Agios Vasileios is the most important archaeological find in Greece in this century. It needs your help today.
Located on the outskirts of ancient Sparta, Agios Vasileios is one of the great Mycenean palaces of the Greek Bronze Age. But until ten years ago, no one knew that it existed. To find such a site, at such a late date, is unprecedented.
With your support, Global Heritage Fund is planning to build a shelter over the archaeological site to preserve it from the extreme weather conditions that prevail in southern Greece. The exposed ruins, and the delicate layers of history that lay beneath them, are in danger without this shelter. Please give today to make this shelter a reality.
What Is Agios Vasileios?
Before the age of Classical Greece there was the Mycenean epoch. Throughout Greece and Asia Minor, warrior nobles projected their power from palatial estates. These palaces represented the height of Mycenean influence, holding sway over vast, complex societies and the highly lucrative Mediterranean trade routes.
But in the 12th century BC, that all came crashing down. Every great palace was destroyed, and the cultural and trading empires they oversaw collapsed. Agios Vasileios is one of these great palaces. With the collapse of the Mycenean era, it was burned to the ground, destroying the site but also preserving many of the ruins. Most notably, the period’s only extant palace archives were discovered largely intact. These archives, written in an archaic form of Greek known as Linear B, were usually written on unbaked clay tablets that were discarded after their useful life had ended. However, the fire baked the tablets, preserving them until the present day.
Agios Vasileios has only been partially excavated, but what has been found so far is already encouraging: numerous religious artifacts connecting it with the Mycenean culture in the rest of Greece, palace archives on baked clay tablets, and a partially excavated collonaded room that may have been a royal greeting chamber. It is named for a nearby church, which now stands on part of the site.
This history is incredibly important for understanding ancient Greece and its connection to the world. Please support preserving it by building a shelter today.
Excavation Zone A at the site of Agios Vasileios.
Why Is Agios Vasileios Important?
Agios Vasileios was discovered almost out of thin air. It simply did not show up in the historical or archaeological record, and for years, archaeologists believed that the area surrounding ancient Sparta never played host to a palatial center.
That is why its discovery is so profound, and why the knowledge its ruins hold is so important. Who ruled from this place? What relationships did they have with the rest of Greece and the broader Mediterranean world? Why did they disappear? Were they part of the same culture as the other Mycenean palaces, or were they distinct?
There is the potential to not only discover the remote past of ancient Sparta, but also to find heretofore unknown information about the Mycenean period, its richness, and its extent. There has not been such an opportunity in Greece in many years.
An excavator uncovering tablets written in Linear B, an archaic form of the Greek language.
Why Does Agios Vasileios Need a Shelter?
Every year, the excavation team has only a few weeks in the summer to dig into the earth and uncover the priceless treasures that lay beneath. They have the same amount of time afterwards to conserve what they have found and prepare the site for the winter months.
Since the beginning of excavations, they have done this by reburying everything at the end of the excavation period. While this preserves most of the site for the next year’s excavation season, it puts the delicate archaeology – largely built out of earth and clay – at risk from extreme weather, which erodes the structures beneath the soil. A protective shelter of synthetic technical textiles will mitigate this risk, providing a stable environment for the site and preserving it in the long term.
Give to AV Today!
Was it the palace of Menelaus, the Homeric king of Mycenean Sparta? Did its halls once host the noble Hector and his sly younger brother, Paris? Is there any basis for the mythic accounts of Homer’s Illiad?
So far, the consensus is still out. However, by helping to build this shelter, you are directly contributing to the preservation of a remarkable archaeological site, one which could be eventually identified as the palace of the Spartan king, Menelaus. Please give today.