KENCHREAI QUARRIES SURVEY - 2014
Inscription - Tools/weapons - Stone - Production/extraction site - Find Type - Material Type - Site Type
Type of Operation
British School at Athens
Kenchreai Quarries Survey. C. Hayward (Edinburgh/BSA) reports on continuing study of the large ploughed field in Complex A (Fig. 1) and the ‘inscribed quarries’ in Complex B to date and characterise activity in broad terms of settlement, supply, or production, and to assess the scale on which provision was made for different forms of activity (and from what sources of supply).
The ‘ploughed field’ yielded ca.40% of all the pottery collected in the 2013 survey (over 11,000 sherds and 1,600 tile fragments). (Figs. 2, 3, 4) The densest concentrations lie at the western end and are unlikely to have been transported, on grounds both of topography and sherd condition. The vast majority of sherds are Roman. Fewer than 10 prehistoric sherds (Early Helladic where datable) were scattered in the western part of the field. Archaic-Hellenistic were more common, with three concentrations observed: Archaic vessels were mostly small open shapes while Classical included cups, bowls, a fish plate and a possible dinos, in a mixture of Corinthian and imported (mostly Attic) fabrics, plus several Corinthian A and A' amphorae. Hellenistic pottery shows two chronological peaks which differ in character. The earlier, fourth-century material is finer: it includes cups, Argive kraters, and blisterware vessels, plus sherds in the coarse variety of Corinthian A fabric which may represent the transport or storage vessels of the period. The later, first-century BC peak is marked by the presence of Aegean (northern Aegean, Koan and Rhodian), and Italian (Greco-Italian, Lamboglia 2 and Campanian Dressel 2-4) transport amphorae, and Eastern Sigillata A. Few Hellenistic cooking vessels or jugs were identified.
The Early Imperial period is relatively lightly represented, with Aegean and Italian amphorae, cooking vessels, Italian sigillata (and regional imitations), plus Broneer Type XXVI lamps. The volume of material increased thereafter, featuring thin-walled cups and juglets most often in a variation on local cooking fabric, Middle Roman amphorae (notably an early form of Late Roman Amphora 3, Niederbieber 77 and various North African types) cooking pots and Broneer Type XXVIII lamps. The best represented period spans the fifth to seventh centuries AD, with large quantities of sherds across the entire area. Although much has been made of a possible Late Roman ‘population explosion’ identified in survey data, the finds in the ‘ploughed field’ do not necessarily indicate this. A highly repetitive surface assemblage consisted of storage/transport vessels (LRA 2 and 3), drinking/serving bowls and plates (ARS Hayes Forms 99, 104, and 105; PRS Hayes’ Forms 3 and 10), large cooking pots (especially sixth- to seventh-century types) and lamps of types (as Broneer XXXI) which were common (and presumably inexpensive) throughout the Eastern Mediterranean at this time. One or more of these was present in almost all collection units, while other ceramic types, such as deep basins/bins, jugs, and loom-weights, are strikingly absent. Close analysis of the distribution and co-occurrence of functional types, and the possibility of characterizing activity and identifying spatial variation, is a target for research. Despite a marked decline in activity after the seventh century, several ninth- to tenth- century basins and thirteenth- to fifteenth-century cooking pots come from one area in the east of the field. Scattered Ottoman and early modern finewares were also found.
Almost all of the glass found in 2013 came from the ‘ploughed field’; with a high proportion of Middle to Late Roman wineglass bases and rims. Stone objects (especially those in rock types not represented within the local geology) include thin slabs of blue-grey slate (perhaps roofing or other architectural material) and pieces of marble flooring (two of which were found close to two limestone tesserae). Igneous rocks probably used for grinding tools were found in two areas, one with fragments of basalt and dolerite and the other with andesite. Small grinding/polishing tools were found with each. Chipped stone finds were, however, confined to two mesial fragments of a retouched flint flake.
