The Texas Foundation for Archaeological & Historical Research
TFAHR Archaeology Projects
|Click on photo to enlarge.
|Threshold blocks with cuttings for veneer work.
June - July 2013. Bylazora (Sveti Nikole), Republic of Macedonia.
SUMMARY REPORT PAGE 2
The stoa. We have not forgotten our stoa. We think that the pile of Doric
stones we discovered in 2010 (the stones from a stoa) were piled right beside
the building from which they came. In fact, we uncovered the foundation
courses of that building in the excavations of 2010-2012. In Hellenic city
planning, a stoa is normally sited so as to open on to or provide a view of an
important area or building. What did the stoa at Bylazora face? The
monumental entrance to the palace. The stoa also helps us further in our
dating. Philip V was fond of buildings stoas; he built them at Delos, Beroia, and
Megalopolis. And there was a new architectural feature in Philip’s stoas, the
use of facets instead of flutes on the lowest part of the column. Our research
tells us that the flute-to-facet device (first seen in private houses on Delos
about 290 BC) was first used by Philip V in his stoas. The presence of a
column with this flute-to-facet device at Bylazora does provide support to the
idea that Philip V built the stoa at Bylazora, adjacent to the palace.
The entrance blocks. In not only the main entrance but in other entrances throughout the palace there are large monolithic threshold blocks
with distinctive inset cuttings for the jambs and lock bolts. There are also cuttings for veneer work in wood or stone to mask the rough wall
edges near the doorways. This type of threshold block with such cuttings is, again, typical of the construction techniques of the third and
second centuries BC.
The literary evidence. The ancient Greek author Polybius tells us that Philip V conquered Bylazora in 217 BC. He calls Bylazora the
largest of the cities of the Paionians. Philip conquered it to control the passes that the Dardanians, a barbarian people who lived north of the
Paionians, used when they raided through Paionia into Macedonia. A matter of simple logic would tell us that Philip V needed Bylazora not as
a smoldering ruin but as a fortified site to control the Dardanian incursions. Very likely he fortified Bylazora. In fact, we found evidence of his
fortification in other parts of the Bylazora acropolis. Might he not also have built a small palace for himself and his troops as he did at
Demetrias when he fortified that city? It is foolish to disregard the evidence of Polybius (ca. 205-123 BC), since he was alive during the time
when Rome conquered and subjugated Macedonia and Greece. Moreover, the ancient Roman author Livy describes Bylazora as a
congregating place for King Perseus’ Gallic mercenaries in his wars against Rome in the second century BC. It is unlikely that Perseus would
have ordered the troops to assemble in a ruined city. Rather, he probably had them assemble at a place that could provision them in his war
against Rome. These were the wars in which Rome ended ancient Macedonia’s independence forever.
|Column at Bylazora with the flute-to-facet
transition seen on the colonnades of the stoas
of Philip V.
We anticipate that there will be objections to our dating the palace to Philip V;
so far, we have been presented with three major arguments.
The first objection is that this is a very early dating (ca. 217-200 BC) for the
use of the Corinthian order so far north in the Hellenic world. We concur; it is.
But there is no denying that this is a Corinthian order building and that after the
reign of Perseus (Philip’s successor) Bylazora was destroyed. That leaves only
Philip V. Certainly work continued on the palace during Perseus’ reign; in fact
the evidence is unequivocal, the palace was never completed before it was
The second objection leans in the other direction; that the palace is earlier than
Philip V and the Corinthian capitals are late additions. This objection ignores
three facts. First, the two unfinished Corinthian capitals we discovered in 2012
were never on the façade of the palace; they were in the process of being
carved. We have discovered numerous fragments of the finished Corinthian
capitals that were on the façade. Second, not just the capitals but the entire
façade is of the Corinthian order – from base to cornice. Third, all the
elements of the monumental stairway (upon which the Corinthian façade rests)
are well integrated structurally into the palace walls and entrance. From a
close examination of all the structural joins, we have concluded that the palace,
the monumental stairway, and the vestibule were built at the same time, and
from cuttings in the stairway it is obvious that the stairway was meant to support
a Corinthian order façade. More details will follow in Volume III.
|Red plaster was found adhering to
the stone walls of the entrance
hall. Many fragments of fallen
white and black plaster were
uncovered in the same area.
|Along the walls of the courtyard, we found remains of plaster applied to imitate
a beveled molding. This distinctive plaster treatment can also be seen at the
palace of Demetrias and residential buildings across the Mediterranean.
The plaster. Both the vestibule and the entrance hall were decorated with bright red, white, and black plaster. We also discovered plaster in
the kitchen and in the inner courtyard. The type of the plaster work of this latter area has been found elsewhere in the Hellenic world in
buildings dating to the third and second centuries BC.
|Examples of decorated plaster found in the excavation of the kitchen in 2012.
|In the upper photograph, we see that the lowest step of
the Monumental Stairway is sitting directly on the
foundations of the northern wall of the palace. Below,
note how the large stones of the northern wall are cut to
accommodate the steps.
The third objection is that a great deal of 5th century BC pottery was found on the floor of the palace. Again, this is true. But to date an
entire building by the pottery found on the floor is the most basic mistake of dating methodology. Any building of any era can have pottery
brought into it that pre-dates the building (the heirloom china, for instance) or is contemporary with the building or post-dates the building (if
the building survives long enough). In a palace or in a room that serves religious function (such as our tholos) one would expect antique
pottery. Moreover, the kitchen yielded a large quantity of pottery dated to the 3rd-2nd c. BC.
Aside from the architecture, many interesting artifacts were uncovered in the course of the excavations. From the tholos came pottery with
strange, as yet undeciphered symbols. A handle with a Greek inscription was found on the monumental stairway. A strange disk with
perforations was found in the kitchen; we have yet to figure out what it is. From the palace also came a few bronze and silver items. (The
paucity of coins and precious metals from the palace may stem from the fact that after the palace was looted – probably by the Romans—
survivors came back to pillage what they could, and then professional quarrymen returned to quarry away the stones of the palace. Surely
little of value managed to survive such predations.) And the plethora of iron pieces (that have previously been identified as projectile points)
are, we now believe, constructional fasteners used to prevent warping in timber beams. In the next months we are going to conduct some
hands-on experiments to illustrate how these fasteners were used; we will release the results of our experiments in a video which will be put
on the TFAHR website.
The excavation of Philip V’s palace at Bylazora holds, we are certain, many more splendid surprises. We hope to have Volume III published
by January 2014; in it TFAHR archaeologists will lay out in detail our research that has lead us to the conclusion that what we have
discovered is the last palace of the last Macedonian kings.
|Dozens of these iron objects were
found in the excavation of the
palace. We originally identified
them as "projectile points."
However, based on where they
have been found, we are now
exploring the possibility they were
used as wood fasteners.
|The excavations of the tholos
yielded pottery with stamped
decoration we have not seen
|This tiny bronze object has so far
defied explanation; suggestions
include a clothing toggle or part of
a horse's bridle.
The 2012 TFAHR Bylazora Team.
In May 2013 a new exhibit
opened at the People's
Museum of Sveti Nikole,
presenting artifacts from
the 2008 - 2012 excavation
seasons at Bylazora.