Sikyon Project

Ceramic workshops area

2014 season

Plan of the first trench with the contexts numbered.

We continued the excavation of the trench opened in 2013 (measuring 5 x 25 m), which we extended 2 m to the north and 5 m to the east. We extended the northern side of the trench in search of the northern wall of the building of the Early to Middle Roman period that we discovered last year and so that we investigate the relation of this building to the Hellenistic stoa located a few meters to the north. We extended the trench eastwards in order to continue exposing the buildings across the whole length of the trench.

In the northern sector of the trench, after the removal of topsoil (Context 525), we excavated layers 20 to 40 cm thick (Contexts 526-529), that contained mostly Late Roman pottery (the latest sherds date to the 7th century CE). Context 526, to the west of wall 506, contained much more artifacts that the layers to the east of this wall (Contexts 528 and 529). With the excavation of these layers, two walls perpendicular to each other came to light in the northern part of the trench (Contexts 538 and 539), another wall of east-west orientation to their south (Context 540), two parallel walls (Context 532) perpendicular to Context 540, and further south part of a curvilinear wall (Context 541). Wall 538, built with ashlar blocks ca. 0.45 m wide, is oriented north-south. It is not exactly aligned with Wall 506 (it deviates to the east by a few centimeters) and extends to the north beyond the border of the trench. Walls 539 and 540 are of similar construction and width unlike wall 541 which touches the western end of Wall 540 and is built of irregular stones of various dimensions and a few, re-used ashlar blocks.

The first trench looking south.

Considering that only the outline of these structures has so far been exposed, it is still not possible to identify with certainty their relation or their chronological phases. At any rate and based on their visible segments it appears that Wall 539 is earlier to Walls 538 and 532, and that it continued westwards to join vertically Wall 504, which bears traces of a mortar that once covered the inner corner. Context 532, 0.41 m wide, appears to be some kind of open channel running between walls 540 and 539, but further excavation is needed in order to confirm its form and function. Walls 540 and 541 supported and were partly covered by a manifestly artificial fill that extended southwards. This fill (Context 533), 0.50 m thick, consisted of rubble, tiles, and sherds that date up to the 6th century CE. From the material of the fill we can single out a terracotta antefix as well as a fragment of a terracotta lion-head spout. The layer around this fill was excavated separately (Context 537) and was found to contain relatively few artifacts that date to the 5th to 6th century CE.

In the western sector of the trench, we removed the shaky retaining wall (Context 1026) that withheld the artificial Late Roman fill to its north. The material found inside this structure (the dirt was 100% sieved) dates mostly from the first half of the 1st century CE but is most likely contaminated given that both the thick layer that it contained (Context 535) and the underlying deposits (Contexts 534 and 536) date from the 5th and 6th century CE. Context 535, which is what was left from the large fill removed last year (Contexts 510, 511, 516), included large quantities of tiles and clearly more ossuary material than the underlying Context 536.

The western half of the northern side of the trench, looking northeast.

The northern part of the trench, looking northwest.

The room to the south of Wall 1038, looking east.

Thanks to the excavation on both sides of Wall 506, the higher course of this wall was totally exposed but only the upper surface of a second, lower course. The higher course is made of ashlar blocks of various dimensions, manifestly reused and set on their short sides. Smaller, irregular stones, earth, and tile fragments fill the gaps between the blocks. The eastern side of the wall bears circular holes, ca. 10 cm in diameter and 5 cm deep, that were opened along the same, horizontal level every ca. 25 cm. They are probably putlog holes but to verify this and to explore their relation to the architectural structures found here (Contexts 540, 539, 532) more excavation is needed.

To the south, we continued the excavation of the room defined by Walls 1038 to the north and 1022-524 to the south, which had begun last year. We removed Late Roman layers (Contexts 1056, 1065, 1066) of a total thickness of 0.80 m without hitting a clear floor surface. The last layer that we excavated is ca. 0.70 m below the level of the 7th century installation that we excavated further south. By taking out these layers we exposed the south wall of the room throughout its length, the upper surface of a marble stone (threshold?) in the middle of this side, and the eastern wall (Context 542) consisting of rubble, tile, and mortar masonry and an ashlar block placed at its center. We plan to excavate more here hoping to detect a floor associated with the western and southern wall of this building (Contexts 504 and 1022).

In the central sector of the trench we continued the excavation of the Late Roman farmstead by extending eastwards. The removal of the top soil (Context 1046) exposed the line of an east-west wall (Context 1058) that separated the northern from the southern room. In the northern room, measuring 3.7 x 4.4 m, a 7th century CE layer of tiles (Context 1063), some 0.40 m thick, lay above the floor which consisted of beaten earth covered by a thin, whitish mortar. The surface of the floor is best preserved in the central and southern part of the room but very slightly along the northern side. At the center of the room we detected a shallow pit, 0.8 m in diameter, of unknown purpose. Then 0.5 m to the southwest of the pit, a small rectangular feature is preserved, consisting of tiles and small stones set on the floor so that they form a square socket in the middle, 15 cm of a side. Most likely this feature was meant to serve as a support for a wooden post that would have supported the roof. Further to the south, and merely 12 cm from the southern wall of the room (Context 1058), stands an octagonal column, 25 cm in diameter and 0.42 m of preserved height. The original height of the column is unknown same as its purpose which could have hardly been structural given its proximity to the wall of the room. At the southwestern corner of the room we found an almost complete stewpot of the 7th century CE, perhaps in situ. Of the four walls of the room, the western and southern ones are preserved throughout their lengths, but only parts of the other two. The western wall (Context 1010), that separates this room from the wine-press installation to the west, same as the preserved part of the northern wall (Context 524) show an average width of 0.40 – 0.50 m and mixed masonry, composed of ashlar blocks and courses of smaller stones and tile fragments bonded with mortar. The southern wall (Context 1058), 0.5 m wide, and the preserved section of the eastern wall that has so far been exposed (Context 1050), are built mostly with ashlar stones. The access to the northern room was from the northern or/and the eastern side even though no threshold has been found yet.

