ATHENS - 2010
Pipe/drain - Cistern - Well - Stoa - Inscription - Lamp - Numismatics - Tools/weapons - Painting - Architectural revetments - Sculpture - Architectural terracotta - Bone - Hydraulic installation - Public area
Type of Operation
American School of Classical Studies at Athens
Athens, Ancient Agora. J. Camp (ASCSA) reports on the 2010 excavation season.
In Section BH (Fig. 1) clearance continued of the late fill overlying the east end of the Stoa Poikile, much of which was deposited when the back wall was robbed out. Soft dark earth removed in the line of the wall produced pottery as late as the 10th century AD. A cross-section of the foundations was exposed (Fig. 2). The orthostates rest on a broad euthynteria 0.92m wide and 0.255m thick, which in turn rests on a foundation of squared blocks set side by side longitudinally, creating a course ca. 1.17m wide x 0.38m high. The bottom course of foundations was formed of blocks 1.2m (ca. 4 ancient feet) long, set as headers. The top two courses were clamped: there are no traces of clamps in the two foundation courses. No dowel-holes have been recognized. The blocks are all of soft limestone. An intact lamp decorated with a cross (BH 285 = Agora VII, no.2553 etc.) indicates the use of the building at least into the fifth century AD. Also recovered were fragments of the terracotta aqueduct which runs along the back wall of the Stoa, believed to be that built by Kimon to bring water out to the grove of the Academy (Plutarch, Life of Kimon 13). Two Byzantine wells inside the building were left largely undug for the present.
A Hellenistic cistern (J 2: 6) was found in the area directly behind and north of the Stoa Poikile. The 2.8m deep shaft, lined with assorted stones at the top, was 0.80m in diameter widening to 1.55m as it went down, lined with waterproof cement, and with hand-holes set on opposite sides in the usual manner. At a depth of just over a meter, a mass of fragments of painted wall plaster was found, which fell into two groups, one red, the other pale blue. No figures or vignettes were recognized. Lower down, additional debris, some of it architectural (a terracotta sima, pieces of rooftiles, and fragments of pebble mosaic set in lime mortar) was not enough to suggest the demolition debris of a whole building. Parts of the terracotta puteal set over the mouth of the cistern were also recovered. Pottery consisted of Megarian bowl sherds, west-slope kantharoi with both spur and strap handles (the latter decorated with heads of satyrs in relief), unguentaria, small bowls, pyxides, lids, and lead and terracotta loomweights. The cistern was abandoned in the late third – early second century BC. Also recovered was a silver coin of Histiaia (Fig. 3). No clearly associated architecture was found in the immediate vicinity.
Section BZ (Figs 4 - 5) lies north of the west end of the Stoa Poikile, and just east of a north-south road leading out of the Agora square. Throughout antiquity (fifth century BC – fifth century AD), this street was lined along its eastern side by a series of shops. Excavation was conducted in the northern parts of the Classical Commercial building to clarify its plan and complex building history. Levels which preceded the building’s construction late in the fifth century BC were encountered. Below the floor in Room 6 were several dozen ostraka, most cast against Xanthippos, son of Arriphron (father of Perikles), who was exiled in 484/3 BC (Fig. 6), though Lysimachos and Habron are also represented. Towards the north end, a well-preserved double-tanged bronze arrowhead was uncovered (Fig. 7).
In an area which should lie just outside and east of the building was a hard-packed surface into which was cut a small shallow pit lined with red clay. Within the pit were assorted stones and a few black-glazed sherds, several of which give the full profile of a small bowl with straight sides and a slightly rounded base, decorated with glazed stripes, a shape and decoration not previously recognized in the Agora and rare in Attica (Fig. 8). A rare parallel from the Kerameikos excavations seems to be a Euboian import. From the associated pottery in the pit, this shape should date to the sixth century BC.
In Section ΒΘ (Fig. 9), overlying the western half of the Stoa Poikile, exploration continued of the Byzantine, Frankish, and Ottoman levels which covered the Classical remains after their abandonment in the sixth century AD. At the west, numerous animal bones were recovered, many from large animals such as horse and cows; preliminary study also indicates sheep, goats, and pigs, plus the occasional rabbit. The pit, which also contained quantities of lime, seems to date from the 15-16th century AD and was outside the town limits at that time. The occasion of this large deposit is not clear, though the rarity of butchery marks make it unlikely that it represents the simple disposal of animals slaughtered for food. Lower in this same area, a scatter of about three dozen 13th-century Frankish bronze coins date soon after the Frankish capture of Athens was taken in 1207.
