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BSA Upper House Seminar

Prof. Kostas Kotsakis (Professor Emeritus, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), “A solar flare in 5259 BCE solves the Dispilio riddle”


Abstract: Dispilio by Kastoria Lake is Greece’s first systematically excavated wetland site. It contains waterlogged wooden piles, C14 dated to the 6th millennium BCE at a density of almost 1000 piles per 500 square metres. The extreme density makes it impossible to distinguish between distinct house plans. The apparent lack of dwellings posed an unanswered enigma for Dispilio and influenced the site’s subsequent interpretation as a site built on platforms over water.
With the launch of the ERC EXPLO project in 2018, a new age of investigation at the waterlogged site began. Based on the stratigraphic examination, we proposed the working hypothesis that the inability to trace distinct house plans was due to the lack of robust dating of the piles. Thus, their dating became a crucial focus of this re-examination. Previous experience with dendrochronological analysis at waterlogged sites in Central Europe shows that the method has excellent results in defining house plans. A significant breakthrough occurred when the examination in Dispilio identified in a tree ring the signature of the socalled “Miyake event,” a unique solar event known to have happened in 5259 BCE. Based on this dated ring, Dispilio’s complete sequence of tree rings was subsequently dated to the calendar years 5612 to 5152 BCE.
The dendrochronology results exceeded our expectations. The precise chronology allowed us to pick up house layouts and follow their “biographies” with exceptional precision. Dispilio is now the first Neolithic site in the Balkans that is dated to that level of accuracy. With the help of the EXPLO project, we can now place this remarkable wetland community and its trajectories within a broader natural, cultural, and social context. The result will be a much more inclusive perception of the Dispilio community.


Hybrid lecture, 16:00 (UK) / 18:00 (Greece) 

Please register here to attend online via Zoom webinar. No registration required for in-person attendance.

Upper House Seminar
When: 11 March @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm EET
Where: British School at Athens, Upper House – Athens – 52 Souedias Street