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Lost ancient Greek temple dedicated to the goddess of war is discovered among 2,500-year-old graffiti

Archaeologists have discovered a lost ancient Greek temple dedicated to the goddess of war after translating a newly found case of 2,500-year-old graffiti.

Among more than 2,000 remains of ancient Greek graffiti, a scholar has discovered a diagram of this lost temple to Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of war and wisdom.

The graffiti, which experts believe was made by a shepherd or shepherd, shows a now-gone temple in the exact same spot as Athens’ historic, still-standing Parthenon.

“The structure,” said the professor of classics at the University of Tennessee who made the discovery, “is identified by the inscription as ‘the Hekatompedon’ and was produced by a person named Mikon.’

Among more than 2,000 remains of ancient Greek graffiti, a scholar has discovered a diagram (above) of a lost temple to Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of war and wisdom.

Among more than 2,000 remains of ancient Greek graffiti, a scholar has discovered a diagram (above) of a lost temple to Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of war and wisdom.

1718909358 975 Lost ancient Greek temple dedicated to the goddess of war

1718909358 975 Lost ancient Greek temple dedicated to the goddess of war

“The structure,” according to the University of Tennessee professor of classical antiquity who made the discovery, “is identified by the inscription as ‘the Hekatompedon’ and was produced by an individual named Mikon.” Above is the professor’s sketch of Mikon’s 2,500-year-old graffiti

Hekatompedon was once the official ancient name for the temple to Athena, but literally means ’30 meters’ in Ancient Greek, a reference to the size of the temple.

Crucially, however, the alphabet used in this graffiti dates back to the 6th century BC – at least 50 years before construction of the Parthenon building, also dedicated to Athens, even began.

‘Mikon’s graffiti supports the scenario that the Hekatompedon in the decree was an operational temple on the south side of the Acropolis’, professor of classics Merle Langdon wrote in his new study, published in the American Journal of Archaeology.

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This earlier temple would have been dismantled, and many of its columns and other structures could have been reused, for the ancient Greek structures still stand atop the hill where the Parthenon rests today, on the Acropolis of Athens.

Translated from this ancient Greek alphabet, the engraved inscription reads simply ‘the Hekatompedon’ [—] of Mikon,” said Langdon, who first discovered the graffiti.

The professor noted that archaeologists know of two possible temple candidates that could match the diagram Mikon drew in his graffiti.

One nicknamed ‘the Bluebeard Temple” by archaeologists and another called “the Gigantomachy Temple,” a neutral temporary term used while scholars still debate what the remains of these historic structures may once have really been.

The Bluebeard Temple, believed to have been built on the north side of the Acropolis around the second quarter of the 6th century, was named by archaeologists after a prominent three-headed serpent with a blue beard found among the ruins.

The Gigantomachy Temple, also called the Ancient Temple of Athena by some scholars, dates from about the same period to the 6th century.

Its remains were also found on the Acropolis in Athens, but its exact original location is still debated by scholars.

Langdon and his co-author, archaeologist Jan van Rookhuijzensaid they would stop trying to further definitively identify “the Signified Temple” as “the debate over the architectural history of the archaic Acropolis has not yet been resolved.”

Above, a closer look at today's Parthenon, atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Above, a closer look at today's Parthenon, atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Above, a closer look at today’s Parthenon, atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

In other words, the full history of the lost temple to Athena, which Mikon called “the Hekatompedon,” is still shrouded in mystery and has yet to be written.

For years, the team has studied the 6th century BC sketches, scribbles and graffiti made by the ancient Greeks in this region.hips, horses and ‘erotic scenes.’

“It is not known why the shepherds made so much graffiti,” Van Rookhuijzen wrote in an article The conversationdiscussing he and Langdon’s new research.

“Maybe it was just a form of escapism during the dull moments of their work.”

The hill where Mikon’s graffiti was located, along the north and east of Vari, Attica, is now a southern suburb of Athens.

The landscape has become a boon to scholars as it is literally covered in centuries-old shepherd graffiti.

Langdon and van Rookhuijzen used high-resolution photographs and detailed reproductions to analyze the writing style of the long-dead shepherd, looking for clues in his letter forms, handwriting and spelling to better date and authenticate the find.

Above, the spot where Langdon and his co-author found the ancient graffiti of Mikon (red arrow).  the shepherd's inscription – made on the exposed marble of Vari's Barako Hill near Athens – has now suffered two millennia of erosion

Above, the spot where Langdon and his co-author found the ancient graffiti of Mikon (red arrow).  the shepherd's inscription - made on the exposed marble of Vari's Barako Hill near Athens - has now suffered two millennia of erosion

Above, the spot where Langdon and his co-author found the ancient graffiti of Mikon (red arrow). the shepherd’s inscription – made on the exposed marble of Vari’s Barako Hill near Athens – has now suffered two millennia of erosion

The team compared the Mikon drawing and its writing style with other previously discovered architectural drawings and inscriptions from the wider Athens area.

Mikon’s sketch of the temple, they concluded, is “the earliest known testimony of admiration for the architecture of the Acropolis,” based on the faithful and favorable representation of the structure’s columns and roof-like entablature.

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They also noted that Mikon’s graffiti is now the earliest recorded instance of a person using ‘Hekatompedon’ to indicate a major temple or building.

“Our appearance is earlier than the 37 other known examples of this name in the Greek world,” the team wrote in their new study, “including 12 from Attica.”

But the ancient graffiti still holds some mysteries yet to be deciphered, as the shepherd’s inscription – made on the exposed marble of Vari’s Barako Hill – has now suffered from more than two millennia of erosion.

“This prevents a full assessment of both the drawing and the inscription,” the researchers noted, “some of the letters of which are illegible.”

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