IRAKLEIA CAVES EXCAVATION PROJECT (ICEP)

slide2The program of archaeological excavation and survey of caves on the island of Irakleia in the Lesser Cyclades that took place between 2014-2016. The project was a cooperation—synergasia—with the Ephorate of Palaeoanthropology and Speleology of Greece and it was directed by Drs. Fanis Mavridis from the Ephorate and Zarko Tankosic from NorwInst.  The project was funded by the Norwegian Institute and by a generous independent grant from the Swiss Federal Office of Culture.

Irakleia is a small island, part of the Lesser Cyclades, located south from the island ofslide3 Naxos. The project on this island consisted of a systematic excavation of the Agios Ioannis/Cyclops cave complex on the island known to have been inhabited from early prehistoric times. The project aimed to recover evidence for the diachronic use of the island’s caves, especially in the light of prehistoric Aegean maritime interactions.

Our combined teams opened several test trenches in four caves and excavated them to the depth of more than 1.5. The evidence collected shows that the caves have been in more or less continuous use from at least the Early Bronze Age until the modern times. We have also confirmed that one of the caves contain large deposits of tephra from the Bronze Age Santorini volcano eruption, making this site extremely valuable for establishing Aegean Bronze Age chronology and for geologist and geoarchaeologists studying this event that norwinst_fb6may have led to important social changes and the end of the Minoan dominance in the Aegean.
The preliminary results of our investigations were presented at the conference on Cycladic archaeology that took place in May 2016 on the island of Syros. As of 2017, the project is in the study and publication phase. Images from the project can be seen at its Facebook page. For any questions, please contact the project co-director Dr. Zarko Tankosic.

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NORWEGIAN ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY IN THE KARYSTIA (NASK)

cropped-norwinst_fb8.jpgA program or research consisting of an archaeological diachronic surface survey of the
Katsaronio Plain, located north-west of the town of Karystos. The project lasted from 2012 to 2016 and is in the study and publication phase as of 2017.

10460637_733652126699747_2654484285747004749_oThe Norwegian Archaeological Survey in the Karystia was a five-year long project of systematic archaeological investigation in the Karystia, which is the part of southern Euboea centered on the modern town of Karystos. The long-term goal of the project was to record and reconstruct the cultural landscapes in the Karystia and the ways the landscape was constructed, lived in, and used by people inhabiting the Karystia in the past, from the prehistoric times to the present. The Katsaronio plain was hitherto virtually unknown in archaeological terms, since very little research has been done there in the past. The primary objectives of the project were to explore the long-term connection between people and the landscape they inhabit and to gather evidence that reflects the past (particularly prehistoric) sociopolitical organization of Karystian communities and their access to and management of agricultural resources. Additionally, the project included the search for evidence for the earliest known (Late Neolithic) settlement of the area and it also10519774_747762008600589_2834110795321667729_n functioned as an informal field school where students of archaeology and classics from Norway and elsewhere can obtain field experience. More than 100 students, volunteers, and professional archaeologists from Norway and more than a dozen other countries have taken part in this project.

NASK was organized as an intensive diachronic pedestrian surface survey. The entire 11391514_932976706767287_5090176692072239531_ntarget area of approximately 20 square kilometers was surveyed by team members spaced ten meters apart, assuring maximum coverage and accuracy. Concentrations of archaeological materials (termed findspots), features (immovable objects such as walls, pits, wells), significant natural resources (e.g., springs), and individual finds of any kind (e.g., pottery, chipped and polished stone, metals, etc.) were recorded using a GPS device and their location and other information associated with them (i.e., their context) is entered into a database, which was analyzed using GIS software. Special attention is given to findspots, as likely surface indications of buried archaeological sites; all findspots were surveyed in greater detail for evidence of differential spatial distribution of certain kinds of artifacts and/or features. The project introduced the use of Android-based tablets to the survey to excellent results in terms of speed and recording accuracy.

