NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Greece's Culture Ministry says an inscription on a clay slab unearthed at the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games could be the oldest written excerpt from Homer's epic poem the Odyssey ever discovered.

The ministry says an initial estimate dates the slab, inscribed with 13 verses from the Odyssey's Book 14, to the Roman period, possibly before the 3rd century.

If this estimate is confirmed, the slab could be a "magnificent archeological, epigraphical, literary and historic item," the ministry says.

The slab was found near the Olympia sanctuary during digs carried out under the direction of Ilia Antiquities Ephorate Director Kolia Erofili-Irida in co-operation with a team of archaeologists from German universities.

The Games were held at Olympia in southern Greece from 776 B.C. to 393 A.D.