ATHENS Ancient Agora - 2012
Stoa - Inscription - Numismatics - Architectural revetments - Architectural terracotta - Public area
Type of Operation
Athenian Agora. John Camp (ASCSA) reports on the 2012 season.
In Section ΒΓ, excavation of the Hellenistic and Classical road levels of the Panathenaic Way continued (Figs 1-2). More stone sockets for wooden posts were revealed: these belonged to a perischoinisma (roped enclosure) attested in the area by Plutarch (Moralia, 847a) and recognized during excavation by the A’ ΕΠΚΑ in the bed of the ΗΣΑΠ railway in 2010-2011 [ID 2477]. Several very hard-packed layers of road surface were removed: the most substantial dates to the 4th century BC, when the road farther west near the Royal Stoa was extensively graded. One of the stone post-holes found at the east (Fig. 3) permits the full dimensions of the roped-off area to be estimated at ca. 12 x 15m. As restored, nine posts were set along the north and south sides, and eight along the east and west. The numerous post-holes found make no regular pattern and differ considerably in diameter, depth, and probable date. Many must have been used to support the ikria, wooden grandstands set along the Panathenaic way for spectators to observe the procession (Athenaeus 4. 167 ff.).
In a second trench to the west, numerous road surfaces, amorphous gravel areas, and assorted post-holes were explored in an attempt to determine if the carefully-laid, level and smooth road surfaces found in earlier years to the west continued to the east. Thus far, they seem not to.
In Section BH, well M 2:1 (at the extreme eastern edge of the section) was explored to its full depth of ca. 12m. The upper part was stone-lined and reused in the Byzantine period. Below, it was lined with rings of three specially made tiles. Abundant pottery included many small pitchers or mugs with wheel-ridged bodies and obliquely gouged lines, covered with a thin dull wash (Fig. 4), a well-known type in the Agora, dating from the 4th and 5th centuries AD. Also common were large round-bottomed wheel-ridged amphoras in coarse yellowish tan clay, many with cursive red dipinti on the shoulder. Several other shapes, including cooking pots, occur in smaller numbers, along with several coins and intact lamps. The well contents suggest that it was in use for a century or more: they resemble those of well L 2:2 excavated in 2011 3m to the west, although well M 2:1 began earlier, perhaps in the mid-4th century AD. Coins, rosette lamps, and bowls with painted spirals recovered from the lower levels date to the 4th century (Figs 5 & 6). Well M 2:1 thus predates the arrival of Alaric and the Visigoths in 396 AD, and was in use while the building still functioned as a public stoa. Material in the upper levels dates to the 5th century, matching that from L 2:2. The abundance of pitchers, mugs, and amphoras in both wells suggests that rooms created by walling up the open colonnades may have served as taverns or wine shops.
Some 0.3m above the deposits of whole and intact pottery was a layer of broken Corinthian rooftiles (Figs 7 & 8), many covered with a thin layer of finer tan/yellow clay in some cases was painted. Some pieces could belong to the stoa. A well-preserved antefix with faint traces of painted decoration is best paralleled in the first half of the 5th century BC (Hesperia 59  p. xxv, nos. 46-48; Buschor’s Stirnziegel XII and XVII). The large fragments of angular cover tiles may also be from the same series. A raking sima also has traces of painted decoration, including a meander pattern. The profile is close to Buschor’s Sima XXV (dated to the Hellenistic period): if the piece came from the eastern end of the building, it must therefore have been a later replacement.
The well-preserved east wall of the Painted Stoa (Fig. 9), of greyish-tan limestone, was revealed at the extreme east end of the section. At least six orthostate blocks are preserved in situ, three from the outer row and three from the inner. The joints within each row are held by iron double-T clamps 0.21 m. long, set in lead, while the inner and outer rows are not clamped to each other. Where preserved, the joints of the inner and outer orthostates align. The wall construction is very similar to that of the contemporary Cnidian Lesche at Delphi, which was also decorated with paintings by Polygnotos of Thasos. The surfaces of the faces of the inner orthostates have split off and large pieces were found built into the stone lining of a modern shaft. Despite this damage, these are the first inner orthostate blocks found, making this stretch of the east wall the best preserved part of the building yet found. Both ends of the stoa have now been uncovered, confirming its interior dimensions at 48 x 10m and the exterior (measured on the steps) at ca. 51 x 12.5m, with 23 exterior Doric columns and 11 interior Ionic columns. The orthostates rest on a foundation course of soft yellowish limestone 0.26m high, above a second 0.42m high; only the top edge of the third (presumably lowest) foundation course was exposed.
At the north end of Section BZ, beyond the northern limits of the Classical Commercial Building, lay various hard-packed fills with little associated architecture. Most were late Archaic, dated by pottery which included several ostraka (found in a pit), notably three of Xanthippos father of Perikles, and one of Aristeides son of Charops, for whom previously only a single example was known (M. Lang, Agora XXV, p.34, no. 19). Xanthippos was ostracized in 484/3 BC and a large deposit of ostraka bearing his name and that of Themistokles was found some 25m to the south.
Two other Archaic finds come from fills further north. A small black-figure lekythos (Fig. 10) depicts what may be an apobates race, an event in the Panathenaic games which took place in the Agora, along the Panathenaic Way. The majority of such scenes are linked to the Haimon Painter or Group (ca. 525-475 BC): the closest parallel for this piece is Leiden RO II 1 (CVA 2, 65, pl. 196). From the same area but a little deeper comes a probably 6th-century electrum coin (weight 0.7 grams, diameter 6.5-7.5 mm: Fig 11). This bears a punch mark on one side, and a bull’s head on the obverse. Gold or electrum coins are rare in the Agora: this one, from an Archaic context roughly contemporary with that of the lekythos, may be the earliest. The wear suggests that it had been in circulation for a while before burial. At least six other examples of this type are known (C. Seltman, Athens: its History and Coinage before the Persian Invasion, Cambridge 1924, p. 193 and pl. XIV: Group J, No. 310) weighing 0.65-0.68 grams. Early electrum coins of Athens usually have the owl as their device, but Plutarch (Life of Theseus 25) claimed that Theseus struck early coins depicting a bull, and Philochoros (schol. Aristophanes, Birds 1106, Pollux ix. 60) says that early Athenian coins had a bull. A bull’s head also appears on Wappenmunzen. The coin was minted under Peisistratos: contemporary silver didrachms, including those with a bull’s head, are dated between 546-518 BC. Further down in the same area were several early, separate pottery deposits of the 7th, early 6th, and early 5th centuries BC. The 7th-century material is especially rare and included the rim of a bowl decorated with a lion.
Excavation in Section ΒΘ East continued within several rooms of the Byzantine period. The fill was largely undifferentiated, with only a few well-defined floors. The walls represent at least two construction phases. The more substantial phase features rubble construction with numerous large reused ancient blocks (several limestone blocks may have come from the Painted Stoa). Other marble blocks, with evidence for clamps and dowels and treated with anathyrosis, have yet to be associated with a building.
The upper parts of Byzantine walls exposed in Section ΒΘ West define several rooms with at least two periods of construction. At the southwest, an area roughly paved with broken tiles in lime mortar may be a courtyard, roadway, or open-air workspace. At the northwest, a collection of four coarse Byzantine pots was found broken in situ, along with a coin which evidently dates them to the 11th century AD (Fig. 12). Installations in other rooms include a drain tile set close to the wall with indications of considerable burning in and around it, and a large stone slab carrying signs of heavy foot traffic set at or in a Byzantine floor level.
ASCSA Unpublished Report.
Date of creation