Stories tagged Greece

Nov
11
2011

On November 10, 2011, at 17:25 UTC (or 11:25am Central Standard Time), a shallow quake occured in Greece about 11.8 miles NE of the town of Patras. According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre, this earthquake had a magnitude of 5.1 (later downgraded to a 4.6) and was a relatively shallow quake at 5 km (approximately 3.1 miles) below the Earth's surface.

This region is characterized by a high level of seismicity, and small tremors are continually recorded along the coast of Patras. Another interesting aspect of Patras is that in antiquity, there was an ancient oracle, over a sacred spring, dedicated to the goddess Demeter. Professor Iain Stewart from the University of Plymouth has been studying a supposed link between ancient. sacred places in Greece and Turkey and seismic fault lines. Many ancient temples and cities lie along those fault lines and this may not be merely due to chance, but they may have been placed there deliberately.The Temple of Apollo at Delphi with Mount Parnassus in the Background
The Temple of Apollo at Delphi with Mount Parnassus in the BackgroundCourtesy Wikimedia Commons

For example, the Oracle at Delphi has been given a geological explanation. The Delphi Fault (running east-west) and the Kerna Fault (running SE-NW) intersect near the oracular chamber in the Temple of Apollo. In that area, bituminous limestone (i.e. limestone containing bitumen, a tarlike deriviative of petroleum) has a petrochemical content as high as 20%. Analysis of spring water in the area showed the presence of hydrocarbon gases, such as ethylene. Geologists have hypothesized that friction from fault movement heats the limestone, causing the petrochemicals within to vaporize. It has been suggested that exposure to low levels of the sweet-smelling gas ethylene would induce a trance, or euphoric state. Could the naturally occuring ethylene account for the strange, prophetic behavior of the Pythia (the priestess at the Temple of Apollo)?

The Delphi research is certainly persuasive, and received favorable coverage in the popular press and Scientific American, but it has come under criticism. Critics argue that the concentrations of ethylene identified by the researchers would not be sufficient to induce a trance-like state, and thus the connection to the mantic behavior of the Pythia is dubious.

Report: Geomythology: Geological Origins of Myths and Legends
Article: Breaking the Vapour Barrier: What Made the Delphic Oracle Work?
Report: Oracle at Delphi May Have Been Inhaling Ethylene Gas Fumes

Related Report: Earthquake Faulting at Ancient Cnidus, SW Turkey

Jul
25
2008

Hold your horses: Chariot races were a big part of the original Olympic games. Archaeologists in Greece believe they have found the orginial hippodrome race track where those races were contested.
Hold your horses: Chariot races were a big part of the original Olympic games. Archaeologists in Greece believe they have found the orginial hippodrome race track where those races were contested.Courtesy A. Brady
Do you have Olympic fever yet? The Beijing Games get underway in just two weeks. And of course, there are bound to be a bunch of new events.

But what I’d like to see is a throwback to one of the old events: chariot races. The idea popped into my head today when reading this article that archaeologists in Greece may have found the ancient hippodrome – fancy term for track – used for chariot races in the original Olympics.

A team of German researchers, using geomagnetic technology to take pictures of structures under the ground, believes it has found the chariot track of Olympia. It was last visible some 1,600 years ago before it was buried in a river of mud. Get the full details here.

The geomagnetic technology has undiscovered an ancient circuit that stretches of nearly 656 feet underneath an area that’s now fields and olive groves. The next step in the process will be to do spot digs at the site to go down and find out what is actually there.

Part of the oblong track's distinctive outline was documented some seven feet (two meters) beneath fields and olive groves and extended almost 656 feet (200 meters) in length. Documents from Greek texts of the past peg the size of the chariot track at 3,444 feet long and featuring very elaborate starting gates, sharp turns and fancy distance posts.

Also, chariot racers where the only old Greeks to be clothed while competing. While other athletes competed nude, chariot drivers wore tunics.

So come on International Olympic Committee and NBC, let’s bring back the good old days of chariot races at the games. My hot tip – but don’t tell anyone you heard it from me – is to bet on the guy who looks most like Charleton Heston driving a team of white horses.

Aug
28
2007

Fire damage: Authorities check through a heavily fire-damaged area of Greece. Hugh wildfires have swept through the southern portions of the country and officials belief they've been deliberately set.
Fire damage: Authorities check through a heavily fire-damaged area of Greece. Hugh wildfires have swept through the southern portions of the country and officials belief they've been deliberately set.
After nearly a week of burning at an out-of-control pace, two people have been apprehended as possibly being responsible for the starting of huge wildfires that have been burning in Greece.

More than 50 people are known dead from the fires that have raced across southern Greece. Now in the line of fire is the city of Olympia, the home of the Olympic Games. As of Tuesday afternoon, no historic sites were damaged, but fires were moving close to a museum and archaeological center.

Through the weekend, about 45 villages had to be evacuated due to fire threats. Summer is always a severe time for wildfires in Greece, but this summer has been especially bad, authorities report, with more than 3,000 blazes.

And law enforcement is especially concerned about this latest wave of fires. A 65-year-old man was arrested based on accounts from people in the area seeing him torching areas. Officials are also looking for more leads on a gas canister device connected to a cell phone that was found in one of the wildfire sites. Authorities believe the arson actions could be tied to the upcoming Greek elections in mid September.

Also apprehended was a 77-year-old woman who was cooking in her garden when the fire got out of control and spread. She’s being charged for criminal negligence.

Archaeologist have discovered the remains of an ancient marketplace in southern Athens. The ruins date from 300 to 500 BC.

Apr
25
2005

Scientists in England have figured out a way to read ancient Greek and Roman scrolls that had previously been illegible. These scrolls were found about 100 years ago in a garbage dump. Most of the hundreds of scrolls were dirty, moldy stained or burnt, and couldn't be read.

Dead Sea Scroll FragmentPreviously invisible lettering of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the early '90s, scientists working on the Dead Sea scrolls teamed up with NASA and developed a way to photograph the ancient paper using invisible wavelengths of light. (Light comes in a wide variety of wavelengths. Our eyes only respond to some of them. But scientists can build cameras that respond to wavelengths too long or too short for our eyes to see.)

Already, scientists have discovered lost works by Sophocles, Euripides, and other famous writers of the ancient world. Some feel these discoveries could completely rewrite our understanding of ancient Greece and Rome — and the beginnings of Western civilization.