Excavation of a temple at 'Soros'

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Excavation period 2007

From the 9th – 27th July 2007 the IAKA Department conducted a fourth excavation season in the suburban sanctuary of Apollo at Soros (ancient Amphanes or Pagases). The excavation project is conducted in collaboration with the 13th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities.

The research team is constituted by:
- Dr. Alexander Mazarakis Ainian (Director), Professor of Classical Archaeology of the IAKA Department (University of Thessaly).
- Dr. Iphigenia Leventi (Co-director), Assistant Professor of Classical Archaeology of the IAKA Department (University of Thessaly).
- Dr. Alexander Gounaris (Architect), Instructor of the IAKA Department; Architect at the 2nd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and the Laboratory of Archaeology of the IAKA Department.
- G. Vitos, M. Panagou, Chr. Koukoulidou, Postgraduate students (University of Thessaly and Athens) and Mrs K.Tzavellopoulou (Academy of Athens).
- Approximately 30 undergraduate archaeology students of the IAKA Department (University of Thessaly).

This season work concentrated in the following areas:

North (squares A-D5), NE (squares E-ΣΤ5) and W (squares A3-5) areas outside the Temple.

Work focused in a strip 2m in width, along the N, NE and W wall of the temple. The destruction level of the ancient building was removed down to the bed rock. Underneath the layer of the scattered stones, which belongs to the superstructure of the temple, and in between the destruction level, numerous roof tiles were revealed, including antefixes decorated in relief (one type representing a horseman, the other a palmette). Near the temple's NE corner a flimsy stone construction came to light. The construction abuts the temple's wall transversally; at this state, however, it is impossible to define the exact form and function of this structure.

Square Β3, trench 1 (west of Room Δ).

Click to enlarge
View of the temple from the West.

A trench was opened at the SW corner of Room Δ, in order to investigate whether the fill found within the room extended also outside. An extended destruction layer composed of stones and tiles of Lakonian type was first encountered. This assemblage is associated with the destruction of the cella of the temple. Underneath this, there was a thick layer of mixed pottery fragments, bronze jewellery and other small artefacts dated from the Late Archaic to the Late Classical periods. This season's research confirmed that this is an extended equalizing fill related to the construction of the rectangular Room Δ. Work revealed the westward continuation of the stone "bench" or "cists", which belong to the sanctuary's first phase (this is a long stone construction formed by rectangular stones set in an upright position, supporting horizontal slabs). It is clear now that at some point, possibly just before the abandonment of the sanctuary, the area was filled with earth which contained artefacts originating from the interior of the temple and its surroundings. It is likely that around the same time the sculptures and the inscribed bases were deposited in the porch (including the Panathenaic amphora – all these were found in 1973). From this moment onwards, access to the interior must have been possible only through the side entrance in the middle of N wall.


Research also focused in certain grid squares (Squares Z2-5, H2-5, Θ2-3, Θ5-6), in the area east of the temple.

Click to enlarge
View of the peribolos of the temple, from the North.

Wall T15 and stepped entrance

In 2006, at a distance of ca 10 metres to the East of the temple's porch, a wall of N-S orientation was uncovered (T15). This wall was provisionally interpreted as a part of the sanctuary's temenos wall. During this season, T15 was uncovered to a total length of ca. 30 metres. Its outside face (East) is well dressed, while the interior (West) face is more carelessly constructed, suggesting that it served as a retaining wall (see intense W-E hill declination and existence of stone-chips as an equalizing rubble in the interior W side of the wall). Of this wall 4 layers of stone blocks -in places 5- are preserved. On the upper part smaller stones were used, whilst at the lowest level larger blocks were used. The wall rests on the bed rock. In the middle of T15, a rectangular stepped structure (2,00x2,60m) was uncovered during the excavation of 2006. The finds collected during the removal of T15's layer of abandonment were few and non diagnostic.

Monumental structure T16

Structure T16 was partly investigated in 2006. Work continued here in 2007. The absence of traces of fire, ashes and animal bones suggests that this could not have been an altar, as we originally suspected. The structure is poorly preserved and the finds associated with it were few and mostly non diagnostic. It extends to a great length (at least 20 metres have been uncovered) and its width attains approximately 2,50-3,00 metres. It is not clear whether this is the substructure of a road connecting the sanctuary to the adjacent settlement, or whether it represents an enclosure wall, badly preserved. To the South, within squares Z2/H2, the structure seems to be interrupted. The accumulation of pottery there suggests that this may be the extremity of the structure. The presence of a vertically placed stone raises questions as it gives the impression of an opening. In order to answer this question we need to investigate Square Z1 and to verify whether T16 continues further towards the South. At this point, the presence of an opening here cannot be excluded.

Unfortunately, although a great part of T16 was uncovered, this season's work did not reveal its exact form and function. A possible explanation is that T16 forms part of the circuit system surrounding the settlement. Indeed, T16 lies just on the projection of a wide section of wall which was apparently destroyed several decades ago, during the opening of the nearby rural road. The construction of this section of wall (two faces and an "emplekton" fill in between) is similar to T16 and enhances the above assumption. The negligently constructed structure is justified by the fact that T16 represents its lowest substratum. At this stage of research we should not exclude however that this could have been a paved road leading from the settlement to the sanctuary.

Rectangular Construction T18, NE of the Temple

At a distance of ca. 50 metres N of the NE corner of the temple a rectangular construction, measuring 1,51x0,57 metres was cleared. The present state of it leads to the assumption that it has been excavated earlier (in 1973 or perhaps by illegal diggers earlier?). It is constructed by four rectangular boulders, 0,60 metres in height, set vertically, and it rests upon the natural bed rock. Its function remains enigmatic due to the lack of movable finds, with the exception of a lamp fragment dated to the Late Classical period.

Cella (Room A)

A small additional investigation was conducted in the interior of the temple, at its western extremity. Work focused in the removal of the floor of trodden earth, with the aim of reaching the bed rock. Some of the rock cavities that came to light, seem to be artificial. All cavities were recorded and drawn.


Click to enlarge
The 2007 excavation team.

The majority of this season's movable finds were conserved. Alongside, the study of the finds of 1973 and of the 2004-2006 excavation seasons was continued.

The excavation was funded by the Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology (IAKA) of the University of Thessaly. The students' expenses were covered by the EPEAEK European Community programme of students' practical training, whilst several of the postgraduate students and the senior collaborators offered voluntary work. The research group was transported to and from the excavation area by the university coach.

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