Archeologists Uncover an Ancient Temple Filled With Riches in Greece

By: Lauren | Last updated: Feb 15, 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.


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.


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].”


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.

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.