Sikyon Project

Ceramic workshops area

2016 season

Orthophoto of the first area with the architectural features numbered.

In the first area, we focused on the north and south sectors, but we also conducted additional excavation in one of the rooms of the east side of the central sector. In the north sector, we continued the excavation of the rooms south of Wall 1022-524 and east of Wall 504. In the room with the monumental statue base (Context 518), we continued the excavation of the north side in order to locate possible traces of the floor or floors similar to those that we identified last year on the southern side of the room (Contexts 590 and 585). The upper layers (Contexts 596 and 600) were dump fills of the 5th century CE with sherds, tile fragments, and many large bones. Out of the many finds from these contexts especially significant were two fragments of stamped tiles inscribed with the name Alexandros, similar to the one found on the southeastern corner of the room in 2015 but at a lower level (Context 585) and which preserved all of the name: Ἀλεξάνδρ(ου). The recovery of the three similar stamped tiles indicates that at least these three contexts belong to the same phase of dump fill, almost 80 cm thick. Under this fill, against the north wall of the room (Context 539), we found a rectangular structure (Context 604), measuring 1.76 x 0.83 m and 0.10 m in height, built with bricks, rubble, and mortar, and lined with a thick mortar which also covers its bonding with Wall 539. The use of this built platform is not clear yet, but it appears to be associated with a rectangular cutting, 11 cm wide, on Wall 539. Due to lack of time, the excavation of the space north of Wall 539 did not advance enough in extent or in depth, but we already know that the walls that define this space to the west (Wall 556) and the east (Wall 538) are later than Wall 539. The excavation of one layer within this space (Context 613), where countless tile fragments, bones, sherds, and other artifacts were found, showed that is served as a dump same as the entire northwestern side of the excavated area. The pottery of the fill dates up to the second half of the 6th century CE.

The dump fill on the northern side of the room with the statue base (Contexts 596 and 600).

The stone platform (Context 604) against the inner face of Wall 539.

The platform against the southern face of Wall 539 features a shallow depression and a rough surface, from which we understand that it served as the base of a certain apparatus, such as a basin, which was not preserved. The whole installation may be associated with the flow of liquid, as in the case of a press. It rests on the floor of the room the level of which is indicated by the bottom line of the smooth plaster that covers the exterior of the platform. The layer that we dug around this structure (Context 603) dates from the late 4th century CE, while the one directly under it (Context 607), under the level of the floor, yielded pottery that dates up to the 3rd century CE. The excavation of two more layers (Contexts 610 and 611), between the platform and the west wall of the room (Wall 504), down to the bottom of Wall 504, produced pottery that dates down to the first half of the 2nd century CE, which provides a terminus post quem for the erection of Wall 504 and by extent of the entire north building of this area.

The room south of Wall 1038 after the removal of Context 609, looking southeast.

In the room south of Wall 1038, we came down on the clayey floor by removing a layer (Context 609) with pottery which dates up to the 4th century CE, but which contains mostly late 2nd – early 3rd century CE material. In the same layer we found 22 scattered bronze coins, inv. nos. 72-74, 76-82, 84-87, 89, 91-95, 97 and 98. The date of this layer is very important because it proves activity in the area during this period, and therefore that its abandonment came after the early 3rd century CE. Perhaps the most interesting ceramics from this layer are the thin-walled ware cups with matte-painted decoration, which according to John Hayes belong to the later phases of production of this type of vessel. Whether these cups were local products (as the undecorated thin walled cups) or imported from elsewhere, when the local ceramic workshops would have ceased to function, has not been determined yet.

The floor, of a yellowish white color, is best preserved on the east side of the room but also along the four walls, which indicates that it was laid once all walls were built. Also, this year’s excavation showed that the east wall of the room (Wall 542), which is the same as the east wall of the north room (Wall 587), is not a later addition, as we had suspected last year. On the contrary, the north wall (Wall 1038) was built at a later date since it cuts Wall 542-587. The two-step staircase in the middle of the south side of the room is also of concern since its bottom step does not rest on the level of the floor but a bit higher. It is possible that the staircase was built at a later date, perhaps in the Late Roman period.

