MytP - Lower City Excavations: Nikomedia Street Site

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Dimanche, Juin 1, 1986 - Vendredi, Août 31, 1990

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Near the North Harbour, an excavation on Nikomedia Street, a synergasia with the 20th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, has revealed a site going back in time from the 19th century CE to the 7th century BCE. Work at the lot in question had begun in 1961 under the direction of the previous Ephor, Seraphim Charitonidhes, but had never been completed. These earlier excavations had revealed part of a Roman peristyle building, apparently abandoned in the mid-4th century CE, which lay beside the remains of the classical city wall. Charitonidhes had excavated about half the site, which was mapped by the Canadian-Greek team and further excavated.

Work in 1986 and 1987 revealed a long section of the late classical city wall, and almost completely exposed the peristyle building; further exploration of earlier levels below the Roman ones was carried out in subsequent years. It was also discovered that the Roman building continued beyond the excavation zone, but lay under modern structures. The picture that developed was that of a Roman building organized around a columned marble courtyard, functioning as a possible private house, guild hall, or offices for port officials. The central area had a slightly trapezoidal, sunken marble pool with traces of a colonnade: excavation revealed Attic-Ionic bases on pedestals still in place on the eastern side while the setting lines for four more were visible. The pool measured 3.25 x 8.34m. Off each side was a large room. The south had simple wall paintings preserved, in form of a blue dado along the base and linear patterns above one corner, and the western room had vestiges of a marble-paved floor with areas of former mosaic. While it was initially built about the time of Christ, it had expanded to its present form sometime around 200 CE. It was likely a tavern in its final fifty years or so until abandonment around 350 CE. The colonnade was walled up, perhaps creating a number of small rooms. A deep layer of broken roof tile, pottery, small objects, and several coins covered the floor. There is little evidence for further habitation in the medieval period.

A possible use of the building as a Roman brothel is suggested by the presence of numerous drinking cups and wine jars in conjunction with dozens of bone hairpins (indicative of the presence of women), knucklebones used for gambling, and associated erotica including terracotta oil lamps portraying lovers in various positions.

Underlying the Roman building was a considerable fill deposit consisting of industrial waste of the 3rd to 2nd centuries BCE with evidence for bone and horn working, pottery and figurine manufactures, bronze and iron working, and even a mass of crushed murex shell from which purple dye was extracted. Hundreds of loomweights were also found, shedding important light on local Hellenistic industrial history. Below it were rich levels of Classical and Archaic pottery, especially the grey wares characteristic of the Aeolic region.

However, the Roman structures were not the only interesting items located in this area. When work extended the excavation area in 1987, a large Ottoman cemetery, dating to the 19th and 18th centuries CE, was discovered in the upper levels of the modern surface. Five undisturbed burials were uncovered. All were oriented in an east-west fashion with the head at the west end and all were without grave goods of any sort, the Muslim custom generally being to inter the corpse in the earth wrapped simply in a shroud. One of the graves contained the remains of a middle-aged man buried with 20 cm spikes through his neck, trunk, and ankles—a suspected vampire!

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