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Thisve-Kastorion: Town, Territorium and Loci of Maritime Traffic; Report on Fieldwork Conducted in 2007

Archibald Warren Dunn, Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham, Project Grant 2007–2008

The third season of the archaeological survey of Ancient Thisve and Byzantino-Frankish Kastorion, at modern Thisve in the Koinotita of Domvraina, lasted for 4 weeks, from August 15th to September 11th. It has become a collaboration between the British School (represented by Birmingham University) and the new 23rd Ephoreia of Byzantine Antiquities, directed by Dr. E. Gerousi, in succession to the 1st Ephoreia.

The continuing aims of fieldwork are:

  1. the production by the British team of the first accurate and comprehensive record of visible in situ remains including key examples of post-medieval economic installations which illustrate pre-industrial agricultural processing and storage;
  2. the use of remote sensing (geophysics) wherever conditions allow, to explore further the ground plans and immediate built environments of visible fragments of monuments;
  3. assisting the 23rd Ephoreia of Byzantine Antiquities.

These activities are designed to complement the evidence of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens

The British Archaeological Survey

Topographical Survey

  1. interlinking all in situ features and relating them to modern topography
  2. connecting these to the Greek Army's nearest trigonometric point (to the north of modern Thisve)
  3. completely replacing the Greek military 1:5000 series' mapping of the Lower Acropolis (Neokastro,
  4. fixing the corners of the geophysical surveys' grids,
  5. importing all readings into our scanned geo-referenced 1:5000 base map

Christopher Mavromatis (Ph.D candidate, Birmingham University) was responsible for these activities, using an EDM, assisted by our volunteer.

Registration Of Sites

Cleaning in 2006 in preparation of the Magnetometer survey in the extramural survey zone, and subsequent processing of the results of that survey, led to the recognition of a spolia-built structure on an east-west orientation to the west of Locus 5, which becomes Locus 77. The surroundings of Locus 77 were re-surveyed in 2007. The number 77, which was used in 2006, is here reassigned.

Completing the search for visible traces of the line of the fortifications between the Upper and Lower Acropoles, and the process of recording all in situ remains around the Upper Acropolis (Palaiokastro) led to the discovery of three more features:

Locus 78

A fragmentary socle of monumental coursed trapezoidal masonry extending outward from the north side of the Upper Acropolis across the narrow valley that defines this side of it. This is apparently a "single skin" wall, dating to the Classical/Hellenistic period. The exposed faces are more finished than those of Neokastro and the city wall. This feature will have to be incorporated into the site plan under the aegis of the Ephoreia.

Locus 79

Several rectangular Greco-Roman spolia set on end on an east-west orientation on suitably even ground within Palaiokastro recall the foundations of Thisve-Kastorion's Byzantino-Frankish churches. These were entered into the site plan.

Locus 80

A significant stretch of the western city wall (curtain wall and a tower front), located north of the projecting tower, was discovered on the last day of fieldwork in 2006. It confirms the course taken by the western city wall between Neokastro and Palaiokastro and is in exactly the same masonry as the rest of the lower city's walls. This was entered into the site plan.

Locus 81

The Greco-Roman rock-cut necropolis, situated just outside the line of the western city wall on the southern slopes of Palaiokastro, was recorded topographically. The mid point of each rock-cut chamber was recorded on the site plan for the 9th Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities.

Architectural Survey

This was effected, as in 2006, using a High-Definition Three-dimensional Laser-scanner, another EDM, and geophysical prospection, while photography, standardized descriptions of all elevations, and measurement of engaged but fully visible spolia, complete the record. For the more detailed survey of better-preserved features, and the production of ground plans, elevations, sections, top plans, volumetric survey, cutaways, and models viewable from any angle, the scanner was used. An EDM continued to be used to record ground plans within the total site plan, and, time allowing, selected elevations. Moreover, Palaiokastro is so steep, and in many areas so unstable, that a Laser Scanner could not be used there, so the first stage of recording of its archaeological features (ground plans) was done using an EDM.

Palaiokastro (Locus 23)

Palaiokastro's multi-phase fortifications comprise a major object of study, so in this season, its minor in situ exposed features, intramural rock-cut depressions and platforms of various kinds, were not recorded. Each identified phase, or possible phase, of construction of the fortifications was recorded as a separate exercise in six topographic layers, from "Cyclopean" to "Byzantino-Frankish." This replaces a crude, inaccurate, and incomplete sketch plan published by F. Maier ("Die Stadtmauer von Thisbe," Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts. Athenische Abteilung 73 [1958]: 17–25, Abb. 2 and Plate 18). Several phases of construction are apparent, but, as at another multi-phase monument (Agios Loukas), important details of the relationships between phases remain unclear. Nevertheless, the ground plans, military architectural features, and physical scale of the majority of phases of activity are now reasonably clear.

At two points a phase of construction characterized by massive coarsely hewn quarried pieces of limestone, some with the appearance of stretchers up to 90 cm in length, apparently define an earth embankment or "core" whose other face is buried within later phases. They are clearly distinct from, and not functioning as, modern agricultural terraces (of which there are examples on Palaiokastro). This is provisionally called the "Cyclopean phase," and will be a responsibility of the 9th Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities.

