The Texas Foundation for Archaeological & Historical Research
The TFAHR Bylazora Project
|THE ACROPOLIS OF BYLAZORA
By Eulah Matthews and William Neidinger
|Click on photo to enlarge.
In 2008 TFAHR and our Macedonian colleagues worked in six separate sectors on the site of Bylazora.
The sectors were chosen based on: 1) previous soundings made in the 1980s and 1990s; and 2)
topographic peculiarities in the lay of the land. The highest spot of the 20 hectares plateau we naturally
assumed to be ancient acropolis. Sectors 1, 2, 3, and 6 were on the acropolis.
A simple visual sighting is all that is necessary to determine the highest points on the acropolis of
Bylazora. Three narrow soundings (about 2.5 x 10 meters) were set down on the three highest points
where there also seemed to be some possibility of underlying walls. But sterile soil was struck in all
three soundings, without encountering a single ancient sherd or artifact. In Sector 1 the sounding was
dug to a depth beneath the surface of nearly 2.0 meters. We found no ancient artifacts; we did find one
modern tin can at a depth of .80 meter, and nothing else but clean gravel and sand. Likewise, sterile
soil was found in Sector 2.
|Topographical map of Bylazora.
The numbered red areas are
the sectors we investigated.
|Laying out a grid on
the highest point of
Work in Sector 6 involved expanding a previously excavated and subsequently collapsed sounding, and
connecting it with a suspicious depression between two small hillocks. Running along the depression and
beneath the level of the previous sounding was the foundation of a massive wall nearly 3.25 meters thick.
Its extant remains varied from one to three courses high, the lower stones being quite large (some, 1.0 x
1.75 meters) and the higher stones being somewhat smaller, suggesting that this structure is the
foundation of a large defensive wall. Walls constructed with smaller stones are visible in the balks at a
higher level. Twice rains filled in the trenches of Sector 6, causing us to postpone its full excavation to
another season. There is a possibility that the wall of Sector 6 eventually connects with another massive
defensive wall we uncovered in Sector 3.
In 2009 we decided to concentrate on Sector 3. The reason for doing so was occasioned by the
discoveries of the 2008 season: a large fortification wall, the base of a tower, and a monumental stone
ramp leading up from the tower and fortification wall south towards the summit of the acropolis. We are
now fairly confident in describing the ramp as part of a propylon or monumental gate complex, which gave
access to the acropolis from the north.
TFAHR’s objectives in the 2009 season were twofold: to gain a clearer picture of the layout of the
acropolis of Bylazora and to establish a tentative chronology of events in, at least, this quadrant of the
acropolis. Since we have excavated less than 1600 m² of a site that may be more than 200,000 m², we do
not feel that the chronology of events which transpired on this section of the acropolis would necessarily
hold true for other areas of the ancient city. And although it is tempting to co-relate the evidence we can
document in the field with known events chronicled by ancient Greek and Latin authors, to do so with
absolute certainty at this point in our excavation would be premature.
Our tentative chronology is based upon the dating of one particularly critical locus, L13.5-L14.6. (For a
full discussion of the TFAHR Locus Number System of recording and excavation methodology, download
The TFAHR Locus Number System). If the finds from locus L13.5-L14.6 can be dated to ca. 300-275 BC,
then we have a rough date upon which we can construct the rest of our chronology.
|Massive wall discovered in
|Monumental stone ramp
discovered in Sector 3 in 2008.
The tentative chronology worked out by members
of the TFAHR International Field School is as
Phase 1: Pre-ramp-propylon, First Tower.
Phase 2: Ramp-propylon, Second Tower.
Phase 3: Destruction.
Phase 4: First Squatter Period.
Phase 5: Abandonment.
Phase 6: Second Squatter Period.
Phase 7: Destruction of Bylazora.
A consistent feature of the successive phases on the acropolis of Bylazora was the repeated looting of
stones from early structures and their re-use in later ones. The ramp-propylon complex itself served as a
quarry for stones in the later phases of the history of the acropolis. Such constant quarrying removed all
but the lowest courses of stones from the ramp-propylon in most instances. But near the inner threshold
of the complex, even the lowest course was removed in the western part of the threshold, exposing the
foundation stones of the threshold. Some of those foundation stones show a working and dressing that
are unnecessary to a foundation course, suggesting that they are worked stones taken from earlier
buildings. The nature and location of such buildings remain unknown at present. But some
pre-ramp-propylon structures are extant.
Phase 1: Pre-ramp-propylon, First Tower.
|Foundation stones of the threshold;
note finely worked stones.
|First Tower (A) and
Second Tower (B).
The First Tower certainly pre-dates the ramp-propylon.
The First Tower is a section of the acropolis defensive
wall (M11.2), which has a more substantial foundation
than the other stretches of M11.2 so far uncovered,
suggesting the existence of a tower at this point in the
wall. We partially dismantled the ruins at the
intersection of the remains of the First Tower (M11.2)
and the Second Tower (N11.16) and discovered that, at
the lowest levels, stones similar to those of M11.2 and
the First Tower continue beneath the foundations of the
Second Tower, which is constructed of smaller stones.
Of this first phase of acropolis construction there are,
possibly, two other structures which we have uncovered
to date. Since both were discovered in the last days of
the 2009 season, we have not yet had the opportunity
to excavate beneath them, so their inclusion in Phase 1
is highly speculative at present.
In squares N14 and N15 beneath the walls of a Phase 2
building, we uncovered the walls of an earlier building .
A beaten earth and pebble floor was associated with this
building. What appears to remain of this structure are
the foundation walls and the first course of stones. The
walls of this early building are roughly aligned with those
of later structures, hinting that the alignment of the
acropolis structures may have begun at this early period.
|Excavating the intersection of the
First and Second Towers.
|The walls of the later building (A)
are in line with those of the older
|Cleaning the walls of an earlier
building beneath the walls of a
Phase 2 building.
We discovered a more enigmatic structure in square J13. It is a large, irregularly shaped, terracotta
surface (I13.14), whose full extent is, as yet, undetermined, as later walls (I13.8 and J13.7) are built atop it.
A great quantity of ash and burned material was found on top of and around the surface. Most intriguing
was a burn pattern found on I13.14 itself. The burn was in the shape of a giant Omega. The burn line
barely scarred the terracotta and at no point was there any sustained damage to the surface along the
burn line. Our first thoughts were that the terracotta surface was a wine press. There are, however, a
sufficient number of anomalies about the surface (no raised edges, no sump, no drain point) that render
the wine press hypothesis dubious. We later thought that I13.14 might be a threshing floor. Since I13.14
was fully uncovered only on the last day of the excavation season, we were not able to expose its full
extent nor excavate beneath it. Work in 2010 might give us the information necessary to identify and date
our terracotta surface.
|Terracotta surface in square J13.
Note the Omega-shaped burn
pattern on the surface.
|Cleaning the ash and burned material from the top of
terracotta surface I13.14.
|Beginning to uncover walls
I13.8 and J13.7 in 2008.
In addition to actual remains of structures from Phase 1,
we encountered a destruction stratum immediately
beneath the paving stones of the ramp-propylon
complex. In square L14, a square devoid of later
structures, there was an opportunity to put down a small
sounding flush against the stones of the ramp-propylon.
At a depth of .40 m. beneath to top of the paving
stones, a thick layer (L14.13) of burnt fibrous material
and charcoal and ash was encountered. This layer
clearly extended beneath the stones of the
ramp-propylon. Unfortunately, heavy rains precluded
further work in this sounding.
Layer of burnt material
beneath the paving stones
of the ramp-propylon.