Digs bear ancient fruit

Priceless pottery, impressive jewelry, strigils and funerary vessels are among the more than 1,000 artifacts found in graves unearthed near Corinth during the opening of a new railway between Corinth and Kiato. However, no one could have imagined that the archaeologists would also find fruit, in the form of four well-preserved dried pomegranates that had retained both their original shape and bulk. Two excavation sites undertaken by the Corinth Ephorate for Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities turned out to be a most fortunate choice. In the area around ancient Corinth, parallel to the Athens-Patras highway, cist graves (covered by stone slabs), funerary gifts and other objects were found that dated from the Geometric to the early Byzantine times. The most important find, according to Alexandros Mantis, head of the ephorate, comes from a ancient grave in which a bronze urn (lebes) was found. At the bottom of the urn was the folded remnant of a woven straw mat, two clay aryballoi and four pomegranates. «It is important because we don’t often find fruit in such good condition,» he said. Oxidization of the bronze urn preserved the skins of the fruits for over 2,500 years. Mantis believes that the grave was that of a woman, since the pomegranate was the symbol of fertility in many historical periods. If the pomegranates were an interesting find, a truly important discovery was a 15-meter section of the Long Walls which linked ancient Corinth with the port of Lechaion. These are double walls that permitted access to the space between them. The walls were first looked for in the 19th century but could not be found. Another structure was also found parallel to the Long Walls running in the same direction from north (the port of Lechaion), to south (to the baths and springs of Aphrodite). It was used either for irrigation or supply to homes. Some of the finds, according to the Central Archaeological Council (KAS), are to be preserved, with the construction of bridges for visitors to view the site. The second excavation is that at Sicyon where Mycenaean graves of the Late Helladic period that confirm the presence of a Mycenaean settlement in the region were found. A section of a richly endowed Classical cemetery was also found here. The ephor drew KAS’s attention to the need to carry out geophysical exploration on the non-excavated section of the railway and to approach the railway construction group (ERGOSE) regarding the exhibition of ancient artifacts at the new Corinth and Kiato train stations as has been done in Athens metro stations.