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The Excavation of the Ashlar Masonry

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  On the plateau immediately beneath this one – the excavation at this point has been given the name ‘Excavation of the Ashlar Masonry’ – survives the ground-plan of another public building of the Late Archaic/Classical period, which was found beneath the remains of buildings from later periods. It consists of a series of rectangular rooms at different levels, following the slope of the land, and a stoa. In front of the wall of this stoa, which is 1.70 m. thick and 20 m. long, the bases of five pillars were discovered. Two different types of masonry – large stone blocks and polygonal stones – distinguish two different building phases. The large number of red-figure sherds, many of which date from the first half of the 5th century BC, permits the building to be dated to this early period and indicates that organised cities with splendid architecture existed in Upper Macedonia even before the unification of the Macedonian kingdom under Philip II.

   In addition to the numerous fragments of both imported pots and locally produced black-figure ware, other interesting finds were discovered, such as a small Attic skyphos with the name ΘΕΜΙΔΟΣ engraved on its base, and part of a tile with the following four-line inscription engraved upon it: ΑΡΚΑΠΟΣ ΕΡΙΑ ΗΗΗΔΔΔΔΔ ΔΔΠΙΙΙ. Evidently, this inscription was engraved by an ordinary citizen in the middle of the 5th century BC and represents a bill, written in the Attic acrophonic system, concerning a certain Arkapos and a quantity of wool (eria) weighing 350 units and costing 28 units. On the same site, there are also traces of well-constructed walls in the later building phases, and at some points the Classical walls have been used as foundations. One room of the Classical building contained a series of ovens. On one side of the room lies a pithos and on the other a burnt tile, with part of an early polygonal wall above them.

   Apart from these large buildings on the Megali Rachi hill, areas containing private dwellings have also been excavated. Naturally, the amount of space available for building on a hill is always limited. Thus, in the areas that have been investigated, evidence of successive settlement phases has been uncovered: some walls have been reused, while other, new ones have been built on top of the remains of earlier dwellings. The houses were separated by partition walls or narrow lanes, into which ran drainage conduits. They were built of rubble masonry and possessed earthen floors or floors made of mud and small stones. There was some interior decoration of painted plaster, while fragments of painted tiles also attest to the existence of carefully executed facades. A wide variety of tiles was used in the roofs of the houses. Numerous fragments have been found bearing the stamps of the workshops that produced them, the most common stamp being that of the figure of a sphinx. 

    Owing to the sloping terrain, some of the rooms in these houses were built on different levels. Stone staircases led to the upper rooms, the back walls of which were set into the sloping ground. The houses possessed small courtyards, rooms with hearths, storerooms with pithoi, and rooms/workshops with stone handmills in the corners. Pottery kilns and traces of metalworking (iron, bronze and lead) are very common.  

    

Dr Georgia Karamitrou – Mentesidi


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TOMB A

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     The largest tomb, Tomb A, measures 10.30 x 10.30 m. externally and possesses a burial chamber measuring 4 x 4 m., with walls about 3 m. wide, consisting of stone blocks laid in an alternating series of two and three courses. The chamber was covered by a horizontal roof of oblong slabs that rested on a wooden beam, whose sockets are visible in the walls. The roof was probably also supported by an unfluted column, part of which was found on the floor of the chamber, and by a lattice of planks that rested on the ledge at the top of the walls. The long stone roof slabs, which were gathered from both within and outside the burial chamber, measure 2.30 x 1.30 m.         

   Inside the burial chamber, in the south-east corner, there is a door with only one jamb (on the left-hand side) and an opening measuring 1.58 m. The slots on the lintel and below, on the right- and left-hand sides, together with the groove on the left, indicate the existence of a door leading outside. However, when the earth was removed from the exterior, it was immediately apparent that there was no door opening on the other side but a solid wall, just as there was on the east side, where the earth was also removed down to a considerable depth. Our conclusion is that this door led to a crypt within the stonework beneath the lintel. However, in at least the two highest courses of stone there is no evidence of any gaps and the stonework is normal. The lowest courses of stone blocks used to fill in the doorway, however, raise certain doubts. In all likelihood this door was originally used to provide access to a small cist-shaped burial crypt and was then later filled in so that the main chamber could be used for burials.