The project managed to discover and record 99 new archaeological sites in the 20 sq km13417520_1132191603512462_8886380006694148901_n survey area. The sites range in date from the Final Neolithic to Ottoman and in size from a handful of sherds and lithics to massive concentrations of archaeological artifacts and features spread over several hectares. The project also discovered sites that will likely be explored in the future through archaeological excavation (e.g. Gourimadi prehistoric site).

For some images from the project, please visit its Facebook page. For any questions, please contact the project’s director, Dr. Zarko Tankosic.

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GREEK NORWEGIAN DEEP WATER ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY AT ITHACA

  • Hi-tech investigation of seabottom around Ithaki (Ionian Islands)
  • Greek-Norwegian co-production
  • Directors: Ms Katerina Delaporta (Department of Underwater Antiquities), Dr Marek E. Jasinski (Norwegian University of Science and Technology at Trondheim)
  • Financing from the Greek Ministry of Culture, Telenor Hellas S.A., Sarantitis & Partners
  • Pre-season 1999, regular seasons 2000, 2002-2003

fig12-hellasThe “Greek-Norwegian Deep-Water Archaeological Survey” is a joint undertaking by the Greek Department of Underwater Antiquities (EEA), the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at Trondheim (NTNU) and the Norwegian Institute at Athens (NIA). Its main goal is to survey the seabed in selected areas in Greece using advanced underwater technology, and thereby create a database of submerged archaeological sites as an aid to their protection. The project is directed by Ms Katerina Delaporta (EEA) and Dr Marek E. Jasinski (NTNU), the Greek team and the research vessel financed by the Greek Ministry of Culture, the Norwegian side by the generous sponsorship of Telenor Hellas S.A. and Sarantitis & Partners.

The co-operation was initiated in September 1999 when a one-week pre-season was conducted in the Northern Sporades. The purpose was to familiarize the Norwegian team with local conditions, both above and below the water surface. A number of known wreck sites were visited with the NTNU side-scan sonar, a torpedo-like instrument towed by the research ship, which sends a continuous image of the sea-bottom to the onboard computer. The technicians learned to distinguish the digital imprint of the amphora mounds of wrecked merchantmen from natural rock formations and outcrops which create similar representations. In the process four potential new wrecksites were identified, of which one was confirmed by EEA divers and dated to the Byzantine period.

In June 2000 the research area was moved to Ithaki for the first full season. During two weeks the team gathered digital data around Ithaki and in the sound between Ithaki and Kefallonia. Despite the very anomalous seabed, characterized by a rapid drop to depths beyond 100m and a rocky terrain, which caused some difficulties (a wreck may be confused with rocks when it lies among them and/or when the sonar passes over the site on a course at an angle to the dominant lines of the underwater topography), the work with the sonar resulted in a comprehensive coverage of the north-eastern coast of Ithaki. Close to one hundred targets were catalogued, of which a selection was made for verification. Employing the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) of the Sperre A.S. company from Norway allowed the team to eliminate a number of possible targets as being elements of the seabed.

fig10-hellasc722cd6e-dfad-48bb-9a31-680425658eb9Two new wrecks were extensively documented using the ROV. This involved collecting video footage for the study and dating of the amphorae (at first contact they appear to be Late Republic/Early Roman Empire in date), and creating a photo mosaic with a digital camera. The one wreck, reported by Fiskardo’s Nautical and Environmental Club (Kefallonia), has been extensively damaged by sportsdivers. The other consists of a complete amphora cargo at a protective depth. This spectacular find resulted from an intensive search in an area indicated by a fisherman who had pulled up an amphora in his nets. It illustrated in a convincing manner the abilities of the team to use both sonar information and the Project’s complementary approach of interviews with fishermen to obtain the best possible results. A third wreck consisting of roof tiles was only partially documented since a greater number of tiles had been signaled than were found by the ROV. Further work in the area is necessary in 2002 on a cargo of lead bars so a return to the site is planned.

The “Greek-Norwegian Deep-Water Archaeological Survey” combines the extensive knowledge of the Greek waters of the EEA personnel with hi-tech survey equipment owned and operated by the NTNU or developed by Sperre A.S. While side-scan sonars have been used previously in Greece, the combination of the sonar for covering large areas and the ROV for rapid verification is a new approach which does not resort to vastly more expensive research submarines.

