The House of Agnostos in Hellenistic Halos Preliminary report on the 2010 and 2011 field seasons

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The House of Agnostos in Hellenistic Halos Preliminary report on the 2010 and 2011 field seasons
  Pharos   18(2), 107-124. doi: 10.2143/PHA.18.2.2977244© 2012 by Pharos. All rights reserved. The House of Agnostos in Hellenistic Halos Preliminary report on the 2010 and 2011 field seasons T  AMARA   D IJKSTRA  , D ESPINA   E FSTATHIOU , J  AIME    VAN   DER   H EUL , D IES    VAN   DER   L INDE , I OANNA   M  AMALOUDI  & E  VAGELIA   S TAMELOU  Abstract  Hellenistic Halos, situated in southern Thessaly (Greece), was founded around 302 BC and abandoned following an earthquake around 265 BC. A long city wall encircled both the upper and lower town of Halos. A geometric street grid consisting of four avenues and a multitude of streets running east-west divided the lower city into 64 housing blocks. In the years 2010-2011  fieldwork concentrated on a private dwelling of Halos, the House of Agnostos, located immedi-ately west of the House of the Tub. This article is a preliminary report on these field seasons. It contains an analysis of the architecture, a reconstruction of the house as well as a discussion of the excavated artefacts, including several kinds of pottery, loom weights, metal artefacts, bone and shell fragments. An analysis of the coins provides information about the regional relations of Halos. All in all, the article contributes to the study of Hellenistic houses and their inhabitants. Keywords Thessaly – Hellenistic Halos – housing – coin circulation. Introduction The Hellenistic town of Halos is situated in the ancient region of Achaia Phthio-tis between a spur of Mount Othris and the Pagasitic Gulf. It was founded in 302 BC and was abandoned a mere 40 years later around 265 BC when an earthquake hit the city. Halos has been the subject of archaeological research from 1976 onwards. The Groningen Institute of Archaeology and the Netherlands Institute at Athens have been engaged in frequent investigation of the city and its sur-roundings. The 13th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities at Volos has  joined in the research from the 1990s onwards. In the past 35 years of research a small sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone, city walls and towers, the South Gate and the impressive Southeast Gate have been investigated, as well as several private houses. The study of these houses was the main focus of the Halos excavations in  108 TAMARA    DIJKSTRA    ET    AL .    F   i  g  u  r  e  1 .   H  o  u  s   i  n  g   b   l  o  c   k  s   6 .  4  a  n   d   6 .  5    THE   HOUSE   OF    AGNOSTOS   IN   HELLENISTIC   HALOS  109the period 1978-1993 and this work was resumed in the period 2007-2011. 1  Seven houses have been studied so far and despite differences their building techniques and main layout are relatively uniform. 2  The uncovered finds give us a good idea of the life and activities of the inhabitants of Halos.The 2011 field season was a collaborative project of the Groningen Institute of  Archaeology and the 13th Ephorate, under the direction of Reinder Reinders, Vasso Rondiri and Zoe Malakasioti. The field season aimed at the study of an eighth house of which the foundations were laid bare in 2010. Since no distinctive feature or find had come to light at the end of this campaign, the name ‘House of Agnostos’ (the House of the Unknown Man) was chosen. The house is located directly next to the House of the Tub in housing block 6.5, with its entrance opening onto street 11 (Figure 1). Unfortunately the house could not be excavated in its entirety because it is partly covered by the modern road from Almiros to Sourpi. The main objective was to explore the layout and construction technique used to build the house and the rest of building block 6.5, combined with the spatial and functional analysis of the artefacts in the various rooms of the house.Below we present a preliminary report on the excavations of 2010-2011 and the study of artefacts conducted in 2011. We discuss the work performed during the field season, provide an analysis of the architectural remains and give a suggestion for the reconstruction of its floor plan. We also describe the various finds that  were discovered during the field season. Special attention is given to the coins and the issue of local coin circulation. Excavating the House of Agnostos The first work in the plot in which the House of Agnostos is located was carried out during the 2007 survey. This survey was aimed at mapping the remains of the two houses which were known to exist in this location as there were walls visible on the surface. The site was divided in a survey grid consisting of eighty units of 3 ≈ 3 m, and finds were collected per unit. The surface material from the plot comprised worn sherds of pottery and roof tile as well as loom weights. A selection of the units was then excavated to locate the boundaries of the houses. As soon as it became clear that the plot contained one complete house, the House of the Tub, excavations were commenced. 