Tuesday, March 17, 2009

First Out: Late Levels at Early Sites

The Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology in Greece Interest Group (IG) of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) was formed in 2005 with the purpose of fostering collaboration, organizing panels and advocating for post-classical archaeology. The IG has organized sessions at the AIA, “The Abandoned Countryside: (Re)Settlement in the Archaeological Narrative of the Post-Classical Mediterranean” (San Diego, 2007), and “The Archaeology of Xenitia: Greek Immigration and Material Culture (Chicago, 2008). The former is under review as a special issue of the International Journal of Historical Archaeology and the latter has just come out in The New Griffon 10 (2008). We have also organized a session on “Cyprus: Archaeology, Architecture and History” at the Byzantine Studies Conference (Toronto, 2007) and a session on “City, Village, Monastery: The Archaeology of Modern Greek Landscapes” for the Modern Greek Studies Association (Vancouver, 2009, under review). We are delighted that we can continue the tradition of organizing colloquia with special attention in publication and availability to the scholarly public.

Yesterday, March 16, 2009, was the deadline for submissions for the 2010 AIA Annual Meetings in Anaheim, Ca. Sharon Gerstel and I have put together a panel idea dealing with new Post-Classical research on old Classical sites. We submitted the panel yesterday and must now wait for six months to hear if it was accepted. It is interesting to note that an additional ten panels have been submitted: The Circus in Roman Culture, Empire and the Everyday, Where no God Has Gone Before: Greek Deities in the North, Moving Marble, Bricks, and Mortar: Supplying Roman Buildings, Interactions with the Ancient Landscape, From Pots to People: Approaches to the Study of Ceramics, A Body Corporate and Politic: The Mission of the AIA, Digital Research and Development in Collaborative Work, Subculture in Roman Social Life, the Art of Art History in the Bronze Age Near East. It will be interesting to see how the academic economy will affect the annual meetings. The choice of Anaheim seems to have also angered some people, but I hope this does not affect attendance.


Colloquium Session Proposal, 2010 Annual Meeting, Archaeological Institute of America, Anaheim, CA.

Sharon E. J. Gerstel (University of California, Los Angeles)

Kostis Kourelis (Connecticut College)


The archaeology of the Classical world sprung out of the humanist tradition that bestowed great privilege to the texts of Homer, Herodotus, Euripides, or Plato. Sites made famous by great texts received early and continuous archaeological focus during the 19th and early 20th centuries. While the development of a scientific archaeological discipline benefited our understanding of the ancient world, it brought about a calamitous side effect, the veritable destruction of “lower” material culture from “higher” stratigraphic levels. Late Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Medieval, Ottoman, and Early Modern phases were irretrievably destroyed by the classicist’s spade. Archaeological ethics in the 1920s and diachronic methodologies in the 1960s, however, brought about a slow but concerted critique against this collateral damage. Our panel hopes to highlight the positive contributions that have emerged in the last few years in documenting the late periods of Classical sites. We focus on the excavations of Pylos, Troy, the Athenian Agora, Chersonesos, Corinth, and surface surveys in Boeotia and the Corinthia. Each case study reveals a unique confrontation between old traditions of scholarship and new methodologies. The papers raise questions about shifting approaches to later levels, ones that demand an understanding of new sets of texts, building traditions, and settlement patterns. Together with a change in modern approaches to the understanding of stratigraphy and artifact density is the investigation of how and why later cultures utilized earlier sites and whether layered deposits represent the intentional and continuous presence or the expeditious rebuilding on older levels. These questions become particularly acute when ancient sites of central importance find themselves on the periphery of later empires.


1. Jack L. Davis (University of Cincinnati and American School of Classical Studies at Athens) and Sharon R. Stocker (University of Cincinnati and American School of Classical Studies at Athens), Prioritizing the Past: A Byzantine Deposit from the Palace of Nestor at Englianos

2. Kathleen M. Quinn (Northern Kentucky University), Drowned in the Depths of Obscurity: How Archaeology both Marginalized and Revitalized Our Understanding of Late Byzantine Troy

3. Anne McCabe (Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents), A Middle Byzantine Neighborhood in Athens: Recent Excavations in the Agora

4. Adam Rabinowitz (University of Texas at Austin) and Larissa Sedikova (National Preserve of Tauric Chersonesos), First but not Out: The Byzantine Levels at Chersonesos in Historical and Archaeological Context