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NORWEGIAN ARCADIA SURVEY – PART II

Norwegian Arcadia Survey. Part II. Sites and Marginal Landscapes
Report for the archaeological fieldwork conducted in 2011

mirmingofolies-possible-mound-hege-og-jonathan-krzywinskiThe Norwegian Arcadia Survey Part II (NAS 2) conducted archaeological fieldwork in three periods during 2011. The most extensive fieldwork was conducted in the period 10.06 – 24.06.2011. The participants were then Hege Agathe Bakke-Alisøy (the project manager), Nils Ole Sundet, Jonatan Krzywinski, Dorthea Alisøy and Harald Klempe. Our work was this year funded by the Norwegian Institute at Athens, the Meltzer foundation and the B.E. Bendixens fund. In addition one week of find processing was done in February and one in November, then only by the project manager, Hege Agathe Bakke-Alisøy.

Aim

Our aim for this year’s activity was to get a better understanding of the finds in the area of survey-along-a-dirt-road-nils-ole-sundet-og-dorthea-alis-yAg. Dimitrios and Mirmingofolies. During the field season of 2010 a short reconnaissance was done resulting in both prehistoric and medieval finds. This year the geologist Harald Klempe conducted investigations using a ground penetrating radar (GPR) of a find concentration previously found during the season of 2009 at the site of Chairolimnes (site 1). This archaeological material here mainly prehistoric, and then Early and/or Middle Helladic. We have chosen this site due to its very marked find concentration. We thus consider it to be suitable for testing the method of GPR searching for prehistoric structures.

Also this year a great amount of archaeological material previously collected was analysed. We aimed to complete processing the material collected during the fieldwork in 2008 and 2009.

Results
copy-of-arkadia1-funnmotaket-nos-2010In February the project manager, Hege Agathe Bakke-Alisøy, stayed one week in Tegea analysing the archaeological material found during the fieldwork in 2008 and 2009. The Swedish archaeologist Ann-Louise Schallin was of great help as she stayed for one day. She is an expert on Mycenaean pottery and has previously worked with the prehistoric material from the Asea survey. Her input was vital for getting a more detailed chronological understanding of the material.

The processing of the archaeological finds was continued during the season in June. The focus was on the prehistoric material, but also parts of the medieval and early modern material was analysed. We did not manage to complete the work, but some preliminary tendencies are emerging. At the site Chairolimnes (site 1) are there at least two concentrations of finds both dated to the Early Helladic. This correlates with the chronological interpretation by Roger Howell, but only one of the find concentrations is included in his study. Despite chronological similarities the two find concentrations show marked differences in type of archaeological material present. This may represent two different settlements, not contemporary, or two distinct activity areas within the same settlement. A further analysis of the material is needed. At Chairolimnes there are also traces of later settlements from medieval and early modern period. This material has yet not been studied. One of he find concentrations of Early Helladic find was chosen as a test area for using GPR. This investigation was conducted by the geologist Dr Harald Klempe, University College Telemark. The results from this investigation are not ready at this point, but the preliminary results are promising. There are clearly structures underlying this find concentration, but a further analysis is needed to try to relate the finds with the possible structure.

Early Helladic material is also found at the site Mirmingofolies (site 5). It should be said that this is based on a very limited archaeological material. Roger Howell reports of this site and also dates it to Early Helladic. He also refers to graves previously found be local farmers. At this location there are some small stone structures. Their location as well as the stones used indicates that this could be grave mounds. The survey conducted this year also revealed new stone structures nearby.  The majority of these are of a medieval or early modern date, probably related to the settlement at Ag Dimitrios (site 6). Most of these structures are agricultural terrace walls and irrigation canals. However, there are a few low mounds that clearly precede these later structures. A further investigation of this area is thus needed.
Following the dirt road down from Mirmingofolies towards Ag Dimitrios we found a marked concentration of finds. Some of these clearly date to Late Helladic, and most likely also Late Helladic III. The concentration was discovered last year, but a systematic survey, using method 4 (a survey-transect along a dirt road. A transect is 100 meters long and as wide as the road. One field walker in each wheel track and finds are counted for each 20 meters. One sample of the archaeological material is collected for the whole transect. This should be a representative sample according to type and chronology), was conducted this summer. A full investigation of the area is, however, difficult due to very dense vegetation. So far this is the only site with a Mycenaean dating within our survey area.

