In a previous post Sam introduced the Molyvoti, Thrace Archaeological Project (MTAP), a combined excavation and survey project conducted in the Rhodope region of Thrace in northern Greece. Penn faculty and students have been involved with the project since its inception and I encourage you to read more about the project in the posts made by Sam Holzman and Beth Potens. As the second season of fieldwork has drawn to a close, this is a good opportunity to reflect on our progress so far and speak a bit about my own involvement in the second half of the project, the archaeological surface survey.
Before I get to the fieldwork, however, the region itself deserves some comments. Sam has discussed the temperate climate, the verdant forests, and lakes teeming with wildlife (and mosquitos), but the modern history of the region is equally fascinating. Located close to the Bulgarian and Turkish borders, the Rhodope region possesses a fascinating mix of cultures that you certainly won’t encounter in the more travelled south. Driving down the highway or from village to village, you see the bell towers of the Orthodox churches complimented nicely by the slender minarets of the mosques, and the clanging of the church bells on quiet Sunday mornings is soon followed by the call to prayer. Locals are equally likely to break out into traditional Greek dance as to take up a drum and sing a Pontic ballad (Pontic Greek, while generally thought to be closer to Ancient Greek, is almost unintelligible to a speaker of Modern Greek). This multiculturalism is one of the features that make this region of Greece so fascinating and a wonderful place to work.
In addition to the archaeological exploration of Ancient Stryme, this season included a systematic surface survey of Zone A, the protected area that surrounds the excavation site. This season’s survey was an intensive urban survey, designed to cover the principle area of habitation in and around the city walls. Though the zone is protected, limited agriculture still takes place, with wheat and cotton being the principal crops. Due to the vast differential in visibility between the two, we surveyed only cotton fields this year as the wheat obscured the ground almost completely. In spite of this limitation, 33 fields/tracts were surveyed this season, covering 410,887.5 m2. While we are still working through the data, the survey confirmed the character of the site as port city, with literally thousands of amphora sherds littering the fields around Stryme. The survey has also filled in and expanded the chronological range of the site’s occupation, dating at least to the Late Roman/Early Byzantine periods. Next year’s survey will push beyond the urban center of the site and we will hopefully then be able to compare the relationship between the Stryme and its hinterland, so stay tuned for more in the coming seasons!