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A systematic intensive survey of the 22 km2 Paximadhi peninsula on the west side of the bay of Karystos, took place from 1986 to 1988 as the first component of the Southern Euboea Exploration Project. The survey recorded environmental and cultural information including ancient routes, terraces, field walls, quarries, and 162 ancient sites or findspots, 94 of which have preserved architecture dating primarily to the Classical through Roman periods. The Paximadhi survey demonstrated that the peninsula was first inhabited during the Final Neolithic to Early Bronze Age periods, while there were no signs of activity during the Middle and Late Bronze Age periods.
With the exception of a very important Early Iron Age sanctuary at Plakari on the northeast corner of the peninsula, and occasional signs of limited occupation for the same time period elsewhere on the peninsula, there appeared to be almost no habitation on the peninsula until the fifth century BCE, when approximately 25 small farmsteads were first settled in the area. Several of these sites continued to be used through the Hellenistic period. Occupation on the peninsula then began to decline in the Roman period, and since the Byzantine period the region has been used almost exclusively for grazing.
Isolated Classical farmsteads have been recorded by many recent survey projects in Greece, but to date few of these have been excavated. The farmsteads on Paximadhi are of particular interest, as associated features such as threshing floors and terracing have been documented in a virtually undisturbed landscape. The thorough survey of the area allowed the team to consider the size of individual holdings against the size of the entire region. The simultaneous appearance of evenly distributed farms in a marginal area has suggested the possibility that the sites might provide evidence for an imposed Athenian cleruchy.
To clarify the patterns indicated by the survey, two Classical–Hellenistic sites were selected for excavation: a rural farmstead at Palaio Pithari and a semi-fortified emporio or outpost at Cape Mnima. Analysis of the stratigraphy, architecture, artifacts, and bioarchaeological remains from the excavations in conjunction with the survey results has provided a vertical and horizontal view of the peninsula during the periods of most intensive settlement, giving vital insights into several aspects of land use in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.
Later work involved the investigation of the area’s ancient land transportation routes in an attempt to develop an understanding of the region’s primary means of movement and communication between settlements. This stage of the project also hoped to develop a methodology that allows for a more detailed record of pre-modern land routes. Numerous fragments of suspected ancient routes were located during the pedestrian survey of the Paximadhi peninsula, many of which were associated with adjacent datable sites, and it was sometimes possible to propose extensions of these segments and theorize on direction, length, and purpose of network components.
It was found that routes closely followed topography. The relatively flat tops of both the eastern and western segments of the main ridge of the peninsula contained greater evidence of traffic than the steep and ravine-segmented coast of the western side. By considering the terrain of the area as well as the location, distribution, and function of nearby sites, it was determined that roads could be one of several major categories: sanctuary routes, outside routes (beyond the peninsula), and network routes (connecting sites within the peninsula). Regardless of type, the most noticeable roads were the result of joint community efforts which involved building retaining walls, cutting through bedrock, and building routes up at gully crossings. In some cases, later pre-modern trails make use of ancient routes and then divert where the ancient road had fallen into disrepair.