Treasure in Kythnos sanctum

On one of the least developed Cycladic islands, archaeologists have hit on one of the most coveted prizes of Greek archaeology – the unplundered inner sanctum of an ancient temple replete with offerings in precious metals and luxurious pottery items. A team led by University of Thessaly Associate Professor of archaeology Alexandros Mazarakis-Ainian discovered the treasure chamber in a ruined temple of a female divinity at Vriokastro on Kythnos, on the western fringe of the archipelago. The sanctum – called adyton by the ancient Greeks – was forbidden to all but the priests of the temple and contained sacred statues of the divinity as well as offerings brought by worshippers. These could include precious jewels, gifts donated by dignitaries to enhance their own prestige and spoils of war. «Behind the cella (main hall) of the temple, and on the other side of a wall with a threshold in its middle, where nobody would have expected it, we discovered the adyton,» Mazarakis-Ainian said in an interview published in yesterday’s Vima daily. «On the earthen floor and in the destruction layer covering it, in other words, practically on the surface, we found some 1,500 precious objects.» The opulence is impressive. Finds, which dated mostly from the seventh to the fifth centuries BC – thus defining the life span of the temple – included 70 golden artifacts, 150 in silver, 450 in bronze, 70 terracotta figurines, 50 intact and many smashed vases. The majority of the pottery was painted, and some pieces have been linked to master painters. There was also a small stone bead incised with a boat, dating from Minoan times, which could have been a family heirloom. The temple, which may have belonged to Hera or Aphrodite, was probably destroyed by earthquake.

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