The site Psili Vrisi Vationa (site 3) is by Roger Howell interpreted as a Mycenaean site. The survey material collected during the field season in 2009 indicates, however, to a Middle Helladic and early part of Late Helladic (LH I) dating. Initially we had also hope to conduct investigations with GPR at selected areas of this site. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. Hopefully a GPR investigation can be done next year at Psili Vrisi Vationa.

The filed survey that was conducted this year was in the area of Ag Dimitrios and Mirmingofolies. This was a continuation of the work done previously year. As already mentioned we registered an area just south of Mirmingofolies (site 4) with various stone structures. The majority most likely related to the medieval and/or early modern settlement of Ag Dimitrios (site 5). This area was surveyed using method 5 (transects of irregular shape and size. This method is applied for reconnaissance in new areas. The number of filed walkers may vary. One representative sample is collected for each transect). We also tried to map some of the stone structures in order to get an impressionmirmingofolies-mounds2 of their extension and character. Starting at Mirmingofolies (site 4) we applied method 4. This method of survey was done down to Ag Dimitrios. Beside the concentration of Mycenaean finds medieval and early modern finds were scattered all over, but increasing towards the site of Ag Dimitrios (site 5). A reconnaissance (method 5) was done covering most of the hill of Ag Dimitrios. On the western slope of the hill, next to a dirt road leading down to the modern village Psili Vrisi, there was a spring with a large cistern. This slope was very fertile and covered by very high terrace. On the western top of the hill several stone structures, possibly related to a settlement, were found. All the finds from this area are consistent with the preliminary dating to medieval and/or early modern period. Very dense vegetation is also a problem in this area, especially in the western slope.

Conclusions

This year’s fieldwork has been very rewarding giving interesting results. The continuing analysis of mostly the prehistoric material has resulted in a better and more detailed chronology. The archaeological field work conducted has resulted in one new settlement with Mycenaean pottery as well as a better understanding of the extent of the medieval/early modern settlement at Ag Dimitrios. At the early Helladic settlement at Mirmingofolies, also documented by Howell, we have found some possible grave mounds.

In the area of Chairolimnes we have also conducted an investigation using GPR. The preliminary results are so far promising, but further analysis is needed. Hopefully we can relate these finds with the concentration of Early Helladic finds in this area.

Publications

Bakke et al, ”Tegea: Norsk arkeologi i Hellas. En innledning”, Viking. Norsk arkeologisk årbok,  2010, nr. 73, s. 173-178.
Bakke, J., ”Finnes det et bysantinsk Tegea: Problemer og hypoteser i den peloponnesiske middelalderarkeologien”, Viking. Norsk arkeologisk årbok, 2010, nr. 73, s. 205-220.>
Bakke, J., ”Den greske bystatens geohistoriske marginer: Om videreføringen av norsk landskapsarkeologi i Tegea 2008-2012”, Klassisk forum, 2010, s. 47-60.

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FIELDWORK AT PETROPIGI (KAVALA)

  • Excavation of small 13th century Byzantine statio on the ancient Via Egnatia east of Kavala
  • Transformed into Ottoman kervanseray in the 15th century
  • Director: Prof. Siri Sande (University of Oslo)
  • Ten seasons 1993-2002

petropigi-ekl-11992 the Norwegian Institute was offered a small Byzantine fortress near the village of Petropigi 20 km east of Kavala as an archaeological project by Charalambos Bakirtzis, then ephor of Byzantine antiquities at Kavala. The next year the field work started, going on for the seven summers. Of these the first five consisted of excavations, a further two were dedicated to the measuring and conservation of the monument, and the final three to the study of the finds.

