Project Team Members:
In June 2011, a new phase of EBAP began with limited text excavations of the site long identified as ancient Eleon. Trench locations were based upon geophysical surveys conducted in 2009 by Dr. Gregoris Tsokas of the Aristotelian University in Thessaloniki and signaled the site’s importance through the Late Bronze Age, with material dating from LH I through LH IIIC. The geophysical results also showed that significant remains continued down to a depth of more than 2 m. During the first phase of excavation a 1 hectare plot in the northeast part of the acropolis was approved for excavation via three 5 x 5m trenches in the northwest, southwest, and southeast.
The Northwest Sector is located at the site’s highest topographic area and here one corner of a major structure of the LH IIIB period was uncovered. Directly above was an extremely significant LH IIIC deposit which contained a large ceramic basin set within the floor near a large hearth made of discarded tiles and sherds, groups of vessels indicating dining activities, and two kylikes found broken within the basin. These objects were all preserved in a fiery destruction of the LH IIIC period, characterized by dense deposits of ashy soil and charcoal.
The area was expanded in 2013 and, overall, the area contains substantial architectural remains that indicate several phases of building ad rebuilding through the Late Helladic IIIB and IIIC periods. The best preserved settlement remains come from a burnt destruction level of the LH IIIC Early period. Limited excavation has reached pre-Mycenaean levels down to Early Helladic III/IIB, documenting the longest Bronze Age sequence uncovered at Eleon thus far. There are stray finds in this area from the Geometric and Classical periods, and more extensive evidence for occupation in the Medieval period, during which a large number of pits were dug across the area.
The first human remains recovered at Eleon were also found here, in the form of a Middle Helladic cist tomb found intact despite significant amounts of later disturbance. It was built of unbaked clay material, probably mudbrick slabs, and held the intact skeleton of a child, interred face down with contracted knees. The pit was cut through a plaster surface that may correspond to a MH construction into levels dated to EH III/IIB.
Numerous rooms are becoming clear as excavations continue, and the area preserves some of the best evidence for Bronze Age life at Eleon. For example, Room 1 contained 18 complete or well preserved pots, including three jugs and a hydria, four deep bowls, three kylikes, two cooking pots, a dipper, and a kalathos. The large number of serving and drinking vessels are complemented by those necessary for storage and food processing, such as a small burnt pithos found in 2013. Initial ceramic studies have noted strong links to the Lefkandi 1b phase assemblage, pointing to a particularly close relationship of material or stylistic exchange across the southern Euboean Gulf.
In the Southwest Sector more significant LH IIIC material was discovered, including ceramics from the LH IIIC late and sub-Mycenaean periods. The middens and the dense scatter of refuse material consisted of mixed ceramics with substantial faunal remains in a charcoal-rich soil which will hopefully enable palaeobotanical studies and radiocarbon analysis. Large walls of LH IIIB, wide enough to support upper floors, were found in adjacent trenches. Significant finds from this zone include two ivory carvings, one a plaque with rosette spiral decoration and the other a human head with inlaid eyes. Architecture and a packed surface at a lower level have been tentatively dated to the LH I period and were built on bedrock. The southeast also had signs of the Archaic and Classical periods with a deposit of artifacts indicating cult activity at the site.
Work initially began in the area because of anomalous indications of architecture from the geophysical work done in 2009. Electroresistivity mapping suggested several subsurface structures and the team felt that the nature of the readings was such that ground-truthing was necessary. Cultural remains are generally close to the surface and represent Byzantine/Ottoman wares, traces of Archaic/Classical material, and recognizable Mycenaean forms. Archaic and Classical material also included bronze phiale and figurines in addition to ceramics which include Boeotian bird bowls, lamps, black-figure skyphoi, and miniature votive vessels. The material is generally not associated with architectural remains and may have been deposited as wash or run off from an area upslope to the north.
Much of the LH IIIC Middle material is found in a trash deposit which is found extensively around walls in this sector. Currently it is believed that this trash material is associated with a domestic structure located along the north baulk line of the trench, continuing into the unexcavated area to the north. Characteristics of the deposit include large bones and antler fragments and mendable pieces of pottery. At least three painted stirrup jars, a large figural krater with a horse-drawn chariot scene, parts of a kalathos with decorated rim, and another krater with a fish scene were also found.
Work in the southeast quadrant of the site concentrated on understanding the large Lesbian polygonal wall, which follows a curved path 70m in length. Excavations have revealed that it has an increasingly complex form as it continues to the north where stretches of polygonal masonry form a rectangular tower, defining a ramped entrance way ascending to the acropolis. A test trench along one face of the tower did not produce evidence for a specific date of construction but did reveal that the extant architecture was built over an earlier wall from the LH I period. Excavated trenches also revealed stretches of polygonal masonry that engaged directly with Mycenaean remains incorporated into the entrance area. Overall, it appears that in the Late Bronze Age this site was demarcated in a monumental style with massive walls which was supplanted by polygonal masonry in the historical periods.
A large number of terracotta figurine fragments and miniature vessel fragments were discovered in the area in 2012. Ongoing work therefore aims to determine the extent of this deposit, as it would be useful in gaining an overall understanding of the area’s character as well as the function of the surrounding structures in antiquity. Another cache of miniature vessels with some intact kotyles and skyphoi were found in association with a destruction layer consisting of roof tiles, ash and a lighter soil. Yet more complete vessels and figurines continue to be found throughout this section including many intact mold-made figures that are all comparable in quality, size, and type. Unfortunately, the original architectural context for the figurines and miniatures has not yet been found.
The major architectural feature which has been excavated is a multi-phase ramp made of crushed limestone pebbles leading to an impressive threshold block which spans the whole width between two parallel Mycenaean walls. It is 3.25 m long and 0.47 m wide, the stone is highly symmetrical and is believed to have held two large doors, effectively prohibiting any wheeled traffic. The threshold’s large size and weight suggest that it has not been moved and lies in situ. Nearby a pit was also discovered which contained a completely intact animal skeleton. A large rock was placed in the centre of the pit and the bones (identified as a lamb/goat) have no signs of butchering, suggesting the animal was purposefully buried, although the lack of pottery or a discernible burial assemblage makes the nature of the pit uncertain.