mostly dug in Piraeus squares and open spaces that had never been built over, coordinator of excavations Giorgos Peppas told state-tun news agency amna.

420 BC

In a depth of 40 meters or more where the metro stations should be built, archaeologists have found pits of ancient wells with their bottoms located nearly 17-18 meters from the current surface. Very rare material such as wooden and organic residues, which had remained in the water under the water table for nearly 20 centuries.

The findings “are the largest collection in Greece of wooden objects coming directly from homes – that is, part of furnishings, vessels, tools, structural parts of a home – as well as seeds, pieces of wood, and branches of trees.” Peppas said.

A rare find includes a headless, extremely rare wooden statue of the god Hermes dated to the Hellenistic world, found in a well after the sack of the city by the Romans.

But also the bones of a rooster someone had sacrificed 2,000 years ago at the foundations of a home were found, a tradition that has continued for centuries in Greece.

The wells of the Hellenistic world, from Alexander the Great’s death in 323 BC to 31 BC, are the source of many of the objects found.

The already conserved material numbers over 4,000, along with 1,400 restored vessels and 1,300 wooden objects.

Excavations have also provided the final identification of the city’s aqueduct, the chronology of which was revealed at the future stop of “Dimotiko Theatro” (the neoclassical Municipal Theater of Piraeus), and the 55-meter-long excavation of the aqueduct’s central tunnel.

The excavations reveal a timeline from the aqueduct’s initial construction, believed to have taken place during Hadrian’s rule, until it was abandoned when the Goths invaded.

“We believe the water coursed from Athens through the Long Walls, specifically starting from the Ardittos Hill,” which is by the present Panathenaic Stadium, but further detailing is necessary, Peppas explained.

An original stone mosaic floor found at the salvage excavations will be the centerpiece of exhibits at the Dimotiko Theatro metro station, under glass, when the station is completed, amna reported.


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