The fortress takes its name after the neighbouring village of Petropigi, as its ancient name is not known. The monument is situated on the southern side of the main road between Kavala and Xanthi, 9.23 m. above sea level, on a plain stretching down to the sea. North of the road the terrain starts to rise towards the Rhodope mountains, which form a splendid backdrop when one sees the fortress from the south. Originally the shoreline must have been closer to the fortress than it is today, and the distance to the Petropigi village was longer as the old village was located higher up on the mountain slope. With the draining of the marshlands near the coast new land for cultivation became available, and a new village was constructed closer to the main road. Only traces of the old Petropigi can be seen today.

The fortress is oriented north/east-south/west, and it lies exactly parallel to the modern road. Because of this parallelism it is probable that the modern road at this point follows the course of the ancient Via Egnatia. The remains of the latter may either be buried under the tarmac, or possibly further south, where a dirt road now runs. Unfortunately it has not been possible to lay out a trench northwards to try to locate the road, as only the plot immediately adjacent to the fortress belongs to the Greek state. The surrounding fields are privately owned.

Though the Petropigi fortress lies in the midst of cultivated fields, no trace of human occupation such as pottery shards has been found in the neighbourhood. There appears to have been no settlement in the immediate vicinity. Already before the excavation started, Bakirtzis suggested that the fortress was a statio, that is, a fortified staging post. Our investigations so far have corroborated this hypothesis.

The inner measurements of the fortress, 29,6×29,3 m, correspond to 100×100 Roman feet. Its walls are constructed of mortar, stones and bricks, a technique used from the early Byzantine period onwards. One band of bricks runs continuously through all four walls at the same height, while the rest of the bricks are distributed more unevenly for shorter stretches. There are some slight differences in the size of the bricks, which may be attributed to different building stages.

The building technique is in itself not sufficient to allow a precise dating, since it was used over a long period. As usual, the walls of the fortress were constructed around a wooden scaffolding. When the work was finished, the beams were cut and the scaffolding removed, leaving the timbers in the walls to decay there. During our excavation we found a tiny piece from the scaffolding in the mortar in the south/western tower. It was subjected to a C 14 analysis at Uppsala, Sweden, which suggested a date between A.D. 1275 and 1350. For historical reasons it seems most reasonable to opt for a construction date in the 13th century, when there was a certain building activity following the recapture of Constantinople from its Latin occupants.

The layout of the fortress was changed in the course of time. Originally it had two gates, one in the south/east and one in the north/west, and two towers, one in the south/west and one in the north/east. The projecting walls of the gates were probably vaulted. At a later stage these walls were extended and fitted with a portcullis, the slots of which are still visible. Contemporarily a tower was added to the south/eastern corner. The north/western tower was enlarged, and a room inside added on an upper level. There is a “seam” in the wall of the south/western tower suggesting that this, too, may have been strengthened.

picture1It is likely that these alterations were made not long after the construction of the fortress, during the turbulent 14th century, a period characterized by Byzantine civil wars and the incursions of various powers such as the Serbs, the Catalan Company and finally the Ottoman Turks, whose conquest of Thrace and eastern Macedonia started in the 1360’s. If the Byzantines themselves strengthened the fortress, they probably did it during the first half of the 14th century, while they still exercised some control, but it is, of course, also possible that the decision to fortify it was made by one of the temporary masters of that particular stretch of the road during the second half of the century. The fortress could not have withstood an army with siege equipment, but it could probably repel attacks from brigands, of whom there were many in the 14th century. The fortress is, in fact, very conservative in its typology, and differs little from its early Byzantine prototypes.

Inside the fortress several structures came to light. In the southern area the somewhat flimsy substructures of two buildings remain. Between them there is a channel which runs through the outer wall of the fortress. The buildings give the impression of being utilitarian structures such as stables or the like. The substructures are not datable, but they are probably as old as the outer walls of the fortress, since they take the channel into account.

