NEWS

Ancient Thessaloniki emerges, thanks to digging for metro

By Iota Myrtsioti - Kathimerini

Preliminary work on the metro is slowly bringing to light the story of Thessaloniki. The first architectural remains and portable finds discovered in the city's historic center are just a sample of what the metro tunneling machine will turn up once it starts digging deeper. Though the exploratory digs at 350 points along the 9.6-kilometer metro line that were begun last August have so far uncovered only a handful of portable finds, a museum has already been found to house them. It is the Alkazar (formerly Hamza Bey mosque). Refurbishment is under way, which will allow the monument to receive visitors by the end of the year, Culture Ministry General Secretary Christos Zahopoulos announced on Thursday, presenting the finds. Part of the eastern cemetery of Thessaloniki with 35 graves was one of the expected finds. It was discovered by archeologists from the 16th Ephorate of Classical Antiquities in the Sintrivaniou district. Of various types, set in close rows, the graves date from the Early Hellenistic to the Late Roman period (third century BC to third century AD). Eleven of them contained grave goods, including coins, figurines, bone clasps, clay and glass vases, gold and bronze jewelry, and a funerary stele bearing the name of the occupant, Epitherses Filonos Methemnaios. Interment was the most common form of burial, noted ephorate chief Lilian Aheilara. The body was usually supine. Four burial sites showed signs of incineration. In contrast, the Roman-era architectural remnants discovered at points along the projected metro line were a complete surprise. Preliminary excavations unearthed various items including potsherds, plinths, slate paving, plaster, bones and stones at 42 other sites. At Dimokratias Square, Venizelou and Aghias Sofias metro station sites, the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities unearthed parts of walls, pipes and floors. One outstanding find was a headless marble figurine discovered in front of Aghios Athanasios. The Attiko Metro construction company has already altered its plans in response to the successive finds, managing director Giorgos Yiannis announced. The tunnels will now go down to a depth of 31 meters, instead of 7-9 meters as stipulated in the original plan.

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