The Texas Foundation for Archaeological & Historical Research
TFAHR Archaeology Projects
|Click on photo to enlarge.
|The storage depot under the Second Squatter Period building contained giant pithoi, an inscribed stone, and dozens of loom weights.
|Small altar at entrance to Bylazora.
The propylon was destroyed in the middle of the fourth century BC, possibly by Philip II when he
conquered the Paionians in 358 BC. Almost immediately squatters moved into the ruins of the
propylon, utilizing what walls still remained standing. The ceramic evidence dates the end of this
“First Squatter Period” to ca. 300-275 BC, which neatly fits between Philip’s invasion and the invasion
of the Danubian Gauls in 279 BC. From that time on, the propylon lay in ruins. The Paionians had
regained their independence from Macedonia during this period. But in 217 BC, the Macedonian
king Philip V conquered Bylazora (described by Polybius as the largest city of the Paionians) and
utilized the city as his northern defense against the warlike Dardanians, who were threatening
Macedonia at the time. Philip V hastily repaired the northern acropolis walls around the ruined
propylon. We found the remains of these last defensive walls.
Bylazora was destroyed and abandoned in the second century BC. It remains uncertain whether the
city was laid waste during the Macedonian-Dardanian wars or as a result of the Roman conquest of
the Balkans. After this legendary city lay abandoned for some time, quarrying operations began in
earnest. The large buildings and walls were systematically dismantled, the largest stones being
carried away. Smaller stones were piled up and burnt down to make lime mortar. Evidence of this
lime burning was widespread, especially in Sector 6. Since we have, as yet, found no use of mortar
or cement in the buildings of Bylazora, we assume that the stones and lime mortar were used
elsewhere, perhaps at Roman Stobi. Stobi is situated some thirty kilometers to the south along an
ancient road which, at one time, connected Paionian Bylazora and Stobi.
Elsewhere in Sector 3 we were able to dig deeper beneath the strata of the Classical era. We
uncovered numerous remains of walls of houses of the Iron Age, 7th-6th c. BC, as dated from the
ceramic evidence. The walls were made of clay and wattle and daub and were set in upright stone
foundations. Many of these houses were burned, leaving behind baked clay remains. But some of
the houses escaped destruction by fire. One particularly large clay wall collapsed on its side, neatly
covering the floor of the structure. A great deal of slag was recovered from the ruins of the burnt
buildings. A preliminary analysis shows that it is slag from pottery kilns, not metal working furnaces.
Some time in the early fifth century a pebble and packed earth surface was set down over the
remains of the houses of the Iron Age. Later in that same century a packed pebble surface was laid
down atop the entire area. This pebble surface is contemporary with the construction of the
propylon. During the First Squatter Period (ca. 375-275 BC) and the Second Squatter Period (late
3rd – early 2nd c. BC) small ramshackle huts were built in the ruins of the propylon and casemate
We excavated beneath the floor of this “depot” to
find that it was built directly over another building,
probably also a depot of some sort. About a dozen
pithoi of this earlier depot were found still intact and
in situ. The walls of the later depot were, in some
places, built directly over the tops of some of the
pithoi of the earlier depot. It might be interesting in
the 2012 season to dig beneath the early building
to reveal even earlier structures.
|A FULL DESCRIPTION OF THE STRATIGRAPHY AND CHRONOLOGY WILL
BE PROVIDED IN THE 2011 REPORT, AVAILABLE IN NOVEMBER 2011.
June - July 2011. Bylazora (Sveti Nikole), Republic of Macedonia.
- The remains of the original, 5th
- Inclined ramp of the later
This year we found what appears to be the stoa.
By the end of the season we exposed two of the
walls of the stoa; the back wall runs at least 13.5
meters and the western side wall at least 4.25
meters. We worked here with our entire team up
until the very last hour of the last day, but did not
find the full length of either wall. The back wall is
built of well-dressed stones, the lower course of
blocks measuring 0.60 x 1.0 meters; the second
course is of smaller stones. Stylobate and
stereobate courses were found beneath the
ancient ground level. The discoloration and
friable condition of the upper courses of stones
indicate that they had been subjected to intense
heat. It appears that this building is aligned with
the western acropolis gate. But only the 2012
excavations will tell.
Above, the corner of the stoa was
revealed just under the surface. We
excavated a long portion of the back
wall and part of the western wall (right).
In 2010 in Sector 6 we discovered a pile of stones from a Doric order building, which we can
date roughly to the 4th-3rd century BC. We had hoped that the stones might be from a
temple, but research indicated that they probably came from a stoa or colonnade of some
sort. Most of the stones (limestone) were cut up and tossed into a heap. Around this pile of
stones was a mass of ash, quicklime, and crazed and cracked stones. Bits of a clay kiln and
slag were also found scattered about. Analysis indicated that there were abundant trace
elements of limestone – all pointing to a lime burning process. The stones were piled up near
a very well preserved section of the acropolis wall and western gate. In 2010 we searched in
vain for the foundations of the building from which the Doric stones came.
In the southernmost trenches of Sector 3 we had uncovered a large building of the Second Squatter Period in 2009. We expanded and
deepened these trenches in 2010 and 2011. The remains of the Second Squatter Period structure are poor: walls only one or two courses
tall, beaten earth floors, scant pottery remains. But this season in one of the rooms of this large structure, we hit pottery pay dirt! Beneath
a thick roof tile fall, we found a mass of broken amphoras, storage jars, and pithoi (giant underground storage vessels). Interestingly, all the
pithoi were literally ripped up out of the ground before they were smashed. This reconfirms the idea of a violent end to Bylazora, with the
spectacle of looters searching for treasure. In and amongst the debris of this room, which we think was a storage depot of some sort, an
inscribed stone and dozens of loom weights were found.
|Uncovering a charred timber in an
Iron Age building.
