Sikyon Project

West Stoa

2019 season

Orthophoto of the west side of the agora of Sikyon after the completion of the 2017 excavation season.

The excavation of the new trench (Trench 18), measuring 9 x 9 m, lasted three weeks, from Monday, July 22nd to Saturday, August 10th. Anna Aslanoglou and Anastasia Paliatsi, archaeology degree holders from the University of Thessaly, supervised the four workmen of the excavation (Christos Mourikis, Angelos Bourantanis, Andreas Rotsios and Alekos Sarantavgas). We opened the new trench to the northwest of the agora, directly east of the rooms of a Hellenistic building that we have been excavating since 2016, in order to expose the entire width of the building, and to confirm its architectural type and investigate its chronology. Previous geophysical prospections, old excavation trenches, and aerial photos had led us to assume that we are dealing with a stoa of a north-south orientation, a façade to the east and a double series of rooms in the back (along its western side). This year’s excavation confirmed this hypothesis and provided us with precious evidence on the architecture of the stoa and its dates. We proceeded to a depth of ca. 1 m below ground level and encountered two distinct layers, the upper one of brown color and the lower one of reddish color and of more compact texture.

Orthorectified aerial photo of 1941 with inserted orthophotos of our excavated trenches of the years 2013 to 2017.

Orthophoto of Trench 18 with the numbers of its structures, after the completion of this year’s excavation.

The upper layers (Contexts 4508 and 4509) were found disturbed with pottery of different periods (Hellenistic through Late Roman) mixed with modern artifacts. By removing them we revealed the surface of two channels, one made of clay pipes and of eastern direction (Context 4511) and what is left of a second channel, made of Laconian pan-tiles, of a north-south orientation (Context 4524). The next layer (Context 4510), where we found among other many fragment of terracotta pipes, five coins (inv. nos. 3, 4, 12-14), a mold for a lamp type 31 (L 2019-001), and many iron nails, was also disturbed. After removing this layer, we exposed the surface of the upper course of Structure 4525 along the north side of the trench. In the lower layers (Contexts 4512, 4514, 4515, 4518-4520), 20 to 25 cm deep, Hellenistic pottery prevailed, although sherds of Roman and Late Roman periods were also present. Of the fine wares, kantharoi, echinus bowls and the characteristic Sikyonian cups stand out, whereas among our coarse wares we had a few fragments of Sikyonian amphoras. Twelve coins were also found in these layers (no. 5, 6, 8-11, 15-20), that are still under conservation.

Undoubtedly our largest gain from excavating Trench 18 was the discovery of the foundation courses of the northeast angle of the stoa and the establishment of their relation to the walls of the rooms that we had exposed in previous seasons. The foundations along the north side (Context 4525) are 8.5 m long, and preserve two courses made of ashlar blocks. The blocks of the lower course, which is manifestly the foundation course, are placed as headers (crosswise). They are sizable blocks, 1.3 to 1.5 m long and 0.6 to 0.7 m wide. The upper course is made of two adjoining rows of ashlars, 0.7 to 0.8 m wide, 0.30 m deep, and of varied length (from 0.7 to 1.6 m). This course is preserved over a length of 3.6 m; the rest (over a length of 4.8 m) must have been removed since ancient times given that in the layer that covered them no robbing trench was identified. The tight joint among these blocks was succeeded by anathyrosis of their vertical sides.

The foundation courses (Context 4525) of the north side of the stoa, looking west.

The foundation courses (Context 4525) of the north side of the stoa, looking east.

In order to investigate the structural relation of this foundation to Walls 3045 and 4503 that we had brought to light in previous seasons, we dug a small extension of Trench 18 at its northwest corner, 3.5 x 1.5 m. In the layers that we dug here (Contexts 4516 and 4517) we found mostly Hellenistic pottery with relatively few later sherds along with one coin (inv. no. 7). We confirmed that walls 3044, 4525 and 4503 belong indeed to the same building and, therefore, that the courses from Wall 4525 are the foundation of the north side of the portico of this building.

The small extension of Trench 18 after the completion of the excavation, looking south.

The foundation of the northernmost section of the east side of the stoa, which was the side facing the agora, was exposed to an overall length of 6.9 m in a north-south orientation. It is not straight but in its southern section it turns at a right angle towards the west in order to continue in a southern direction. The north section of the foundation (Context 4521), 5 m long, consists of ashlar blocks 0.85 m wide and of varied length (0.67 to 1.24 m). The recess is 1.2 m long whereas the width of the south section of the foundation (Context 4523), exposed over a length of 2.1 m, is 1.32 m. Exactly parallel to this foundation but at a higher level a small segment of a drain channel is preserved (Context 4524), 1.7 m long, consisting of Laconian pan-tiles, 0.33 m wide. In the last exposed section of the drain towards the south the tile lies on a stone slab. The segment that we have discovered is too small and fragmentary to allow safe conclusions, but its orientation and position show that it may be related to the west stoa. Obviously such a hypothesis can only be checked if the drain is discovered in other spots along the façade of the stoa, in a zone that is still undug.

The foundation of the northernmost section of the façade of the stoa, looking south.

The foundation of the northernmost section of the façade of the stoa, looking north.

The drain channel (Context 4524), looking east.

Archival photo of Orlandos’ excavation trench looking north.

