Dr. Archie Dunn
The fourth season of the survey of Ancient (pre-Classical to Late Roman) Thisve and its successor, Byzantino-Frankish Kastorion, located at modern Thisve, now in the “Demos of Thisve” (until recently, Demos of Domvraina), lasted from August 25th to September 16th. This is the second year of collaboration with the 23rd Ephoreia of Byzantine Antiquities (EBA), with whose director, Dr E. Gerousi, there is a formal agreement. But, since this is a multi-period complex, we continue to work with the 9th Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities (EPKA), directed by Professor V. Aravantinos. The 9th EPKA has contributed to the targeted cleaning programme which facilitates the topographical and architectural surveys, photography, and descriptions of features. We report specific Pre-Classical-to-Roman discoveries to the EPKA and relevant outputs (e.g., distribution maps and plans) are shared with them too. We have invited the EPKA to contribute to the publication of this survey by taking responsibility for one or some of the features that are its long-term responsibility (the Pre-classical, Classical, and Hellenistic, phases of fortifications, urban and rural (newly discovered), or the ancient dam-cum-causeway). We are holding parallel discussions with the EBA (with regard to dispersed elements of Byzantine architectural sculpture, and to post-Byzantine monumental wine-fermentation vats which we have recorded).
This year’s cleaning programme, and co-ordination with the Demos, the Limenarkheion, and with the management of the Industrial Zone of Thisve (within whose perimeter it was necessary to work) were organised by Dr N. Kontogiannis and Dr M. Skordara of the EBA. All these organisations demonstrated their concern for the antiquities of the area in numerous practical ways. Dr A. Dunn was assisted this season by Mr K. Colls (Archaeological Officer, Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit: GPS operator), Mr C. Mavromatis (Birmingham University, Ph.D candidate: EDM operator), and Ms C. Sturdy (Birmingham University, Ph.D candidate: assistant to Colls and Mavromatis). Dunn also worked with Colls and Mavromatis. We were joined this year by Dr Timothy Van der Schriek (Newcastle University): see (D) below.
In 2008, besides descriptions and photography of features (Study), the British team engaged in an agreed programme of complementary topographical and architectural survey in its capacity as a group working in collaboration with the Greek Archaeological Service.
The agreed complementary activities had several aspects:
(A) TOPOGRAPHICAL SURVEY
A GPS unit was used to create a digital elevation model of the entire observable urban site, both intramural and extramural. This survey included a relatively higher-resolution mapping of the archaeologically dense Upper and Lower Acropoles, and lower-resolution mapping of the modern village which occupies the space between these two complexes. In the village the contour survey had to follow the streets and paths, but it was also the opportunity to plot the footprints of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine monuments planned and/or laser-scanned in 2006 to 2007. This exercise enables the accurate integration of ground plans and architectural models into the digital elevation model (DEM). The DEM of the Upper Acropolis (“Palaiokastro”) has created a volumetric survey of the upstanding fortifications, thus complementing the ground plans (Fig.1) made in 2007 (when it proved impractical to record these fortifications using the three-dimensional laser-scanner, owing to the steepness of slopes and the instability of the ground). Five phases of construction were identified.
The traces of a wall with an original phase of monumental (trapezoidal) masonry, which were found on the last day of 2007’s season, and roughly perpendicular to the northern curtain wall of the Upper Acropolis, were found, on closer inspection, to belong to a set of roughly parallel “long walls” descending the northern side of “Palaiokastro”. They have been almost destroyed, but there is also evidence of a later lime-mortar bonded phase, which is probably Early Byzantine like the principal post-Roman phase of the Upper Acropolis. These discoveries were surveyed using the GPS. Only another geophysical survey could efficiently establish the extent of this interesting feature. The GPS survey of the Upper Acropolis has not yet been integrated with the EDM survey.
Fig.1: Archaeological topography of Ancient Thisve/Byzantino-Frankish Kastorion (the urban survey)
In both the intramural and extramural areas where monuments were recorded in 2006-2007 the GPS and an EDM were used to carry out other activities.
