Archaeologist Michael Cosmopoulos shows a replica artifact with similar markings to the tablet he discovered that is considered the oldest written record in Europe. His discovery of the tablet has been recognized among the top finds of the year.

Discovering the oldest written record in Europe makes for a pretty cool year. Add to it recognition as one of the year’s top findings, and you can say it was a stellar year.

University of Missouri–St. Louis archaeologist Michael Cosmopoulos can now check both of those accomplishments off his “bucket list.” The tablet, unearthed last year during a dig in Greece by Cosmopoulos, the Hellenic Government Karakas Family Endowed Professor of Greek Studies at UMSL, and his team has now been named one of the top 10 discoveries of 2011 by the Greek press.

The list was compiled and published Jan. 8 by To Vima, a Greek daily newspaper. The tablet is featured among other great Greek discoveries in 2011 such as a 2,500-year-old wooden figurine discovered in the temple of Artemis at Vravrona, an etch of Minoan hieroglyphic writing, a marble statue in the Little Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus and a small gold object that represents a human eye identical to that of gold, funerary mask of Tutankhamun found in a bottomless grave in the necropolis of Ancient Eleftherna Crete.

Discovering the tablet changed what was known about the origin of literacy and bureaucracy in the Western world. The rare artifact was unearthed at the site in Iklaina, which sits in the middle of an olive grove in southwest Greece. Each summer Cosmopoulos returns to the dig site with a team of about 40-60 students from UMSL and other universities and 25-30 staff and specialists.

“This discovery is the biggest surprise in years of excavation. It was found in a burned refuse dump dated to between 1450 and 1350 B.C.,” Cosmopoulos said.

Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton