The Texas Foundation for Archaeological & Historical Research
TFAHR Archaeology Projects
TFAHR Excavations
at Vardarski Rid
2007 Season
Location of Vardarski Rid.
Click on map to enlarge.
Excavating the houses on
lower eastern terrace
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Incense burner from the
familial shrine.
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Site Map
June - July 2007.  Vardarski Rid (Gevgelija), Republic of Macedonia.
FULL REPORT:  TFAHR September 2007 Publication.


In June and July of 2007 members of TFAHR, the Museum of Gevgelija, and the
University of Sts. Cyril and Methodius (Skopje, Republic of Macedonia) conducted a
joint excavation on the eastern terrace of Vardarski Rid, a site previously excavated
by all three institutions in past seasons.  For the 2007 season, in an effort to
expand international participation in the project, TFAHR posted notices on the
internet and at various universities across Europe announcing openings for the
project.  The result was TFAHR’s First International Field School at Vardarski Rid.  
TFAHR provided funds to accommodate 30 teachers, students, and volunteers
from the USA, Canada, France, Macedonia, Australia, Slovakia, Russia, Norway,
and the Czech Republic.  In addition, thirteen students and teachers from
Macedonian institutions participated.  Team members contributed to all facets of
the excavation program, including:  excavation work in the field; documentation of
excavations; and processing of finds and pottery (washing, drawing, documenting,
restoration).  TFAHR funded transportation for the dig participants for two field trips
to various archaeological sites in Macedonia.  Twice weekly evening lectures by
archaeologists from America and Europe rounded out the Field School program.

The excavation of the eastern terrace, a hillside sloping sharply towards the Vardar
River (ancient Axios River), involved digging in two sectors.  In the lower eastern
terrace the work consisted primarily in expanding the trenches from a previous
salvage operation in which several 2nd century BC houses, bordering an open
square, were discovered.  First, it was necessary to hire a bulldozer to remove
several large concrete slabs that covered the site; these slabs were the remains of
a campground built in the 1970s.  Once the modern structures were removed, work
progressed uphill and more houses bordering the square were unearthed.  One
house had both plastered floors and walls.  In another, remnants of a familial shrine
were discovered.  Between two houses in the northern part of the lower eastern
terrace, a large storm drain was revealed.  The drain underwent a number of
building phases:  first, an apparently unwalled gutter ran between two houses;
second, large limestone slabs were added to wall and stabilize the drain; third, the
channel was deliberately filled in, probably to avoid having the runoff flood lower
houses and the square.  Pottery and coins date the houses and drain to the
second century BC.  The purpose for expanding excavations in this part of the
eastern terrace was to provide more physical remains of the second century BC
era, which will be restored by the Macedonian authorities in late 2007.  

The other half of the excavation of the eastern terrace was conducted further up
the slope of the hill towards the previously excavated acropolis of the site.  Our
initial foray was to open two long test trenches (approximately 3 x 25 meters each)
in the semi-circular hollow of the hillside, which many thought looked suspiciously
like an overgrown theater.  Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the case.  In the
test trenches there were discovered, however, a number of pits cut into the
bedrock, yielding an array of pottery and figurine fragments, and animal bones.

An opening between a thick cluster of trees and the remaining concrete slabs of the
old campground gave us the opportunity to explore an area between the lower
eastern terrace and the test trenches.  In this section we uncovered a rather large
house, which, because of the number of pithoi (storage vessels) discovered within,
we began to informally refer to as “The House of the Pithoi.”  Although our digging
operations stretched over 250 square meters, we still are not certain that we have
uncovered the full extent of the House of the Pithoi, for only along the house’s
western wall did we unearth a street which definitely demarcated the edge of the
house in that direction.  On the last day of the season, we discovered the tops of
some large limestone slabs along the edge of that street, similar to the storm drain
slabs of the lower eastern terrace.  And in the westernmost room of the House of
the Pithoi, a terracotta drain was unearthed, beneath the beaten earth floor of the
room and running under the western wall of the house (presumably) into the street.

The House of the Pithoi seems to have undergone at least two historical building
phases.  Of the earliest phase little was uncovered, due to the desire to preserve
and restore the remains of the second century BC structures.  To this phase we
can ascribe only two small pottery kilns and a large layer of ash, which may or may
not have been associated with the operation of the kilns.  The ash layer ran
beneath some of the house’s walls, but it was not possible to ascertain the
relationship of most of the house’s other walls to the ash layer.

The central room of the House of the Pithoi had an open central raised platform
(the purpose for which remains unclear), around which numerous vessels and a
portable baking oven were discovered.  Another interesting and difficult to explain
feature of the house was a massive pile of well-fired mudbricks covering a wall and
spilling over into two separate rooms.  Next to the central room with the raised
platform were two rooms in which the majority of the pithoi were located.  We
presume that some sort of roof or shedding covered the pithoi, which were used to
contain grains or liquids; but the paucity of roof tiles suggests that it might not have
been a substantial roof.  Circular cuts in the bedrock indicate that a number of
other pithoi may have been placed in an adjacent room, although no actual remains
of the pithoi were found.

We discovered in the House of the Pithoi a large number of iron nails and keys
(presumably near where the doors were located), as well as a great quantity of
utilitarian pottery.  The coins and pottery date the destruction of the House of the
Pithoi to the mid-second century BC, possibly due to the Celtic invasions of the
Balkans at that time.

In the summer of 2008 TFAHR plans to continue in their cooperation with the
Museum of Gevgelija and the University of Sts. Cyril and Methodius to expand the
scope of both the excavations and the International Field School at Vardarski Rid.

FULL REPORT:  TFAHR September 2007 Publication.
TFAHR team on the final day
of excavating, July 2007.
Click on photo to enlarge.
Cleaning the pottery cache in
the central room of the
House of the Pithoi.
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Clearing large storage jars in
the House of the Pithoi.
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To view more images of
the excavations and
finds, click
To view more images
of the excavations
and finds, click
2007 Excavations
in Macedonia

September 2007