A ministry statement said excavations from September to early October in the southern Greek region of the Peleponnese turned up "proof of the existence of the ancient city" of Tenea, until now known mostly from ancient texts.
Finds included walls and clay, marble or stone floors of buildings, as well as household pottery, a bone gaming die and more than 200 coins dating from the 4th century B.C. to late Roman times. A pottery jar containing the remains of two human fetuses was also found amid the foundations of one building. That was unusual, as the ancient Greeks typically buried their dead in organized cemeteries outside the city walls.
Lead archaeologist Elena Korka, who has been excavating in the area since 2013, told The Associated Press that her team had only been digging in the rich cemeteries surrounding Tenea until this year. In one, antiquities smugglers dug up two remarkable 6th century B.C. marble statues of young men in 2010 and tried to sell them for 10 million euros.
"This year we excavated part of the city itself," Korka said. Excavation work continues on the cemeteries, located near the modern village of Hiliomodi about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Athens.
Archaeologists discovered nine burials there this year, finding gold, copper and bone jewelry, pottery and coins dating from the 4th century B.C. to Roman times. "The citizens seem to have been remarkably affluent," Korka said, adding that the city probably did well out of trade, standing on a key route between the major cities of Corinth and Argos in the northeastern Peloponnese.
So far, not much was known about Tenea, apart from ancient references to the reputed link with Troy and to its citizens having formed the bulk of the Greek colonists who founded the city of Syracuse in Sicily.
Korka said more should emerge during the excavations, which will continue over coming years. "(The city) had distinctive pottery shapes with eastern influences, maintained contacts with both east and west ... and had its own way of thinking, which, to the extent that it could, shaped its own policies," she said.
Tenea survived the Roman destruction of neighboring Corinth in 146 B.C., and flourished under Roman rule. It appears to have suffered damage during a Gothic invasion in the late 4th century A.D. and may have been abandoned around the time of Slavic incursions two centuries later.