Archeologists Uncover an Ancient Temple Filled With Riches

By: Lauren | Published: Apr 21, 2024

On the beautiful Greek island of Evia, archeologists have discovered an amazing 2,700-year-old temple full of treasures from ancient life.

The newly found temple sits directly next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis and has an incredible amount of pottery, gold, silver, and bronze within its intricate structure. 

The Temples of Ancient Greece

Of all modern-day countries on Earth, Greece certainly holds more ancient temples than most. In ancient Greece, these temples were used to worship their gods, but they were also an integral part of community culture.

Drawing illustration of the view of the Acropolis of Athens, Greece, around 420 BC

Source: Kean Collection/Getty Images

And as places for both gathering and worship, temples are one of the best ways for archeologists and historians to understand what life was like thousands of years ago.

The Temple of Amarysia Artemis

For decades, historians knew that the Temple of Amarysia Artemis existed thanks to ancient texts describing the structure, but they couldn’t find it.

Aerial view of the Temple of Amarysia Artemis from the 6th century BCE found on the Greek island of Evia

Source: Archaeology Wiki

Fortunately, in 2007, they were finally able to excavate the temple at the base of a hill near the town of Amarynthos on the island of Evia. It was only 10 kilometers from where they had been searching.

The Rich History of Amarynthos

The town of Amarynthos, where the temple was found, has an amazingly rich history. Archaeologists have long argued that the area where it now sits has been occupied by humans since 3000 BCE.

Aerial view of the coastline and neighborhoods of Amarynthos, Greece

Source: Wikipedia

Throughout the past 5,000 years, this now-small town was, more often than not, a large port for trade in the Mediterranean. The area has experienced a wide variety of rulers from the Macedonians to the Romans, the Byzantines, the Venetians, the Ottoman Turks, and finally, the Greeks again.

Historians Believe the Temple of Amarysia Artemis Dates Back to the 6th Century

When excavating the now-famous Temple of Amarysia Artemis, archaeologists discovered that parts of the temple had been built as early as the 6th century BCE.

Archaeologist working at the temple from the 6th century BCE found next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis on the Greek island of Evia

Source: ESAG

And thanks to ancient texts, they know that the temple was still in use during the 3rd century CE, which means that this beloved structure was used for more than 700 years.

The Temple of Artemis Was Likely an Important Monument for Ancient Greeks

Artemis was the Greek goddess of the hunt, nature, wilderness, and children in ancient mythology.

Illustration of the beloved Greek goddess Artemis

Source: Shutterstock

But while there are several temples dedicated to the beloved goddess throughout what was once the ancient kingdom, the temple on the island of Evia is considered to be exceptionally special. Many argue that it was the foremost center of her followers throughout Northern Greece.


People Would Walk a Pilgrimage to the Temple Every Year

There is also evidence to support the theory that those who respected and wanted to pay homage to Artemis would walk from wherever they lived (then take a boat) to the island of Evia and this temple every year.

Depiction of ancient animal sacrafices

Source: Wikipedia

It is also where the man festival of the town was held, as the entire town had dedicated itself to the all-powerful deity and where sacrifices were made in her honor.


Finding Another Temple Alongside Amarysia Artemis

Now, about 15 years after discovering the Temple of Amarysia Artemis, Greek archeologists have found another temple directly next to it.

Temple from 6th century BCE found next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis on the Greek island of Evia

Source: @Ministry of Culture/Facebook

This temple doesn’t yet have a name, but since excavation began, the on-site team has found some seriously incredible treasures of the ancient world.


The Newly Found Temple on the Island of Evia

The temple they found is 100 feet long and has several internal structures that are extremely interesting for historians. 

Map of the temple from the 6th century BCE found next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis on the Greek island of Evia

Source: Ministry of Culture

The interior wall was made with pillars that once held up the roof. And they also noted that at some point, additional partitions were added through the center, which historians believe were put in place to better support the roof after a fire.


More Details Discovered at the Ancient Temple

Thanks to archeological experts, they now know that this temple was built in the 6th century BCE and that at one point in time, it experienced some kind of fire.

Temple from 6th century BCE found next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis on the Greek island of Evia

Source: Ministry of Culture

And they’ve also deduced that since the temple’s foundation was made from dry stone, it was likely built on wet or even swamp-like ground.


Walls, Pillars, and Altars Made of Rough Bricks

The archeologists also noted that the entire temple, including the walls, pillars, and several small structures throughout, was built from roughly made bricks.

Temple from 6th century BCE found next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis on the Greek island of Evia

Source: Ministry of Culture

And they believe that the structures are actually several altars, as they were filled with special treasures, as well as pieces of charred bones, which were likely part of a ritual sacrifice.


Sacrifices Were Done in the Temple

According to archeologists, these discoveries confirm that animal sacrifices were done within the temple. Parts of these sacrificed animals were then burned as an offering to Artemis.

An ancient stone art showing a female sacrificing something on an altar.

Source: Zde/Wikimedia Commons

Researchers also found that there were holes in the roof of the building. These holes allowed the smoke from these sacrifices to easily escape.


