|Ancient Eleon excavations|
Our team in 2014 was the largest we ever fielded and likely the largest will have for some time to come. At peak capacity we numbered just over 50 people, including site supervisors, returning volunteers, first-time students, and specialists in geography, human and animal bones, ceramics, conservation, and illustration. Although we were a very large group we had dinners all together at one of the many tavernas in Dilesi. We would also create a caravan of sorts as we commuted out to the site each morning with our two vans and 6 rental cars.
|Team photo in Dilesi, June 2014|
|View to Euboea|
|Eleon’s Holm oak and equipment storage|
Our project, in summary, addresses two major periods in Greek archaeology. First, a prehistoric phase spanning the Mycenaean period (Late Bronze Age), ca. 1700-1050 BC, and a historical phase from the late Archaic to early Classical periods, ca. 600-400 BC. The prehistoric material is associated with a several large houses with impressive furnishings inside and tiled roofs. The ceramics from these houses date primarily to the Late Helladic III C phases and help document important economic changes at the site, with particular reference to Eleon’s relationship to the larger center of Thebes, which suffers a major destruction level right at the beginning of the LH IIIC period. The historical era material, from the Archaic and Classical periods, relates to the material we have uncovered in association with the large polygonal wall that dominates the eastern side of our site. We have uncovered the new remains of the wall that include a ramped entryway into the site. Beneath the ramp’s multiple surfaces we have recovered large amounts of miniature vessels (skyphoi and kotyliskoi), along with other distinguishable types of Boeotian ceramics. Associated with these fineware vessels are numerous terracotta figurines, many of them female (seated and standing), sometimes painted, that suggest a cult was located here or nearby. The episodic activity indicates that the active Mycenaean center was abandoned around 1050 BC and then not reoccupied in any substantial way until about 550 BC when we start to see the miniatures and figurines appear. What happens in the intervening 500 years is a mystery, but the lack of any significant Early Iron Age material suggests to us that, at least in the areas of the site where we have explored, the site had lain abandoned for quite some time.
Our work this summer was very beneficial in clarifying some major questions about the site. But like any research project, the more you learn, the more new questions arise. We are particularly intrigued by the context of the major construction project that is the polygonal wall. We were very happy to have Professors Ben Marsh and Janet Jones of Bucknell University working with us on looking for quarry sources of the polygonal wall blocks and to try to understand how the wall was constructed.
|Curved polygonal wall on the left leading to the ramp area. July 2014|
The commitment to process and analyze all finds within a few days of its excavation provides important data that is fed back into the project. We use the information we get from the washers, sorters, illustrators and ceramic analysts to adjust our research goals and methods. We are proud that we never have a backlog of pottery from year to year. Overseeing this entire system is our registrar Stephie Nikoloudis, who uses the database, index cards, and a watchful eye to manage dozens and dozens of new finds each day. These range from assemblages of pottery, soil samples, and collections of animal bone (which will all undergo their own process) to individual finds of stone, metal, and terracotta.
|Giuliana Bianco and Stephie Nikoloudis|
|Session on conservation with Vicky Karas 2014|
University of Victoria