The excavations of 2008

The excavation team of 2008. F. Ifantidis.The excavation team of 2008. F. Ifantidis.
This year work began in the Sanctuary on April 7 to prepare for the excavations. The site was cleaned and the fence along the road exchanged for a new one as a continuation of the one put in place in 2006 to the east. Fieldwork lasted for five weeks between April 29 and May 30 followed by documentation and registration work.

The 2007 investigations began with the resistivity surveys of 2004 and 2006, which indicated an extensive structure in the northeast (Area H) and what looked like an administrative building in the south (Area I). The results thus far do not correspond in detail with our interpretations of the surveys and with our expectations, but this is a topic we wish to return to in the future. Complementary investigations were also carried out in Area D.

In the course of the excavation we collected and water floated 60 soil samples. The material retrieved from them is now being analyzed.
 Plan of the sanctuary after the excavations of 2008. E. Savini.Plan of the sanctuary after the excavations of 2008. E. Savini.

Area H
In Area H excavations were continued in order to investigate the large rectangular structure found in 2007. It was then interpreted as a peribolos or an enclosure, similar to the one that surrounds the Temple to Poseidon, but the new enclosure is of Hellenistic date. A large area between the 2007 trench and the peribolos of the temple was opened up to see how the two periboloi relate to each other. The continuation of the southwestern wall of the Hellenistic enclosure was found, but no wall was found where it should have turned towards the northeast in the vicinity of the temple. The area seemed disturbed, however. Pottery and roof-tiles may indicate the existence of a ruined building there. Whether or not such a building had a connection with the Hellenistic enclosure remains an open question for now.

Large amounts of fragmented miniature vessels and animal bones, found in a separate trench dug against the peribolos of the temple, derive from activities around the temple and were undoubtedly thrown over the enclosing wall. Their homogeneous date in the Late Archaic or possibly Early Classical times does not seem coincidental given the alleged date of the construction of both the peribolos and the temple. Both burned and unburned fragments were present in the bone assemblage. The osteological assemblage from this find spot is characterized by extreme fragmentation and the presence of burned as well as unburned bones. A careful analysis of the bones and of the many soil samples taken from the trench will certainly give us new information about the nature of the cult of Poseidon on Kalaureia.

Excavations were also conducted to the south of the Hellenistic peribolos where we assumed the existence of both Archaic and Hellenistic retaining walls. No such walls were found, however, most likely due to later disturbances. The three column drums, found in the same area in 2007, were found to have mason's marks, which obviously indicate the order of assembly besides stating the signature of the master or the working team. The votive column that the drums were intended for was never erected as all three drums are unfinished. They lie embedded in an Archaic layer. Their abandonment suggests again that the decades around 500 BC were times of turbulence or of profound changes in the Sanctuary of Poseidon.

Vertical photograph of area H with column drums and inscription blocks. E. Savini.Vertical photograph of area H with column drums and inscription blocks. E. Savini.

Nearby but on a stratigraphically higher level was found a complete inscription covering three separate blocks. It is a dedication to Poseidon of twin statues of Queen Arsinoe and King Ptolemaios Philadelphos of Egypt by the inhabitants of the town of the Peloponnesian Arsinoe. The town of Arsinoe is clearly what is now known as Palaeokastro on the nearby peninsula of Methana. The existence of an Egyptian garrison there in Hellenistic times is well known. Queen Arsinoe waged war against the Macedonians in the Aegean in the 270’s BC. A dedication to Poseidon at such a time would seem appropriate, as he was also the god of warfare at sea.

The statues may have stood to the east or southeast of the Temple. Here lie huge cut blocks, which may have constituted the foundation for the inscribed base. The find context of these blocks suggests that they had been dragged there in order to be reused as building material somewhere else. For some reason they were abandoned. The same kind of activity may be responsible for the destruction of the presumptive ancient retaining walls in the area. The 18th-century monastery of Panaghia Chrysopighi to the southeast of the Sanctuary, or the Panaghia monastery on Hydra, may well have been the final destination for the blocks.

The large-scale excavations in Area H show that from Archaic times onwards, the terrain to the south and southeast of the Temple of Poseidon sloped steeply towards the south. In order to build the Hellenistic peribolos on level ground, parts of the slope were dug away in the north; we could verify this in the trench dug close to the temple peribolos. To the south the ground was raised by bringing in heavy stone rubble. This was investigated in 2007. Towards the south the stratigraphy is more disturbed, perhaps due to erosion and perhaps also because heavy blocks were clearly dragged down to the area from the area around the temple in early modern times in order to be cut up and transported away. More excavation in the area is needed in order to understand the function of the Hellenistic peribolos.

Area D
Some of the most spectacular finds so far from the excavations on Kalaureia were made in an Archaic cistern to the north of Building D in 2004 and 2005. Deposition of burned bones from animals such as dogs and snakes seems to suggest rituals in which these animals played a role in Late Hellenistic/Early Roman times. A short excavation into another Archaic cistern next to the southernmost wall of Building E, in an area that was designed D19, revealed similar contents: a large amount of bones of dogs and possibly snakes were found among pieces of roof-tiles and architectural terracottas. As more pottery has been found in this cistern than in the previously excavated one, we may be able to assess the date or durability of the suggested rituals. Further excavation into the cistern is planned in 2009.

Area I
The area was extended to the south in search of a wall delimiting the southernmost space of the series of rooms investigated in 2007. A drain through this wall indicates that, at least at one point in time, the complex of rooms terminated here. A further sunken bench and platforms probably for storage vessels were found in the room. So far two chronological phases have been verified but bedrock has been reached only within the two deep, square storage basins, so the complex may be older yet.

 Rectified photographs of southernmost room of Building I with drain at the bottom. E. Savini.Rectified photographs of southernmost room of Building I with drain at the bottom. E. Savini.

To the northeast of Area I, a large extension was made to try to define the eastern limits of the agglomeration of rooms. Walls crossing each other are sure evidence of two building phases here as well. Again, a drain through a wall belonging to the earliest of them tells us that the area to the east lay outside the building. At one time the complex of rooms in Area I may have been entered from the north. Area I proved larger and more complicated than we had expected and therefore we plan to continue briefly here in 2009.

Rectified photographs of northeastern section of Building I. E. Savini.Rectified photographs of northeastern section of Building I. E. Savini.

In 2007 we seemed to be able to distinguish different activities in the rooms investigated at that time. To a certain extent this is true after the 2008 season, even though we have not excavated all rooms to the same level. The southernmost room has two deep built storage basins, which must have survived changes in the lay-out of the building and in the next room we found a cooking facility in one corner with a deep pit in front of it filled with ashes and broken cooking-pots. However, the objects found in the rooms so far do not differ considerably from room to room. Besides large amounts of pot sherds, every room contained a number of loom-weights, weights, bronze coins, fish hooks, lead net sinkers, fragments of lamps and masses of broken tiles.

Building I may thus have housed a number of activities such as commerce, preparations of food and storage. We believe it was an ancillary building, which mediated activities between the city and the sanctuary at a point in time when it was surely an important meeting place. These activities did not change much over time in contrast to the deposits we have excavated within the sanctuary. They rather depict specific events in its history.