5. William R. Caraher (University of North Dakota) and Timothy E. Gregory (Ohio State University), New Views on Old Data: Reinterpreting Intensive Survey Results After 30 Years

6. Guy D. R. Sanders (American School of Classical Studies at Athens), Late Ottoman and Early Modern Levels from New Excavations in Ancient Corinth


Prioritizing the Past: A Byzantine Deposit from the Palace of Nestor at Englianos

Jack L. Davis, University of Cincinnati and American School of Classical Studies at Athens

Sharon R. Stocker, University of Cincinnati and American School of Classical Studies at Athens

In 1958 and 1959, in the area of the northeast gate in the Early Mycenaean fortifications surrounding the citadel of the Palace of Nestor, a deposit of pottery, glass, and tile of the 11th or early 12th century C.E. was found associated with a floor crudely paved with stones and fragments of broken tiles laid flat. The remains are more likely to belong to a single collapsed structure than a village. Because of the prehistoric focus of the publication plan for the Palace of Nestor excavations, the finds were published briefly though not extensively discussed. In the archives, however, they are recorded according to the same standards applied to Bronze Age levels of the site. Carl W. Blegen had a deep interest in medieval Greek archaeology and history. The artifacts, however limited in number and restricted in spatial distribution, thus offer a detailed glimpse at an historical period poorly known in western Messenia, although churches of that date are known elsewhere in the province and its larger cities are mentioned in ecclesiastical literature. Surface surveys in the Peloponnesos point to the Middle Byzantine period as a time of remarkable expansion of settlement in the countryside. Work of the Pylos Regional Archaeological Project suggests, however, that the Englianos area may have been thinly settled in the 11th and 12th century, as it certainly was in early modern times, prior to the Greek Revolution of 1821.

Drowned in the Depths of Obscurity: How Archaeology both Marginalized and Revitalized Our Understanding of Late Byzantine Troy

Kathleen M. Quinn, Northern Kentucky University

This paper examines the treatment of Byzantine material culture excavated at the historic site of Troy in northwestern Turkey. Consideration is given to how the methodologies and research agendas employed by three generations of archaeologists have impacted the understanding of the area’s history during the post-classical period. The paper begins with a brief overview of the contributions of Heinrich Schliemann and Wilhelm Dörpfeld to our knowledge of Byzantine history at Troy, but the bulk of the previously unpublished evidence for this paper comes from the excavations of the University of Cincinnati archaeologists led by Carl W. Blegen. In keeping with the intellectual climate of the age, the research agendas of both of these early teams of archaeologists marginalized the study of Byzantine remains and often left little in the way of contextualized or detailed stratified deposits. In the case of the Blegen excavations, the Byzantine material survives today as tantalizing tidbits in old manuscripts, handwritten field journals, and card files of artifact and photographic inventories. When coupled with the finds from the more recent excavations of the Troia Archaeological Project (1988-present), however, this so-called “first out” material tells the tale of a small, yet prosperous Late Byzantine settlement. Now known as Troy X, this Byzantine “level” of the famous Bronze Age citadel consists of small houses and agricultural buildings, cemeteries, and a qanat-style water supply system dating to the 13th and 14th centuries C.E.

A Middle Byzantine Neighborhood in Athens: Recent Excavations in the Agora

Anne McCabe, Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, Oxford

Recent seasons of excavation in the Athenian Agora have brought to light the remains of Byzantine houses on the streets leading north from the Panathenaic Way. The neighborhood lay outside the Late Antique city walls and appears to have been developed in the 10th century C.E.; sections of it have been excavated by the ASCSA since the 1930s. These houses provide unspectacular but welcome evidence for secular architecture of the Middle Byzantine period, as well as an architectural context for the many medieval churches which still stand in the city. The houses are provided with wells and with numerous storage vessels whose mouths were at floor level. Also present are beehive-shaped bothroi for the disposal of waste. The only coins found are bronze folleis. Apart from small amounts of imported white ware, pottery excavated consists of brown-glazed red ware, including chafing dishes, columnar lamps, plates, and juglets. Unglazed wares include cooking pots, water jugs, and basins, often with incised decoration. Large quantities of slag and broken murex shell attest to industrial activity nearby. Human remains are also present in the form of neonate burials, probably premature infants, within the area of the houses. The orientation of the houses, as well as much of their building material, is derived from the principal monument of the area, a large Classical building that may be identified as the Stoa Poikile. Late Antique walls between the columns of the stoa show that the interior of the building was divided into smaller areas, perhaps for commercial purposes.

