ARGOS - 2000
Type of Operation
Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Δ' ΕΠΚΑ
Argos, Regional General Hospital. A. Papadimitriou (Δ' ΕΠΚΑ) reports on rescue excavation prior to the construction of an extension south of the 1960s hospital building (Fig. 1).
A dense concentration of 24 tombs, oriented southwest-northeast, was found in the southern and eastern parts of the excavation area. These were either built of limestone orthostates and covered with similar slabs or tiles, or were simple pits, with or without covers, and used for more than one interment. Their use extended from the Late Archaic/Early Classical to the Late Hellenistic period. Three limestone tombs belong to the same group, as well as four pyres located north of this nucleus in the central part of the plot.
North and west of this tomb group, in the centre of the excavation area, 32 Late Middle Helladic tombs were loosely arranged over an area of ca. 280m2. These conform to known types of the period, i.e. cists of roughly-cut limestone blocks with similar covers, pithoi and other vessels, and pits with or without a clay lining. Tombs normally contained single inhumations with grave goods. West of the Middle Helladic tombs, a row of seven Geometric cist tombs was aligned north-northeast-southsouthwest; each contained a single burial and rich goods. Beneath them was a surface of river pebbles (ca. 160m2). Three stone cairns occupied a confined area north of the Middle Helladic tombs and partially covered the Geometric tombs. Some 80−90% of the pottery collected from these cairns dates to the Late Middle Helladic, with a small quantity contemporary with the use of the cist tombs. It is therefore likely that the cairns re-used material after the demolition of a Late Middle Helladic structure, a terminus post quem for which is provided by the Geometric use of the area. They probably formed part of a tumulus covering the Middle Helladic graves which was removed in the Late Archaic to Early Classical period when the area was landscaped for cemetery use.
In the west and south of the plot were the successive Late Middle Helladic and Early Mycenaean surfaces of a cobbled road. This road (at least 5m wide) was a main artery which formed the boundary between the extensive Mycenaean settlement on the Aspis slopes and the cemetery to the east. It had fallen into disuse by the Geometric period (one of the tombs noted above cuts into it). A row of six limestone blocks in two courses follows the line of the road and forms an angle with the tombs of the historical period: it likely marked the entrance to the cemetery in historical times.
A pit in the northern part of the excavation area contained spolia from the superstructure of the later tombs. No further ancient remains were found. It therefore seems that the area was used exclusively for burials in three distinct periods: Late Middle Helladic, Geometric and Early Classical to Late Hellenistic. The arterial road was also a boundary in later times. The area east of it was used for burials, but not as a unitary, organized cemetery. While planned cemeteries were common at other large urban centres, the only example at Argos is located at the modern National Gymasium, on the ancient road running southwest towards Tegea. The hospital site, which borders the ancient road north to Mycenae and Corinth, was used for the burial of small groups over time, perhaps by one genos or extended family. Previous excavations in the area confirm this view: a comparable group of prehistoric and later tombs was found during excavation for the foundations of the 1960s hospital building some 60m away. During the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods, groups of tombs within periboloi, found north and south of this building on the Roussopoulos and Pitsas plots, indicate a shift towards the eastern road from the city.
Date of creation