Amyklaion Excavation

Introduction

SUMMER 2021: July 25 – August 7

In the Spartan plain, on the west side of the river Eurotas and at a distance of 5 km south-west from modern Sparta, close to the modern village of Amyklai, rises the low hill of Agia Kyriaki, on which the remains of the sanctuary of Apollo Amyklaios have been located. According to ancient literary sources and inscriptions, the Amyklaion, with the monumental Throne of Apollo, an impressive and unique architectural monument, constituted the most prominent sanctuary in ancient Laconia and one of the most important Spartan religious and civic centers from early historic times to the late antiquity. This was also the site where the famous Spartan festival, the Hyakinthia, were celebrated annually, in honor of Apollo and Hyakinthus.

Amyklai, as well as the Amyklaion sanctuary, were named after the mythical king, Amyklas, son of Lacedaemon and father of the local hero Hyakinthus. The ancient settlement of Amyklai, which is mentioned in the Homeric lists of ships (II. 2584), was  conquered and was subsequently incorporated into the city of Sparta in the 8th century B.C.E. as its fifth obe, which along with the four mainly Spartan ones, constituted the Dorian polis of Sparta.

The Amyklaion sanctuary and the enigmatic Throne of Apollo had been a main interest for the archaeological research and the history of art since the early 19th century. The first archaeological excavation works on the hill of Agia Kyriaki were conducted in late 19th and early 20th century, by Greek and German archaeologists. Current excavation and research work on the site initiated in 2005 and has provided a more complete picture of the sanctuary and the monuments within it. Some masterpieces of ancient Laconian art have been brought to light during the archaeological excavations, as well as numerous other significant finds that confirm the importance of the hill of Agia Kyriaki as a cult center already from the Mycenean period and bear witness to the diachronic character of the Amyklaion, by indicating a continuous life on the site from the late 3rd millennium BC to the Byzantine era.

Amyklaion Excavation