First but not Out: The Byzantine Levels at Chersonesos in Historical and Archaeological Context

Adam Rabinowitz, University of Texas at Austin

Larissa Sedikova, National Preserve of Tauric Chersonesos, Ukraine

Byzantine archaeologists working at major Classical sites in the Mediterranean often struggle to reconstruct the record of post-antique remains removed as “overburden” by excavators eager to reach earlier levels. In many cases, the late levels were damaged even before excavation: closest to the surface, they were first to be removed or mined for building material during modern construction. The city of Chersonesos (Byzantine Cherson), located at the southwest tip of Crimea, offers a stark contrast to the Mediterranean situation. Not only did the city largely escape modern construction and spoliation, but -- despite its Greek and Roman remains -- the archaeological work that has been conducted there since 1827 has focused primarily on its Byzantine phases. The city suffered several violent destructions in the 13th and 14th centuries C.E., and as a result a rich record of daily life has been preserved. Furthermore, for visitors and many excavators, the central historical narrative of the site involves the arrival of Orthodox Christianity among the Kyivan Rus’, and that, together with the excellent preservation of the late structures, leaves the Byzantine remains as the dominant element in the presentation of the site. The importance of Chersonesos for Byzantine archaeology, however, has been obscured by both ancient and modern historical factors. This paper discusses the history of excavation at Chersonesos, the site’s relevance to Byzantine archaeology in the Mediterranean, and the results of recent multidisciplinary investigations of a residential block occupied from the 3rd century B.C.E. to the 13th century C.E.

New Views on Old Data: Reinterpreting Intensive Survey Results after 30 Years

William R. Caraher, University of North Dakota

Timothy E. Gregory, Ohio State University

At the same time that scholars have focused new energies on the recovery of post-Classical periods in excavation, intensive pedestrian surveys across Greece have expanded our understanding of the Greek countryside for the same periods. Over the past 25 years, the publications of numerous intensive survey projects have, in particular, redefined our understanding of a prosperous Late Roman East and revealed post-Classical settlement structures. With these successes in mind, this paper will reexamine the results from several small-scale survey projects conducted in the 1970s and early 1980s in Boeotia and the Corinthia. This paper argues from a series of case studies that early survey projects captured data with yet unrealized significance in the context of recent excavation and survey work. The projects examined in this paper coincided with survey projects like the Cambridge Boeotia Project and the Argolid Exploration Project, but were published earlier and in a less comprehensive way. Returning to the material and quantitative data generated by these projects, in much the same way that archaeologists returned to material produced at major excavations like Athens, Corinth and Troy, represents the coming of age of intensive survey and contributes to more reflexive approaches to survey material and data in general. Re-examining the data collected and these projects’ underlying assumptions increases the transparency of these older efforts, enriches the pool of material available for the comparative study of the Greek countryside, and reclaims fragments of landscapes lost to development, taphonomic influences, and changes in technique, technology, and method.

Late Ottoman and Early Modern Levels from New Excavations in Ancient Corinth

Guy D. R. Sanders, American School of Classical Studies at Athens

Although topsoil is the primary medium of archaeological surveyor, excavators seldom pay it much attention probably because Late Antique, Medieval and post-Medieval are anathema to Classical archaeologists. Topsoil often contains the only vestiges of a site’s final phases. At Corinth these belong to the decades before the earthquake of 1858 that resulted in the village’s population moving to a new site next to the sea on the Isthmus. In the Panayia Field at Corinth, topsoil contained the plowed over foundations of eight houses known, from a contemporary map of the village, to have existed ca. 1830 in a canton called Kalamatamahalla and, later, Arapomahalla. The undisturbed layer beneath preserved the lower foundations of the houses and the bottoms of pits containing household occupational debris representing the decades between about 1790 and 1850. Open area excavation in the Panayia Field, with exhaustive recovery strategies, resulted in an almost complete record of an archaeological phase of Corinth known only from travelers’ accounts and the illustrations therein contained. The houses were simple one, two and three roomed, single storey, tile roofed dwellings with white clay floors and wall plaster. None had wells and only two had outside ovens for baking. The household debris included wine bottles, low denomination Ottoman coins, and imported ceramics from China, Britain, France, Italy, and the Ottoman Empire. Seriation of the contexts show how patterns of imports changed after the War of Independence. This represents the first and only systematic excavation of this period in the Aegean region

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

kostis -- it's "From POTS to People: Approaches to the Study of Ceramics"

how would polis make sense??

(i know the organizers)

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States