AGIA PARASKEVI OF ARACHAMITAI
Preliminary report for 2008
Further trial trenches were opened at the site with the purpose of clarifying three issues concerning the two monumental buildings detected here – a large courtyard structure and what looks like a Hellenistic stoa. Firstly, we wanted to define the date and function of the large courtyard structure. Secondly, we wanted to collect more information concerning the relationship between the two buildings, which are differently aligned and thereby seem to be of different date. Finally we hoped to find out more about the pre-Hellenistic activities at the site, which were known only through a handful of finds from the trial trenches of 2007.
The magnetometer survey of 2007 gave us a fairly clear idea of the ground plan of the monumental courtyard structure. Rows of 5 - 6 m large square rooms are visible on all sides around the courtyard, in the centre of which there seems to be a round pit. Furthermore it seems as if there existed two entrances to the courtyard, one in the centre of the western side and another in the centre of the eastern side. Two trial trenches were opened in 2008 in order to verify the existence of this structure as well as to find out information concerning its date and function. Trench E was placed at the location of the possible central pit and Trench F in one of the square rooms flanking the courtyard.
Trench E turned out to be a disappointment. Part of it was excavated until a depth of 165 cm below surface without producing anything but a handful of sherds and some tile fragments. The quality of the soil is better here than anywhere else on the site, being mixed with organic material but void of stones. The trench was too small to clarify whether there really was a man-made pit here or not.
Trench F revealed the exact location of three of the walls in one of the square rooms. The walls are built of small natural stones with no mortar and have a width of ca. 60 cm. They are still standing to a height of some 60-70 cm with their upper part covered by some 20 cm of top soil. The area between the walls, i.e. the interior of the room, was covered by a 10 - 20 cm thick roof tile layer mixed with a burned mass of red clay, possibly the remains of sun-dried bricks once forming the upper part of the walls. Very few finds were recorded in the layer below the collapsed roof – only some iron nails and a handful of non-diagnostic sherds mixed with charcoal and ash.
Because of the few finds in Trenches E and F, the question concerning the date and function of the courtyard structure is still uncertain. However, many of the roof tiles found in Trench F were decorated with finger strokes in a way typical of Middle to Late Roman tiles and thus give a rough indication of the date of the building. This date is further supported by a C-14 sample taken below the collapsed roof, which dates to the third or fourth century AD.
The third trench excavated was an enlargement of Trench A dug in 2007. This year it was enlarged by an additional 15 m2, mostly towards the west and south in order to find the borders of the shallow pit filled with dark soil, large quantities of pottery and other small finds. Throughout most of the trench there was a 30 - 50 cm thick dark layer mixed with fragments of roof tiles, large amounts of pottery (including miniature vessels), fragmentary terracotta figurines, various small finds, charcoal and ash. The layer is thicker and also occurs slightly deeper in the north towards the stoa-like structure. Below this dark layer follows sterile soil except in a smaller area in the north of the trench, where more dark soil mixed with large quantities of pottery, various small finds and ash continues at least to a depth of 170 cm below surface. Here the dark soil, which most likely belongs to a pit, differs from the previous dark layer in that, instead of fragmentary roof tiles, it contains some large stones.
The earliest finds were made in the south part of the trench. These include e.g. parts of a local red-figure vase dating to the mid-fifth century and black-glazed pottery of the fourth to third century BC. The finds mostly date to the third and second centuries BC, and they include Megarian bowls and bronze coins. Several coins were found in the pit and one of them, recovered at a depth of 155 cm, is minted by Kassandros. The composition of the finds was thus rather similar to the one found in Trench A already in 2007, although we now have more evidence for the early phases of cult activity as well as a better picture of the stratigraphy of the dark soil layer.