StyP - Lower City: Southeastern Domestic Area (Site I)

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Project Abbreviation: 

StyP

Ephorate(s): 

Former Ephorate(s): 

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Project Date: 

Tuesday, June 1, 1982 to Saturday, August 31, 2002

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Project Description: 

 

The southeast domestic area is the location of large area excavations immediately east and south-east of the acropolis that have focused on the last housing block before the southern city wall.  These excavations have been carried out in order to obtain further information about the evidently domestic structures and adjacent roadways in the area.  As with many parts of the site, high levels of water in the trenches often inhibited work, especially regarding attempts to reach earlier levels.

The Southeastern zone was rebuilt several times in antiquity, destroyed by an earthquake, and then subjected to centuries of damage from lake flooding and agricultural activity.  This zone was particularly affected by the increase in plowing since the 1970s and the introduction of heavy tractors and massive steel plows.  The heaps of stones plowed out from foundations lie at the edges of many fields around the domestic area.  Ironically the high water table and flooding issues which have been a problem for preservation and excavation have tended to keep cultivation away from the southern areas of the city.

Early work discovered that the city was laid out in a series of long narrow north-south blocks 30 m wide and over 100 m long with streets 6 m on each side.  The streets generally had drains running down at least one side and were surfaced with gravel or even flat potsherds.  The orthogonal plan likely extended across the entire city except for the rocky acropolis.

Initial excavations revealed the remains of at least two houses at the northern end of the block that date back to the middle of the 4th century BCE.  The plans are far from any kind of ‘type’ due to idiosyncratic designs, re-buildings, and destruction through natural and human forces.  In places their back walls are shared while elsewhere separate walls abut each other across the centre of the block.  Features found inside these houses include small wells and cobbled courtyards in the centre of the buildings.

A large complex of eleven rooms has been named the “Roman Villa.”  Its rooms are organized around a tiled courtyard with a well in the northeastern corner. The structure is built over the remains of an earlier house but included a new corridor entrance off the city street.  The building had a large open area to the south which extended across the entire width of the house and may have served as a garden.  Its only feature was a drain running north-south across its centre to the limits of the excavated area.  A feature full of animal bones revealed a stratigraphy where upper levels contained material earlier than the lower, suggesting that the pit had been excavated and then refilled in reverse order.  Unfortunately there is little closely dated material from actual floor level to confirm a suspected construction date from the 1st century BCE.

The last major building in this excavation area is the Ashlar Building, found across the street from the Roman Villa.  It is named after its western façade, composed of massive limestone orthostates which are up to 3 m in length and 0.5 m in height.  The structure is likely a house which was reused in early Roman times.  Its five rooms were organized around a large courtyard and have produced the most significant finds of the entire area.  An apparent earthquake towards the middle of the 1st century CE sealed a large deposit of complete but shattered common ware pottery that was stored along with objects such as an iron sword and dagger, a bronze shield, two large marble lion feet, over 30 small iron rings, a large lead box, marble weights, over thirty bronze bosses, and a bronze and iron lock from a former door.  Several of the rooms were decorated with painted and drafted wall plaster.  The room in the southwest corner is likely an andron as it has a raised border to take the couches used for men’s dinner parties.  The 2002 season saw the recovery of significant amounts of painted and drafted wall plaster that was first revealed in 2001.  Collecting this material was critical since the material left in situ suffered due to a wet winter and high water table levels which flooded the site.  Most of this plaster, drafted into ashlar-like forms, was found in the likely andron, although some fragments came from a nearby room which also contained over 30 bronze bosses.  These door bosses strongly resemble Macedonian examples, which raises the question of how much of the decoration is Hellenistic and how much is Roman.  The plaster decoration, unlike the bosses, is more akin to Roman decoration, particularly the First Pompeian wall painting style.

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Project Website: 

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