The space east of Wall 542 after excavating Contexts 601 and 602. The dump fill is visible under Walls 540 and 541

Having discovered the floor level in two rooms, to the north and south of Wall 1038, respectively, we continued the excavation in the bordering spaces towards the east, which is east of Walls 587-542 and south of the basin Context 580. By removing Context 597, which is a fill ca. 20 cm thick with material dating up to the 7th century CE, the eastern extension of Wall 1038 was exposed, 2.6 m long. Although the wall is in poor condition, it clearly divides the space into two parts which are differently stratified. The layer to the north of the wall (Context 601) contained many large tiles and pottery that dates up to the early 7th century CE. It is clearly a fill, perhaps the same as Context 597, which appears to continue below Wall 540 and the basin Context 580. If this holds, which we shall check next year, then we have a late 6th to early 7th century CE terminus post quem for the construction of the basin. Regardless, it is certain that the specific fill does not continue south of Wall 1038, given that Context 602 presented a different composition with material dated up to the second quarter of the 5th century CE. From the same context come 10 coins, inv. nos. 45-46, 52-57, 88 and 90. The layer rests on a yellowish clayey surface, the same as the one identified to the east of Wall 542, at the level of ca. 159 masl which is most likely the level of the floor of the building. The entrance to this space was probably from the east (along Wall 1118) but was blocked at a later date.

At the northeastern corner of the area, north of Wall 1127, we began by excavating the upper layers (Contexts 591 and 592), 70 cm thick, from which we recovered mixed pottery with the latest examples dating to the 7th century CE. By removing these layers we discovered the top of a wall (Wall 593), oriented north-south, of which the south end abuts Wall 1127. Wall 593, 0.63 m wide, was discovered over a length of 6.78 m. It is built with rubble, tiles, and mortar and a few spolia, which include ashlar blocks, a fragment of a Doric capital and of a Doric column drum. Near its south end, a space was cleared within the wall, 0.34 x 0.20 m, to hold a glass vessel. It is not clear yet whether this vessel, which dates to the 6th century CE based on comparanda, was placed there during construction of the wall, as some kind of foundation ritual, or later in order to be hidden. Wall 593 retained two distinct but adjacent fill layers to the west, one consisting mostly of rubble, occasionally of large size (Context 595), and the other of large tile fragments (Context 605). Numerous artifacts were recorded, the latest of which date from the middle of the 7th century CE, including more than 8,000 sherds weighing over 140 kg as well as several clay bars from the support system of the floor of ceramic kilns. Under these layers we encountered one more rubble fill layer (Context 612), 0.55 in average thickness, consisting of rubble, tiles, and a few, scattered ashlar blocks. From this thick fill, we retrieved 501 sherds (weighing 13+ kg) – the majority of which belongs to utility and cooking vessels dating as late as the 7th century CE, pieces of terracotta pipes, two cylindrical plinths from the support of a kiln, and seven more clay bars.

The glass vessel as found inside Wall 593 and before it was detached by the conservator Amalia Siatou.

Adjacent contexts 605 (in the foreground) and 595 (in the background) to the west of Wall 593, looking northwest.

Clay bars from Context 595.

We have yet to find traces of the northern continuation of Wall 1118, but the composition of the layers to the east of Wall 538 suggest that Wall 1118 did extend northwards and joined Wall 539 at a right angle. More specifically, Context 617, filled with large tile fragments and pottery dating up to the 5th century CE, is clearly defined by Wall 539 towards the south and the southern projection of Wall 1118 towards the east. Pieces from at least six amphorae, including one LRA 2, one LRA 4 from Syro-Palestine, one Agora M334 type also from Syro-Palestine, and two Medio-Romano Cretese type 2 from Crete were collected, as well as an almost complete stewpot. This stewpot is common in Sikyon and resembles examples from Corinth and Sparta. The amphora types illustrate the geographic breadth of Sikyonian contacts during that period. The layer where they were found extends northwards to the unexcavated area, which we plan to examine next year.

