University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Working for the Weekend- Touring Northern Greece

July 15, 2013

In addition to our work at the field school here in Northern Greece, on weekends we often travel to nearby archaeological sites.  This seems to achieve the goal of familiarizing ourselves with the area and facilitates drawing connections between and recognizing the ancient relationships of these sites.  Such connections were especially apparent as we toured sites along the coast of the Aegean, as our site lies on a peninsula in the midst of our destinations.

First we traveled to Philippi, a site of many time frames of occupation, ranging from the Hellenistic to Byzantine.  Philip II founded the city around 350 BCE.  Though it had been occupied by Thasian colonists up until that point, it was later inhabited by Roman and then Byzantine cultures, as seen in many of the remaining structures.  The site and surrounding area are combined into one large park, and one can travel through seeing things such as a theater, used by the Greeks and later converted to a Roman theater fit for gladiators and wild animal fights.  Much of the Roman Agora still stands, as well as Byzantine era basilicas and a baptistery.  Our site at Molyvoti has been producing finds and structures from a similar range of time frames, as we work to find the earlier Greek remains.

theater philippi
The theater at Philippi.
agora philippi
The Roman Agora at Philippi. Byzantine structures can be seen in the background.

Next week we stopped at Maroneia and Zone, two sites much closer to our excavation site.  In past excavations on the Molyvoti peninsula, many coins from the city of Maroneia have been found, implying that the site was under their control and used their currency and economy.  Some domestic structures have been revealed within our excavation and seeing the Hellenistic House especially helps in attempting to connect the two sites in architectural style, though we have not found such a nice mosaic floor as at Maroneia.  The neighboring site of Zone also has remains of homes that seem similar to the structures at our site.  One in particular had remains of an interesting method of engineering, consisting of upside down amphorae placed beneath the floor, in an effort to prevent flooding.  The remains of the city wall here are also quite impressive, with their Lesbian construction.  Walls we have found surveying at Molyvoti are simpler in style, but appear just as fortified.

mosaic maroneia
Mosaic in the Hellenistic House at Maroneia
amphorae zone
Floor covered with amphorae underneath the surface, to facilitate water drainage.

This past weekend we traversed, by ferry then bus, to the beautiful island of Thasos, seeing the archaeological remains near the harbor and the site of Aliki on the other side of the island.  As a large tourist attraction with picturesque beaches, it seems easy to forget the history sitting in the midst of the town.  Tall homes stand next to fenced off sections of walls, one in particular the Zeus and Hera gate, with it’s iconography of the deities as a blessing to those passing through the gates.   At Aliki we came across Hellenistic temples, Byzantine churches, and quarries used during both the Roman and Byzantine eras.

quarry aliki
Remnants of the quarry at Aliki, on Thasos

Working at our site of excavation, which has a theorized identity as a Thasian colony and shows multiple periods of occupation, as we continue to discover, has been enhanced by viewing these nearby sites with similar and interconnected cultures.  Their similarities help greatly in trying to interpret what we have found so far at the Molyvoti peninsula and in planning future directions of excavation.

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