Friday, March 3, 2017

Where's the ancient mall???

The limited number of architectural building types that are encountered in the excavation of Archaic and Classical Greek cities and sanctuaries tend to fall into well-known broad functional categories: religious, public and domestic. Most of these buildings types have been known for over a century. Generally, there are few surprises here. The one aspect of ancient Greek life that has been neglected more often than not relates to the economy, especially production and commercial activities. This lack of attention is probably the result of why and where archaeologists generally choose to excavate within the line of a city’s fortification walls. The rural territory of a polis is often overlooked as well.

One building type, the stoa, probably comes to mind, however, when the commercial life of a city state is mentioned. There is a presumption in Greek archaeology that the stoa was the standardized design for all commercial buildings. This belief most likely arose from the building type’s spectacular architectural development in the Hellenistic period. However, before the conventional use of the stoa in public commercial architecture of the Hellenistic period, shops were not consistent in their architectural design.

On Wednesday March 8th at 17:30 in the Library of the Institute Tania Contrucci, an M.A. candidate in the Centre d'études classiques at the Université de Montréal will give a lecture entitled "Where’s The Mall?: Identifying Commercial Structures in the Archaic and Classical Greek world". This event is part of the Winter/Spring 2017 program of the Athens Association of Friends of the Institute.

The recent discoveries of a series of long, rectangular buildings made of a number of similar-sized rooms set in a row at the site of ancient Argilos in Macedonia have raised the question of their probable functions. Tania will use in her lecture archaeological evidence and architectural form to focuses on the different examples of Archaic and Classical public structures in an attempt to support the identification of these enigmatic structures as commercial shops. If she is on the right interpretive track, then these buildings are the ancient precursors of the ubiquitous contemporary Canadian architectural feature, the “strip mall”!

David Rupp

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