AGIA PARASKEVI OF ARACHAMITAI
Report of work conducted in 2010
In 2010 a new five-year excavation programme was launched, the purpose of which is to focus on the 30x11 m large stoa-like building and its immediate surroundings in order to gain a better understanding of this Late Hellenistic building, but also of the earlier stages of cult activity at the site. The preliminary results of the first field season in 2010 are as follows.
Late Hellenistic Building
We began as planned to excavate the ca. 30x11 m large building from its west short side, which is covered by some 10 cm of topsoil. During the four-week field season in July, ca. 60 m2 of the house were excavated, apart from the walls which were traced somewhat further towards the east. Thus the outlines of the building have now been followed for some 11x14 m. The progress of uncovering the building slowed down when moving towards the east, as the building here is covered by much more recent sterile soil (in the middle of the building this layer is already close to 50 cm thick).
The outer walls of the building are ca. 50-60 cm thick and built of head-size or somewhat larger stones with only soil in between. At two places (in squares 500-502/620 and 508/610) we dug deeper ditches next to the walls in order to get a clearer picture of the construction and foundation of the walls. When constructing the building, foundation trenches were dug in order to create a good foundation for the walls. The foundation itself is built of smaller stones, being 35-70 cm high. Above the foundation follows the socle of the wall. It is made of head-size or larger stones and is between 55 and 85 cm high, but has partly been covered by soil. The upper parts of the walls above the socle were probably constructed with mud bricks, of which nothing survives until today.
The thick walls and the strong foundation point towards the building having had two storeys, although this still needs to be proven. The part of the building that was excavated consisted of three rooms: a large rectangular one (Room III, ca. 9x5 m), a round one (Room I, diam. ca. 5 m), and another rectangular one (Room II) whose short side is ca. 4.5 m (the long side still not determined). No doorways leading into the house have so far been detected. The openings in the long north side of the building that were visible on the magnetometer map, and which led us to the guess that we were dealing with a stoa-like building, proved to be caused by magnetic disturbances: the north long side could now be followed without interruption for close to 16 m. This fact in connection with the round room proves that we are at least not dealing with any kind of stoa.
None of the rooms was excavated in its entirety. All the rooms were covered by a thick layer of Laconian roof tiles, except in parts of the large rectangular room (Room III), which was closest to the surface and where the collapsed roof apparently had been destroyed by later agricultural activities. In the round room (Room I) a well-preserved and well-laid tile mosaic floor was uncovered nearly immediately below the collapsed floor. This room contained few finds except for a Late Hellenistic lamp. Its function remains unclear although it seems to have been used for some kind of washing, as the room was drained towards the west through the rectangular room by an open water pipe line.
The round room could be entered through a doorway from a rectangular room (Room II) to its north. In this room, of which only a small part was excavated, three different floor levels were found, one of which was partly paved with reused tiles, the other ones consisting of packed earth. The room contained large amounts of pottery, including jars, juglets, a pithos and other storage vessels, but also some bowls, plates and cups, two lamps, two fragmentary female figurines, a piece of multicoloured millefiore glass and two coins, most of which was found along its walls. This room seemingly was used for storage.
Room III, a large rectangular room in the west short end of the building, had a floor of packed earth. It also contained large amounts of pottery and a total of seven coins. The pottery differs from that in Room II by its amount of cooking pots and fine ware drinking vessels together with a number of amphorae and kraters. The majority of the Megarian bowl fragments and a few red-glazed fine ware cups (Eastern terra sigillata B) came from this room, indicating that it may have been used for communal eating and drinking of some kind.
The pottery and other finds recovered inside the building mainly date to the second to first centuries BC, thus reinforcing the picture of its date that we had reached already in 2007. Two of the coins (from Laconia and Megalopolis) that date to the mid-first century BC belong to the latest finds, although some of the pottery may continue into the first century AD. The building itself seems to contain at least two different construction phases, the round room with the tile mosaic and the water drainage belonging to the later phase.