Context 612, looking southwest.

Context 617 full of large tile and amphora fragments, looking southeast.

The stewpot as found in Context 617.

The west side of the room with the cistern at the end of the season, looking west.

On the east side of the area, in the room with the cistern that we excavated in 2015, we continued the excavation of the west side of the room, between the staircase (Context 1119), Wall 1129, and Wall 1077, in order to find the original extent of the cistern before it was reduced to the southwestern corner of the room. In this trench (measuring 1.70 x 1.20 m) we had dug ca. 1 m deep without locating traces of the floor of the original cistern. The layers that we removed in 2015 (Contexts 1103, 1109, 1110, 1115, 1117, 1121) contained mixed pottery, the latest dating from the first half of the 5th century CE. This year we dug 40 cm deeper and came down on the brick-lined floor of the cistern. Its north wall, 0.50 m wide, was built of rubble, tile and mortar. Accordingly, the inner dimension of the cistern on the north-south axis is 1.1 m, while on the east-west axis it must have surpassed 3.7 m judging from the extent of the plaster, which is preserved on the inner side of its south wall (Wall 1089). In the layers that we dug this year down to the floor of the cistern (Contexts 1139-1141), we found mostly Early Roman pottery and two coins, inv. nos. 105 and 111. Similarly, excavation between the north wall of the cistern and the north wall of the room (Wall 1077) down to a level some 20 cm lower than the level of the floor of the cistern (Context 1142) yielded pottery dating as late as the 1st century CE.

Contexts 1608 and 1607, looking east.

In the southern sector of the excavated area, we focused on the southeastern corner, that is south of Wall 1525 and east of Wall 1561, where geophysical prospection suggested the presence of ceramic kilns. In the new trenches (Trench 3 and Trench 15) we began to expose two more ceramic kilns as well as the eastern continuation of the alley that passes south of Wall 1525. In the northern half of Trench 3, after the removal of the top soil (Context 1605) a destruction layer appeared (Context 1608), with big tile fragments covering the largest part of the alley, which likely come from the collapse of the roof of the building to the north of the alley. The collapse dates before the middle of the 7th century CE. A distinct layer along the line of Wall 1526 (Context 1607) contained mostly rubble stones. We had encountered similar layers in previous seasons along Wall 1526 (Contexts 1506 and 1543) and had interpreted them as remnants of the collapse of the rubble masonry of the later additions of Wall 1526. Two stones from a later phase of the wall were found in situ (Context 1560), and were removed after being photographed and drawn, so that we continue excavating deeper. The little pottery that was found in the soil below the stones dates from the late 1st to early 2nd century CE. That Wall 1526 with the ashlar blocks existed to the south of the alley is confirmed by its robbing trench that we identified this year, measuring ca. 1.42 x 0.50 m (Context 1616). The trench was filled with the black soil ca. 25 cm thick that covers the surface of the alley (Context 1615). The surface itself, that we had investigated further to the west in 2014 (Context 1551), consists of packed earth mixed with tile fragments and cobble. On this level we found two pieces a thin-walled cup of the first half of the 2nd century CE, undoubtedly product of the local workshops.

