The American School of Classical Studies at Athens
10/21/2007

New Discoveries in the Athenian Agora

John McK. Camp II

In the course of the winter 2006/2007, three of the four modern buildings acquired in recent years were demolished. Excavation in one of the new plots was begun in the 2006 season as part of Section BH. Otherwise, efforts were concentrated on two areas excavated last year: northwest of the Agora and in the old excavations at the southwest corner of the square. In Section Γ, south of the tholos, we continued to explore the remains of the building often identified as the Strategeion, or office of the generals. The discovery last year of a hoard of about 400 silver tetradrachms (àkoue, Winter/Spring 2006, No. 55) threw more doubt on that identification, already called into question by the discovery years ago of a pyre in the building. The work here was supervised by Laura Gawlinski, assisted by Joanna Hobratschk and Amanda Reiterman. Excavations this season concentrated on the eastern half of the building and were very productive, especially in terms of architecture. The western half, explored last year, was cut into the base of the Kolonos Agoraios hill, leaving virtually no floor fills and only the slightest traces of interior walls. The eastern half, by contrast, had deep fills to be investigated, and considerable new information about the plan of the building emerged. Three new crosswalls were encountered, along with a stretch of the wall that separates the eastern rooms from the rest of the building. While the exterior walls are made of large ashlar blocks of poros, the interior walls are of small fieldstones, set in clay, some 0.40 to 0.45 m. wide, resting on shallow foundations some 0.60 m. wide. In addition, several terracotta drains were recovered; these carried water eastward through the east wall of the building to empty into the great drain. The mixed construction of the walls and the drains leading out of individual rooms are both paralleled in the commercial buildings being excavated behind the Painted Stoa in Sections BZ and BE and add weight to the accumulating evidence that we should interpret the building as commercial, either public or private, rather than as an official public office building. In one of the northern rooms we encountered a patch of plaster floor and beneath that a thick layer composed of almost nothing but marble working chips, of the sort found overlying most of the "State Prison," which also may be better understood as a commercial building. Pottery found in the fill beneath the floor levels confirms a date in the first half of the fifth century B.C. for the original construction of the building. Deep in this fill we found the articulated, tightly flexed skeleton of a mid-sized, arthritic dog. In Section BZ, Matt McCallum, assisted by Jen Poppel, was responsible for the north-south road and buildings to the west, while Marcie Handler, assisted by Chris Young, excavated the buildings along the east side of the road. West of the road we excavated in various fills. Removing the bottom of a large round tile-floored cistern, we came down on a smaller one, immediately below. From the pottery, both seem to date to the tenth century A.D. and later. Further west, we excavated fills alongside a large water line associated with the bath in use in the area in the second and third centuries A.D., and closer to the road we cleared more of a pebble mosaic floor, which should be Hellenistic in date. Deep down to the north we uncovered what seems to be yet another pyre of early Hellenistic date. Within the road itself, we cleared more of the late water channels. A second full section of the lead pipe was exposed, measuring—like the first—2.10 m. long. A second lead pipe, of smaller diameter, was found at a slightly lower level. The big late drain running along the east side of the road was also more fully exposed. It shows signs of repeated repairs, with a variety of materials used to cover the actual channel, including amphoras and wall-tiles. Some of the amphoras date to the fifth century A.D., as do a pair of intact lamps, including one with a Christian cross. East of the road, we reached depths sufficient to bring to light earlier walls. Some of these seem to indicate that the Classical commercial building investigated to the south several years ago continued this far north. Within what should be a room of the building, we recovered two more pyres buried beneath the floors. One, with a coin associated, seemed to date to the early third century B.C., while the other, found lower down, seems only slightly earlier. They increase the number of pyres found in this building to 10, by far the largest single concentration from anywhere in the Agora. Their purpose and meaning are still being studied by Susan Rotroff. Further north, where we cleared along a substantial wall of poros blocks, we recovered two silver drachmas. Just to the south we exposed what looks like the upper part of a collapsed cistern; presumably Hellenistic in date, its full excavation will be undertaken this year. Behind the building we recovered a fair amount of Hellenistic pottery and from Early Roman levels around the building we recovered many more fragments of terracotta figurines and masks. East of the building we also excavated archaic layers at elevations higher than floor levels within the Classical building, suggesting that it was set into a slightly rising slope. Section BH was excavated under the supervision of Anne McCabe, assisted by Matt Baumann. The section was expanded to the east, following the demolition of the modern building at the corner of St. Philip's and Hastings Street the previous winter, and we began at a level beneath the modern basement floor. In a relatively small area we had an abundance of features: walls, pithoi, pits, a burial, and two wells. Generally what we recovered seemed to date to the period familiar to us from the adjacent areas: most of the material should date to the years around 1000 A.D. For the most part we excavated beneath the floor levels of the buildings, presumably houses. Large pithoi were encountered, both stone-lined and mortared pits and large ceramic vessels, set with their mouths at floor level. In the corner of one room we had a coarse-ware cooking pot with the skeletal remains of a fetus of about 32 weeks, also buried beneath the floor. This is the second such internment found in the Byzantine settlement north of the river, and may be the accepted manner of disposing of such remains in this period. Two wells were excavated to a depth of 2 to 3 m. Both are lined in the upper part with stones, and with proper well-tiles lower down. Both seem to have been used in the Byzantine period; it is not yet clear if either was in earlier use. A large stone-lined pit was excavated down to a very hard-packed surface that seems to have served as its floor. In its northwest quadrant, the pit incorporated a poros block that rests on this same surface. From the orientation and elevation it seems possible that the block and perhaps the surface can be associated with the eastern part of the Stoa Poikile, just within its north wall, though far more excavation will be necessary before this hypothesis can be confirmed.