3 1  Cf. Reinders 1988; Reinders et al. 1996; Reinders & Prummel 2003; Reinders 2004; Haagsma 2011; Reinders et al. 2009-2010. 2  These seven houses are: House of the Koroplast (1978-1979), House of the Geometric Krater (1984), House of Agathon (1987), House of the Ptolemaic Coins (1989), House of the Amphorai (1991), House of the Snakes (1993) and House of the Tub (2007-2010). 3  See Reinders et al. 2009-2010 for the preliminary results of the excavation.  110 TAMARA    DIJKSTRA    ET    AL .From 2007 to 2009 the investigations focused on the House of the Tub 4 , but  when this excavation was completed at the end of the 2010 field season, attention turned to the neighbouring house. During a period of five weeks, from July 7 to  August 5 2010, the topsoil over the house was removed. The excavation stopped  when the habitation layer was reached in order to leave the artefacts in situ. After the removal of the topsoil the layout of the house became clearly visible as most of the foundation stones had remained in place. The topsoil itself did not yield many finds of pottery nor other material, but we did excavate about 100 kilograms of roof tile fragments. A plan of the house foundations was made which formed the basis for the excavation in 2011.The 2011 field season took place during two months, from June 27 to August 27. The first five weeks were spent in the field and during the last four the exca-vated material was studied in the storeroom at Almiros. The habitation layer in the seven rooms, 15-20 cm thick, was removed while carefully documenting and mapping the artefacts that were uncovered in the pro-cess. A total amount of 298.9 kg of roof tile fragments and 48.5 kg of pottery was removed from the house, as well as dozens of metal objects, coins, bone and shell fragments, weights and other objects. All of these finds were transported to the storeroom at Almiros where they were cleaned in preparation for further study.  After the completion of the excavation a more detailed drawing of the foundations  was made, which was later added to the plan of the House of the Tub and the excavated street section in order to put it into its wider context (Figure 2).The goals of the four week study of artefacts in 2011 were the identification, reconstruction, cataloguing, photographing and drawing of the finds recovered during the 2010 and 2011 excavations. The work in the storeroom has resulted in the identification of most of the finds, catalogues for every find category (roof tiles, pottery, weights, metal, coins, bone, shell, stone and miscellaneous), a set of 252 photographs of the artefacts and 55 drawings of the most complete or diagnos-tic artefacts. As the coins had to be cleaned before they could be studied, the detailed cataloguing of the coins was postponed until the end of 2012. The architecture By the end of the excavations the floor plan of the House of Agnostos became visible, except for the south-west part which is covered by the modern road. The remains of the foundations made it possible to gain insight into the layout of the house and into the construction techniques and methods used in the building of 4  A preliminary report on the excavation of the House of the Tub was published in a previous volume of Pharos   (Reinders et al. 2009-2010).    THE   HOUSE   OF    AGNOSTOS   IN   HELLENISTIC   HALOS  111the house. The construction techniques of building block 6.5 were analysed by studying the structural relationship to the House of the Tub and the house to its south (the ‘South House’). Dimensions  The House of Agnostos is the second house from the west in block 6.5 (Figure 1). The excavated surface area of the House of Agnostos measures 123 m 2 ; 91 m 2  of this was actual floor space, the rest of it consisted of walls. As is clear from the floor plan, only half of the house could be excavated, but we do have an idea of the srcinal size of the house as we know the size of the housing block. The end of the housing block is located 30 m west of the east wall of Agnostos. If we assume that both the House of Agnostos and the neighbouring house to its west have the same width, that is 15 m, the dimensions of the House of Agnostos would Figure 2. Ground plan of the House of Agnostos, the House of the Tub and a section of the street as they appeared at the end of the 2011 field season
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