Friday, August 23, 2013

Excavations at ‘Kastro Kallithea’; a report on the 2013 season

The 2013 season of the Kastro Kallithea Archaeological Project, a synergasia of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and the Canadian Institute in Greece, and carried out by the 15th EPKA at Larissa and the University of Alberta, began with our traditional dinner at Taverna Zorbas in Athens on the evening of May 25th. From the Canadian side, only staff and volunteers were present, as the field school students would join us two weeks later. The next day, we travelled by train and van to Narthaki, a village 8 km from our site which would be our headquarters for the next seven weeks.

Excavating an excavation: uncovering Building 10 during the first week
This year’s goals were to continue the excavations of ‘Building 1’, the stoa in the agora, and to finish the excavations of ‘Building 10’, a domestic structure in the residential quarter on the eastern part of the site. Kastro Kallithea, a walled Hellenistic town, occupies the top of a high, prominent hill at an altitude of 600 m. Our project faces quite a few logistical challenges due to this elevation and the site’s remote location. A bulldozed road stops at 50m from the west gate from where we have to climb to the top of the hill and then hike to the excavation sites for another 10 minutes, carrying all equipment with us. And back!

The Greek team, consisting of six young Greek archaeologists supervised by Sophia Karapanou of the 15th EPKA (Director) and Vasso Noula, the municipal archaeologist of Pharsala, worked in the stoa. They were joined in their efforts by four members of the Canadian team in clipping the formidable pournaria and removing 0.20 m of soil exposing the architectural remains of the building. The stoa must have been an imposing building, measuring 50 m in length and 10 in width with a central row of columns made from badly preserved porous stone in the Doric order. The building had a courtyard on its southern side which awaits further excavation.

Richard Anderson assessing Building 10
The Canadian team consisted of staff (Margriet Haagsma, Director; Laura Surtees, Field Director), a GIS specialist (Myles Chykerda) , the apothiki administrators (Tracene Harvey, Amber Latimer), trench supervisors (Tristan Ellenberger, Lana Radloff, Neil Thomson), a University of Alberta R.S. Smith research assistant (Karey Rodgirs), volunteers and field school students. They were joined in the last weeks by Richard Anderson who, together with Myles, produced a fantastic 3D plan of Building 10.

Bailing water after a thundershower
We started our season with excavating last year’s excavation, liberating the site of its protective cover of backfill and plastic, by hand. Zembili after zembili of dirt mixed in with large numbers of decaying and malodorous caterpillars made work during the first two days rather unpleasant. But soon we could begin with the actual work, tackling our last unexcavated units and baulks.

Part of the 2013 team with field school students, volunteers and supervisors
During last year’s excavation we were surprised by Building 10’s very large and well preserved storage area (Units K and L). No fewer than 10 large pithoi were discovered in situ, affecting the planned progress of the excavation (we originally planned to finish last year). This year we discovered at least four more pithos holes in this area bringing the number originally present to at least 14. The pithoi, which were neatly arranged in three rows running East-West, have different sizes. Two of the associated pithos rims bear inscriptions indicating ancient numbers. Could these have been indications of volume for dry storage? The bottom parts of three of the pithoi were already extensively repaired in antiquity, which must mean that they could not have held liquids. Pithos 10, which we uncovered last year, was completely burnt including its contents, and we had our hopes up that this would be the case with the other pithoi as well. But these hopes were soon quashed when we emptied them, one by one. We nevertheless collected extensive soil samples which will be analysed later this year.

Flying the balloon
Further results of the season include at least three more pithoi and one more hearth found in room 4 of Building 10, one more stone with a breast-like protrusion (in Unit B, see previous reports), various terracotta figurines, and numerous pieces of well datable pottery. After the last cleaning of the excavation, the team took aerial photographs of Building 10, the stoa and the acropolis. Chris Stewart will report on this exciting endeavour in a separate blog next week.

Last cleaning of Building 10
The enormous storage capacity of the house indicates that its inhabitants must have owned considerable economic resources, possibly in the form of land as well as animals. But we have to be cautious; the house has two architectural phases and we still need to carefully assess the stratigraphy and the associated finds to discover which part of the house was in use at what stage. The next two seasons of the Kallithea project will be study seasons. During that period we hope that we will be able to write a first draft of the volume 1 of the final publication.

Survivors after the last day of cleaning
During the season the team was treated to a party with food, music and dance thrown by Pharsala’s Deputy Mayor Stavros Poularakis, for which we would like to thank him very much. The team was also invited to the opening of: Το Κάστρο της Καλλιθέας, ματιές σε μια αρχαία πόλη, a permanent exhibition on our collaborative project in the cultural centre at Pharsala, on which we have reported in an earlier blog. We would like to thank the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport as well as the Canadian Institute in Greece for facilitating our research. Thanks should also go to Aris Karachalios, the mayor of Pharsala and the Greek Orthodox parish of Narthaki for their support and allowing us to use their facilities in the village. In addition, we are greatly indebted to the inhabitants of both Kallithea and Narthaki for allowing their villages to be invaded annually by a team of Canadians. Their gracious hospitality, kind-heartedness and warm enthusiasm should serve as example to us all.

Margriet Haagsma
University of Alberta

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