Kiapha Thiti Excavation Project

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Project Abbreviation: 

KTEP

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Project Date: 

Tuesday, April 8, 1986 to Saturday, September 3, 1988

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Kiapha Thiti (the proper appellation for the site is Kontra Gkliate) is located southeast of Athens, at the northern end of the Vari valley in Attica. The site is found on a significant hill with steep rock faces on three of its sides, providing access to the site only from the western slope. Its situation at the southern end of Mount Hymettos also places Kiapha Thiti in a position of control over the land route from Athens to the silver mines and fertile lands of the southeast region of the province. The geographical placement of the site also begs the question of the regional political organization that would have been in effect at the time, whether or not one site was administered by another overarching site. The Canadian Institute’s excavation campaigns took place in 1986 and 1988, and were led by Prof. Dietmar Hagel of Queen's University.

Multiple but interrupted phases of occupation are evident at Kiapha Thiti, ranging in date from the Chalcolithic period to late Antiquity.  The most visible remains today belong to an early Christian chapel built near the summit of the hill during the late 5th or early 6th century CE.  Under the chapel are scanty remains of earlier activity nodes, such as an open-air sanctuary of the Nymphs.  One deposit in the area had many female figurines ranging in date from Geometric to late Archaic times, while another deposit connected with the sanctuary had three pottery sherds, each inscribed with an upright alpha in Attic style, dating to the early 7th century BCE, testifying to the spread of early writing.

On the middle terrace below is a wall which appears to be associated with a Final Neolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BCE.  A pithos on a floor is assigned to this occupation.  In front of this terrace wall is a possible apsidal structure that may date to the end of the Early Bronze Age. From the Middle Bronze Age, behind the wall, there is a cemetery with cist tombs containing the burials of children. Long afterwards it may have served as a fortified place of refuge connected to the chapel in the late Roman/early Byzantine period, perhaps in uncertain times when the rural population faced repeated invasions from groups such as the Visigoths and Vandals.  The middle terrace also held an early Hellenistic farmstead, built around 330 BCE, which was atop much earlier walls from the Mycenaean period.  The farm was abandoned around 285 BCE when wooden beams, rafters, roof tiles, and even doorframes disappeared.  It has been suggested this change indicates a lease was not renewed and the tenant removed valuable parts of the building.

On the lowest man-made terrace are footings for a large wall cut into the bedrock which stretches over 150 m along the ridge and varies in thickness from 2 to 6 m.  A long ramp leads up to a gate. The wall dates from the early Mycenaean period and was felt by excavators to have no parallels on the Greek mainland, with the possible exception of the fortifications at Malthi near the village of Dorion in Messenia.

Canadian excavations, which began with a trial trench in 1984, concentrated primarily on the fortified Mycenaean settlement of ca. 1500 BCE. The fortifications here are unique in terms of construction technique, making this site useful for the understanding of fortifications in Greece at this time. Despite the naturally defensible terrain of Kiapha Thiti, great pains were taken to reinforce the site’s defensive walls: the width of the wall increases at protruding angles and buttressed corners; the outer face of the wall curves uphill in the intervals between the areas where the wall thickens. Orthostates are set in front of the outer face of the wall where the foundations do not reach bedrock. The dressed stones of the outer face are bound in with the fill in places. The self-sufficient inner face of the wall follows the same pattern of thickening as the outer face. All of these peculiarities provide additional means of protection against the slipping of the wall downhill, as well as added defence.

The overall picture of the sites is one of a long history interrupted with lengthy periods of desolation.  The earliest settlers came in the 4th millennium BCE and abandoned the site in the early 3rd millennium BCE.  Over a thousand years later the Mycenaean fortress was built, which was abandoned and reinhabited between 1350 and 1200 BCE.  Almost another half millennium later cult activity dedicated to the Nymphs was established prior to 700 BCE which continued into the 5th century BCE.  From the beginning of the 3rd century BCE, the hill was deserted for 800 years until the Christian church was built near the summit.  Upon the church’s destruction 300 years later, the hill became completely desolate until the modern age.

Bibliography: 

Christiansen, Jette. 2000. Kiapha Thiti III.1. Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen: The Iron-Age Sanctuary. Marburger Winckelmann-Programm 1990. Marburg: Selbstverlag der Philipps-Universität.

Lauter, Hans. 1995. Kiapha Thiti: Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen II.2:1. Die bronzezeitliche Architektur. Marburger Winckelmann-Programm 1990. Marburg: Selbstverlag der Philipps-Universität.

Maran, J. 1993. “Middle and Late Bronze Age Pottery from Kiapha Thiti (Attica): A Preliminary Report.” Pgs. 201-207. In Wace and Blegen: Pottery as Evidence for Trade in the Aegean Bronze Age, 1939-1989. C. Zerner, P. Zerner and J. Winder eds. Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben.

Maran, J. 1993. “Middle and Late Bronze Age Pottery from Kiapha Thiti (Attica): A Preliminary Report.” Pgs. 201-207. In Wace and Blegen: Pottery as Evidence for Trade in the Aegean Bronze Age, 1939-1989. C. Zerner, P. Zerner and J. Winder eds. Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben.

Hagel, Dietmar. 1992. “The Fortifications of the Late Bronze Age on Kiapha Thiti, Attika.” Pgs. 45-51. In Fortificationes AntiquaeS. Van de Maele and J.M. Fossey eds. Amsterdam: Brill.

Maran, J. 1992. Kiapha Thiti: Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen II.2:2. Jahrtausend v. Chr.: Keramik und Kleinfunde. Marburger Winckelmann-Programm 1990. Marburg: Selbstverlag der Philipps-Universität.

Hagel, Dietmar, Hans Lauter, Michael Küpper, Heide Lauter-Bufe, Vera von Droste zu Hülshoff, Blanka Ulrich and Angelika Schönborn. 1990. Kiapha Thiti III.2. Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen (Eisenzeit) Marburger Winckelmann-Programm 1990. Marburg: Selbstverlag der Philipps-Universität.

Hagel, Dietmar and Hans Lauter. 1987. Die frühmykenische Burg von Kiapha Thiti, Attika. Erster Vorbericht. Marburger Winckelmann-Programm 1990. Marburg: Verlag des Kunstgeschichtlichen Seminars.

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