Hellenic-Norwegian Excavations at Tegea
By Linn Trude Lieng, Institute of Archaeology, University of Oslo.
This report will present the preliminary results from the first season of the scheduled 5-year excavation program at Ancient Tegea, Greece. Included here will also be a description on life outside the excavation trenches and excursions we undertook during the three weeks of the excavation. The account of the archaeological excavation and the closing remarks are based on the Norwegian Institute at Athens’ press release on the result from the excavations.
The Hellenic-Norwegian Excavations are undertaken as cooperation between the 39th Ephoria of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, the 25th Ephoria of Byzantine Antiquities and the Norwegian Institute at Athens under direction of Dr. Anna Vassiliki Karapanagiotou, Dr. Dimitris Athanassoulis and Dr. Knut Ødegård respectively.
The background for this report is the generous research stipend I was granted from the Norwegian Institute at Athens. The stipend will be used for a month of research at the institute in Athens in connection with my Master’s thesis.
The research history of Tegea began over 130 years ago. Most of the research activity has been concentrated on the sanctuary and the first excavations took place in 1879 under direction of A. Milchhöfer where roughly 300 terracotta and bronze artefacts were uncovered. In 1882 W. Dörpfeld took over the work at Tegea doing a study of the Classical temple.
At the start of the 20th century the French school at Athens obtained the rights for doing research in Tegea, and several campaigns were held from 1900 to 1902 where more of the temple’s foundations, architectonical fragments and fragments of sculptures and inscriptions and also bronzes and pottery shards were found.
Greek archaeologists carried out an excavation in 1908, and the French school at Athens under direction of Charles Dugas carried out excavations in the years of 1910 to 1913. After this, research in Tegea came to a halt until the 1960s where the American School of Classical Studies at Athens did research on the temple proper, and 1976-77 when the Greek Archaeological Service conducted excavations at the site (Hammond 1998:8-9; Voyatzis 1990:20-21; Østby et al. 1994:89-90).
In the 1980s Dr. Erik Østby worked on identifying the foundations inside the foundations of the Classical temple, and in 1990-94 he, on behalf of the Norwegian Institute at Athens, directed an excavation that confirmed the identification of the foundations of the Early Archaic temple inside the foundations of the larger Late Classical temple (Hammond 1998:13-14; Voyatzis 1990:22; Østby 1986; Østby et al. 1994:94-95).
The Norwegian Institute at Athens has thus been involved in research on Tegea since its foundation in 1989, but up to the mid nineties research had mostly been restricted to the temple area.
These investigations collected detailed information on the sanctuary. However little was known about the surrounding landscape, and no modern investigations had been made in the city of Tegea.
To be able to understand the development of the sanctuary within a wider context there was need for more information of a regional kind, and an archaeological survey was directed by Dr. Knut Ødegård from 1998 to 2001 (Ødegård 2005:209-11). The Norwegian Arcadia Survey focused on the size and extension of the ancient city through documenting the density of archaeological material on the surface and this formed the background for a magnetometer survey of the ancient urban area in 2004 through 2006. The magnetometer survey documented important remains of the city plan and a regular street grid, a large rectangular marketplace and possible traces of the fortifications were indicated.
The main aims of the first season of the scheduled 5-year excavation program at Tegea were to gather information on the stratigraphical and chronological sequence in the centre of the ancient city of Tegea and to check the results of the magnetometer survey mentioned above (Ødegård 2009).
The participants in 2009 was Ole-Christian Aslaksen (Archaeologist/GIS surveyor, University of Oslo), Dr. Vincenzo Cracolici (Archaeologist, University of Palermo), Lene Os Johannessen (Archaeologist, University of Oslo), Lise-Marie Bye Johansen Archaeologist, NIKU – the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research), Dr. Harald Klempe (Geologist, Telemark College), Linn Trude Lieng (MA student in archaeology, University of Oslo), Mari Malmer (BA student in archaeology, University of Oslo), Panagiotis Riganas (BA student, University of Peloponnese), Jo-Simon Frøshaug Stokke (Archaeologist, University of Oslo).
In addition to Dr. Karapanagiotou and Dr. Athanassoulis from respectively the 39th Ephoria of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and the 25th Ephoria of Byzantine Antiquities, Vasilliki Papadopoulou (the 39th Ephoria) and Peny Koliatsi (the 25th Ephoria) supervised the excavations. Lina Karavia and Nikos Govitsas from the Ephoria of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of Arcadia provided the total station and worked with the Norwegian GIS surveyor.
The area of excavation is where it for more than 100 years has been presumed the centre of Ancient Tegea would be situated, i.e. at Palaia Episkopi, where a Middle Byzantine town was constructed on top of the remains of the Hellenistic theatre. The excavations in 2009 were conducted on property belonging to the Hellenic Ministry of Culture to the west of the ancient theatre and the urban centre and immediately north of the 5th century AD Basilica of Thyrsos. Two trial trenches of 1 by 5 meters were opened this year, and they were laid out over what was presumed to be the agora and a road crossing using the plan from the magnetometer survey as a guide. The trial trenches were dug approximately 1 meter deep using pickaxe, shovel and hoe, and the topsoil contained mixed archaeological material from the Classical to the modern period. In the southern trial trench we encountered a layer with a dense concentration of broken roof tiles. The two trenches were extended to 5 x 10 meters using a mechanical digging machine. We laid
out a grid in 2 x 2 meter squares, and excavated stratigraphically.
