Argos castle: From flat to spiral to lit with flames?

Image copyright Steven Bridge Image caption The Greek Revival building in Pyrgos was built in the seventh century BC This fire in Argos, Greece, happened more than 4,000 years ago and could probably still…

Argos castle: From flat to spiral to lit with flames?

Image copyright Steven Bridge Image caption The Greek Revival building in Pyrgos was built in the seventh century BC

This fire in Argos, Greece, happened more than 4,000 years ago and could probably still be burning today.

Here is a look at what the archaeologists have learned about the origins of the world’s oldest continuously burning house.

Please enable Javascript to view this gallery

Share your discoveries by clicking here .

What are archaeologists saying?

Picture an ancient lighthouse whose cliffs criss-cross with spires. Above the summit of the cliffs, you’ll find a flat, roofless structure.

This is the iconic Argos castle which can be seen in Archaeology, BBC World Service, 1 November 2018.

Steven Bridge of the University of Oxford told the BBC the building, found in 1982, is so prehistoric it had, in fact, outlived all the known archaeological evidence of the city.

“This odd building didn’t exist until thousands of years after the next known house in Argos,” he said.

“So, it may have developed independently of the structures on either side of it in Argos, demonstrating that the history of cities can start in the past.”

Examinations of the castle have shown how it’s linked to the main site of Argos, built on a peninsula shaped like a round crackling candle box, and some of the earlier buildings of the city.

The researchers also found a replica of the terracotta guard tower which was featured in the opera The Magic Flute – one of the city’s most famous tourist attractions.

Professor Stephen Mowle, who was the first to excavate Argos, said in the BBC World Service documentary, Argos: Fire and Paradise, that the building used as a lookout was only moved when people made it too unsafe to stay in.

“After it was destroyed, you have to wonder what they were doing with the building, because it was certainly not the centre of the city,” he told us.

Researchers think the purpose of the tower and the spiral steps, which look like they’re going up (or down) the cliff face, was to look out for invading attackers.

And it wasn’t just a precautionary measure; there is a legend that Argos had been the capital of the third dynasty of Greek kings, Apollonius, so it makes sense that the tower, which probably dates back to between the sixth and 10th centuries BC, was a danger when Apollonius fought around Argos.

What’s happened to Argos?

Argos, known in ancient times as Argola, is a 5,400-year-old old settlement on the Mediterranean coast of Crete. It was established in the seventh century BC.

Although it is a popular tourist destination, many of the ruins are under threat from illegal excavation.

Marnhian Serafidi, director of the Culture Project in Argos, said the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) advised the university to call in archaeologists from the University of Oxford.

ICOMOS explained to Mr Bridge that Argos is a focus for late Egyptian archaeology because of the shared language of the Aegean.

Image copyright Asop Mylonidis Image caption Artists’ impressions of what the building looked like in the 19th century

Image copyright The National Archaeological Museum in Athens Image caption The modern complex is still bursting with life

© The Greek Government

That resulted in the Metazón gallery, open from April to October, holding displays from around the world – you’ll even find artefacts from Egypt, dating to about 2,000 BC.

In the complex, visitors can come and watch cooking demonstrations, attend yoga classes and get a lesson in how to track the theophanies – the ancient slang for trash or rubbish – that has been plastered on the walls and floors.

Argos’ glory days are long gone – it was occupied by the British army in the 19th century.

But a visit to Argos should be a reminder of the interesting history that surrounds this ancient, modern city of epic ruin.

Leave a Comment