ANCIENT SIKYON - 2007
Antiquity - Iron Age - Bronze Age - Late Bronze Age - Geometric - Archaïc - Classical - Hellenistic - Roman
Tomb - Figurine - Lamp - Numismatics - Dress and personal ornament - Cemetery - Building Type - Find Type - Site Type
Type of Operation
Excavation - Rescue excavation
Ancient Sikyon, ΕΡΓΟΣΕ excavations. V. Papathanasiou (ΛΖ’ ΕΠΚΑ) presents a summary of the results of five years of excavation (2002-2007) in preparation for the construction of a high-speed railway line between Corinth and Kiato. Investigation of a 1km-long corridor 30-40m wide, revealed an ancient quarry and two cemeteries (Mycenaean and Classical).
The site lies northeast of the ancient city, ca. 1900m from the plateau on which ancient Sikyon was refounded in 303 BC, and probably close to the edge of the Archaic and Classical city. The core of this earlier city likely lay to the south and west of the cemetery, in an area which includes the known archaeological sites of Merkouri, Agios Nikolas, Agios Konstantinos and Ktiri, as well as discoveries made during the construction of the Corinth-Patras motorway in the 1960s (see now ID2500 for further finds made during motorway widening).
The Mycenaean cemetery (some 36m from the sea) was explored in two sectors. Sector A contained eight collapsed tombs cut into the bedrock in two rows: Α, Β, Δ, and Ε were chamber tombs with dromoi, Ζ and Η were double cists, ΣΤ a pit-like fissure which was also used in historical times, and Γ was unfinished. The four chamber tombs plus Γ were in one row, with the three cists in the second. A total of 42 vases were found in sector A, plus a Sandars Type E sword, two psi figurines, three steatite steatite spindle whorls plus one in terracotta, and a round bead of blue-green glass paste. Tombs A and H are presented in detail.
Tomb A (Late Helladic A2-B1) has a relatively large chamber (3 x 2.45m, with straight sides) with a 4.9m long dromos. The chamber doorway (which was flanked by two parastades) was closed with a dry stone wall which had been rebuilt after each episode of burial. The chamber contained seven burials, four of which were laid out next to each other on the chamber floor, parallel to the central axis. In the northeast corner of the chamber was a pair of graves: 1, along the north wall, was the extended inhumation probably of a woman with four stirrup jars, a flask, and a steatite spindle whorl, and 2, the extended inhumation probably of a man with a stirrup jar). In the southwest part of the chamber was a second pair of graves: 3 was an extended inhumation without goods, while 4, also an extended inhumation by the southwest corner wall, contained three stirrup jars, plus a plain LH IIIA2 kyathos, and a LH IIIA2-B1 stirrup jar, jug, amphora and psi figurine. Bones from displaced burials were found on the floor in the centre of the chamber, along the southwest side (tomb 6) and in an oval pit (tomb 7) in the centre of the chamber floor. Finds from the fill of the chamber and dromos include a small lekythos and a psi figurine.
The oval chamber of tomb H (a double cist) lay 1.9m below the surface and was entered via a shaft. No bones were found in the chamber, just sherds of an LH IIIA1 three-handled squat alabastron plus a conical steatite and a biconical terracotta spindle whorl.
To the northwest, 170m away (in the west part of the excavation plot), the remains of at least two destroyed burials were found, in the form of a layer of tumbled stones and LHIIB-IIIA1 pots and sherds close to the surface (finds include a thilastron, a kernos and a round-bodied jug). In situ in a hollow (at a depth of 1.5m) were an LHIIB goblet and three-handled jar.
Following geophysical prospection in 2005, a further area of the Mycenaean cemetery was located and excavated as sector B. Twenty-two collapsed and partially preserved tombs were found, 19 of which were chamber tombs were dromoi closed without dry stone walls, one was a similar chamber tomb without the closing wall, one a double cist, and one a half-finished chamber. The tombs were dug into the bedrock and closely spaced in two rows running southeast-northwest. Two streams had partially washed them away. A total of 230 LHIIB-LHIIIB2 vessels were recovered, including jars, amphorae, goblets and kylikes, thilastra, cups, a bridge-spouted cup, stirrup jars, bridge-spouted and cut-away necked jugs, large jugs, a handleless jar, an askos and kernoi. In addition, 11 bronze items were found (a knife-axe, swords, knives, needles), two gilded bronze nails, 84 beads, 62 spindle whorls of steatite or terracotta, and a phi figurine. Eleven tombs produced skeletal remains from primary or displaced burials. In general it is noted that pottery from the cemetery shows connections to the northwestern Peloponnese (chiefly Achaia) as well as to the Argolid and Attica.