In the southern trench, the ‘tile fall’ we first believed belonged to a collapsed building, rather seems to be the last of a long series of pavements of a large square. The pavement most likely belongs to the ancient agora of Tegea, and is probably to be dated to the 12th century AD and thus signifies the last phase of urban life at Tegea.
Trial trenches excavated through this pavement documented several similar surfaces from the Byzantine period, probably carried out to raise the ground level because of poor drainage. In the far north-western corner of this trench we exposed large amounts of slag from a metal workshop of the Byzantine period. The excavation in the northern trench showed no remains of the agora. It was expected that the agora did not stretch this far north based on the magnetometer survey conducted in 2004. Instead remains of Byzantine buildings were found. One of them, so far of uncertain date, had a concrete floor, perhaps a pressing-floor that once formed a part of an agricultural unit.
Total station survey
Parallel to the archaeological excavations a total station survey was conducted. Surveyors from the Ephoria of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of Arcadia worked together with the Norwegian surveyor, and they used a Leica 400 total station to map the area.
A coordinate system was laid out and named with Greek letters along the north-south axis and numbers along the east-west axis.
This grid aided the documenting Ephoria’s process of connecting finds to the excavated areas.
In addition to this all finds and structures were digitally surveyed, and digital maps over the excavated areas has been made using ArcGis. Fixed points for geo referencing our maps were laid out by George Orphanos with an inaccuracy of 1 cm.
Finds were processed by the Ephorate. Whenever special finds like metal or coins were made, the Ephorate registered it, bagged and tagged it, and brought the finds to the museum in Tripolis for safekeeping. Pottery was bagged according to sector and context at the end of each day, and brought to the apotheke in the village of Alea by the Ephorate. The finds bags with pottery were signed out the next day, and washing, sorting, photographing and interpreting of the pottery could take place.
Dissemination and media contact
During the three weeks of excavation at Tegea, we had a film crew following us. The background for this was that a movie producer was making a movie on the region of Arcadia, and an ongoing archaeological excavation was interesting to include in this documentary. The whole archaeological team were interviewed for this production that eventually will be aired on Greek national television. A journalist in a local newspaper wrote two stories on the archaeological project, and this led to some interest in the local community with people visiting the site.
The Municipality of Tegea provided the accommodation for the excavation team. Since we were such a large group the students and archaeologists were placed in the Peter Orphanos medical centre of Kerasitsa, a small village not too far from the excavation site. Dr. Ødegård and the survey team from the University of Bergen which joined us after a week lived in cottages in the village of Ano Doliana, overlooking the Tegean plain.
The Municipality of Tegea had made the medical centre habitable by installing showers and providing beds. In addition to this the Norwegian Institute provided necessities like kitchen equipment and linen from the Norwegian guesthouse in Athens. The medical centre and the village of Kerasitsa proved to be a good home for us archaeologists. We ran a well-functioning household with teams for cooking and cleaning. Everyone contributed with what they did best. The early birds bought bread before the communal breakfast, and some preferred washing up to cooking and this arrangement made everyone happy.
We enjoyed some great, home cooked meals together and the good atmosphere at home made it easier to live and work so closely together.
Excursions and life outside the trenches
Thanks to the generosity of the Norwegian Institute at Athens, we were let to use the institute’s 8-seater car “The Lion”. The name derives from the Coat of Arms of Norway that adorns the side doors of the old Fiat. Having a car made things a lot easier for us, both getting to and from the field, shopping for groceries in Tripolis, and getting around, visiting sights in the Peloponnese during weekends.
As a recreational trip in the afternoons going to the coastal town of Astros for a swim was popular after a long, hot day in the trench. Driving around we got to see large parts of the different regions of the Peloponnese with its wild and beautiful nature. We visited many of the major sights around the Peloponnese like Argos with its Heraion, Mycenae, Sparta, Asea, Bassae and Olympia, and also the beautiful towns of Nafplion and Zaxaro. Being able to visit places like these on our time off made our stay in Tegea even more rewarding and interesting.
The final dinner for the participants in the project were held in the village of Ano Doliana, and with its breathtaking view over the Tegean plain this was the perfect place to round up the 2009 field season in Tegea.
Due to the short, three-week field season of 2009 the results are limited. It should be emphasised however that we now possess certain archaeological information on the last phase of urban life at Tegea. We have also ascertained that the urban history of this site is long and complex, and that the next seasons of field work will provide insight into the development of the city from a probable foundation in the Late Archaic Period through the Classical and Hellenistic periods and into the later history of the city in the Roman and Byzantine periods.
Through excavations this year we have collected finds from all these periods from the topsoil and from Byzantine contexts. Since our excavations are conducted right in the centre of the ancient city, Tegea could provide an example on how the city changed character from the Roman to the middle Byzantine period.
The presence of Slavic pottery from the excavations marks one important phase of this transition (Ødegård 2009).
We wish to thank the Greek Ministry of Culture and especially the 39th Ephoria of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and the 25th Ephoria of Byzantine Antiquities that with all their help and cooperation made this excavation possible. We wish also to thank the Mayor of Tegea and the Municipality of Tegea that have been most helpful with all practicalities and showed great interest in our project.
Finally we wish to thank the Norwegian Institute at Athens. Director Dr. Panos Dimas and the administrative staff have arranged everything locally in Greece so this project could run as smooth as possibly, even though planned from Norway.
Linn Trude Lieng
Oslo, the 7th of December 2009