Historical sources and testimonies mention the existence of the city of Tenea, believed to have been founded in the 12th or 13th century BC by Former Trojan prisoners of war. Archaeologists have forever been on the hunt for the city thought to have been lost in the tide of time. In 2013, a team of Greek archaeologists found rich Hellenistic and Roman burial sites close to the village of Chiliomodi, in the southern peninsula region of the Peloponnese in Greece. The discovery opened the possibility of finding Tenea nearby, as such burial sites were usually situated in the outskirts of ancient Roman cities. Now, in November 2018, the same group has unearthed a wide variety of artifacts which indicate the presence of the wealthy ancient city of Tenea.
During the five years of excavation, archaeologists discovered jewelry, coins and the remnants of housing – which guided them to pinpoint the settlement’s location. In the burial grounds itself, the team discovered nine new tombs in 2018. However, a major clue to pinpoint the exact location of the city came when they uncovered buried children in the foundations of walls. According to lead archaeologist Elena Korka, “We found child burials; during the Roman times it was very strict where you bury the dead, and only babies were allowed to be kept inside buildings in the city — all the rest had to be buried outside.”
Moving inwards from the wall foundation, the team discovered prominent remains that could only exist in the lost city of Tenea. They excavated extensive building facilities in a 672 sq. m area, which are believed to be remnants of the ancient city itself. The team also excavated a series of buildings, where they found organized rooms with housing facilities and door openings. Inside the buildings, archaeologists found portions of clay, marble and stone floors, along with well-crafted walls, some of which were covered in mortar.
The archaeologists also discovered a large storage jar, a pythamphorae, along with a 3.5-meter section of a long clay pipeline, believed to have been used for sewage. A structure thought to be an atrium – with architraves, columns and other architectural features located in the interior of the structure – was also uncovered, leading the team to describe the city’s construction as “luxurious” and noted that the buildings were “very strong and very well done.”
Based on the location of the excavation site, the archaeologists deemed that the ancient city of Tenea was founded approximately 9 miles south-east of Corinth and 12 miles north-east of Mycenae. The city was first inhabited by prisoners of the Trojan War, who in the aftermath of the battle, were permitted to build their own tomb by the king of Mycenae, Agamemnon. The team discovered 200 rare coins dating from early Hellenistic to the late Roman times – indicating the city’s significant wealth. Several of these coins belonged to the Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211 BC), indicating that the settlement likely experienced particular economic growth during his dynasty.
“It is significant that the remnants of the city, the paved roads, the architectural structure, came to light,” Korka told CNN. “We’ve found evidence of life and death… and all this is just a small part of the history of the place. The coming years will allow us to evaluate where we stand.” She said that her team will continue to excavate areas surrounding the current finds, and aim to slowly develop a topographical map of the city. The archaeologists will also focus on new branches of research, including exploring the effects of endemic diseases on ancient populations.