The structures in the middle and the northern area of the fortress are better preserved and more characteristic. The most important one is a long building which practically divides the courtyard in two. It is oriented according to the points of the compass contrary to the fortress walls, which, as remarked above, deviate slightly in accordance with the course of the Via Egnatia. The differences in orientation are only perceptible when measured. The building is divided into one longer and one shorter unit with an aperture between them, which gives access to the northern part of the courtyard. The shorter unit is in line with the south/eastern gate. Apart from having a slightly different orientation from the fortress itself, the two units are constructed in a different technique, the so-called cloisonné, where the stones are framed by horizontal and vertical bricks. The floor of the long building was stuccoed. No door was found, neither in the longer nor in the shorter unit. This suggests that the lower part of the building was used as a basement, and that there was a second story with access from outer staircases which probably led to a walkway or gallery, all in wood.

The cloisonné technique was also used in a structure running along the inside of the northern fortress wall in its full length. Since it was demolished more thoroughly that the building in the middle of the courtyard, very little of it remains. Though it stretches from one end of the fortress to the other, there is no trace of a bond higher up on the walls. This may mean that the structure was no building, but simply a low platform.

The northern fortress wall is marked by eight recesses at about equal distance from each other. The one in the west, which is better preserved than the rest, shows that the recesses were fireplaces with chimneys. They seem to be secondary in relation to the fortress wall, and were probably inserted into it when the platform along it was built.

The platform bordered on the north/eastern tower and the north/western gate, both of which were closed. The gate was closed twice, both towards the courtyard and outwards. The outer wall is in cloisonné technique, indicating that the builders that constructed the platform and the long building in the middle of the courtyard were also responsible for the closing of the tower and the gate.

The cloisonné technique finds its closest parallels among early Ottoman buildings in Western Thrace, such as the han in Traianoupolis and the imaret in Komotini. A C 14 dating of charcoal found inside the long building in the courtyard, also gave a date in accordance with the Ottoman occupation of Thrace and Macedonia, since it suggested the period A.D. 1410-1425. The Ottoman invaders obviously turned the Byzantine statio into a Turkish kervansaray. Since these constructions have the same function, they needed only to make few changes. The closing of one of the gates was one of these, as Turkish kervansarays have normally only one gate, not two. It may seem odd that the gate nearest to the Via Egnatia was closed, but the new masters probably preferred to have the gate in the same area as the utilitarian buildings, and the sleeping quarters out of sight.

A platform with fireplaces in the back wall is a typical feature of many Ottoman kervansarays, and can be seen illustrated in miniatures, for instance. The travellers slept wrapped in their cloaks or blankets with their mounts or tethered to the platform or immediately in front of it. The fireplaces in the wall behind them gave them warmth, and also possibilities to cook their food. There were few, if any facilities in these kervansarays, which are mostly described as being completely empty. A French traveller who visited the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century and undertook a journey with a caravan, was advised by an Armenian friend in Constantinople to bring with him everything he might need, even down to the shoes of his horse.

There was, however, the possibility of having one’s horse shod. The blacksmith was an important feature in Byzantine stationes and Turkish kervansarays. We did, in fact, find his forge in the Petropigi fortress. It was located close to the westernmost chimney in the northern wall.

Since the travellers brought with them pots and pans and cutlery and departed with it again, few objects came to light inside the fortress. This is a marked difference from settlements. What we found, was mostly pottery which had been accidentally broken by the travellers. Most of it was cheap “kitchen ware” such as people are not afraid to lose, though a few sherds of late Byzantine glazed pottery turned up. The coins we discovered during the excavation, were all Ottoman, the majority cheap and badly preserved copper coins. One silver coin from the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent could be dated to the middle of the 16th century A.D. The earliest coins seem to be datable to the beginning of the 15th century A.D., while the latest coins bore a characteristic star pattern which is found on some of the coins of Sultan Murat the third (A.D. 1574-1595). Judging from the finds, the fortress of Petropigi would seem to have been used as a kervansaray at least during the 15th and 16th centuries.