The Treasures of the New Temple

Atop these altars, archeologists found gold and silver, amber and coral jewelry, and bronze and iron pieces.

Pottery found at the temple from the 6th century BCE found next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis on the Greek island of Evia

Source: Ministry of Culture

They also discovered intricate pottery, such as vases and jugs, some of which are made from Corinthian alabaster.


Impressive and Intricate Treasures Were Found

While finding pottery and jewelry within ancient temples is not rare, the exact pieces found within this one were exceptionally special.

Bull figurine from the Geometric period of Ancient Greece

Source: The Walters Art Museum

They found bronze figurines of bulls and rams from the Geometric period, intricate and spectacular pieces of jewelry, and gemstones made from coral and amber that wowed the archaeologists on site.


An Egyptian-Like Artifact Was Also Discovered

Researchers were also thrilled to find several exotic objects that did not represent the art and culture of the Greeks at that time.

Photograph of an ancient Egyptian figurine made out of ivory

Source: British Museum

Specifically, they found an intricately chiseled ivory head that had distinctly European features. Which, of course, opens up an entirely new discussion regarding artistic trades between the two ancient cultures.


An Ancient Fortification System

Interestingly, researchers also uncovered a fortification system that appears to be from the early Copper Age, which was from about 4000 to 35000 BCE.

Old ruins that used to be a fortification system in Greece.

Source: George E. Koronaios/Wikimedia Commons

This ancient system is the oldest part of this temple and its surrounding areas discovered thus far. The Cooper Age saw the transition from the Neolithic Age to the Bronze Age.


Understanding the Intense Dedication to Artemis

Archaeologists believe that these awe-inspiring treasures can tell them quite a bit about the culture, specifically the dedication to the goddess Artemis at the time of construction.

Sculpture of the ancient Greek goddess Artemis

Source: Adobe Stock

Archaeologist and director of the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece, Slyvian Fachard, noted, “Particularly impressive was the discovery of a votive deposit within the temple, which included over 700 objects in a remarkable state of preservation. The objects in this exceptional deposit are essential for understanding votive practices in Amarynthos.”


Why Were Certain Votives Chosen for the Altars?

Fachard also noted, “Vases, figurines, jewelry, mirrors and cloths relate primarily to the feminine sphere. Others, such as knives and phiales [a type of shallow bowl], are ritual objects.”

Statue of the Greek goddess Artemis and children

Source: Reddit

And further explained, “Overall, these objects inform us about ancient gestures and the intentions of the offering with a rare degree of precision.” He consequently believes that the specific offerings confirm historians’ long-believed theory that ancient people of Greece turned to Artemis to bless them during childbirth, as well as the transition from childhood to adulthood.


Some of the Pieces Are Older Than the Temple Itself

According to archeologists at the dig, the temple, like its neighbor, dates back to the 6th century BCE.

Pieces found at a temple from the 6th century BCE found next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis on the Greek island of Evia

Source: Ministry of Culture

What’s especially interesting about this mysterious temple is that archeologists also found some remains, such as pieces of pottery and even entire altars that date back to the 8th century BCE.


Archeologists Have Dated Parts of the Temple to the 8th Century BCE

This incredible information has led them to believe that altars were likely used for two centuries outside the temple that was clearly built in the 6th century. 

Temple from the 6th century BCE found next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis on the Greek island of Evia

Source: Ministry of Culture

Which likely means that they were either moved inside the temple or that it was actually built around them. 


Was the Second Temple Also Dedicated to Artemis?

Experts cannot say with 100% certainty that this second temple was or was not dedicated to the goddess Artemis like its neighbor, as they can find no textual evidence to support either claim.

Statue of Greek goddess Artemis holding a bow and arrow

Source: iStock

However, some are assuming that it was part of a larger complex-like temple dedicated to the beloved goddess as texts show what an important site the larger temple was for Artemis’ followers and the town as a whole.


The Oddoties of the Second Temple

It is important to note that excavators found several oddities when examining this second temple that made it different from its neighbor as well as most other temples of the same era.

Example of an ancient Greek altar outside of a temple

Source: Wikimedia Commons

First and foremost, at 100 feet long, the temple is much bigger than most others. And second, the altars or heaths were inside the temple, as opposed to being outside where they usually were built.


Greece’s Ministry of Culture Said This Discovery Will Be a Crucial Part of Understanding Its Rich History

The treasures of this ancient temple are certainly exciting, but its history and mysterious rarities, including the interesting timeline, are even more important to historians.

Logo of the Hellenic Republic of Greek Ministry of Culture

Source: Linkedin

Greece’s Ministry of Culture released a statement that explained, “Although the investigation of the earliest of these levels has only just begun, the first discoveries suggest that the cult had its roots in the centuries after the end of the Mycenaean period.”


Using 21st-Century Technology Could Make a Big Difference

Additionally, lead archaeologist Fachard, explained that the temple’s modern-day discovery could make a big difference in what they end up finding.

