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Archeologist Says He's Found Capital of the Legendary Ajax

April 01, 2006|From the Associated Press

ATHENS — Among the ruins of a 3,200-year-old palace near Athens, researchers are piecing together the story of legendary Greek warrior-king Ajax, hero of the Trojan War.

Archeologist Yiannis Lolos found remains of the palace while hiking on the island of Salamis in 1999 and has led excavations there for the last six years.

Now, he's confident he's found the site where Ajax ruled. "This was Ajax's capital," said Lolos, a professor of archeology at Ioannina University in Greece.

"It was the seat of the maritime kingdom of Salamis -- small compared to other Mycenaean kingdoms -- that was involved in trade, warfare and piracy in the eastern Mediterranean."

Ajax was one of the top fighters in the legendary Greek army that besieged Troy to win back the abducted queen of Sparta, Helen. Described in Homer's Iliad as a towering hero protected by a huge shield, Ajax killed himself after a quarrel with other Greek leaders.

On a wooded hill overlooking the sea at Kanakia on Salamis' southwestern coast, Lolos' team has excavated a town surmounted by a fortified palace complex.

The site flourished in the 13th century BC and was abandoned during widespread unrest about 100 years later.

Kanakia was first inhabited around 3000 BC. The Mycenaean settlement covers about 12.5 acres and features houses, workshops and storage areas.

So far, archeologists have uncovered 33 rooms in the 8,000-square-foot palace, including two central royal residences containing what appear to be two bench-like beds.

Finds include pottery, stone tools and copper implements.

Located just off the coast of Athens, Salamis is best known for the naval battle in 480 BC, when the Athenians defeated an invading Persian fleet.

The ancient playwright Euripides was born there, and a cave excavated by Lolos in 1997 has been identified as a hide-out where the poet composed his work.

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