New archaeology research in Greece has uncovered an odeon in the ruins of an ancient Roman-era town in an isolated area of southwest Crete. The discovery of the new structure, similar to a modern auditorium, is the first excavation at the archaeological sites of Lissos in more than sixty years.
Katerina Tzanakaki, deputy head of the Department of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and Museums at the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chania, directed the project. During the first excavation stage, Tzanakaki and her colleagues uncovered part of the odeon’s stage, 14 rows of seats, and two vaulted side chambers. Tzanakaki told the science news website LiveScience, which first reported the news, that odeons were “were used for lectures, literary and musical contests or theatrical performances.”
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While archaeologists had uncovered several other well-preserved structures in the past at the Lissos site, the location can only be reached by boat or a two-hour hike from the nearby town of Sougia, making additional research difficult. Lissos was “an ancient autonomous city, religious center and seat of the Koinos of Oria in the 3rd century BC,” as described by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports in a translated statement about the excavation. “The discovery of a public function building at a central point of the ancient city and in proximity to the famous Asklepiion adds new data to the archaeological and historical horizon of the area.”
The newly discovered odeon is estimated to have been constructed in 1st century C.E.. Archaeology experts Jane Francis and George Harris called it a rare find, but told LiveScience that heavy damage to the northwestern section of the structure was likely caused by an earthquake in 365 C.E.
By comparison, other well-preserved structures in Lissos from various time periods include a temple to Asclepius, the ancient Greek god of medicine; a residential area; a Greco-Roman cemetery with Byzantine temples; Roman baths; and Christian churches.
The next phase of research will look into whether the odeon is surrounded by external masonry, a key step before any study for its restoration and elevation.