The majority of tombs produced evidence of ancestor worship continuing from Late Geometric to Early Hellenistic times in the form of pottery (hydriae, krateriskoi, skyphoi, kotyles and oinochoe) and bronzes (pins, mirror discs and a Late Geometric figurine with three birds in a row) found in layers with burnt soil and carbonized wood over the burials and below/between the fallen stones of the superstructure. A round well opened to the southeast of the burial chamber of Mycenaean grave Ia, which was excavated to a depth of 7.5m, had been used to deposit offerings: it contained Classical pottery (mainly hydriae) and bronze sheet between layers of burnt earth and carbonized wood. Late Archaic and Classical pottery and small bronzes, plus much domestic pottery and loomweights, were collected from stream 1 and the chambers of tombs Θ, Ι, Ια and Ιβ. From the streambed came a red-figure bell krater of the first quarter of the fourth century, depicting a Dionysiac thiasos and on the reverse three draped youths.
The Classical cemetery (fifth- and fourth-century) lay 110m south of sector A of the Mycenaean cemetery. An area of 505m2 (in the area of Dragatsoula and Tragana Moulkiou) was excavated in two sectors (on either side of the main stream channel), revealing 42 simple cist graves which represent a continuation of a larger cemetery (connected with that excavated in 1936 by Orlandos 80m northeast at Tragana, which produced very similar offerings). Rescue excavation in 1976-1979 at the site of Chtiri, 900m southwest of the current excavation had revealed part of the paved road from the acropolis to the harbour, which was flanked by Late Archaic-Roman graves.
In sector A, 32 densely packed graves had been opened as pits each within a larger rectangular cutting in the rock. The exception, tomb 5, was a built cist with walls of tiles and re-used limestone cover slabs. Eight had been damaged by the boundary wall of a modern house, while tomb 27, which preserved skeletal remains, was the only tomb found during investigation of the neighbouring road from Anatoliki Tragana to Vasiliko. Tomb 22 was empty. The grave goods imply the presence of men and women, adults and children, plus at least one infant: goods were placed in the grave, on the cover slab or in the fill of the larger cutting. The majority of graves contained the remains of inhumations, usually contracted (with some examples extended). Of the 200 offerings recovered, most were figured or black-glaze lekythoi (tomb 17 contained two fifth-century red-figure lekythoi depicting women), with in addition plain lidded lekanes, squat lekythoi, small black-glaze bowls, plus a very few pyxides with lids, small oinochoae, lamps and amphorae. Figurines were mostly standing or seated females holding fruit, flowers or small animals, with two examples of seated males and one of a seated youth holding a ball, several bearing animals or birds, and satyrs holding fruit and other objects. Bronzes include three strigils, two rings, a cosmetic spatula and a mirror: two iron strigils and three iron rings were also found.
Tomb 3 (second quarter of the fifth century) is unusually rich. The rock cutting (2.2 x 1.3m, 1.38m deep) contained a 1.5 x 0.52m pit, 0.58m deep (with a cover slab), which contained the semi-contracted inhumation of a woman. Around the body were 49 offerings, 23 of which were lekythoi (19 being Attic black-figure – one depicting an Amazonomachy, the rest floral motifs – and four black-glaze). Other vessels comprised three lekanides (two with lids), a black-glaze one-handler and a small bowl. The figurines (which preserve traces of colour) lay chiefly along the southeast side of the tomb: twelve were seated or standing females with chiton and polos holding a variety of items, although most commonly a dove in the right hand and a fruit in the left.
This part of the cemetery was defined to the southwest by a retaining wall of a single row of limestone blocks. A pit (2.89 x 0.45/0.6m) cut into the rock parallel to, and in contact with, the unfinished rear face of this wall contained two terracotta figurines - a standing male figure (interpreted as Pluto by the excavator) wearing a chiton and chlamis and holding in his right hand a cornucopia, and a garlanded female (seen as Persephone).
18m northwest of this area lay the channels of the stream which ran southwest-northeast across the entire excavation area. Water-rolled pottery and pieces of stone from tombs (including a stele and pieces of sarcophagi) were recovered from the right bank.
In sector B, to the west of the channel, ten further pit graves (mostly looted) were found in 2006. Tombs 41 and 42 were pits with cover slabs dug into rectangular rock cuttings, tombs 33, 36 and 38 were tile graves, and the remainder were simple pits in the bedrock, with no covering. The majority contained the remains of inhumations, usually strongly contracted (with some extended examples). The majority of the 45 vases recovered were lekythoi, miniature amphorae, small kotyles, lekanides with lids, black-glaze bowls, lamps, and a round kythos. Other finds include eggshells, a bronze ring and a bronze coin of Sikyon, an iron strigil and (from tomb 33) a bronze spearhead.
V. Papathanasiou, in K. Kissas and W-D. Niemeier (eds), The Corinthia and the Northeast Peloponnese (Munich 2013), 479-489. ADelt 61 (2006) Chr., 474-477.
Date of creation
Fig. 1/ Ancient Sikyon, ΕΡΓΟΣΕ excavations, Mycenaean cemetery, sector A, tomb H, grave goods in situ.
Fig. 2/ Ancient Sikyon, ΕΡΓΟΣΕ excavations, Mycenaean cemetery, sector A, tomb Δ,a Sandars Type E sword.
Fig. 9/ Ancient Sikyon, ΕΡΓΟΣΕ excavations, tomb 17, fifth-century red-figure lekythos depicting women.