   Both within the tomb and outside it, at some depth on the south-west side, fragments of Doric capitals and cornices with guttae were found. Part of the base of a large Ionic column was also found in the north side, where a course of masonry had been plundered. These architectural members indicate the existence of a temple-like structure above the main chamber, leading to the conclusion that the tomb probably belonged to a king and functioned as a tomb-heröon. Inside, the main chamber preserves remains of painted decoration, such as an Ionic moulding, two female figures and a palmette. On the floor of the tomb two long gilded courses of masonry can be seen, which form part of the structure of a couch. The tomb, which was looted in antiquity, yielded a small number of grave goods, such as some gilded leaves of bronze, gilded clay beads, the bone stems of wreaths, 12 gilded silver ivy leaves and gold sheets with a sixteen-petal rosette stamped on them (the well-known Macedonian star), which has been found in this form only at Aiani and Vergina (Aegae). If this star is a symbol, its presence here indicates the close relationship that existed between the two capitals. The tomb has been dated to the early 4th century BC. Outside the tomb, on the south-east side, quite deep down, the torso of a male statue was discovered; made from local marble in the 6th century BC, it is of the well-known kouros type, which has been discovered mainly in Attica and the Aegean islands. The discovery of this important statue – we know that kouroi and statues from the Archaic era in general are rare in Macedonia – led us to conclude that the torso in the old collection (cat. no. 191), whose provenance is unknown, came from a kouros of similar size.  

 

 Dr Georgia Karamitrou – Mentesidi

 

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The Building of Cistern 

   

On the south peak we have traced the plan of a large public building in the trenches cut in the natural rock for the foundations of its walls. The building contains phases from the Late Archaic and Classical eras, judging by the remains of stone masonry, the early pottery and the marble head of a youth from the early 5th century BC. In the courtyard of this building – which was paved with pebbles, vertically laid tile fragments and hydraulic cement (kourasani) – a large circular Cistern 8.5 m. deep was excavated. 

  The lower part of this cistern is preserved in its original form, up to a height of about 2 m. Because the porous limestone rock in which the cistern was cut crumbles and breaks easily, the ancient craftsmen placed a layer of stone bricks and unworked stones over the surface of the crumbling rock to make it more solid and watertight, and then added a wall of long bricks, laid laterally and bound together by mortar. The bottom of the cistern and the inner, narrow side of the bricks were coated with a thick layer of hydraulic cement. The diameter at the bottom is 4.5 m., while at the top, where the intermediate layer and the bricks are missing, it is 6.5 m. The cistern helped to supply the settlement with water by collecting rainwater, as can be seen in the conduits with cavities for gravel filters that are preserved on three sides of the courtyard, and the clay pipes that have been found in the same area.  

   From the bottom of the cistern a large number of clay hydriae and oinochoae were collected, together with two bronze oinochoae and a bronze situla, which were evidently used for drawing water. They date from the 2nd century BC and provide a terminus ante quem for the use of the cistern.

Dr Georgia Karamitrou – Mentesidi

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The House with the Staircases

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 A visit to the House with the Staircases is of greater interest. This is the name given to an excavation on a plateau to the south, which can be reached either by a footpath from the Building with the Stoa or a lower footpath from the Excavation of the Ashlar Masonry. Here, beneath the stones of the stepped passageways, there is a stone drainage conduit, which leads from the highest room on the north side, runs beneath the steps and ends lower down at the edge of the plateau. The first staircase leads to a room in which three pithoi were discovered in situ, together with a rectangular hearth framed by small stones and containing numerous layers of ash. On one side of the hearth, immediately next to it, an interesting polygonal stone base was uncovered, within which lay a clay skyphos and, in the intervening space, six bronze coins and the silver effigy of a snake, probably a dedication to Zeus Ctesius, protector of household property, whose symbol was a snake 

This room also contained figurines of Cybele and other female figures on top of some stones in a corner, amphoras and smaller clay vases, an iron scraper for a kneading trough, a stone handmill and some bronze coins. The room is believed to have served as a storeroom or a utility room where bread was made and meals were cooked, and evidently included a household shrine. The dwellings in this area continue beneath the enormous rocks that have broken away, possibly as the result of an earthquake: this event may have caused the destruction and sudden abandonment of the site, which meant that many important finds were left in situ. 

Dr Georgia Karamitrou – Mentesidi

 

 

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The House with the Loomweigths

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In this area the visitor may see the remains of at least two houses of the Hellenistic period (3rd -2nd c. BC), separated by a narrow lane about 2 m. wide with a drainage conduit.
 
  The name “ House with the  Loomweights” was given on account of the large pile of loomweights that was found at the rear, underground end of one of its rooms. The loom weights, made of fired clay, had various shapes: round-shaped, conical, pyramidal,  trapezoid etc. The big number of loomweights suggests that the building had a dual function, both as a habitation area and as a weaving workshop. 

 Dr Georgia Karamitrou – Mentesidi

 

 

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