The archaeological evidence of Greece has slowly been exposing the depth and breadth of the human mark as it altered the landscape and left behind signs of life and culture.
While most people identify ancient Greece with the Classical or even the Hellenistic periods, the complete story of Greece reaches back to the Mesolithic and Neolithic Eras. The Neolithic period is marked by a plethora of settlements around Greece, the best preserved of which is the archaeological site at Dimini.
Dimini is located in Thessaly, Greece, about 7 km. west from the modern city of Volos. Near the modern village of Dimini, a low hill is crowned by the remains of a 4th century BCE settlement, which was excavated by Christos Tsoundas in 1903, and given its completeness and level of complexity of the cultural evidence, it was initially mistaken for a Bronze Age site. Later careful study of the architecture and artifacts established Dimini as a much earlier Neolithic settlement.
The Neolithic civilization was active for 4000 years between 7000 and 3000 BCE, and it is divided into ‘Early’, ‘Middle’, ‘Late’, and ‘Final’. Dimini was occupied during the late Neolithic Period between 4800 and 4500 BCE.
Today the low walls made of fieldstone are the only remains on the site, and they outline a small village of five concentric circular rings that surround a large courtyard at the top of the hill. At the north end of the courtyard the remains of a rare two-room building are clearly visible. While the dwellings of Dimini appear to be small and consist of one chamber, this large house consists of two rooms, and it has been dubbed the “megaron” because its size and position implies the importance of a leader’s house, or a common area (perhaps a place of worship) for the whole community.
The site was abandoned around 4500 BCE, and it was later inhabited in Mycenaean times. There is evidence of new construction on the hill and the surrounding area during this time, and a Mycenaean tholos tomb was constructed at the northwest end of the settlement that was pillaged before its discovery by Archaeologists.
While today the Neolithic settlement of Dimini appears landlocked, the coastline in Neolithic times was close to the village and there has been speculation that this is the site of ancient Iolkos – the home of Jason the Argonaut, although no conclusive evidence has been put forth.
Most of the artifacts and pottery unearthed at Dimini are now exhibited at the Volos Archaeological museum, and at the National Museum of Athens. Near the Volos museum in a small square by the water one can see a partial reconstruction of the Neolithic houses of Dimini.