Tombs and temple site uncovered

THESSALONIKI – A plethora of funeral gifts from children’s graves in an Archaic-era cemetery that was uncovered by a recent dig in Scione, Halkidiki, has shed yet more light on child burial rites in the ancient world. At least 200 black-figure vases, clay busts, Phoenician alabaster and clay figurines – toys, perhaps – accompanied the 18 children in their last resting place. The large number of funeral gifts in relation to the small number of graves suggests that the children were from rich families in ancient Scione, an independent city of Halkidiki with a long history, but which had its heyday during the sixth to fifth centuries BC. The finds, which testify to the city’s prosperity at the height of the Archaic era (520-480 BC), were to be announced last Friday at the 17th annual archaeological conference in Thessaloniki by archaeologist for the 16th Ephorate of Classical and Prehistoric Antiquities, E.B. Tsigarida. The child graves, Tsigarida explained, were found during excavations to build a house on a privately owned plot of land. They are part of a large, ancient cemetery that lies about 1 kilometer from Ancient Scione, an independent city-state that was founded during the Late Bronze Age and was incorporated into the Kingdom of Macedon when Philip II (father of Alexander the Great) conquered the peninsula in 348 BC. The cist graves were laid out in an orderly fashion and covered with clay slabs. On these were broken shards that were probably due to another burial custom, the smashing of pots on graves. Hundreds of objects lay within the tombs, including clay models of wild boar, hedgehogs, birds and lotuses. They most probably were the children’s toys. With them were figurines of a siren, a bird associated with death and black-figure vases, such as a lecythus depicting Dionysus with two satyrs. The funeral gifts testify not only to the special pains taken by the parents over their children’s burial rites but also confirm links to other parts of Greece (Corinth, Attica and Ionia). Emperor worship At Ancient Kalindria, an imperial cult temple – one of the few found in Macedonia – has been brought to light by excavations at Kalamoto, Thessaloniki. Dozens of marble and bronze limbs of statues of emperors, one head from a marble statue of the goddess Athena wearing a Corinthian helmet, and the base of a statue that bears an inscription dedicated to the Emperor Trajan confirm the use of the temple as a place for emperor worship from the first century BC to the third century AD. Friday’s conference was scheduled to hear an assessment of the monument’s size and importance, as revealed by the finds, by the archaeologist for the 16th Ephorate of Classical and Prehistoric Antiquities, Costas Sismanidis. The first findings indicate that the «rectangular bases, approximately 20 centimeters in height, which survived intact, supported the pedestals of what were most probably statues. The presence of a pedestal bearing an inscription dedicated to Trajan, and which probably had a bronze statue of him, leads to the conclusion that this site was a Sebasteion, or an imperial cult temple, dedicated, in all likelihood – according to a large inscription found some time ago in the area – to the worship of Zeus, the goddess Roma and the emperor.» It was here, Sismanidis explains, that a statue of Augustus in armor, found by chance in the same area and handed over to the museum in 1961, was probably erected for the first time. Within the building (25 meters by 25 meters), other antiquities were found that dated to the late Classical period, as well as Hellenistic and Roman times.