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Helen of Troy, Helen of Pellana?

A Greek archaeologist claims to have discovered the palace of two of the foremost heroes of Greek myth, Menelaus and Helen, under a low hill half an hour's drive north of Sparta. This flies against the generally accepted assumption that the administrative center of Mycenaean Laconia was at the Menelaion, nearer the modern town of Sparta - which loosely coincides with the ancient city that fought with Athens for the hegemony of Greece in the fifth century BC. In an interview published yesterday, Theodoros Spyropoulos asserted that he has strong evidence linking Mycenaean-era building foundations at Pellana, a remote site in the foothills of Mt Taygetos, 25 kilometers from Sparta, with the region's prehistoric capital, Homer's Lakedaimon. «I am absolutely certain, conclusively and irrevocably, that Pellana is the Homeric Lakedaimon, and that the palace we are excavating is that of Menelaus,» Spyropoulos, the outgoing head of the local antiquities department who has been excavating at Pellana since 1980, told the Eleftheros Typos daily. He claimed that finds from Pellana «are 10 times as many as those from Mycenae,» the richest Mycenaean-era center excavated so far in Greece, whose finds form the backbone of the Athens National Archaeological Museum's prehistoric collection. Pellana is known for a series of large Mycenaean chamber tombs and a third-millennium-BC grave tumulus. Now Spyropoulos says he has found a 14- by 32-meter palatial building surrounded by workshops and storerooms, the foundations of two-kilometer-long Cyclopean walls and a monumental road. The Menelaion, five kilometers northeast of Sparta, was the site of a hero cult in honor of Menelaus and Helen from the eighth century BC to Roman times. Excavated by the British School at Athens, it has yielded the remains of a Mycenaean mansion.

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