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Clay figurines from Central Greece make top 10 list

Heritage Daily online archaeological site includes clay figurines found in Central Greece in the top 10 list of findings for 2013.

 

Heritage Daily is an independent online archaeology magazine, dedicated to the heritage and history of the world.


Archaeologists from the University of Southampton studying a Neolithic archaeological site in central Greece have helped unearth over 300 clay figurines, one of the highest density for such finds in south-eastern Europe.

The Southampton team, working in collaboration with the Greek Archaeological Service and the British School at Athens, is studying the site of Koutroulou Magoula near the Greek village of Neo Monastiri in Central Greece.

Koutroulou Magoula was occupied during the Middle Neolithic period (c. 5800 – 5300 BC) by a community of a few hundred people who made architecturally sophisticated houses from stone and mud-bricks. The figurines were found all over the site, with some located on wall foundations. It’s believed the purpose of figurines was not only as aesthetic art, but also to convey and reflect ideas about a community’s culture, society and identity.

Excavations at Koutroulou Magoula were started in 2001 by Dr Nina Kyparissi (formerly Greek Archaeological Service) and this latest project began in 2010. The site is roughly four times the area of a football pitch and consists of a mound up to 18 feet high featuring at least three terraces surrounded by ditches. The people who lived in the settlement appear to have rebuilt their homes on the same building footprint generation after generation, and there is also evidence that some of the houses were unusual in their construction.

In later centuries, the settlement mount became an important memorial venue. For example, at the end of the Bronze Age, a ‘tholos’ or beehive-shaped tomb was constructed at the top and in Medieval times (12-13th c. AD) at least one person (a young woman) was buried among the Neolithic houses.

In addition to excavation, the project has conducted ethnography amongst the local communities, exploring their customs and culture and their relationship to the site. It has engaged in a series of community and public archaeology events, including the production and staging of site-specific theatrical performances, which turn into communal celebrations with food, drink and dance. In part, this aims to examine the importance of Koutroulou Magoula to contemporary communities and make the site an important feature in the social and cultural life of the area.

The project team will carry out two study seasons in 2013 and 2014.

Number one on the list was the discovery of the body of King Richard III, who ruled England from 1483 – 85, was discovered in 2012 by archaeologists at the University of Leicester, and scientists have since been undertaking careful analysis of the remains, in an attempt to shed further light on the attributes and history of the controversial king.

A team of researchers led by Dr Piers Mitchell, of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, UK, used a powerful microscope to examine soil samples taken from the skeleton’s pelvis and skull, as well as from the soil surrounding the grave.  The microscope revealed multiple roundworm eggs in the soil sample taken from the pelvis, where the intestines would have been situated in life.  However, there was no sign of eggs in soil from the skull, and very few eggs in the soil that surrounded the grave, suggesting that the eggs found in the pelvis area resulted from a genuine roundworm infection during his life, rather than from external contamination by the later dumping of human waste in the area.