The Texas Foundation for Archaeological & Historical Research
TFAHR Archaeology Projects
|Click on photo to enlarge.
|Cleaning the terracotta hearth in the
June - July 2013. Bylazora (Sveti Nikole), Republic of Macedonia.
|Stones from a building
of the Doric order,
discovered in 2010.
Obviously, this building was no stoa. After a year’s worth of
research and another season of excavation in the summer of
2013, all the evidence started falling into place. We now believe
that what TFAHR had discovered back in 2011 was a palace, a
palace of the last Macedonian kings, one started by Philip V (reg.
221-179 BC) and not yet completed when the Romans destroyed
ancient Macedonia during the reign of Philip’s son, Perseus (reg.
The following is a summary of our investigative process. Our
evidence and conclusions will appear in fuller detail with the
publication of Volumes II and III of Bylazora later this year.
The tholos. Typically the round tholos building served a cultic or
sacred function in Hellenic architecture. It could be a shrine, a
throne room, an ancestral chapel, or a room where select
religious figures or politicians held banquets. What purpose it
served at Bylazora has yet to be determined. But it is the
location of the tholos that is important. The main Macedonian
palace at Vergina, Greece has a tholos right next to the entrance
to the palace. And again, here at Bylazora, we have a tholos
next to an entrance. In Volume III we will elaborate on additional
groundplan similarities between the Palace at Bylazora and other
Hellenistic palaces which have been excavated (including one at
Demetrias, rebuilt by Philip V).
The Corinthian capitals. It was obvious already in 2012 that
neither of the capitals was finished, but they were in the process
of being carved. In 2013 we expanded our excavation and were
able to liberate the capitals and view all eight sides of the two of
them. This gave us extraordinary insight into the actual carving
process of ancient sculptors. In Volume III we will present a
detailed account of this process. And the fact that the capitals
were Corinthian (not Doric or Ionic) provides evidence to suggest
The Corinthian entablature. With the widening of our trenches
in 2013, we discovered that the five steps we had unearthed the
previous season were, in fact, five steps of a monumental
stairway leading into a vestibule that stood before the entrance
hall to the palace. Scattered along those steps were the
remnants of an entire Corinthian order entablature (façade).
Those stones and fragments included: the square plinth,
fragments of the round bases, the columns, the capitals, and (of
the entablature itself) architrave, frieze, and cornice stones. The
evolution of the Corinthian order has been very well documented
by historians and archaeologists over the past two centuries; by
comparing the remnants we have at Bylazora to known material
from other sites in the Mediterranean world, we can suggest a
date for our Bylazora complex. Based on the composition of the
entablature and style of the stones we discovered, the very
earliest we can date the Bylazora palace to is ca. 300 BC, but
stylistically it may date much closer to 200 BC. Support for this
dating will be laid out in Volume III.
During the 2010 excavation season at Bylazora, TFAHR archaeologists
uncovered a pile of well carved stones from a Doric order building. We had
hoped that these stones might be from the elusive temple for which we had
been searching since excavations began in 2008. But our research pointed
us in another direction: these stones probably came from a stoa
(colonnade) or portico. The critical stone which gave us this clue was the
one that transitioned from flutes to facets; such stones made a late
appearance in Hellenic architecture (3rd c. BC), and were traditionally used
only in stoas or porticoes. So, our research turned towards stoas.
In the very last days of the 2011 season, we decided to open a trench near
the pile of Doric stones. To be honest, our expectations were not very high.
But a mere four centimeters beneath topsoil, our archaeologists hit a wall
built of very finely cut ashlars, better cut than any stones in any buildings
we had previously discovered. We spent the last three days of that season
frantically uncovering that wall and another wall that joined it at an odd 105º
angle. When the season ended we had followed one wall some 15 meters
and the other about 8 meters. Despite the uncharacteristic 105º angle, we
had hoped that these were the walls of our stoa.
We were rapidly disabused of that notion in the first week of
the 2012 season. Along the southern side of the long wall
were a number of rooms. In the 105º angle was a large area
subdivided into a number of small rooms. We dubbed this
complex of small rooms the “Grand Kitchen” because of the
circular terracotta cooking surface found in one room; in
other rooms we found food storage, cooking, and serving
vessels. Beside the kitchen was a rectangular room of
uncertain purpose. Next to the rectangular room was a round
room, a tholos. And adjacent to the tholos, an entrance hall.
In the narrow space between the edge of the trench and the
entrance hall, we unearthed five steps perpendicular to the
wall. On the lowest of the steps were two unfinished
Corinthian capitals. And so the 2012 season ended with a
wealth of new clues to be investigated.
|The walls of what we hoped would be our stoa (2011 season) - and the
uncharacteristic 105º angle at the western end.
The tholos, a circular building inside a square, is located
adjacent to the entrance to the palace; the steps to the
left in the photo form part of the monumental entrance
way into the palace.
|The five steps and the
Corinthian capitals, as they
appeared at the end of the
|The capitals, after the steps were
uncovered in the 2013 season.
The inside of the tholos was
excavated to determine the
purpose of the room; the
finds suggest cultic use.
|Two unfinished Corinthian capitals, first found in 2012. The carving on
each side is at a different stage of completion.
|All the parts of the Corinthian order
colonnade and entablature which
formed the monumental entrance
way were found tumbled down on to
the steps leading up to the
entrance. Of particular significance
for dating the building are the
cornice fragments with dentils (left).
|This cornice fragment, a corner, was
cleaned to reveal a sculpted rosette
and the remains of red painted plaster.
|The architectural fragments were
photographed and drawn by team members.
Click on plan to enlarge.
|The Palace in
Sector 6 at Bylazora