Samothrace - 2019
Samothrace. Bonna D. Wescoat (ASCSA / Emory) reports on excavations at the sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace, conducted between July 1st to August 9th 2019. Excavation concentrated in the area of the Central Ravine, Area K, and the Area South of Stoa.
Excavation in the Area of the Central Ravine (Fig. 1, Fig. 2, Fig. 3, Fig. 4, Fig. 5) Excavation in the area of the Central Ravine aimed to determine the position of the ancient Hellenistic and Roman channels controlling the central torrent, in the area between the Altar Court and Hall of Choral Dancers, and the area west of the Rotunda of Arsinoe (called in the 19th century, the “Pont Génois”).
The major trench (SGG.CRav.1) encompassed an area where sections of Roman concrete known to the Austrian excavators in 1873 had been again revealed by the 2017 flood. The team uncovered major sections of collapsed Roman concrete walls from both the east and west sides of the channel, covering almost the entire area of the trench. Further, the team were able to document the foundations of the Hellenistic boulder retaining wall along the west side of the ancient channel, on top of which the Roman concrete wall was constructed. Remnants of the concrete wall along the eastern edge of the ancient channel lay in fall position, where it had collapsed into the bed of the channel. The evidence indicates that the ancient channel was further west of the modern ravine channel in this region (Fig. 5).
In the trench sited along the southern face of the “Pont Génois” west of the Rotunda (SGG.CRav.3), excavation revealed the cross-section of the ancient retaining walls. Here, the Roman concrete wall is built against the face of the Hellenistic boulder retaining wall, creating a thick buttress that served as the support for a bridge across the channel in this area.
The destruction pattern witnessed in the ancient concrete rubble walls in both areas closely resembles that witnessed of modern construction in the 2017 storms, both in the largescale toppling of sections of wall into the streambed, and the scouring of earth behind the retaining walls, leaving deeply eroded channels.
The second excavation initiative centered on the region known as Area K, where remains of a stair system had been partially uncovered in the 1969, 1970, and 1993 seasons. This area is framed by three major retaining walls: the Hellenistic boulder retaining wall supporting the Stoa terrace to the west; the Hellenistic and later Roman retaining wall for the suite of dining rooms, L, M, N to the east; and a later Roman retaining wall to the south. Our chief objective was to understand how ancient visitors reached the Stoa, by determining the extent and date of the stairs, as well as their relationship to the structures in the area, the several retaining walls, and the Stoa itself.
The team opened three trenches. Trench SGG. K.3, which included the area uncovered during earlier excavations, encompassed the area defined on the south by the east-west Roman retaining wall, and to the east by the Hellenistic/Roman retaining wall for dining room L. It was extended to the north and west to include an area roughly 5.5 m. by 3.25 m, with extensions to the west on both side of a large boulder resting on the slope. The team uncovered evidence of seven stairs, as well as an east-west retaining wall, ca. 4.0 m north of the first step. The remains of two north-south running retaining walls were cleaned and articulated, that had been partially uncovered in 1969. At the close of the 2019 excavation, the team understand three construction phases. The first late Classical/Hellenistic construction phase produced the two southernmost steps as well as an east-west running retaining wall revealed in the northern scarp. The northern five steps constructed of reused limestone and rhyolite blocks belong to a second phase. It is not yet clear if these stairs, as well as a course of stones abutting the northern retaining wall, were built on and around the large-scale cobble and boulder collapse that continues in the scarp to the west. A third phase is represented by the walling off of the passage and the construction of the east-west Roman concrete retaining wall, making the stairs unusable. Work in this trench will continue in 2020.
Trenches SGG.K.1 and SGG.K.2, to the north of SGG.K.3, were devoid of ashlar architectural remains, indicating that the stairs in SGG.K.3 did not continue in that area.
Of the extensive archaeological remains on the hillside to the south of the Stoa and Nike Precincts, two major features, an oval construction and a boulder retaining wall, are within the modern boundaries of the Sanctuary. Here, the aim was to determine the date and function of these structures, as well as their relationship to the Nike Precinct and to later building activity in the region. During the 2019 field season, the team cleaned the oval structure of cobbles, boulders, and humus, stopping at a level that may represent a floor. The structure was surveyed and recorded photogrammetrically. This area will be the focus of further investigation in the 2020-22 field seasons.
Unpublished field report