A marble ritual water basin provided evidence for dating the building to the Greek Archaic period. (photo by Dr. Birgitta Eder / Athens Branch of the Austrian Archaeological Institute via Phys.org)

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe was a temple dedicated to Poseidon, the Ancient Greek god of the sea, tsunamis, and earthquakes. The 2,000-year-old structure on Greece’s Kleidi site near Samikon matches descriptions written by ancient Greek historian Strabo, and interdisciplinary research suggests that the temple may have been built because of the area’s history of extreme geological events.

A team from the Austrian Archaeological Institute, Germany’s Mainz and Kiel Universities, and the Greek Ephorate of Antiquities of Elis conducted the research. The dig coincides with a long-term project led by Mainz University Professor Andreas Vött, who has spent 20 years studying geological change and tsunamis in this portion of the southwestern Greek coast.

The area was settled during the Mycenaean Era (around 1600 to 1100 BCE) and its society thrived for centuries. While the peninsula was both secure and easily accessible from the mainland, it was also battered by the Ionian Sea. Recurrent tsunamis struck the region, with the most recent hitting the coast in 551 and 1303 CE. According to Mainz University, the ancient Greeks may have chosen this location for Poseidon’s temple because of its precarious relationship with the sea.

The ruins were first discovered in 2021, but it wasn’t until this fall that the team connected the site to historical records of the temple. “The location of this uncovered sacred site matches the details provided by Strabo in his writings,” said Birgitta Eder, director of the Athens Branch of the Austrian Archaeological Institute.

Over the next few years, the researchers plan to continue examining the site from archaeological and geological perspectives, ultimately investigating the temple’s “geomythological” significance.

The ancient Greeks may have built Poseidon’s temple here because the area was hit by recurrent tsunamis.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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