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Greek Town Kirrha Thousands of Years Older Than Thought, Goes Back to Stone Age

Renewed excavations of Kirrha, supposedly a Bronze Age settlement that arose in a marsh on the northern Greek coast near Delphi, have discovered that it began thousands of years earlier than had been thought. A joint French-Greek team investigating the site for the last 11 years has concluded that concentrated occupation there arose as much as 7,000 years ago, in the late Neolithic period, not in the Early Bronze Age (2,300 B.C.E.) as previously believed.

Rich burial in KirrhaΤhe Neolithic layer lies about ten meters below the top of the tell. However, thanks to the combined effects of local land subsidence and sea level rise as the last Ice Age waned, that ancient stratum now lies three meters below the water table, dig director Raphaël Orgeolet of Aix-Marseille University explains.

In other words, when they tried to dig into the Neolithic level, they hit water. Study of the late Stone Age layer has had to rely on coring and the discoveries of what Orgeolet calls coarse Neolithic pottery.

Geophysical survey findings indicate that Kirrha’s first inhabitants built homes on stilts in the middle of marshland, Orgeolet says. That wouldn’t have been unusual. It was a common practice in Neolithic Greece to build settlements in marshy areas.

In the Bronze Age level, which thankfully lies not only above the Neolithic layer but above the water level, the archaeologists found several graves as well as numerous pottery kilns dating to Middle and Late Helladic times. Kirrha seems to have been a major center for pottery manufacture in Bronze Age Greece.

In the late Bronze Age, Kirrha seems to have been abandoned, for reasons unknown. Then it arose anew around 2,700 years ago, at which multiple ancient sources say it served as the landing port for pilgrims to Delphi. That famous mountaintop town may have existed earlier too but definitely gained its lofty status only after the Bronze Age, thanks to the oracle.

“The important place in the area was definitely Delphi. If Delphi hadn’t existed, there probably wouldn’t have been a port in Kirrha at that period,” Orgeolet posits.