Project Team Members:
The acropolis was the focus of an initial three-week survey in 1983, since this area had not previously been studied in much detail by archaeologists despite the reuse of ancient materials (inscriptions, column drums, etc.) visible in the 14th century CE Genoese fortifications of the Kastro. The survey was undertaken in order to record these observable elements and to detect buried architectural features, such as walls and cisterns, through the use of resistivity and magnetic survey techniques.
Excavations at the highest point of the large Byzantine-Genoese castle that dominates the seaward side of Mytilene have revealed a previously unknown sanctuary to the chthonic goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone (Kore), and the burial chapel of the Gattelusi, a Genoese family who ruled Lesbos and much of the northern Aegean between 1355-1462 CE.
Founded around 400 BCE, the sanctuary was used until early Roman times when it was covered with a thick deposit of earth, pottery, lamps, and other dumped fill. Investigations revealed a series of five different altars of varying types and sizes arranged in a long line running from north to south; they included hearth altars with remains of hundreds of piglet bones as well as step altars. West of them were dining rooms with benches along the walls and a Sacred House, perhaps for the now-lost cult image of the goddess. Thousands of terracotta figurines, oil lamps, pots of different sorts, and small finds came from levels associated with the site’s various periods of history. Also found in the sanctuary were three curse tablets, sheets of lead with the names of jurors in local trials inscribed on them and then rolled up.
The medieval and Ottoman levels were also of interest. The Gattelusi chapel provided a number of skeletons of men and women of the late medieval period that have provided much information about local diet from chemical analysis of the bones, and about the general quality of living via studies of age, sex, and illnesses apparent in the remains.
Remains of three Ottoman villages destroyed by successive earthquakes over three hundred years have opened new areas of inquiry concerning a little-studied period of early modern Greek history. Pottery from as far away as Italy in the west and China in the east attests to wide trade connections, while over a thousand clay tobacco and hashish pipes (one of the largest collections in Greece) tell of smoking habits from the 17th century CE onwards.