The Texas Foundation for Archaeological & Historical Research
TFAHR Archaeology Projects
|Click on photo to enlarge.
|Cleaning the terracotta hearth in the
June - July 2012. Bylazora (Sveti Nikole), Republic of Macedonia.
|Uncovering a Doric column.
|Stones from a building of the Doric
order, discovered in 2010.
One of the most exciting structures found this season is a circular building bounded in by a square building – both built up against the temenos
wall. The complete circle and square have not been exposed yet. But in the western part of the circle-square complex there is a break in the
walls. Here may have stood the stones of the entrance, stones which were robbed away. Although the entranceway stones are gone, part of the
charred lintel superstructure of timbers and mudbrick was left behind in the robber trench to be found by our excavators.
There is a square stone in the middle of the circular building, whose purpose is unknown at this time. Since we have neither reached the floor of
the circular building nor uncovered its full extent, the nature of this unusual building remains a mystery – though theories are in no short supply
amongst TFAHR archaeologists!
In the 2010 excavation season we discovered a large pile of chopped-up stones from a Doric order
building. At first glance we thought they may have come from a temple, but upon further research it
became apparent that they were from a stoa or portico or colonnade of some sort. But where might
that building be located? In the very last days of the 2011 season we exposed the corner of a
building constructed of well cut ashlars. We ended the season convinced that we had chanced upon
the corner of a stoa. TFAHR archaeologists spent the entire winter of 2011-2012 researching the
stoas of the Hellenistic era, so convinced we were of our discovery. In the opening days of the 2012
season we were quickly disabused of that notion.
If you followed our weekly updates of the 2012 season, you read about our ever changing “in-the-
trenches” hypotheses regarding the nature of the building complex we were uncovering. By the end
of the season we were fairly well convinced that we now properly understand the date and
identification of our complex. The first clue to be uncovered that negated the whole stoa theory was
the angle of the intersection of the two walls we had uncovered in 2011; it was 105°. Few classical
structures ever deviate from a 90° angle. One that often does is a temenos wall. A temenos wall is,
very simply as the Greek word implies, a wall that separates. It might separate a holy area (temples)
from a profane area (living quarters) or an aristocratic neighborhood from a shantytown.
Sector 3 of the acropolis of Bylazora (which we excavated in previous seasons) was reduced to ruins
some time in the late fourth century BC. But our excavations have shown that the ruins continued to
be inhabited, possibly by squatters, up until the last days of Bylazora in the second century BC. We
know from the ancient Greek author Polybius (V:97) that the Macedonian king Philip V conquered
Bylazora (which Polybius described as the largest of the Paionian cities) in 217 BC as a bulwark
against Dardanian invasions from the north. There is some evidence of his rebuilding of some of the
fortifications in Sector 3. If Philip V or his commanders spent any time at Bylazora, they might have
cordoned off the western part of the acropolis (our Sector 6) from the squatter buildings of the
central part of the acropolis (our Sector 3) with a temenos wall.
The two individual walls (L24.53 and L23.52) that constitute our temenos wall originate at the western
gate of the city wall, then join at that 105° angle, then continue off in a southeasterly direction. We
discovered a gate in L23.52 in the easternmost trench we opened in the 2012 season. But the
season ended before we could ascertain the full size of the gate, the continuation and full extent of
wall L23.52, or whether the temenos wall angles off again in another direction. These are questions
for another season.
The Sector 6 temenos wall is no simple dividing wall; a
number of structures are built up against it. There is a
complex of small rooms abutting walls L24.53 and L23.52 in
the 105° angle. Most of the stones of these walls have been
robbed away by men who used the ruins of Bylazora as a
quarry, after the city had been destroyed in the second
century BC. On the hard plaster and terracotta floors of
these rooms a great mass of food storage, serving, and
cooking vessels were found, as well as a large terracotta
hearth. We have no doubt found here a grand kitchen. This
building was destroyed by fire at some point. Specimens of
some of the large charred roof timbers were taken back to
the USA for analysis; the analysis will give us information
about the wood itself and quite possibly the date of the
destruction of the building. Numerous painted plaster
fragments indicate that the walls of the kitchen rooms were
decorated. We found a large threshold stone in one of these
robbed out wall trenches; the well preserved cutting in the
stone will help us reconstruct the whole door mechanism and
wall decoration of the kitchen. (A video of the door
reconstruction will be posted later this year on the TFAHR
Southeast of the kitchen complex along wall L23.52, we
discovered the remains of what appears to be a ramp built up
against the wall. But the stone robbing was so thorough here
that it is difficult to ascertain whether the ramp was built
earlier than the temenos wall or associated with the wall.
To the southwest of the ramp we found a fallen and shattered
Doric column and capital. The column may have been one of
several that stood upon a threshold of large very finely cut
stones. If so, then this may be a threshold to an inner
peristyle courtyard. Again, only further excavation will tell.
|The top of the temenos wall, as it
was coming up.
|Fragment of painted wall plaster.
|The charred wooden remains of a
doorway were found in the trench
where the wall was robbed out.
|The circular building, inside a
square, is built right into the
Finally, “outside” the temenos wall in square P27 (just alongside the threshold of the gate in the
temenos wall) we discovered in the last days of this season’s dig a small raised dedication platform.
It consists of four steps upon which were placed at least two small altars and at least two dedicatory
Corinthian capitals. We uncovered no more than a sliver of this platform; it is wedged in between
the temenos wall and the side of the trench; obviously the trench should be widened in future
The Corinthian capitals are no simple capitals which supported the architrave of some building.
They are dedicatory capitals; that is, they served as bases for small memorials. The circles
inscribed on the tops of the capitals are indications of this dedicatory nature.
In the 2011 TFAHR annual report on the Bylazora excavations, we discussed the possibility of the
Corinthian order at Bylazora. Although it seemed unlikely that the Corinthian order could have made
its way so far north into the Paionian-Macedonian world so early (before Bylazora’s destruction in
the second century BC), there were definite traces of the Corinthian order that came from our
trenches. Now, with the 2012 discoveries, we have the definitive proof that we need to support our
hypothesis of the early introduction of the Corinthian order to this part of the Mediterranean world.
|Inscribed on the top of the
Corinthian capital is a circle,
evidence that this capital
may have served as a base
for a dedicatory offering.
The pottery found “inside” the complex of buildings built up
against the temenos wall dates from the late third and early
second centuries BC – the last days of Bylazora. This further
lends credence to our theory that the entire temenos complex
was constructed after Philip V’s conquest of the city in 217 BC.
Some of the ceramics and weaponry point to the Romans as the
ones who destroyed the city and subsequently quarried it away.
All of the above are musings and speculations of the TFAHR
team at the end of the 2012 season. We will continue to
research all of the various points made above. We intend to
post on the TFAHR website more photos and videos on different
aspects of our work of the past five seasons. We are currently
compiling a book on the 2008-2012 excavations at Bylazora,
which we hope to publish by the end of 2012; this publication will
be in memory of David P. Seikel, one of the founders of TFAHR,
who passed away this year. In addition, a TFAHR archaeologist
will be spending several months at the People’s Museum of
Sveti Nikole working with the Bylazora ceramic material; TFAHR
hopes to publish her work next year.
We thank everyone again for their interest and support in the
TFAHR Bylazora Project, especially those donors whose
contributions made the 2012 season possible.
|Preparing site plans and elevations.
Click on plan to enlarge.