Another of the objectives of the 2011 season was to
discover what buildings might be found on the Second
Terrace (middle terrace) of the hill. To this end we opened
up a 5 x 15 meter long trench on the northwest part of the
Second Terrace below the acropolis (photos to the right).
Just beneath the topsoil we uncovered many small walls.
The nature of the walls leads us to believe that we have
found the residential area of ancient Bylazora. The ceramic
finds from this Second Terrace excavation date the
occupation of these buildings to the last days of Bylazora.
Only further excavation will reveal the existence of any
|The TFAHR International Field
School team opening new squares
in Sector 3.
A terracotta altar, with remains of sacri-
ficial offerings, was found under the stones
of the propylon ramp.
|Cleaning bones in a hearth of the
Iron Age stratum.
In October of 2010 Mr. Ilija Stoilev, Director of the People’s Museum of Sveti Nikole, invited the
TFAHR International Field School to return to Sveti Nikole for its fourth season of excavation at the
site many archaeologists believe is the legendary Paionian city of Bylazora. On behalf of TFAHR,
Mrs. Eulah Matthews and Dr. William Neidinger accepted the invitation and returned with a team of 32
archaeologists, professors, teachers, students and volunteers, including 17 from the USA (Texas,
California, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Washington DC), and
participants from 8 other countries (Australia, China, England, France, Poland, Scotland, Serbia,
Spain). At the site we worked alongside colleagues from the People’s Museum of Sveti Nikole,
volunteers from Sveti Nikole and the United States Peace Corps, and workers from Knezje and Sveti
In previous seasons we excavated exclusively on the northern and western fringes of the acropolis of
Bylazora. For the 2011 campaign, we intended to both expand these trenches horizontally and to dig
deeper into earlier strata. TFAHR proposed connecting the northern (Sector 3) and western (Sector
6) trenches, in order to follow the defensive walls of the acropolis, which were found in both locations,
and to set down exploratory soundings on the Second (Middle) Terrace of the hill.
The excavations of the 2008 season in Sector 3 revealed the remains of a propylon (monumental
gateway). As a result of the 2011 excavations, we are now able to provide a rough chronology of the
construction and destruction of this building. In the fifth century BC, the northern part of the
acropolis was defended by a stretch of defensive wall guarded by at least two large towers. Between
the towers a road approximately 4.0 meters wide entered the acropolis. It was probably a dirt road
lined with flat curbstones on either side. A small altar was erected in front of the eastern tower; such
altars at the entrances to cities are common all over the ancient Mediterranean world.
Around 400 BC the people of Bylazora built the
propylon. This entailed demolishing the two large
towers and building two smaller, perhaps
ceremonial, towers flanking an inclined ramp built
directly atop the earlier road. To inaugurate the
construction process and to ensure the blessings
of the gods for this project, the Bylazorans laid
down a large terracotta surface atop the old road
surface, sacrificed some small animals, and
burned their bodies along with some foodstuffs
and grain. We found the remains of this
terracotta altar and the charred bones and grain
directly beneath the stones of the ramp. The
inclined ramp led up to a gated threshold, which,
in turn, led to a small rectangular room, whose
paving stones were laid flat. Beyond this room
was a large open area on the acropolis. Thick
walls flanked this propylon complex; evidence of
previous years’ excavations suggests that the
propylon was roofed over. At the northern end of
the propylon, another small altar was built in front
of the eastern tower, on a slightly higher level.
We found a great mass of ash and burnt bones
around this altar. What occasioned the building of
the propylon remains a mystery.
Reconstruction of the propylon complex.
|Last defensive walls of Bylazora (A).
|The darker soil (B) reveals where
wall stones were robbed away.
|Left, a massive clay wall collapsed onto its side.
Right, we cut through this wall to reveal the floor underneath.
A pebble surface
covered the Iron
One of the objectives of the 2011 season was to connect the acropolis walls of Sectors 3 and 6. We
thought this would be a rather simple task of following the contours of the acropolis, the logical line
where the wall would run. We extrapolated where the walls would meet and dug there (Sector 7). But
instead of a wall we found, just centimeters beneath the grass, a field of pithoi set down into a clay bed
that had been carved into the subsoil. Since pithoi are, by their very nature, set into the ground, they
must have been part of the cellar of a very substantial building, of which not a single trace remains,
aside from the pithoi themselves. And this building must have been incorporated somehow into the
circuit of walls on the acropolis. Whoever quarried away this building did a most thorough job. All the
pithoi had their rims smashed off and many of these rims we found inside the pithoi themselves.
But even more curious, we found many broken pithos
bases inside these 13 pithoi, which, as mentioned, were
still set in their original positions. This means that even
more pithoi were located somewhere nearby. The
discovery of the pithoi forces us to re-think our
concepts about the layout and defensive works of the
acropolis of Bylazora.
We are already planning our 2012 season. Funding permitting, we hope to:
1. Expand our Second Terrace excavation;
2. Uncover more of the Iron Age strata in Sector 3;
3. Reveal the full extent of the Second Squatter Period building (also Sector 3);
4. Excavate the stoa in Sector 6; and
5. Perhaps open up a new sector on the eastern rim of the acropolis.