MAZI PLAIN - 2015
Mazi plain (Eleusis-Oinoe). S. Fachard (Geneva/Swiss National Science Foundation), A.R. Knodell (Carleton College/ESAG), and E. Banou (Γ’ ΕΠΚΑ) report on the second season of the Mazi Archaeological Project (Fig. 1). A combination of intensive and extensive archaeological survey methods, as well as photogrammetric modeling, drone-based aerial photography, multi-spectral satellite imagery analysis, differential GPS mapping (DGPS), and geological studies including geological coring and soil profiles were used. While investigation continued north of Ancient Oinoe (Areas a and c) and in the entire Kouloumbi Plain (Area b), a new front was opened in the western end of the Mazi Plain, which includes the settlement and fortress of Eleutherai, as well as the small Prophitis Ilias valley (Area e) (Fig 1). In total 216 archaeological features were documented.
The discovery of a large prehistoric site at Kato Kastanava (Fig 2), covering several hectares, appears to be the first and primary permanent settlement of the Mazi Plain in the EBA. It consists of various stone walls and structures, including several large enclosures. A gridded collection retrieved 241 chipped stone artifacts and 426 pieces of pottery. The lithic assemblage was mostly obsidian, with a few chert artifacts. While much of the material is heavily degraded and exact dates are not possible to determine, there is an apparent EHI presence and a significant amount of material which may be earlier; there is not, however, anything clearly diagnostic of EHII date. This pattern is comparable to that observed in the neighboring Skourta Plain, where continuity from FN to EHI was observed, but nothing from EHII. This stands in contrast to the substantial expansion of settlement in this period elsewhere, and suggest that the emergence of major centers elsewhere in Attica and Boeotia may have polarized the settlement pattern, leaving this mountainous place largely abandoned. After two seasons, it is worth underlining the absence of MH material throughout the plain. For the LH period, further evidence of a Mycenaean settlement northwest of Oinoe was noted in 2015, while limited discoveries at Eleutherai and Kondita may reveal a more extensive occupation and exploitation of the plain. After the Mycenaean period, we encounter an occupational hiatus in the Mazi Plain.
The Archaic period
The 2015 season revealed well-dated Archaic pottery for the first time. It was discovered in a mountainside cave above Eleutherai, first mentioned by E. Stikas in 1940. Unfortunately, the site has been much deteriorated by the activity of illegal excavations. However, a very rich assemblage of surface pottery and metals, including small fragments of decorated Bronze sheets, was collected. One of the most striking features of the pottery assemblage is the large amount of Archaic Corinthian aryballoi from the end of the 7th and early 6th centuries BC. Also worth mentioning are three Archaic sherds bearing a graffito. At this stage the finds, which stretch from Archaic to Roman, are best interpreted as offerings deposited in the context of cult activity. The identification of this site with the cave of Antiope mentioned by Pausanias (1.38.9) remains a solid hypothesis.
Classical to Early Hellenistic
In Classical to Early Hellenistic times, the main hub of settlement in the western part of the Mazi Plain was the settlement of Eleutherai. The site was briefly excavated by Stikas, who discovered the remains of a Doric temple and identified it with that of Dionysos Eleuthereus mentioned by Pausanias (1.38.8). During the 2015 season, we were able to clean the foundations of the temple (Fig 3). In the process, pottery and especially architectural tiles were discovered, showing several phases of rebuilding. In parallel, the intensive survey of the settlement site and the surroundings fields yielded densities of pottery and tile among the highest in Area E. Under current circumstances, our impression is that Eleutherai should be understood as a proper “town” rather than a village: the pottery indicates habitation from the Classical to the Late Roman period scattering over an area of more than 6 ha. The intensive survey also included the fortress of Eleutherai, which dominates the town some 500 m to the west. This revealed an abundant collection of surface pottery and tiles belonging to the Early Classical (second half of the 5th century) to Early Hellenistic periods (3rd century), with signs of Late Roman occupation as well. Among the finds was a Mycenaean kylix stem. In parallel, the entire fortress and its immediate surroundings were mapped with DGPS and drone photography. 3D photogrammetry models of the W and NW curtains and towers were built. A systematic program of reconnaissance was conducted on the ground, which produced significant results. Wheel ruts were spotted in the bedrock for the first time, confirming that cart traffic could cross the fortress. Several architectural elements, including new stretches of polygonal walls intra muros, indicate the existence of a building phase that preceded the construction of the larger 4th-century fortress. Finally, new photogrammetric documentation and analysis of the inscription at the Plataia Gate were undertaken, shedding substantial new light on its content and context. Three-dimensional modeling and radiance scaling revealed certain differences in letters from previous readings. More detailed study is necessary, but a preliminary read by Nikos Papazarkadas suggests that the inscription is a sort of customs regulation from the 3rd century AD. The inscription suggests the presence of Boeotian officials at the fortress.
Late Hellenistic to Late Roman
Starting in the 2nd century BC, signs of occupation become harder to find throughout the Mazi plain. Activity appears to be dramatically reduced in the following three centuries. Such a low visibility is contrasted by the dense occupation witnessed throughout the plain in the Late Roman period, where every main hub of settlement is reoccupied. Late Antique repairs are recorded at the walls of Oinoe, as well as the Eleutherai fortress.
The Byzantine period
In the 12th century, the main hub of settlement was the plateau of Kondita, located higher on the hills of Mt Pastra. The site, stretching around a tower, produced large quantities of Middle and Late Byzantine pottery, including glazed decorated tablewares. The substantial size of the site is noteworthy, with a clearly defined ceramic scatter covering an area of some 30 ha. The dates of the pottery suggest activity in the area before the arrival of the Franks in 1204. However, another bowl belonging to the Zeuxippus subtype dating to the 13th – 14th century points to the continuation of activities in the Late Byzantine period and correspond with the Frankish period of the tower. Kondita appears to be the largest Middle Byzantine and Frankish settlement of the Mazi Plain.
Unpublished report, ESAG