In a new discovery, archaeologists have found what appears to be complex architecture and evidence of metal-work buried beneath the surface of a Greek island.
Imagine this: You’re cruising through the Aegean Sea and along the horizon see a "mega-pyramid" seemingly jutting out of the sea, glimmering white in the Mediterranean sun. It’s the stuff romance novels are made of.
It’s also the sight ancient Greeks sailing to the Dhaskalio promontory, located on the island of Keros, would have seen 4,500 years ago.
The pyramid-shaped promontory has been an archaeolgical site for the last decade. In the 3rd millenium BC, builders developing the promontory carved the land into stepped terraces and covered it in white stone imported from Naxos, located 10 kilometers (6 miles) away.
Now, researchers are digging deeper. They say the civilization back then may have been far more technically sophisticated than we imagined.
Archaeologists from three different countries involved in the ongoing excavation uncovered feats of engineering craftsmanship below the promontory. A range of impressive features – including a complex series of drainage tunnels and metalwork – means the architecture was likely multi-purpose and carefully planned in advance.
The research team calculates that more than 1,000 tons of stone were imported and that almost every possible area on the island was constructed on. At the time, it would have been one of the most densely populated areas on the islands and the largest complex known in the Cyclades.
“What we are seeing here with the metalworking and in other ways is the beginnings of urbanization: centralization, meaning the drawing of far-flung communities into networks centered on site,” said co-director of the excavation Michael Boyd, from the University of Cambridge, in a statement.
Imported metal ore would have been smelted to the north, where excavators found two metalworking workshops full of debris and related objects, including a lead axe, a mold for copper daggers, dozens of ceramic fragments from metalworking equipment, and an intact clay oven.
Further testing will determine whether the drainage tunnels were for clean water or sewage.
Excavated soil samples show grape and olive cultivation, as well as remnants of pulse crops, figs, and cereals – most of which researchers say would have been imported like in modern urban centers.
“Keros was probably not self-sustaining, meaning that much of this food was imported: in the light of this evidence we need to reconsider what we know about existing networks to include food exchange,” said lead author Dr Evi Margaritis of the Cyprus Institute in a statement.
Dhaskalio is also thought to be a place where complex rituals were performed.
Researchers intend to return in 2018 for further excavations.