(ii) Contour surveys of the contexts of three other sites of extramural churches laser-scanned in 2006-2007 were made using the GPS: Locus 1 next to the Pighi tou Golemati (once domed, with three apses and narthex), Agios Vlasios (Locus 2, single-aisled), and Agios Konstantinos (Locus 16, single-aisled). But the EDM was used to create the contour survey of the exposed terrain surrounding the monumental multi-phase church of Agios Loukas because tree-cover here interfered with signal-reception by the GPS (Figure 2).
(iii) Revised distribution maps of Thisve village’s Early Modern productive installations were made. The position of an eighth monumental wine fermentation vat was recorded. These are now plotted on our 1:5000 base map. Additional Early Modern threshing floors were identified on the western and eastern edges of the village where such floors were recorded in previous seasons. Uncontrolled modern refuse-dumping in both areas makes them hard to discern. These too are now plotted on our 1:5000 base map. The sizes and number of threshing floors, and the number and volumes of wine fermentation vats (volumes recorded using the 3-dimensional laser-scanner) will be valuable reference points for the discussion of the pre-mechanised pre-intensive era of agriculture in ancient (and medieval) Thisve’s enclosed Basin. At least 15 cobbled threshing floors are now identifiable. Their visible distribution, at the two locations, suggests that several more are now buried. We are clearly dealing with sites of controlled surplus-extraction.
(iv) The GPS was used to create a DEM of the site associated with medieval Kastorion’s probable principal locus of maritime traffic, Agios Ioannis (the Ioannou/Ioannitzin identified by Dunn in sources of the 10th-18th centuries). The positions of a monumental free-standing Early Modern cistern, of a Classical or Hellenistic watchtower, of an Early Modern dry-stone embanked road and of natural hollow ways (shallow channels in the exposed karstic bedrock) that connect Agios Ioannis with Thisve-Kastorion, were recorded.
(v) The EDM was used to survey or re-survey all spolia-built features within the Lower Acropolis. This was in practice a survey of apparently isolated orthostates whose distribution reveals a pattern of post-Roman structures interpretable as key elements (e.g. jambs and corners) of single-storey buildings that would have been mostly composed of mudbrick and/or drystone. Although the bedrock of the Lower Acropolis is now almost everywhere exposed, the Ohio State University’s intensive artefact survey of it was quite productive, and so hopefully will illuminate the spolia-built phase, or phases, of occupation. Their preliminary reports refer to diagnostic medieval sherds on the Lower Acropolis.
(B) REGISTRATION OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL FEATURES
Locus 82: the free-standing Early Modern cistern at Agios Ioannis. This is an instructive example of construction in an entirely medieval tradition, and, like the threshing floors and wine fermentation vats that we reported in 2006 and 2007, will inform the discussion of scales of economic activity in the pre-industrial era around the plain and harbours of Thisve-Kastorion.
Locus 83: the eighth preserved monumental wine fermentation vat, situated between the Middle Byzantine church of Agia Triada (Fig.1, Locus 14) and the western wall of ancient Thisve. One example of these was recorded internally and externally using the three-dimensional laser-scanned in 2006.
Locus 84: remains of a Classical or Hellenistic watchtower of ashlar construction founded upon worked bedrock platforms, reported (without any descriptions) by Early Modern travellers. It overlooks both the harbour of Agios Ioannis and another of Thisve-Kastorion’s four archaeologically documented loci of maritime traffic, that of “Nousa”. Nousa, now inside modern Thisve’s Industial Zone, was reported by Professor Timothy Gregory’s Thisve Basin Survey.
As noted above, traces of additional monumental threshing floors were identified and planned within the complexes where recording took place in 2006-2007. These complexes are disappearing under modern debris.