Two researchers analyze and photograph ancient artifacts

Fachard said, “Most Greek sanctuaries were excavated in the 19th and early 20th centuries,” Fachard said. “The possibility of excavating Euboea’s (Evia’s) largest sanctuary in the 21st century, applying cutting-edge excavation techniques, is an extraordinary opportunity for recording the archaeological signature [of Greece].”


The Greek Goddess Artemis

Artemis was an important goddess in the Greek religion for a variety of reasons. As the goddess of the hunt and vegetation, many rural populations in various regions considered her their favorite goddess.

An ancient wall painting of Artemis.

Source: ArchaiOptix/Wikimedia Commons

However, Artemis was also known as the goddess of childbirth and chastity in many cultures in ancient times.


Different Types of the Goddess

Artemis was a very important deity for people in different parts of Greece, Crete, and nearby lands. However, different people worshipped her differently.

A 1600s painting of Diana/Artemis by Vincent Malo.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Though historians have found that Artemis had a large reach — and many devoted followers — the goddess was portrayed in different ways, depending on which culture worshipped her.


Artemis and Local Deities

For example, many researchers believe that Artemis was often combined with local deities in some regions. The Artemis worshipped by the Greeks could differ greatly from the Artemis revered in Ephesus.

A 1500s painting by Hendrik van Cleve of the building of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, Artemis was worshipped as the Bull Goddess in Attica at festivals, highlighting her importance as the Mistress of Animals in the region.


Artemis Temples

Artemis was an important goddess to ancient cultures in Greece, Rome, and elsewhere in the world. As a result, various temples, both big and small, were created for the goddess throughout many eras.

Ruins of a temple in Ephesus.

Source: Ulvi Safari/Unsplash

The findings of the long-lost Artemis temple in Amarynthos was an incredibly important discovery. However, arguably the most beloved and essential temple dedicated to Artemis can currently be found in Turkey.


The Temple of Artemis

This temple at Ephesus, which is in modern-day western Turkey, is known as the Temple of Artemis, though it can also be called the Temple of Diana.

Ruins of the temple of Artemis in Turkey.

Source: Ali Gündoğdu/Unsplash

This specific temple was so vitally important to ancient cultures that it was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.


The History of the Temple of Artemis

This temple was built by the King of Lydia, Croesus, in about 550 BCE. Though the temple was burned down in 356 BCE, it was eventually rebuilt.

A model rendering of what the Temple of Artemis looked like.

Source: Zee Prime at cs.wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons

This temple — also called the Artemesium — was noted in ancient times for its huge size, as well as the many great pieces of artwork the building housed.


The Temple's Destruction

Eventually, the Temple of Artemis in Turkey was completely destroyed in 262 CE after the invading Goths tore it down.

The ruins of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus today.

Source: Warren LeMay/Wikimedia Commons

Today, only the ruins and excavations of the temple remain. However, the history of its greatness brings many tourists around the world to see the ruins on a daily basis.


A Unique Statue of Artemis

Intriguingly, this temple at Ephesus held a popular statue of Artemis that has unfortunately been destroyed or lost to time. However, some copies of this grand statue do remain, giving historians the opportunity to understand what it looked like.

The cult statue of Artemis found at her temple in Ephesus.

Source: Metuboy/Wikimedia Commons

This unique statue is different from other statues of the goddess, as it depicts Artemis in a mummylike stance, with her hands extended outwards.


The Temple of Artemis in Jordan

Another notable temple dedicated to Artemis can be found in Jerash, Jordan. The ruins of this temple remain standing in better condition than the temple at Ephesus.

The Temple of Artemis in Jerash, Jordan seen in the daytime.

Source: Askii/Wikimedia Commons

Notably, this temple, which was built as a shrine to Artemis, didn’t start being built until the second century CE. Though parts of this sanctuary were completely built, the temple itself wasn’t ever completed.


Other New Greece Discoveries

New ancient discoveries have also been found in Greece recently. Earlier this year, archeologists uncovered various pottery offerings in a hilltop sanctuary located on the island of Kythnos in the Aegean Sea.

A village seen on the island of Kythnos in Greece.

Source: Roman Klementschitz/Wikimedia Commons

These findings amounted to more than 2,000 different figurines of women, men, children, and animals. Researchers believe that these offerings came from various time frames, as the temple was in use for more than a thousand years after its creation in the 7th century BCE.


There Is Still Much to Learn From This Site

Historians, archaeologists, and even the Ministry of Culture in Greece are unbelievably excited about what they have found so far at this treasure trove of a temple in Amarynthos.

Temple from the 6th century BCE found next to the Temple of Amarysia Artemis on the Greek island of Evia

Source: Ministry of Culture

And they have learned quite a bit already from excavating alone about the culture that built it and specifically, the relationship between these people and the goddess Artemis. But there’s still a great deal they don’t know.


Excavation and Research Will Continue

Fortunately, experts in the field will continue researching, dating, and digging, and hopefully find out the name of this once great temple.

Illustration of life in ancient Greece

Source: Shutterstock

And consequently, they as well as the rest of the world will learn more about the civilization that lived on this land almost 3,000 years ago.