Linn Trude Lieng, IAKH, rapporterer fra utgravningssesongen 2010 i Tegea:
(Archaeological remarks are based on Knut Ødegard’s report from the excavations of 2010)
In the course of four weeks from the 14th of June 2010 to the 10th of July 2010 the Norwegian Institute at Athens, in collaboration with the 39th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and the 25th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities carried out a third campaign of excavations at the ancient site of Tegea.
The excavation team consisted of a Greek, Norwegian, Italian and Danish crew made up of students and researchers from the Peloponnesian University, Greece, the University of Oslo, Norway and the University of Aarhus, Denmark.
Prior to the excavation two trenches opened in the 2009 season were extended by surface stripping the area in between and widening the investigation area to 15 x 40 meters. This gave the team the opportunity of clarifying some of the questions that remained from the 2009 excavations. Within the area investigated during the course of the excavations four specific areas of interest emerged.
The most recent documented activity at the site was a flood channel that flowed in a south to north direction across the site, most probably during periods of high rainfall and floods. The plain is still today very wet during winter, and the team noted that flooding had in the past seriously disturbed the stratigraphy of the site.
The flood channel was clearly visible as a band of dark greyish deposits running northwards from square D15 to D12 (see fig.1).
During excavation it became clear that the layer deepened towards the north of the excavation area. A trench was dug through the channel in square D12, and despite having removed more than one meter of deposits the bottom was not reached by the end of the season. The stream fill consisted of silt, mixed with pottery and tile fragments as well as stones, probably redeposited from the house structures in square D15.
So far we have no indication on the date of the stream, but a post-Byzantine date is the most probable as the stream’s action had over time demolished part of a late Byzantine wall.
Byzantine house structures and a road
During the 2010 season a number of Byzantine wall bases were uncovered: They were simple, narrow and made of roughly hewn stones of uneven size, and have been interpreted as foundations for mud-brick-walls. None of the walls have so far been securely dated, but finds connected to the walls in square D17 suggest that they were in use in the 12th, possibly even into the 13th Century AD. These walls thus represent the last building phases recorded at the city of Tegea.
The walls have the same orientation as the presumed city plan, based on the Norwegian magnetometer survey from 2003-2006. The survey and the subsequent excavations show that the main axis of the ancient city was respected in later periods and also in the final phases of Byzantine settlement at Tegea and so far confirmed by the 2010 excavation.
A tile-covered surface that was partly excavated in 2009, and thought to represent the last paved phase of the agora, was reinterpreted as a road surface in squares C-D16.
After having extended the area in 2010 it was clear that the paved area was not as extensive as first assumed. The corner of a larger structure made up of rough stone blocks seen in D17, runs parallel to what the team now considers to be a road.
This building was probably abandoned in the 12th century, and it is thus thought that the road might be contemporary with and connected to the Basilica of Thyrsos. A goal of the 2011 season will be to clarify the relationship of these two parts of the city.
Early Byzantine and Late Hellenistic contexts
Already in 2009 a solid, concrete-like floor and a rough N-S wall were uncovered in square D-E10 in the northernmost part of the excavation area. In 2010 the whole floor was uncovered, together with another wall in D11 running E-W perhaps connected to the N-S wall further east.
The pottery found in the contexts immediately above the concrete floor as well as in the contexts connected to this structure, is dominated by small storage vessels and larger jugs and jars, and suggests a date from the early Byzantine period, more precisely between the end of the 4th to the beginning of the 5th Century AD. The concrete floor itself is very likely earlier, and perhaps even Hellenistic. It was later reused in the Byzantine period when the N-S wall was laid across the Hellenistic floor.
To the east of the wall in square E10 a very different archaeological context appeared. An almost square area consisting of sooty soil with pieces of charcoal contained several whole vessels.
The finds, including a Megarian bowl and some Roman terra sigillata, suggests that the context can be dated to the 1st Century BC. The character of the finds in this area indicate that this floor was in use in the 1st Century BC and not reused in later periods, unlike the concrete floor to the west.
This is important as it shows that not all areas of the ancient city were reused after the early Roman period.
The northern trial trench
A small trial trench, 5 x 10 meters, was opened in the far northern part of the field, in squares B-C 3-4.
This trench was opened mainly to check whether the stratigraphy was similar to the main excavation area. However it turned out to be considerably different. Despite the trench having been excavated down to a depth well below the rest of the excavation area no building structures were uncovered. The stratigraphy was very complex, with large numbers of different cuts and fills. It seems that some of the fills might be the result of industrial activity, with remains of charcoal, and layers of clayey silt. One possible explanation is that this area was used as a clay pit for the production of tiles or pottery.
The main part of the pottery found in this area is from the Roman period, including several Corinthian lamp fragments probably from the 2nd-3rd Century AD. The excavation needs to be extended in this area in order to gain a clearer idea of the use and chronology of this area in relation to the city centre.
In the 2010 season the project had a strong focus on digital documentation. The excavation also functioned as a field course, for students from Oslo and Aarhus Universities and so a GIS and practical survey element was included.
The two last weeks of the campaign two archaeologists trained the students in practical use of a total station by surveying the previously excavated areas in the archaeological park of Palaia Episkopi.
The students surveyed the altar of the Roman emperor, and the Hellenistic stoa with its drain and statue bases at the Agora.
In addition to this, the team was allowed to survey within the building that houses the mosaic from the so-called Basilica of Thyrsos.
After the field course, the Norwegian surveyors mapped the rest of the Byzantine structures and buildings at the agora, and started
surveying the stones of the Hellenistic theatre one by one. So far the stones to the west of the bridge have been mapped.
Many more stones are thus left to survey for the students attending the field course in 2011. The Temple of Athena Alea will also be digitally surveyed in 2011.
After the 2010 season we can be reasonably certain that the last phase of human activity at the site was in the 12th-13th Century AD.
For the season of 2011 it is planned to expand the excavation area further towards the southeast and thus closer to the Basilica of Thyrsos.
By doing this, we hope to further explore the Byzantine buildings and the road in the southern part of the trench more thoroughly.
By Linn Trude Lieng, IAKH, University of Oslo
(Archaeological remarks are based on Knut Ødegard’s report from the excavations of 2010
Les om prosjektet på UiO sine sider her: The Hellenic-Norwegian Excavations at Tegea 2009-2013