ATHENS anc. Agora - 2007
Public building - Pipe/drain - Cistern - Well - Residence - Stoa - Numismatics - Metal - Bone - Stone - Hydraulic installation - Commercial area - Public area - Domestic space - Road system/waterway
Type of Operation
American School of Classical Studies at Athens
Anc. Agora. J.M. Camp (ASCSA) reports on the 2007 season of excavation.
In section BZ south (Fig. 1) 2 primary areas were investigated: the N−S road and the areas W of the road. In the road, we continued to take down the very hard-packed gravel surfaces, mostly of the 4th Ct AD. In doing so, we fully exposed the later water supply lines found in earlier seasons, one of terracotta and 2 of lead. These will all have been for fresh water and were probably pressure lines. Lower down, we cleared more of the deep street drain and, at the extreme N, another subsidiary channel entering it from the W. All these channels, both supply and drainage, were in use in the 4th or 5th Ct AD. To the W, we explored deeper fills under the Rom levels. In one area we exposed a fairly well-preserved pyre, of the type known from across the anc. street and in other areas of the Agora. They are usually deliberately buried under the floors of private houses or commercial buildings and the example found this year seems to date to the L4th or E3rd Ct BC. It contained a lamp, a drinking cup, a pyxis and several of the characteristic unglazed plates, cooking pots and small saucers.
In section BZ north we excavated mostly Cl and Hel levels in and behind the Cl commercial building. One of the major gains of the season was to establish beyond doubt that the commercial building extended this far N. More of its E back wall was exposed, along with several cross-walls, and we can now speak with some confidence of at least 6 rooms/shops set side-by-side along the E side of the street. An intermediate phase of the building was uncovered in the form of a draw-shaft and part of the tunnel of a Hel cistern complex found outside the building to the E. It was of standard form, a vertical shaft waterproofed with a good hard white mortar. The shaft itself was ca. 0.75−0.9m di., preserved to a d. of ca. 2.5m. The tunnel runs off to the NW and may be heading to a collapsed cistern located within the building itself. The tunnel showed signs of collapse about 1m from the draw-shaft, and will have to be explored in future seasons. Fill within the shaft suggests that it went out of use in the 2nd half of the 3rd Ct BC. A wall of the 1st Ct BC/AD was eventually built over the mouth of the draw-shaft. Finds from this season in this area included several lead and terracotta tokens or seal impressions. In the Agora we have about 900 examples, carrying a wide range of symbols and depictions. Some of this year’s finds were of types previously known, such as one showing a round shield decorated with the letter A (Fig. 2). This type is part of a series showing shields, breastplates, helmets and greaves, thought to have been used for issuing armour from the state arsenal. Other examples found this year are more unusual, in particular a small lead token with the stamped depiction of a ‘Gallic’ shield, recognizable from its elongated oval shape and the central spine (Fig. 2). Such shields were used by N invaders into Greece in the 270s BC, usually referred to as Gauls or Celts. They were largely turned back by the Greeks (especially the Aitolians and Athenians) at Thermopylai in 279 BC, though a small contingent attacked Delphi and was driven off with divine help (Pausanias 10.19−23).
In section Γ we continued to explore the building traditionally identified as the Strategeion, as well as the slight remains of Cl buildings lying somewhat to the E. In the ‘Strategeion’ we excavated a series of well-preserved levels in the E part of the building, presumably successive floors covering its period of use. This included a pit full of marble chips, itself overlying a pit filled with amphorae. Parts of at least 6 were recovered; though found in fragments, at least some of the amphorae seem to have been deposited while still whole. From their shapes, several seem to have come from the N Aegean − perhaps from Thasos − while 2 others are recognizable as coming from Chios. One had an incised inscription on the shoulder: a ΔΠ ligature followed by 3 vertical strokes (= 53), presumably a measure of volume or cost. Associated bg pottery found in the pit (Pheidias mug, stamped bowl, unglazed plate with moulded rim) suggests that it was filled in the L5th Ct BC, though the amphorae are said by Mark Lawall to be from the 1st quarter of the 4th Ct BC. Elsewhere, fill under the floor went down as much as 3m, producing pottery of the L8th and E7th Cts BC. The ‘Strategeion’, carved out of bedrock at the W, was set over a surprisingly deep gully in its E part.
