Friday, August 12, 2011

The value of sorting through ancient debris: the Kallithea 2011 study season

Drawing pottery outside the apotheke
In late May of 2011, the Canadian Kallithea team arrived in Narthaki (our host village) to set up and prepare for an exciting study season. The weather was cool and quite wet as we prepared for four weeks of discovery while processing thousands of pottery sherds and other finds. We were generously treated by the Municipality of Pharsala under which Kallithea now resides, and the team once more enjoyed the various accommodations in Narthaki provided to us. The fourteen members of the team consisted of veterans to the project with the addition of three new students who were introduced to the history of the project and the site, as well as the rolling hills and dramatic landscape of Kastro Kallithea located in the Almiros Plain in Thessaly.

Tables of pottery in the apotheke
The primary focus of the season was to process the backlog of ceramics and other finds discovered during the Canadian and Greek excavations of several buildings in previous years, including: Building 10 (house), Building 1 (stoa), Building 5 (shrine), and Building 7 (probably associated with Building 5). The large quantities of pottery collected from these buildings kept us elbow deep in buckets of water while washing pottery, dreamily smiling from the nail polish fumes during labelling and cross-eyed looking for adjoining pottery sherds over the large sherd tables. In addition to the general processing and photography of finds, individual studies of particular artefact groupings (loomweights, unguentaria, the iconography/images on mouldmade bowls, coins, metal finds and stone objects) were undertaken by staff, students and volunteers. The study of the pottery from the urban survey at Kastro Kallithea (2004-2006, 2009), a PhD project by Laura Surtees, was completed.

Part of a large unguentaria deposit found in Building 10
The close examination of the ceramics has allowed us to significantly refine the chronology of occupation at Kastro Kallithea. Hellenistic ceramics are not easy to date, since many local Thessalian workshops produced large quantities of pottery necessitating a deep specialised knowledge of pottery of this area. Sophia Karapanou’s experience with the Hellenistic ceramics found in the houses at ancient Pharsalos was very useful, and also Colette Beestman-Kruijshaar, working on the ceramics of the nearby contemporary site of New Halos, helped us out by staying with us for several days. Both specialists were instrumental in aiding the secure dating and identification of the material. Based on the ceramic evidence and coins found at the site, we can conclude that the site dates from the mid 4th to the 1st century BCE. It appears that a spatial reorganization of the site occurred around the late 3rd/early 2nd century BCE; the agora of the city became abandoned, while habitation continued, or was re-established on the eastern slopes. This shift suggests a significant change in the political organization of the city-state around this date.

Margriet Haagsma and Sophia Karapanou lecture about the project. Pharsala, June 16, 2011
There is much interest amongst the local inhabitants regarding the archaeological investigations conducted at Kastro Kallithea and many of our numerous visitors were astonished by the quantity and quality of the tables and tables of finds laid out in the apotheke. At the invitation of the mayor of Pharsala, Aris Karaxalias, both project directors, Margriet Haagsma and Sophia Karapanou, gave a well-attended presentation (in Greek) at the cultural centre at Pharsala on the archaeological explorations conducted at Kastro Kallithea to help promote the history of the area and encourage local interest in the history. The 2011 study season has allowed us to gain a clearer picture of the use and occupation at Kastro Kallithea, and process the previously excavated finds in preparation for continued research in future years.

Margriet Haagsma and Laura Surtees


  1. Excellent work! Any idea what Building 7 might be, associated with the shrine? Is it within the sanctuary? Perhaps a treasury?

  2. This is absolutely fabulous! Thanks for writing this blog, as it's great to know what interesting work went on this year on the project. Congrats!!

    Lana Radloff