On the contrary, and thanks to a trial trench dug by A. Orlandos in 1938 and briefly mentioned in the Praktika for that year, we were able to follow the continuation of the stoa towards the south and to measure its entire length along the façade of the stoa. Orlandos’ trench had uncovered the foundation of the stylobate of the stoa over a length of 25 m all the way to its southern end. Orlandos characteristically reports a “projecting wing” at the southern end of the stoa and a semi-circular exedra in the middle. After eight decades, Orlandos’ trench was partially covered though its imprint was still clear. After a surface cleaning, we re-exposed the foundation of the stylobate as well as the foundation of the exedra and small sections of partition walls of the stoa that were hardly visible before. The foundation of the stylobate is the continuation towards the south of Structure 4523 that we revealed in Trench 18. It consists of two rows of adjoining ashlar blocks, 1 m in average length and 1.3 to 1.4 m wide. At its southern end the foundation forms indeed a wing, projecting by 1.5 m, and with a 6.8 m long façade. It corresponds to the north wing but with slightly different dimensions, as the north wing project by 1.3 m and the length of its façade is 6.1 m. The foundation of the curvilinear exedra, consists of three rows of adjoining blocks some of which are in secondary use.

Thus, thanks to our excavations in the northern part of our stoa and the surface cleaning of the old trench in its southern part we secured the north, south and east sides of the building while we consider Wall 3066, that we exposed under the external, eastern wall of the later pi-shaped building, to be the west side of the stoa. The overall length of the stoa, which we now designate as "west stoa", comes to ca. 43 m and its width to ca. 21.5 m, it corresponds that is to ca. 140 x 70 feet. Cross-wise the stoa was tripartite, with two series of rooms along its back (western) side, and with a Doric colonnade along its front. At its northern and southern ends the stoa had two projecting winds, in other words it belonged to the known (although not so common) type of stoa with wings. The foundation of the front of the two wings is 0.86 (north wing) and 0.95 m (south wing) wide, i.e., less than the width of the foundation between the wings (1.32 m) but wide enough to support columns at the level of the stylobate. The question is if the colonnade turned along the short sides of the stoa or if it just ran along the façade. The small width of the foundation of the southern side of the south wing, just 0.60 m, excludes the presence of columns on this side. On the contrary, the large width (1.5 m) of the foundation of the north side of the north wing (Context 4525) justifies the presence of columns. It is therefore possible that this side supported a monumental entrance to the stoa with columns, and perhaps with a small staircase from the level of the central road of the city that led to the theater.

The southern part of the west stoa of the agora of Sikyon after its surface cleaning, looking north.

The foundation of the curvilinear exedra in the central room of the stoa, looking north.

Orthophoto of the west stoa of the agora of Sikyon.

The West Stoa does not seem to have had an inner colonnade, as for example the south stoa of the agora of Sikyon, given that in its excavated section no trace of a stylobate foundation has come up. Apparently the width of ca. 6 m did not require the existence of an inner support. Exactly at the center of the building a curvilinear exedra was arranged, ca. 7 m in diameter, most likely for the placement of statues. Careful examination of the contact of the blocks of the foundation of the exedra to the south wall of its room reveals that the exedra was designed from the start, namely that it is not a later addition.

The west stoa of the agora with the gymnasium in the background (looking south).

The identification of the use or uses of the stoa is difficult given that it is preserved at foundation level. If we assume that the material from the filling of the well (Context 3118) that was found in one of its north rooms comes from the stoa, then we can argue that it had mainly a commercial purpose. Its precise chronology is also difficult. During this year’s excavation we did not recognize any foundation trench, and the one that we had located in 2016 (Context 3125) in relation to the north wall (Context 3045) of the rooms of the stoa yielded just three sherds, broadly dated to the Hellenistic period. The Hellenistic and especially the Early Hellenistic sherds seem to predominate in the lower layers of this year’s trench (Contexts 4514-4520) although in all layers we also encountered later pottery due to the disturbance of the Hellenistic horizons in Roman and Late Roman periods. From a typological point of view the stoa with the two slightly projecting wings belongs more to the Early rather than the Late Hellenistic period. In addition, the fact that the east side of the stoa aligns with the east side of the gymnasium, and that these two monuments together defined the west side of the agora of the city allow us to suggest that they were part of a common building program of the first half of the 3rd century BCE. Part of the same building program were the temple of Apollo, the bouleuterion and the South Stoa so that along with the theater and the stadium to the northwest of the agora all basic functions of the civic center were fulfilled, namely political, religious, commercial, and educational.

The stoa seems to have been abandoned during the 1st century BCE given that the material found in the well (Context 3118) dates for the most part to the second half of that century. Perhaps the demolition of the building started then or a little later in order to make room for the pi-shaped building. That our stoa was taken apart in the Roman rather than in the Late Roman, or in even later period, is suggested by the presence of the water channel (Context 4511) at the level of the foundation of the stoa. The channel is directed eastwards with a rather steep inclination, almost 4%, and includes three sections: the first, westernmost section, 1.5 m long, is open and made of tile fragments and small stone slabs placed on their short side and tapering upwards. This section leads to a settling basin made of clay. The upper diameter of the basin is 0.35 m but widens towards the bottom while its depth is certainly more than 0.40 m. To the east of the basin the channel continues as a cylindrical terracotta pipe, 0.10 m in diameter, with the usual indentations for the joining of the separate sections. Each section has an average length of 0.55 m and its junction to the next was sealed with clay mortar in order to absorb any leakage. For the backing of the channel earth and occasionally fragments of large vessels were used, that unfortunately cannot be dated very closely. As a result the channel cannot be accurately dated within the Roman period, but it is certain that when it was built the west stoa of the agora had been abandoned and at least part of it stripped down to foundation levels. The destination, same as the provenance, of the water channel are also unknown, given that we did not encounter it in the course of the excavation of the rooms of the West Stoa. One possibility is that it brought water to one of the two Roman baths of the city, directly north and east of the agora respectively.

Orthophoto of the northwestern side of the agora with the excavated monuments.

The water channel (Context 4511), looking east.