Further E, we began to explore a series of small irregular buildings, in part to determine if they represent houses, shops or public buildings. There are at least 2 phases. The earlier remains, only partly explored, consist of the rubble walls of buildings in use in the 4th and 5th Cts BC, lying W of the main road, which at that time led into the Agora square from the SW. These remains were replaced by walls of more substantial construction, presumably in the LCl or Hel period. In the M2nd Ct BC, when the Middle Stoa was built, the line of the old road to the E was covered and the road was shifted W, covering much of this area with a succession of hard-packed gravel surfaces. Small finds from section Γ this year included lead weights, terracotta (Fig. 3) and lead tokens, bone eyelets, the lower part of a rf lebes gamikos (Fig. 4) and part of the marble eye from a trireme.
In section BH (Fig. 5) we cleared the last of the 10th/11th Ct walls and other Byz installations (Fig. 6) and began to go lower, into LRom fills. Here, further excavation confirmed what we suspected last year, that we have uncovered a stretch of the back wall of the Stoa Poikile, the first new section to become visible since the W end of the building was found over 25 years ago. The new part found this season consists of 2 adjacent blocks from the outer face of the back wall of the building, made of limestone and originally joined at the ends with a double-T clamp. They are orthostat blocks, i.e., from the first standing course of the wall. The back faces are finished with a drove (flat-faced chisel), while the top surfaces have been finished with a claw chisel. Each block has a projecting boss left on its outer face. The difference in the tooling and the presence of bosses so low down leave open the possibility that the blocks are reused. Blocks in secondary use, presumably made available by the Persian destruction of Athens, were found in the W foundations. The tops of the new blocks lie ca. 1.3m higher than any part of the building seen to the W.
To the SE, the top of a limestone unfluted column shaft ca. 0.6m di. appeared below the Byz walls, lying very close to the projected placement of an interior Ionic column of the stoa and also apparently in situ (Fig. 7). It stands to a level of ca. 53.2masl, much higher than anything seen to the W. If it is in situ, then we are unlikely to see the E end of the building, which can lie no closer than 4m NE of the column, beyond the present limits of the trench. As this column falls 44m from the W end, the minimum l. of the stoa must be 48m. In any case, at present it looks as though the E part of the building, where we are presently excavating, is appreciably better preserved than further W.
The identification of the stoa remains controversial, with several scholars preferring to see the remains as those of another missing stoa, the Stoa of the Herms. The identification as the Poikile rests first on Pausanias (1.14−15), who described it during his visit to Athens in ca. 150 AD. After referring to the Hephaisteion as being on the hill above the Royal Stoa, he describes in order a sanctuary of Aphrodite Ourania, a gate carrying a trophy of the Athenian cavalry over the Macedonians and the Stoa Poikile. He then moves on to describe a series of monuments which lies to the E, under mod. Plaka. We have the sequence of monuments noted by Pausanias: sanctuary, gate and stoa, in the order in which he saw them, moving towards the E. The archaeological evidence corresponds to what we know from other anc. sources (Agora III, nos 47−98) concerning the history of the stoa. It was built at the time of Kimon’s ascendancy, that is in the 470s or 460s BC, and it survived until L antiquity, at least until the time of the Bishop Synesius, who saw the building (though not the paintings) in the years around AD 400. Pottery found against the foundations and under the floor at the W indicates a construction date around 470 BC and the building certainly stood until the 6th Ct AD. Finally, the numerous anc. references (50) indicate that the Poikile was a well-known and prominent building, used for a variety of public functions. The present remains of a large stoa (over 44m) facing S, overlooking the Agora square and the Acropolis, correspond to such prominence.
The Stoa of the Herms seems also to have been standing in the 5th Ct BC, at the time of Kimon (Aeschines III, 183−85), and it is referred to in several Hel inscriptions. Pausanias does not describe it, however, nor does it appear in any source of the Rom period, leaving open the possibility that it did not survive the siege of Sulla in 86 BC, in which case the archaeological evidence for our stoa would not match the history of the Stoa of the Herms.
Unpublished field report, ASCSA (J.M. Camp).
Date of creation