Image: Pottery
Greek Culture Ministry via AP
Miniature pottery vases and statuettes are seen buried in a ritual pit at an ancient shrine discovered in Orchomenos.
updated 5/23/2007 7:15:45 PM ET 2007-05-23T23:15:45

Archaeologists in central Greece have discovered thousands of miniature clay pots and statuettes in the ruins of an ancient sanctuary possibly dedicated to the Three Graces, officials said Wednesday. In volume, it is one of the richest finds in recent years.

Excavations near Orchomenos, about 80 miles (128 kilometers) northwest of Athens, revealed sparse remains of retaining walls from a small rural shrine, a Culture Ministry statement said.

But a rock-carved shaft was found to contain thousands of pottery offerings, dating from the early 5th century B.C. until at least the 3rd century B.C, the statement said.

The finds included miniature pots, clay figurines of women and animals, as well as clay busts and lamps.

"The identity of the deities worshipped there is not yet clear, but it is certain that they were goddesses associated with plant growth and fertility," the ministry statement said.

It said a famous sanctuary of the Three Graces — deities of growth and beauty — was known to have stood in ancient Orchomenos, and one of the offerings was inscribed with the name of Eurynome, mother of the Graces.

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