View of the Late Roman farmstead, looking southwest.

The stewpot as found at the southwest corner of the north room.

The south room, looking southwest.

Excavation of the southern room, measuring 4.3 x 5.8 m, exposed a layer of tiles (Context 1055), 0.30 m thick, and underneath traces of a floor, which, as in the northern room, consisted of beaten earth covered by a thin layer of clayey mortar. The floor was detected mainly in the southern part of the room and the destruction layer that covered it dates from the 7th century CE. The masonry of this room is different to that of the northern room. More specifically, its western (Context 1064) and southern (Context 1525) walls, 0.60 m thick, are built with rubble and mortar and the occasional incorporation of spoliated material including part of an Ionic column drum and of a cornice block. The masonry is similar that of the western wall of the complex uncovered last year, so that we can assign them to the same building phase. In the room that we dug this year, we did not find the continuation of the apparatus that we exposed last year immediately to the west of Wall 1064 and had identified as the remains of a small lime-kiln. Instead, near the northwestern corner of the room that we dug this year we brought to light an open channel, of east-west orientation, made of cover tiles placed upside down. The source and the destination of this channel, which is preserved to a length of ca. 3 m, remain unknown same its precise function. It is possible that it related to the wine press that we discovered last year, but at some point, it went out of use and part of it was covered by a flimsy wall. The southern room must have been accessed from the east, but unfortunately only the northern part of the eastern wall (Context 1050) is preserved.

In the southern part of the trench we expanded both eastwards and southwards in order to expose more of the possible alley that we brought to light in 2013 with the channel running along its middle and its retaining wall to the south. With regard to the possible alley, following the removal of the topsoil (Context 1542) and its underlying layers (Contexts 1544, 1548, 1550) that date from the 5th and 6th century CE, we came upon a surface of packed earth mixed with tile fragments, small stones, and pebbles (Context 1551). This surface is convex, since it is elevated along the center thus covering the capstones of the channel. It is not clear whether it is some kind of a road surface or simply a surface, and we hope that the continuation of the excavation towards the east will help us to answer this question. Until then, we cautiously decided not to dig lower here but to concentrate to the south of Wall 1526. Because the upper layer of the western section of this wall (Context 1527), that we had uncovered last year, was in danger of collapse, we decided to remove it in order to continue safely in lower strata. The layers below (Contexts 1547 and 1553), of an average thickness of ca. 0.50 m, date to the Middle Roman period (2nd to 4th century CE). By taking out these layers, two parallel walls, oriented north-south, were brought to light. They are perpendicular to Wall 1526 and of the same building technique, that is ashlar blocks, 0.45 m wide. The eastern wall (Context 1561), which extends to the south beyond the boundaries of the trench, appears to create a corner with wall 1526, the northeastern corner of a building. The northwestern corner of this building has not been uncovered yet. In addition, the line of orthostate blocks that form Wall 1526 is interrupted by a stretch of a manifestly later masonry consisting of rubble, tile fragments and mortar, 2.4 m long (Context 1554). More excavation is needed to date this later addition or repair and to check if it lies over a lower course of Wall 1526. At any rate, a small concentration of vessels found in contact with the southern side of this wall (Context 1557) and consisting of thin-walled mugs, dates to the later 1st to early 2nd century CE. The section of Wall 1526 immediately to the west of the later addition preserved two pair of ashlars that were joined by means of dovetail clamps. The western corresponding cutting was discovered in 2013, but the eastern cutting this year, strengthening the likelihood these stones to be in their original position (and not in second use), and therefore the wall to which they belong to date to earlier Roman or even Hellenistic times.

The possible alley, looking east.

The south side of the trench, looking northeast.

Excavating context 1556 in the southern part of the trench.

Further to the west, the removal of the uppermost, shaky course of the wall (Context 1527) brought to light more spolia in the lower courses, among which we can single out two fragments of columns of Doric and Ionic order, respectively. Since the base of this section is still buried, the dating of the structure remains uncertain. In any case, the vessels that were found last year in contact with the northern side of this wall, some of which almost intact (Context 1529), date for the most part from the later 1st to early 2nd century CE. If this layer represents a secondary deposit, as suggested by the position of the vessels and their degree of preservation, then Wall 1527 must date before the end of the 1st century CE. To the south of Wall 1526-1527 and due west of Wall 1562 we excavated layers of the Middle (Context 1547: 2nd to 4th century CE) and Early Roman periods (Context 1556: later 1st to early 2nd century CE). In the latter layer (Context 1556) we found many vessels, some in very good condition, including thin-walled mugs – products of local workshops if we may judge from wasters found in the same deposit. Below this layer we found patches of beaten earth surface (Context 1558) which may correspond to a floor.

More excavation is needed in order to interpret and securely date Wall 1526 and its later additions (Contexts 1527 and 1554), and to understand its relation to the architectural remains to the south as well as to the possible alley to the north. One possibility, on the basis of the evidence available thus far, is that this wall originally served as the northern side of a building and that the gaps in the line of the ashlar blocks corresponded to door openings that were later filled so that the wall serves as the southern retaining wall of a now higher road surface.