When it was rebuilt, great care was lavished on it. Apart from the structures in cloisonné technique, we excavated a stucco floor in the north/western area of the courtyard. Every stone in this building had been removed, so it is impossible to date it by technical means, but as it would not have been built before the north/western gate was closed, it must been Ottoman in date. We have not yet determined its function. In the north/eastern part of the courtyard the lower parts of two thick stucco pillars (diam. 1 m.) and the imprint of a third one came to light. They were probably four in number originally, and must have carried an elevated structure, possibly a small mescid, a prayer room.

At some point after the 16th century, all the Ottoman structures were dismantled. This clearly happened by public decree and under public control, since the work was very thorough. The walls were all at once taken down to the same level, presumably to get hold of the bricks, which could be reused in other public buildings. We found much larger quantities of stones than of bricks, which suggests that the latter were carted off. With regard to the outer walls of the fortress, the picture is quite different. They were left to decay and were gradually taken down by the local farmers, when the latter needed building materials. They, incidentally, wanted stones, not bricks.

Because they were left to themselves, the fortress walls are preserved to different heights. The southern and western walls have always been visible to a considerable height, whereas the northern wall is especially badly preserved. This is due to the presence of fireplaces. Long after the fortress had ceased to function as a staging post, it was used by the local farmers and herdsmen, which almost up to the present day used to lighten fires in the old fireplaces. The rapid changes in temperature weakened the wall and caused it to crumble gradually, a process which probably lasted for centuries.

As suggested by the coins, the Petropigi fortress was used for its original function at least till the end of the 16th century. We do not know when the dismantling of its inner structures took place, but the reason was probably that a better staging post had been found. The distance from Kavala is only 20 km, rather short by Ottoman standards (30 to 40 km seem to have been normal, depending on the road). By moving 5 km further east, one arrives at Khryssoupolis, an old town which is known to have been a statio already in the Byzantine period. It is therefore likely that, at a certain point, the Petropigi fortress was abandoned as an official staging post in favour of Khryssoupolis.

In the centuries following the Ottoman conquest, life was difficult in Thrace and Eastern Macedonia. Large segments of the original population were transferred to other parts of the Ottoman Empire, and towns and villages were depopulated and in a sorry state. The decline probably started already in the late Byzantine period, otherwise the Petropigi fortress would not have been built. Its construction suggests that Xryssoupolis was not safe enough as a statio, a state of affairs which continued well into the Ottoman period. In the 17th century the conditions of the Christian population ameliorated somewhat, and repopulation of sparsely populated areas was encouraged. With towns and villages more populous and with increased peace and prosperity, it would have been easier for travellers to find accommodation in inhabited areas, and the isolated kervansarays began to go out of use.

Having ceased to function as a staging post, the Petropigi fortress continued to be used by the local population. In the south/western tower we found a fragment of an 19th century Turkish pipe together with several bones from sheep and goats, evidence that it was used as a lair, probably by herdsmen. There were also a number of 18th-19th century pottery sherds in the upper layers in the courtyard of the fortress. There we also found small, rectangular flints. In all likelihood they belonged to a sort of sledge used for threshing, called tykane in Greek. It was employed in Greece and Anatolia till well into the 20th century, and specimens can still be studied in various local museums. It is easy to see that when the ruins inside it had become covered with earth, the courtyard of the Petropigi fortress would have been ideal for threshing. We also found several horse-shoes. Some of these are recent and should be connected with the various agricultural activities that have been going on in the fortress until the 20th century, while the oldest ones were possibly lost by travellers in the period when the fortress still retained its original function.

The Petropigi statio or kervansaray is a good example of acculturation, showing, among other things, how the Ottoman invaders simply took over the Byzantine infrastructures and adapted them to their own use. Neither the Ottoman nor the Byzantine name of the staging post is known, but Charalambos Bakirtzis suggested that it is mentioned in historical sources as a place where members of the Catalan Company came together in 1307 in connection with the disbanding of the Company. Perhaps studies of old maps and documents may yield more information with regard to identity of the fortress.

Text by Siri Sande

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NORWEGIAN ARCADIA SURVEY (NAS) – 1998-2001

Coming soon