The Stymphalos Project

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Project Abbreviation: 

StyP

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Project Date: 

Wednesday, June 1, 1994 to Friday, August 31, 2012

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Project Description: 

 

The first archaeological excavations at ancient Stymphalos were carried out over seven summers between 1924 and 1930 by Anastasios Orlandos on behalf of the Archaeological Society of Athens but received only brief publication in the Praktika of the Society. The University of British Columbia conducted topographical and geophysical surveys of the site and the nearby Cistercian abbey of Zaraka between 1982 and 1984 in collaboration with the Society and since 1994 has excavated Stymphalos under the auspices of the Canadian Institute with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, U.B.C., and private donors. Director of the project is Professor Hector Williams, Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies, UBC.

The site of ancient Stymphalos, scene of Heracles’ labour of killing the birds, lies on the north shore of Lake Stymphalos on the northeastern frontier of ancient Arcadia (modern Corinthia).  In 1982, John Travlos and Hector Williams began a series of surveys for the Society and the Canadian Archaeological Institute at Athens which revealed that the ancient city had been laid out on a grid plan, probably around the mid-4th century BCE. Geophysical survey work provided many details of the street plan, including a missing gate on the northwest side, and demonstrated that the city had been divided into long blocks 30 m wide with 6-m-wide streets in between. The city was surrounded by a roughly triangular fortification wall about 2.5 km. in length with massive artillery towers on its western side. The team also carried out a topographical survey of the nearby Cistercian abbey of Zaraka.

In 1990, the Society gave excavation rights to the Canadian Institute and in 1994 Hector Williams began a series of campaigns that continued through 2001. Excavations in fifteen different areas of the city have revealed much about its history and architecture. The largest area excavated in the southeast has uncovered much of a city block with several late Classical/Hellenistic courtyard houses facing on gravel paved streets with drains running down one side. One discovery was that the area seems to have been abandoned for a time and then resettled, on the evidence of a new villa with a tiled courtyard built in the early Roman period, perhaps when Italian soldiers were being settled in and around the new colony at Corinth. Across the street to the east was another villa with extensive remains of painted and drafted wall plaster, large marble furniture feet, remains of a wooden door with 32 large bronze studs, a well-preserved iron sword and bronze shield, and much pottery of the Tiberian period (ca. 25-40 CE). These buildings appear to have been destroyed in an earthquake and never reoccupied.

Further west a surprising discovery was a large Hellenistic stage building to go with the rock cut seats on the eastern end of the acropolis; it appears to have been enlarged in the middle of the Hellenistic period. On the top of the lower end of the acropolis above the seating were traces of Hellenistic and Roman occupation, including several unusual puppy burials (one with a kantharos). Several Mycenaean sherds suggested Bronze Age habitation still to be discovered. In this area also were late Roman burials of the 5th century CE, one of five groups of such graves found around the site. Further west on the acropolis, excavators uncovered a sanctuary, perhaps to Athena, (based on epigraphic evidence), that was destroyed in the mid-2nd century BCE, probably at the time of the Roman destruction of Corinth in 146 BCE. This sanctuary was full of pottery, lamps, terracotta figurines, and large quantities of gold, silver and especially bronze jewelry (over 200 pieces in all), dedicated by the women of the city. Also found there were a fragmentary late archaic marble kore (one of few from the Peloponnesos) and a late classical “temple boy”, which suggests a kourotrophic form of divinity. There was a simple small temple with pronaos and a nearby building that may have served as priests’ house and storage area. West of it was a series of aniconic limestone stelai.

Elsewhere in the city, gates, sections of the city wall, artillery towers, remains of over 100 iron ballista points, and several more early Christian burial sites were uncovered. North of the modern village, salvage excavations were carried out on remains of a major temple of the 5th century BCE, a site which produced over two dozen marble roof tiles. Indeed, in the valley surrounding the city of Stymphalos, elements of at least five major Doric buildings have been recovered, suggesting considerable wealth and an ambitious building programme during the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.

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Bibliography: 

Schaus, Gerald P. 2014. "The Temple of the Acropolis of Stymphalos." Pgs. 511-530. In Meditations on the Diversity of the Built Environment in the Aegean Basin and Beyond.Proceedings of a Colloquium In Memorium of Dr. Frederick E. Winter, Canadian Institute in Greece, June 22-23, 2012. D. Rupp and J. Tomlinson eds. Publications of the Canadian Institute in Greece 8. Athens: Canadian Institute in Greece.

Rupp, David. 2008. “The Fieldwork of the Canadian Institute in Greece, 2007.” Mouseion 8.2: 241-63.

Rupp, David. 2007. “The Fieldwork of the Canadian Institute in Greece, 2006.” Mouseion 7.2: 131-53.

Rupp, David. 2006. “The Fieldwork of the Canadian Institute in Greece, 2005.” Mouseion 6.2: 203-18.

Kennell, Stefanie. 2003. “The Fieldwork of the Canadian Institute in Greece, 2002.” Mouseion 3.2: 191-202.

Williams, Hector, Gerald Schaus, Ben Gourley, Susan-Marie Cronkite-Price, Kathleen Donahue Sherwood and Yannis Lolos. 2002. “Excavations at Stymphalos, 1999-2002.” Mouseion 2.2: 135-87.

Young, Alexis. 2001. “The Jewelry from the Sanctuary of ‘Athena,' Stymphalos: Preliminary Findings.” Mouseion 1: 111-26.

Williams, Hector and Gerald Schaus. 2000. “The Sanctuary of Athena at Ancient Stymphalos.” Pgs. 75-94. In Athena in the Classical World. S. Deacy and A. Villing eds. Leiden: Brill.

Williams, Hector, Gerald Schaus, Susan-Marie Cronkite-Price, Ben Gourley and Chris Hagerman. 1998. “Excavations at Stymphalos, 1997.” Échos du monde classique = Classical Views 17.2: 261-319.

Lolos, Yannis. 1997. “The Hadrianic Aqueduct at Stymphalos.” Hesperia 66: 271-314.

Williams, Hector, Gerald Schaus, Susan-Marie Cronkite-Price, Ben Gourley and Chris Hagerman. 1997. “Excavations at Ancient Stymphalos.” Échos du monde classique = Classical Views 16.1: 23-73.

Williams, Hector, Gerald Schaus and Susan-Marie Cronkite-Price. 1996. “Excavations at Stymphalos, 1995.” Échos du monde classique = Classical Views 15.1: 75-98.

Williams, Hector and Susan-Marie Cronkite Price. 1995. “Excavations at Stymphalos, 1994.” Échos du monde classique = Classical Views 14.1: 1-22. 

Harding, Phillip and E. Hector Williams. 1992. “Funerary Inscriptions from Stymphalos.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 93: 57-66

Williams, Hector. 1985. “Investigations at Ancient Stymphalos, 1984.” Échos du monde classique = Classical Views 4.2: 215-224.

Williams, Hector. 1984. “Investigations at Ancient Stymphalos, 1983.” Échos du monde classique = Classical Views 3.2: 169-86.

Williams, Hector. 1983. “Stymphalos: A Planned City of Ancient Arcadia.”  Échos du monde classique = Classical Views 2.2: 194-205.

Project Website: 

http://www.cnrs.ubc.ca/node/157#4171

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