Subway work unearths ancient road in Greece

Last updated 19:33 26/06/2012

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Archaeologists in Greece's second-largest city have uncovered a 70-metre section of an ancient road built by the Romans that was the city's main travel artery nearly 2000 years ago.

The marble-paved road was unearthed during excavations for Thessaloniki's new subway system, which is due to be completed in four years. The road in the northern port city will be raised to be put on permanent display when the metro opens in 2016.

The excavation site was shown to the public on Monday, when details of the permanent display project were also announced. Several of the large marble paving stones were etched with children's board games, while others were marked by horse-drawn cart wheels.

Also discovered at the site were remains of tools and lamps, as well as the bases of marble columns.

Viki Tzanakouli, an archaeologist working on the project, told The Associated Press the Roman road was about 1800 years old, while remains of an older road built by the ancient Greeks 500 years earlier were found underneath it.

"We have found roads on top of each other, revealing the city's history over the centuries," Tzanakouli said. "The ancient road, and side roads perpendicular to it appear to closely follow modern roads in the city today."

About 7 metres below ground in the center of the city, the ancient road follows in roughly the same direction as the city's modern Egnatia Avenue.

The subway works, started in 2006, present a rare opportunity for archaeologists to explore under the densely populated city - but have also caused years of delays for the project.

In 2008, workers on the Thessaloniki metro discovered more than 1000 graves, some filled with treasure. The graves were of different shapes and sizes, and some contained jewelry, coins or other pieces of art.

A massive excavation project also took place during the 1990s in the capital, Athens, before the city's new metro system opened in 2000.

Thessaloniki's new subway is already four years behind schedule, due to the excavation work as well as Greece's financial crisis. Thirteen stations will operate initially, before a 10-station extension is added later.

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- AP

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