Three Archaic/Classical and Classical/Hellenistic masonries are apparent on Palaiokastro itself (excluding new Locus 78):

  1. a roughly dressed polygonal masonry forming the front of an approximately rounded bastion;
  2. a masonry of trapezoidal and rectangular blocks with smooth abutting facets and rough exposed facets;
  3. a conventional ashlar masonry which is either immured within post-Roman work and is only visible in top plan or, where visible in elevation, has been lime mortar-bonded (although not certainly disassembled first)

Ancient masonry (1) is stylistically identical to that of the Lower Acropolis and the intermediate city walls, and would almost certainly be the masonry of the sections of these walls, now removed, that stood on rock-cut platforms which ran up the slopes of Palaiokastro. In this most important phase of activity there is in fact no evidence of acropolesas such, but of a single enceinte, with projecting towers, which enclosed the heights known as Palaiokastro and Neokastro. Ancient masonry (3) survives on the west-facing side of Palaiokastro, but the detailed design of this phase of activity and its relationship to work produced in ancient masonry (2) are obscured by its encasing within post-Roman phases.

The next discernible phase of activity in the walls of Palaiokastro, as at many of the fortified urban sites of Greece, is Late Roman/early Byzantine. A utilitarian opus incertum, combining undressed quarried limestone with small spolia and bonded with lime mortar, is used to create an enclosed citadel for which there is no earlier evidence. The western, relatively vulnerable side is defended by a simple forewall without towers and an inner wall with rectangular towers which may be Classical or Hellenistic in origin, partly built in ancient masonry (c). Forewalls on vulnerable aspects are typical of 5th/6th-century fortresses in the Balkans. The southern side, which is poorly preserved, is also defended by a line of towers in the last stages of disintegration. The northern side is also poorly preserved. Fragments of the line of the enceinte (without preserved evidence of towers) are traceable, but its NE return is well-preserved: massive spolia-built lime mortar-bonded foundations, perhaps of a bastion which only projected on one axis. The short east side, the most accessible to stone robbers, is untraceable.

Despite its enclosed design, this phase of activity on Palaiokastro does not mean that the city walls were abandoned. But it is likely to be one of the phrouria (forts or fortresses) built, according to Procopius, by Justinian in Boeotia in the 550s at the sites of earthquake-damaged settlements.

One or two later phases of activity are apparent on the better-preserved western side of Palaiokastro: a lime mortar-bonded opus incertum, which encases the Classical/Hellenistic ashlar phase as reused in Late Antiquity; and at the SE corner of the citadel remains of a rectangular building characterized by engaged external piers (buttresses) in a diagnostic middle Byzantine/Frankish masonry, which overlies the Late Roman/early Byzantine phase at this point.

On Palaiokastro, standardized descriptions of elevations, architectural features, and types of construction were completed, but measurements of elevations, volumetric survey in general, and relief modelling could not be effected this season. The terrain is unsuitable for the 3-D laser scanner (and there was insufficient time to use an EDM for these activities). So all three activities will be carried out using a differential GPS, which will of course be the most effective instrument.

The 3-D laser scanner was meanwhile employed at four monuments, sometimes in combination with geophysical survey and EDM survey:

  • Locus 25: a multi-phase tower at the SE corner of Neokastro, to re-record the interior of the ground-level vaulted chamber, since the scans made here in 2006 produced no results due to a malfunction. The Byzantino-Frankish redesign and reconstruction of this Hellenistic tower is completely preserved in elevation. The tower was converted from being one entered from the wallwalk, but of unknown internal layout, to a freestanding tower with vaulted basement and fighting platform.
  • Locus 1: parts of this church of middle Byzantine design and masonry were re-scanned to fill gaps detected in last year's readings.
  • Locus 3 and Locus 74: after their cleaning by the Ephoreia.
  • Locus 24: the Hellenistic walls at Neokastro. These were surveyed (in ground plan and selectively in top plan) in 2006. In 2007 the 3-D laser scanner was used to record selected elevations and to make a volumetric survey of the upstanding sections. Maier published in 1958 (late 21) only an idealized ground plan of the original design, which is neither accurate nor complete. Our aim has been to produce an accurate ground plan and to illustrate the mode of construction, accurate examples of top plans and external elevations.

Resistivity survey was carried out within and around three other monuments: within and to the west of Agia Triada (Locus 4), the remains of a church of middle Byzantine type, which, like Agios Loukas, may be deduced to have stood very close to the line of the ancient city wall (although almost certainly within it); and on all sides of two contiguous monumental structures (Loci 5 and 77), both the remains of churches, which date, in terms of masonry, to the Late Roman/early Byzantine and medieval periods, respectively. The reports on these surveys are not complete. Preliminary results however at Agia Triada seem uninformative. There is probably too much rubble immediately below the modern earthen surface to distinguish buried architectural features of the church, in particular, the central piers, and the north and west external walls. Around Loci 5 and 77, it is anticipated that the combination of the Magnetometer survey's results of 2006 with the new Resistivity survey's results, for which the orientation of transects was shifted through 90 degrees, will be instructive.

The Synergasia's third current aim, the study of samples from the preserved murex purpurea-processing site (Locus 60), has not progressed. Responsibility will have to be renegotiated with the old 1st Ephoreia of Byzantine Antiquities

Meanwhile the processing of the records and finds of Professor Gregory's surveys of the contiguous plain and loci of maritime traffic is under way, and will be completed during 2008, at the same time as our synergasia's projected Study Season and complementary activities. This will pave the way for the integration of the results of the surveys in accordance with the agreement signed with Gregory and deposited with the British School.