To the east lay more walls of the Byzantine settlement which developed in this area in the 10th-11th centuries. Several walls were exposed, of field stones set in clay: many ancient blocks were reused, several of them of marble. Two adjacent rooms were largely exposed: at 7 x 3.6m and ca. 6.5 x 2.2, these are larger than the usual rooms of this period in this area. A footing trench and a well-defined robbing trench for the west end of the dividing wall were cleared. In the southwest room a deep fill or large pit was uncovered, with extensive traces of burning in the form of fine dark ash. No debris or large chunks of carbon were found, thus excluding the possibility that this represents a destruction layer or industrial debris in primary deposition. Lower down, this fill produced ca. 850 goat horns, most with signs of sawing usually close to the tips (Fig. 10). Such limited removal suggests dulling the horns rather than a manufacturing process. Lower down in the pit were several largely complete Middle Byzantine pots (Fig. 11) of different shapes, three of coarse fabric and unglazed, and one green-glazed.
The general sequence of later remains in this area is now clear: this is the edge of the city, and, depending on its fortunes, Athens expanded or contracted across the area of the excavations. In the seventh to ninth centuries AD, the area was largely abandoned, with the town clustered around the base of the Acropolis, east of the Stoa of Attalos, and within the limits of the post-Herulian wall. When life in the Byzantine world improved in the 10th to 12th centuries, the town expanded out this far and the area was densely inhabited, as indicated by the walls of numerous rooms, the many pithoi and other provisions for storage suggesting a fully urban settlement, and the construction of small churches nearby. With the arrival of the Franks in the 13th century, the area was abandoned once again and used as a dumping ground, hence the large deposits of very fragmentary glazed pottery of the 13th and 14th centuries. The use of the area as a dump continued with the arrival of the Ottomans in the mid-15th century, with the addition of the large deposit of animal bones. Pig bones suggest that the Greek residents of Athens contributed to the debris. From early drawings, it seems that the town expanded out to this area again in the 17th or 18th century, and the dumping ground was pushed farther to the northwest. When Edward Dodwell drew the town in 1805, the area is shown covered with houses and the dump (two large mounds labelled staktothiki, i.e. ash heaps) is shown outside the city wall built in 1778, in the area of the present Kerameikos.
In the north scarp of the goat-horn pit, a large sculpted fragment of marble (Fig. 12), measuring up to 0.75m on a side, began to be uncovered. The block requires further study, but it clearly represents a pile of military equipment, and served as the base for a trophy or a statue. So far, four or five shields (one with a relief club device), part of a cuirass, and the handle of a sword are identified. Several parallels are known from Delos, including shields decorated with clubs, associated with the Macedonian dynasty established after the death of Alexander the Great. This block, too, should probably date to the Hellenistic period (323-146 BC). The weaponry presumably indicates a military victory, but it remains to be seen which dynast or general occupied the base. Anathyrosis at the back, if original, suggests that the block may be part of a larger monument, perhaps therefore a trophy rather than a statue. Its large size and excellent preservation suggest that it had not travelled far and it may well originally have been set up immediately in front of the Stoa Poikile (a favored place for the display of military success).
In Section Δ (Fig. 13), west of the Middle Stoa, investigation continued into the use of the area in the Classical period, to ascertain whether its primary function was civic, commercial, or domestic, or some combination of the three. It seems that this area was used largely for private purposes, despite its proximity to the Agora square and the adjacent public buildings. This same crowding-in of private establishments can also be seen to the east, under the Library of Pantainos, and to the northwest, behind the west end of the Stoa Poikile.
South of the area explored in 2009, shallow fill was excavated, much of it hard gravel showing few signs of human activity. This southern area is surprisingly empty, given its central location, with few signs of Classical activity, although several low retaining walls, one of nicely squared blocks, suggest some landscaping of the area. In the Hellenistic and Roman periods the area was crisscrossed with small terracotta drains, presumably distributing overflow from the southwest fountainhouse which lies only a few metres to the southeast.
Unpublished field report, American School of Classical Studies at Athens.
Date of creation