In the ‘inscribed quarry’ in Complex B, seven inscriptions occur in two groups at the northern and southern area of the series of small pits that comprise the quarried area. (Fig. 5) This grouping may result from the removal of other inscriptions during subsequent quarrying, or may denote separate, and not necessarily coeval, episodes of quarrying (the ceramic evidence best fits the latter view). Two inscriptions are too weathered to recover the complete text, while a third is composed of three letters that correspond to no known name or abbreviation thereof. The complete inscriptions contain the names Nymphas, Megisthes, Symphoros and Diotimas, suggesting a date in the first-second century AD. The inscriptions were cut with two distinct tools, one of which is clearly visible in contemporaneous working of the quarry faces. The rock surfaces were prepared to receive the inscribed letters, which were cut with short strokes from quarry picks. In all cases, the inscriptions were the final cuttings made on the quarry faces. The use of quarry picks explains the size (and potentially some eccentricities of the form) of the individual letters, although notwithstanding the clumsiness of these tools, eccentricities indicate that the inscribers were not well-practiced in letter-cutting (circumstances suggest that they were engaged in quarrying).
At the southernmost end of Complex B was an Early Modern house with associated ceramics: a twelfth- to thirteenth-century Corinthian stewpot, a white glaze bowl of similar date, and a Middle-Late Byzantine jar found to the north of the building might relate to a preceding structure, but need not do so. There is a clear chronological gap between these sherds and the Late Roman pottery which marks the end of a sequence of continuous activity in the area of the ‘inscribed quarries’ from the fifth century BC onwards. (Fig. 6) A concentration of ancient ceramics further to the north includes almost all the ancient tile found in the complex: Greek and earlier Roman pieces in a variety of fabrics are consistent with makeshift and perhaps small shelter roofs. The earliest sherd in this concentration and in the complex as a whole is an Attic stemless cup with bevelled foot of the first quarter of the fifth century BC. Thereafter, evidence spans all periods to Late Roman. This is the only part of the complex to produce a full range of open and closed vessels of all sizes, including provision for bulk storage.
The pattern of deposition differs markedly in the northernmost transects, both inside and outside the quarried area, where there is scant evidence for activity before later Hellenistic times. Most sherds are Early-Middle Roman thin-walled cups (in a variety of fine and semi-coarse fabrics) consistent with the putative dates of the inscriptions noted above. A small number of imprecisely datable Roman medium-scale open and closed vessels within the quarry area include a very few amphorae, some of which are the smaller LR3 forms consistent with personal or small group provision of water. Less datable, however, are large storage shapes including pithoi and bins which were found both in the southern ‘storage’ area and on the east side of the complex outside (and in two cases inside) the quarry. The majority of sherds, regardless of age, vessel size or hardness of firing, show little abrasion from transport.Study of the chipped stone (by G. Kourtessi-Philippaki and O. Metaxas, University of Athens) focused on finds from Complex A outside the ‘ploughed field’. (Fig. 7) The material so far examined comes from squares A6.13 and A6.14, which were stripped of vegetation by a fire in June 2012. The high recovery of lithics, including very small working flakes, is a direct result. The majority of artefacts are of flint (86.6% of the total), with five different varieties discerned on the basis of colour and/or textures. The assemblage is in fresh condition and apparently in situ. The dominant part is derived from small pebbles similar in appearance to examples found in the vicinity of the site, but showing differences in weathering. Their small size governed the module of the flint assemblage. Pebbles were knapped in situ near the quarried area, with debris, cores, flakes and tools present in the studied sample. The chronocultural definition of this lithic assemblage, found in a quarried area assigned to the Classical-Hellenistic period or later, is a major challenge. Eight obsidian artefacts (13.4% of the total) comprise one core, one blade and six tools (mostly retouched blades and notches). These pieces have suffered some damage, and some have blunt ridges and edges. The presence of obsidian and the condition of the pieces might indicate a prehistoric (perhaps Early Bronze Age) component.
Unpublished field report, British School at Athens.
Date of creation