(C) ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Removal of vegetation by the Ephoreia at Locus 1 revealed the third (northeastern) apse of this Middle Byzantine church. This was captured using the GPS when the micro-contour survey was made. The GPS survey needs to be integrated with the EDM survey.
At Agios Loukas, cleaning of vegetation partially revealed two massive ancient ashlars in situ which would have, in some way, been incorporated into the otherwise obscured northeastern edge of the church. These are now planned, but are not yet integrated into submitted plans of the Agios Loukas complex. Importantly for the plan of ancient Thisve, they may well be fragments of the otherwise lost northeastern sector of the city walls. The northern wall of the parekklesion of Agios Loukas – its masonry predominantly consisting of Hellenistic or Roman architectural spolia re-used as orthostates – was this year recorded again (Fig.2).
All visible fragments of a dam-cum-causeway, which extends from the urban site into the plain of Thisve over a distance of (potentially) two kilometres, were recorded. Both the GPS and EDM had to be used since tree-cover affected the accuracy of the former in places. This monument is described by Strabo (1st century AD) and Pausanias (2nd century AD), as well as by Early Modern travellers and by twentieth-century archaeologists, but has never been recorded. Both travellers and archaeologists thought that they saw a “medieval” phase, which, disappointingly however, is not apparent today at modern ground level, from which no more than two courses of masonry protrude. Their “medieval” phase or phases in fact consist of (1) unbonded water-worn boulders used to create undateable terraces or boundaries founded upon sections of the dam, and (2) 19th- or 20th-century reconstruction, in new lime mortar-bonded stonework, of a new causeway for a road almost, but not quite, parallel to the ancient dam-cum-causeway. The preserved masonry is very similar to that of one phase of the Upper Acropolis, which combines polygonal and rectangular dressed fronts with rough, sometimes tapering, cores, around which stone chips and/or clay would have been packed. Elevations have not yet been taken along the parts surveyed using the EDM. The width of this feature is not yet clear, but the integration of the two surveys (i.e. with EDM and GPS) should indicate this approximately. Whatever its width, it must have functioned as a causeway crossing the plain in the direction of the ancient harbours during the annual floods described by Strabo and Pausanias. The exploration of its other functions is the principal aim of the palaeo-environmental survey (for which see below). The complementary GPS and EDM surveys of different stretches of this feature have yet to be integrated.
At the harbour of Agios Ioannis, the ancient watchtower, robbed either to its lowest course of masonry or to the bedrock platform, was planned using the EDM. On one side (the western) is a rough projecting platform of bedrock defined by blocks of undressed limestone. The monument and its immediate context were also recorded with the GPS. A software package such as Viewshed will be used to demonstrate the extent to which, from its platform, basing its height upon those of central Greece’s numerous fully preserved ancient watchtowers, this tower could have controlled visually all of Thisve’s loci of maritime traffic.
Also at Agios Ioannis, the monumental Early Modern cistern was planned using the EDM, but its internal measurements have yet to be calculated.
OTHER ASPECTS OF THE PROJECT
(D) THE PALAEO-ENVIRONMENTAL COMPONENT
Aspects of the reconstruction of the environmental history of the Plain of Thisve, which should improve our understanding of the complex trrajectory of Thisve -Kastorion, have been conducted so far under the aegis of the Greek Centre for Marine Research, Anavyssos, Attica, in collaboration with Dr Khrestos Anagnostou (of that institute and the University of the Aegean) and Dr Margaret Atherden (University of York St John, England). Activity this season was curtailed by the misplacement, by the University of Birmingham’s Finance Office, of an approved application for funds, at the point where it assumed responsibility for the paperwork, until the appropriate deadline had passed. Logically, this activity will be resumed and completed however. The director of this activity will henceforward be Dr T. Van der Schriek of the Department of Geography, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a Mediterranean geomorphologist, who, during the 2008 season, examined with us the plain, its ancient riverbed (the ancient Termessos), and relevant aspects of its ancient-to-early modern archaeology, namely the archaeology of water-management (three monuments: the ancient dam-cum-causeway; a multi-period dam at the eastern end of the Plain, reported in 1992, which has Pre-classical-to-Classical polygonal masonry protruding from modern ground level; and the great post-medieval spring-fed aqueduct which once served the western end of the Plain).
