Sikyon survey project

2004 season

Digitized map of the plateau with the squares covered during the 2004 season.

A major accomplishment of our first intensive survey season was the redefinition and refinement of our objectives and methods based on the day-to-day field experience. In order to test our methods against various conditions, and adjust our methodology accordingly, we decided to try all three areas of the plateau, starting from the periphery and moving towards the center. Overall we covered 348 squares, 126 in the upper, 174 in the northern and 48 in the southern plateau. The area covered equals approximately 124,000 m2 out of circa 180 hectares to be surveyed, which represents some 15%. Field data have been recorded onto the Access database, and the pottery that we have collected is stored in the new storage facilities in Vasiliko.

Although, the data and material are still being processed, some preliminary observations can be made. The UP area shows very low density of artifact scatter, which suggests that it was mainly used for agriculture and possibly pasturage. Here as in the other areas the number of tiles increased towards the edge of the plateau. Given the fact that the city-wall ran around the edge of the plateau, we can argue that the tiles, mostly of Lakonian type, come from the roofed gallery of the wall. In fact, one of the major discoveries of this year was the outline of a gate surrounded by hundreds of ancient tiles in UP3. This must be the western gate of Sikyon, located some 40 m south of where the present dirt road leaves the plateau in the direction of Titane. This gate is almost certainly the only ancient gate of Sikyon, out of seven that must have existed, which has escaped human-generated destruction in recent centuries.

The location of the west gate of Sikyon in the UP 3.2.

Ceramic distribution in the upper plateau (by density).

Ceramic distribution in the north plateau (by density).

Ceramic distribution in the south plateau (by density).

The sections covered in the northern and southern plateau showed high density of artifact scatter, occasionally exceeding 2000 sherds per square, proving that they are well within the inhabited area of the ancient city. Although a small section of the northern plateau was covered, and our data are skewed by the visibility variant, we seem to have clusters of high-density alternating with areas of low density. The picture which gradually emerges is one of houses not adjacent to each other but separated by empty spaces, presumably gardens. Fragments of pebble mosaic floors discovered here point to a rather wealthy district of the city. The southern plateau was the least covered during last year. Again, the tracts located closer to the edge, i.e. SP1 and SP2, yielded many conglomerate blocks and roof tiles from the wall of the city. An exceptional discovery in SP1 was the mouth of a rock-cut tunnel, which probably led to the Asopos valley. SP1 also yielded the outline of a long building oriented east-west. Another tract of this area revealed ample evidence of a ceramic workshop represented by 72 wasters and many deformed or over-fired clay products. The continuation of the survey here will help establish whether we are dealing with a large industrial quarter of the city.

Fragments of mosaic floor in the NP 8.1.

Part of a large in-situ building in SP 1.1.

From the pottery studied so far, it appears that the principal chronological phases are the Hellenistic and Roman. These are precisely the phases which are thinly represented in the Sikyonian countryside. Equally interesting is the paucity of signs of Late-Roman and Medieval activity, amply encountered in the chora. On the other hand, survey so far has focused on the perimeter of the urban area and it is possible that artifacts from these and other periods will emerge, as the survey moves towards the center of the plateau. In other words, further work is required in order to trace human presence and activity in the plateau through the ages and compare it to what was happening in the countryside. Nevertheless, our preliminary results are intriguing.

Interpretation maps of soil resistance and vertical magnetic gradient data.

Geophysical survey focused on the northwestern sector of the fenced archaeological area, that is south of the Roman baths and around the temple, and covered some 10,800 m2 of surface area. This area was covered by both resistivity and magnetic methods, while one square was surveyed with various soil resistivity techniques using the Multiplexer. A number of architectural features and even whole structures, hitherto entirely unknown, have been mapped. Although their interpretation requires further processing and fieldwork to cover a larger area, we can already distinguish two major architectural complexes: the eastern side of a large peristyle, ca. 62 m long, which includes a small temple-like structure, ca. 10x6 m and not located at the center of the courtyard. The extent of the rectangular peristyle towards the west is unknown because the area has not yet been examined. The width of the eastern stoa comes to 7-8 m, and the orientation of the complex along the cardinal points conforms to the orientation of the rest of the public monuments of the city. Given the location vis-a-vis the theater and the agora, it could represent the sanctuary of Dionysos or Artemis, both of which Pausanias saw as he was making his way to the agora from the theater. The second major discovery of this year's work is a three-aisled basilica, ca. 30x18 m, with an exterior and interior narthex. The church could either be of early-Christian date, like the church built over the ancient temple to the northwest of it, or of the Byzantine period given its relatively small dimensions. In addition, we seem to have traces of two stoa-like structures, to the east of the peristyle and to the north of the basilica respectively. The latter could represent the limits of the agora, which in Hellenistic and Roman times tend to be enclosed by stoas. Finally, an architectural feature revealed between this stoa-like structure and the basilica may belong to the altar of the ancient temple located less than 20 m to the west.

Quarry traces on the NW section of the ancient stadium.

Robbed foundation trench by the ancient gate to the NW of the upper plateau.

The geoarchaeologist completed identification of geological stratigraphy, structures, ancient quarries and erosional features over 80% of the upper and lower plateaus, as well as preliminary observations on springs at the northern edge of the plateau, adjacent to Vasiliko. The geological stratigraphy, which has been measured at key locations, comprises various conglomerate, sandstone, limestone and marl units of Pleistocene age, which have been deposited over thick Pliocene marls. Erosion, especially at the plateau edges, its impact on the planning and construction of the city-wall and other structures in antiquity, and the subsequent survival of these structures has been studied. Surviving traces of quarrying in different lithologies have been recorded prior to detailed later study, and observations on the properties of the stone and suitability for use in construction made. The upper and lower plateaus, which represent parts of marine terraces that may be traced along the northern coastal region of the Peloponnese (Keraudren and Sorel 1987), were identified as western extensions of those terraces on which Corinthian construction-stone resources are concentrated (Hayward 2003). These observations will have particular relevance to the distribution of construction-stone resources within the Sikyonian territory and comparison of resources within the Sikyonia and Corinthia (Hayward 2003). Throughout the plateau, seventeen quarried locations ranging from tens of m2 to complex areas of many hundreds of m2 were identified. Initial macroscopic observation of ancient monuments indicates that, apart from a small number of blocks of marble and crystalline limestone and possibly pure oolitic limestone, all blocks are most probably of local lithologies (conglomerate, sandstone, impure oolitic limestone). Regarding the reconstruction of the paleotopography of the site, which was the third objective of the geoarcheological investigation, it has been observed that the areas now occupied by the monuments of the ancient agora, the theater and the stadium are largely the result of human landscape modification, in particular quarrying. The general form of the topography in the area of the excavated archaeological site prior to human activities has now been established.