Sikyon Project

Small temple to the west of the agora

2014 season

Plan of the third trench to the north of the palaestra.

Excavation in this area targeted a temple-like structure which had been detected thanks to the geophysical survey. To this purpose a trench was opened to the north of the palaestra (our “third trench”), 10 x 15 m, so that it includes the entire structure. After the removal of the topsoil (Context 2500), thicker on the western than on the eastern side of the trench, we proceeded by sectioning a 5 x 5 m square at the southeastern corner of the trench. By excavating two layers (Contexts 2501 and 2502), that we identified as successive natural fills resulting from the erosion of the acropolis slope, and which contained very little cultural material, we exposed the upper surface of an in situ stone block. Subsequently we decided to carry on with the excavation of the remaining trench down to the bottom of Context 2502 assisted by a small bobcat. During the removal of this layer (Context 2503), which is also due to natural fill, the top surface of the south wall of the temple (Context 2511) as well as the western wall of the cella (Context 2508) were revealed. The limited amount of pottery recovered from this layer dates mostly to the Hellenistic period but was found mixed with later material of the Roman and late-Roman periods. Layers 2504 to 2507 seem to be separate deposits along the western side of the trench with ceramic material dating from the Classical to the Roman period. Layers 2506 and 2507 stand out on account of the small stones and tile fragments that they contained same as the underlying Contexts 2512 and 2517 to 2519. By digging out Contexts 2507, 2528, and 2536 at the southwestern corner of the trench the bedrock was exposed with signs of dressing, manifestly for the foundation of the temple. Removal of Context 2512 exposed the western wall of the temple (Context 2525). From the lower strata at the southwestern corner of the trench (Contexts 2528, 2536, 2542) we recovered 10 coins that have not been cleaned yet and some Hellenistic pottery along with a few Classical period sherds (dating mostly from the 4th century). Further to the east, between the south wall of the temple (Context 2511) and the south side of the trench the layers (Contexts 2530 and 2537) yielded mostly Hellenistic pottery, mixed with a few earlier (Classical) and later (Roman) sherds.

The third trench, looking northwest.

The temple from the northeast.

The west side of the temple and the exposed bedrock in the background, looking south.

At the northwestern side of the trench, we observed a thin layer (Context 2520), 10 cm thick, which we interpreted as a fill of a possible robbing trench (Context 2521) of the foundations of the temple in this area. Signs of disturbance of the archaeological horizons were also detected in lower levels: Context 2529 at the northwestern corner of the trench, same as the underlying Context 2538, contained relatively abundant Hellenistic pottery together with a few sherds of the Roman period. Context 2513 situated between the Wall 2525 and the western Wall of the cella (Context 2508) contained stone chips but hardly any pottery and is possibly related to debris from the construction or remodeling of the building. Pottery is mostly Hellenistic but in the same layer we also found a few Early Roman sherds. The excavation of the underlying layer (Context 2543) has not been completed and will continue next season. The northernmost stone of Wall 2508 is missing, and in the fill of the robbing trench that we identified (Context 2534) we found Late Roman pottery along with a few earlier sherds which may indicate that the stone was taken out during that period.

To the east of Wall 2508 the Layer 2527 contained mixed Hellenistic and Roman pottery, but in the layer underneath it (Context 2539) the number of finds was negligible. Once Layer 2539 was removed two segments of a cross-wall came to light (Walls 2544 and 2545) under Wall 2508. They obviously belong to the original, western wall of the cella. The eastern wall of the cella was also discovered in two segments (Walls 2515 and 2516) following the excavation of Contexts 2531 and 2533. The upper layer (Context 2531) contained pottery similar to that found in Context 2527 in the western part of the cella. However, the lower layer (Context 2533) yielded abundant pottery, mostly Hellenistic but also some of later periods (down to the late-Roman), in contrast to Context 2539 in the western part of the cella where we found hardly any sherds.

The cella of the temple, looking south.

The east side of the temple, looking south.

Context 2540, between the eastern wall of the temple (Context 2510) and the eastern edge of the trench, which is the equivalent of Context 2537 along the southern side of the trench, is natural fill with mostly Hellenistic pottery mixed with some Roman and Late Roman examples. The corresponding layer along the northern side of the trench is Context 2541, which extends southwards to the north wall of the temple (Context 2509).

Masons΄ marks on the foundation blocks of the temple.

The overall thickness of the layers that we excavated this season ranges on account of the surface slope between 1.2 m at the southwestern corner to 0.5+ m at the northeastern corner of the trench. The building that came to light is tripartite measuring 11.8 m on the east-west and 6.8 m on the north-south axis. Until now we have identified three phases: to the first phase belong Walls 2525, 2509, 2510, 2511, 2514, 2515, 2516, 2544 and 2545. The first four most likely belong to the euthenteria of the temple and consist of limestone blocks, 0.9 to 1 m of average length and 0.7 to 0.8 m of average width. The stones of the west wall of the sekos have similar dimensions, but the east wall (Context 2515 and 2516) is narrower, with stones 0.4 m wide. Many stones bear clear signs of the use of the flat chisel. Eleven stones of the exterior foundations of the temple have masons marks in the form of letters among which we can make out A, B, Γ, Δ, Ε, Θ, and I. Their alphabetic sequence confirms that the stones are in their original position. On the contrary, on the stones that define the eastern and western wall of the sekos no such marks are readily visible. In addition, many stones have pry marks on their upper surface for the positioning of the next course. This course seems to be preserved near the southwestern corner of the building and over a length of just 2.8 m (Context 2514). It consists of three blocks, 0.55 m wide, with a horizontal cutting on their underside.

The dating of the erection of the temple cannot be confirmed at this point because no foundation trenches have been discovered thus far. The earliest pottery recovered this year dates from the 4th century, while Early Hellenistic pottery is relatively abundant. The possibility the temple to have been erected during that period agrees with the form of the letters on the stones of the foundations which certainly date after the Archaic times and before the Roman era.

The west side of the temple, looking northwest.

Later modifications date from the Early Roman and Late Roman times based on the ceramic material found in the foundations trenches of the northwestern corner of the building (Context 2520) and the northern end of Wall 2508 (Context 2534) as well as in the layers that we dug inside and outside the temple. Because of these disturbances we did not find closed deposits, a layer of destruction or abandonment of the temple, nor floors. Based on the evidence now available it seems that the temple was demolished for unknown reasons in Early Roman times and that at least its western side was reused with the construction of Wall 2508 which sits on the earlier foundations, Contexts 2544 and 2545. In fact the stones of this later wall most likely come from the foundation of the temple itself as suggested by their dimensions, their roughly treated lower part and the pry marks on their upper surface, as well by the fact the overall length of the part of the foundation that was taken out (from the southeastern corner of the building and from the middle of the western wall of the sekos) coincides with the length of this new wall (2508). The northernmost stone of this wall was removed in later Roman times perhaps along with other such stones. This dilapidating phase seems to be the third and last phase in the history of this building.

Judging from the plan of the structure, there should be little doubt that we are dealing with a temple, but beyond this many questions are left open: when was it built? What was its orientation? The position of the sekos is rather certain but from the two spaces on both sides which was the pronaos and which the opisthodomos? What was the deity worshipped here? Why was it destroyed and when? We hope that by continuing the excavation we should be able to answer some of these questions.