London, July 15 : An archaeological team has discovered the site of the ancient hippodrome race course in Olympia in Greece, where the emperor Nero competed for Olympian laurels 1,600 years ago.
According to a report in Alpha Galileo, the area, east of the sanctuary of Olympia, had not been the subject of archaeological investigation before, although the ancient written sources show that this must have been the site of the largest construction, in area terms, built to host competitions.
According to Pausanias, a travel writer of the ancient world, the hippodrome lay south of the now researched and reconstructed stadium, and must now be several meters below the current level.
The hippodrome was discovered in Olympia by a research team that included Professor Norbert Muller, Dr Christian Wacker, and, Dr Reinhard Senff, researchers from Germany.
Prior to this, the hippodrome had only been known from written sources. Archaeologists had failed to locate its actual site.
To date, it had been assumed that nothing of the hippodrome had survived, as the area described by Pausanias to the east of the sanctuary of Olympia has been flooded by the Alfeios River since ancient times and has become covered with silt.
In modern plans and descriptions, it is usually stated quite simply that "nothing remains of the hippodrome due to flooding in medieval times".
This served as an additional incentive for the German researchers: Using modern geophysical methods, they systematically searched the area for the first time.
The experts Armin Grubert (Mainz) and Christian Hubner (Freiburg), who specialize in the use of geomagnetic and georadar techniques, were able to map soil disturbances such as water courses, ditches, and walls.
Conspicuous, rectilinear structures were discovered along a stretch of almost 1200 meters. The researchers believe this to be the racecourse, which ran parallel to the stadium.
The investigation of the area, has produced the first concrete indications of the location of the racecourse and its geographical dimensions.
According to sports historian Professor Norbert Muller, who is an authority on Olympia, "The project could become a new attraction for the sports world, similar to the excavation of the ancient Olympic stadium 50 years ago."