We are seeking permission from the Greek Institute for Geological and Mineralogical Research to resume and complete the sedimentological study begun by Dr Anagnostou. With its consent we will collaborate with Dr Atherden (palynologist) and environmentalists in Birmingham University’s Field Archaeology Unit. Dr Anagnostou retains responsibility for the sedimentology of the Basin while Van der Schriek studies its wider geomporphology, including hydrology, and co-ordinates the work of Atherden (her ongoing vegetational survey, which characterises the vegetational environment of Thisve’s clearly defined hinterland, and prepares for its comparison with fossil pollen records), and of a new pollen-coringprogramme (our first coring programme having been unproductive). We hope to fill the current post-Roman lacuna in the region’s diachronic pollen profile for a number of reasons (for which see below).
The GPS and EDM (depending upon local conditions) were used in 2008 to:
COLLABORATION WITH THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY’S THISVE BASIN SURVEY
Professor T. Gregory (Columbus, Ohio) and Dr W. Caraher (North Dakota) carried out the re-analysis of their pottery from the Lower Acropolis, the Plain, and the harbour-side sites of Kouveli (offshore), Diporto (offshore), and Nousa (on-shore), in the light of important advances in the identification of plain wares and coarse wares of all periods (regional and extra-regional). They have also integrated the mapping of their intensive survey’s transects and other units of artefact collection with our 1:5000 base map of the area.
THE BOEOTIAN REGIONAL CONTEXT
Dunn completed his research (which was begun under the aegis of the British Academy) into the post-Roman regional historical and archaeological framework while holding a visiting fellowship at the Hellenic Center, Princeton University, in 2008. This work complements the detailed studies of Bronze-Age-to-Roman Thisve and Boeotia that have been produced over many years by others, and is designed to aid the co-ordination and interpretation of the three complementary surveys that are all now nearing completion. The integration of (1) Gregory’s and Caraher’s pottery survey (for all periods) of exposed surfaces at Thisve (the Lower Acropolis), of the Plain of Thisve, and at three of its harbours, with (2) our survey of the monuments of Thisve, and its fourth harbour, and with (3) our colleagues’ ongoing environmental survey of the Plain and wider Basin, will, it is hoped, generate a robust case study of the relationship of the trajectory of the Pre-Classical-to-late medieval primary settlement complex to the environmental dynamics of its enclosed hinterland (the Thisve Basin). This will in turn, it is hoped, enrich reconstructions of Boeotia’s long-term history to which several surveys are now contributing; contribute to wide-ranging enquiries into particular cultural eras (in our case the Byzantine and Frankish); and illuminate particular aspects of economic activity, such as water-management (with which the plains of prehistoric and ancient Boeotia are particularly associated), and (as explained in previous reports) silk production (with which Byzantine and Frankish Boeotia are particularly associated).
Fieldwork Planned for 2009
April 2009: with the permission of the Greek Institute for Geological and Mineralogical Research, the environmentalists Dr Anagnostou, Dr Atherden, Dr Van der Schriek, and Dr Ben Gearey (Birmingham Archaeo-Environmental, The University of Birmingham) will extract a second set of shallow cores in the Plain of Thisve and by one of its harbours for linked c14 and palynological studies; study the surface geology and hydrology of the Thisve Basin; complete the sampling of deep manmade cuttings around the plain; and complete the vegetational survey of the Basin. Dr Dunn will assist them and continue to work on the descriptions and photography of the monuments of Thisve.
Summer 2009: Dr Van der Schriek will complete his programme of geomorphological fieldwork. Dr Dunn and Christopher Mavromatis will complete corrections and additions to the topographical and architectural surveys, and complete observations at relevant monuments around the region for comparative purposes.