Southwards, Wall 1526 served as the north side of a rectangular enclosure, measuring 4.1 x 4.7 m. Under topsoil (Context 1605), we encountered a brownish layer (Context 1617), ca. 25 cm thick, with much pottery dating up to the first half of the 6th century CE. Among the 2,676 sherds, more than 250 examples belong to thin-walled cups. The layer under this (Context 1612), 30 to 35 cm in average thickness, was literally packed with sherds and tiles. We counted 12.996 sherds, of which 1,554 belong to thin-walled cups and 221 to round-mouth pitchers – both types were produced locally as last year’s excavation of the ceramic kiln had shown. In the same layer we found 78 wasters, of which 22 belong to thin-walled mugs. In addition, we recovered a few hundred fragments of terracotta pipes which must belong to the apparatus of ceramic kilns. None of these Early Roman vessels was found intact, which suggests that Context 1612 was a dump fill of the later 4th/early 5th century CE, done in order to level the area and raise ground level.

Context 1631, looking southeast.

Once Context 1612 was removed the outline of a key-shaped kiln came to light, built with tiles against the south face of Wall 1526. Its entrance faces west. Around the kiln we found a layer filled with tile fragments (Context 1631), which likely come from the collapse of the upper masonry of the kiln. The pottery found in the context was small in comparison to the contexts above (368 sherds), and dates mainly from the first half of the 2nd century CE. Here too, the thin-walled cups stand out with 89 examples, and we also had five clay bars. By excavating this context we revealed the top of the stones of Wall 1526, which we shall continue to uncover next year.

The trench to the east of Wall 1609 and south of Wall 1526 brought to light a square enclosure, measuring internally 4.6 x 4.6 m, which includes a large circular kiln with a cylindrical support at the center. The walls that surround it, 0.4 m wide, are built with ashlar blocks some of which are in reuse. The east side features an opening 1.5 m wide, which probably corresponds to the opening of the fire chamber of the kiln, which we shall verify next year by digging deeper strata. By removing the topsoil (Context 1606) we encountered a fill (Context 1614), ca. 24 cm thick, containing a large quantity of sherds and tiles dating up to the middle of the 7th century CE. We counted 4945 sherds, weighing a total of 47.2 kg. The thin-walled mugs were once again the largest group of the assemblage (742 examples and 15 wasters). Under this fill, and along the north side of the enclosure, we came upon a layer (Context 1621) with a few sherds (many belong to thin-walled mugs of the early 2nd century CE) but many tiles which likely come from the collapse of the walls of the kiln.

The ceramic kiln (Context 1624), of an outer diameter of 3.8 m and of an inner diameter of 2.7 m, has double walls, 0.5 m wide. Their outer face is built with rubble, tiles, and mortar whereas its inner face only with tiles and mud as bonding material. A stone buttress, 0.4 x 0.5 m, with two courses stands on the northwestern outer side. At the center of the kiln a circular pillar is preserved, 0.5 m in diameter, built with tile fragments. Given that the pillar supported the perforated floor of the kiln, we are at the level of the combustion chamber, just as in the case of the kiln excavated in 2015. The interior of the kiln is covered by a layer of tiles which most likely come from the collapse of the walls of the kilns and we shall remove next year. At the northwestern corner of the enclosure, between this and the kiln, we encountered a pottery deposit (Context 1611), ca. 50 cm thick, with big and small vases among which a complete one. Although not a closed context, most of the sherds date from the Early Roman period. Out of the 3752 sherds that we recorded in total, 742 belong to thin-walled mugs of boccalini a collarino type, 138 to round pitchers, and 45 to amphoras of Dressel 25 type. These shapes, together with the trefoil-mouth pitchers, the amphora stands, the stewpots with horizontal outturned rims, the thymiateria and the bowls with short, everted, horizontal rims, and deep grooves on the upper, exterior body just below the rim, were produced by local workshops from the late 1st up to the middle of the 2nd century CE.

The ceramic kiln as has been excavated until the end of the season, looking northeast).

A complete round-mouth pitcher as found in Context 1611.

On the east side of the trench, the excavation of the upper layers has brought to light parts of walls (Contexts 1628-1630) parallel and vertical to the east side of the kiln’s enclosure. Their excavation as well as the extension of the trench towards the east will continue next year.