Ancient Greek Palace Discovered, Dates To 17th Century BC — Could It Be The Lost Palace Of Sparta?

Archaeologists in southern Greece have unearthed the ruins of an ancient Greek palace that they believe dates back to the 17th-16th century BC. The ancient Greek palace, called Aghios Vassileios, has 10 rooms and was filled with ancient artifacts such as bronze swords, ornate murals, a seal adorned with a nautilus, a cup with a decorative bull’s head, and several clay tablets written in Linear B script.

Ancient Greek Palace Discovered, Dates To Seventeenth Century BC -- Could It Be The Lost Palace Of Sparta?
Among the treasures found a the site were cultic objects, such as this bull's head rhyton, or ceremonial drinking goblet

Linear B is an ancient script once thought to have been derived from a mysterious, as of yet undecipherable Minoan script called Linear A. With the discovery of Linear B tablets in the ancient palace of Aghios Vassileios, archaeologists and ancient linguistics scholars are going to have to rethink the developmental timeline of Linear B, as the newly unearthed tablets predate those of the Minoan Linear A by hundreds of years.

The ancient Greek palatial complex was unearthed roughly 7.5 miles from the famed Sparta, and given that the majority of civilizations at that time built large, grand palaces — such as those unearthed at Pylos and Mycenae — and that no such palace has ever been uncovered in Sparta, this discovery could be that long-lost Spartan palace, says Hal Haskell, an archaeologist at Southwestern University in Georgetown.

“Tradition tells us that Sparta was an important site in the Mycenaean period. What’s exciting is you do have this middle Bronze Age stuff [discovered within the ancient Greek palace] that suggests it’s a site of great significance.”

Haskell went on to say that Linear B tablets, such as those unearthed in the palace, would only have been kept in an important administrative building in the Mycenaean culture. Archaeologists are now hoping to unearth the megaron — or throne room — to prove that the ruins really are those of the lost palace of Sparta.

Though the palace is believed to have been destroyed by fire sometime in the 14th century BC, enough of the foundation remains to lend credence to the belief that not only was it a part of the Mycenaean civilization, but that the timeline fits for it to be the ancient Spartan palace. Mycenaean culture remains much of a mystery to this day, but architecture from the civilization is well documented — palaces were built around a large, rectangular hall, had a smaller, secondary hall, as well as many private apartments — and the ancient Greek palace of Aghios Vassileios displays at least some of these identifying characteristics.

In a statement released by Greece’s culture ministers, they said they believe the newly discovered palace may finally shed some light on the enigmatic Mycenaean culture.

“The palatial complex of Aghios Vassileios provides us with a unique opportunity to investigate, with the use of modern methods of excavation and analysis, the creation and evolution of a Mycenaean palatial center in order to reconstruct the political, administrative, economic and social organization of the region. Alongside, it is estimated that new evidence on Mycenaean religion, linguistics, and palaeography will also be brought to light.”

Whether the ancient Greek palace of Aghios Vassileios is, in fact, the lost palace of Sparta still remains to be seen, but regardless of its origins, the newly unearthed palace is sure to shed some light on a culture and civilization that we don’t yet fully understand.

[Image Credits: Header — Science Recorder, Body — Greek Ministry of Culture]