(Dir.: Dr. W. Childs)
The Department of Antiquities announces the completion of the Princeton University excavation at Polis Chrysochous, the site of the cities of Marion and Arsinoe. Excavation was concentrated at the northern edge of the village in an area once occupied by the dig house, which was torn down in 2002. The principal focus of this work was a large building about 25 by 35 meters built partly of large blocks of cut limestone alternating with mudbrick sections. Some of the cut stone had been robbed out in later periods, but the south and west sides are largely intact and the walls stand from two to three meters. The building has several unusual traits. First the use of mudbrick walls both between pier-like ashlar sections and mudbrick cross walls between the ashlar “piers” and long rubble walls that frame the ashlar piers on east and west. Second, the building had no perceivable floor. Third, it contained absolutely nothing. Fourth, the upper parts of the building were filled with sand containing decorated Cypriot pottery of the fourth century B.C. Over the top of the building had been built in the late first century B.C. a Roman building of which the only well-preserved part was a large peristyle court paved with concrete, a material found in fragments throughout the later use of the site in the Byzantine period, indicating that concrete was widely used for flooring in the Roman building. The Roman building appears to have been a private villa with an excellent view of the sea.
The classical ashlar and mudbrick building appears never to have been completed, since the re-used ashlars and mudbrick walls had no trace of a plaster covering to hide the rough materials used in the walls. The plan of the building so far as recovered is symmetrical with an entrance porch on the south, a large central court (no elements of a roof were found) with small side rooms, and probably a long, narrow room at the north. It overlay several small structures of the sixth century B.C., which were preserved only in fragments: part of a thin concrete floor, several sections of mudbrick walls, and a remnant of a rubble wall. These give no clue to the intended function of the later ashlar and mudbrick building, which nevertheless looks very like a sanctuary building similar to the late fifth-century sanctuary uncovered in the area A.H9 and reported on in the RDAC for 1988, though with the reverse orientation. Further study is needed before any but the most hypothetical interpretation is attempted, of which the following is but one of several possibilities: the ashlar and mudbrick building may have been under construction directly before the sack of Marion in 312 B.C. by Ptolemy Soter. The sand fill may have been put in to incorporate the structure into the defense of the city, since it cannot have been far from the rapidly constructed city wall, extensive evidence for which was recovered in the area A.H9 to the east. Further speculation at this point is fruitless.
Temporary roofing for the impressive mudbrick wall will hopefully preserve these for some time. They stand just short of three meters tall and, with the ashlar “piers” create the most impressive classical building in the area of Polis Chrysochous.
The only other area excavated this summer was at the very east end of the ancient site on the eastern edge of the plateau known locally as Peristeries. Here the plan of the building fondly referred to as the “Palace” was uncovered further mainly in its southern sector. The evidence gathered in earlier seasons of excavation that the building followed closely the eastern edge of the plateau was confirmed, since the exterior wall running south turns slightly to the west at just the point were the east edge of the plateau jogs slightly westward. Several small rooms were uncovered, all damaged by the bull-dozing of the area in 1999, when an illegal road was in the process of being built until stopped by the excavation’s foreman. It appears probable that these rooms gave off an open courtyard to the west. It is also likely that the sector of the building preserved was a service wing of a large and extremely well-built structure that may have extended far to the west under the recent construction of a new elementary school.
The Princeton University excavations at Polis Chrysochous are now concluded and a series of study seasons shall ensue to prepare the publications of over twenty seasons of excavation.