Thursday, December 29, 2011

East Gate of Apollonia Pontica found at Sozopol, Bulgaria

Digging has gone on way past the usual archaeological season at Sozopol in Bulgaria, but the archaeologists have been well rewarded by a series of fascinating finds.

The excavation works, organised by the National Museum of History under the Direction of Professor Bozhidar Dimitrov, were carried out because two restaurants which had been illegally constructed in the 1970s were scheduled for demolition.

Sozopol's South Tower and wall. Photo:
Sozopol is a town on the Black Sea on the site of the ancient town of Apollonia Pontica (see my post of 17 July – an Apollonia in Bulgaria) and though the ancient fortifications have long been one of the town’s attractions, archaeologists have previously been unable to locate the East Gate. A French team working in the mid 20th century failed to find the gate despite a concerted effort.

Thanks to the new discoveries it will now be possible to understand the complete extent of the fortifications surrounding the ancient city. The walls have been rebuilt many times and precise dating of the standing remains needs to be ascertained. The original city of Apollonia was walled in classical times, however in 72 BC it was taken by the Romans under Lucullus and the walls were destroyed. Thanks to the patronage of a wealthy Thracian named Metok the walls were soon rebuilt, but clearly there has been a great deal of rebuilding and restoration over the centuries. In relatively recent years locals raided the walls for building material for their houses.

When the illegal buildings were demolished, the monumental remains of the walls were revealed. A rescue excavation was carried out by archaeologists Tsonya Drazheva and Dimitar Nedev and in the space of three months they managed to excavate a considerable area in front of the curtain wall.

The remains of the curtain wall flanking the East gate were almost fully preserved to a height of almost 8 metres – the tallest of all the (3,000) fortresses in Bulgaria. In the centre the main entrance gate of the town was seen, 4 metres wide and flanked with two massive towers, also very well preserved.

The construction of the gate shows how sophisticated the fortifications were. If the enemy managed to enter the gate they would find another gateway within and be overlooked by the flanking towers.  This system is also found in Illyrian fortifications in Albania.

© 2011 FOCUS Information Agency
The archaeologists also made other discoveries including a medieval church around 10 metres beyond the outer curtain wall and a small building facing the gate which may have been a customs post. This hypothesis is suggested by the fact that a quantity of customs seals was found on the floor of the building and in two jars. According to a treaty of 716 between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire, the goods traded between the two states had to have lead customs seals to show that the required duties had been paid.

The excavation works will resume next year, and by the end of June it is hoped that the gate will be restored as part of the tourism programme of Sozopol.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Well preserved Roman fort discovered on Channel Islands

This summer saw excavations on the island of Alderney to investigate what was traditionally believed to have been a Roman structure – with surprising results.

Local tradition has indeed suggested that the site was Roman, but until recently any investigations had proved inconclusive. The site, known as the Nunnery, has had various uses over time including military works, a farm, the residence of the island's governor and holiday homes.  In 2008 Guernsey Museums and the Alderney Society joined forces to investigate and excavate and have managed to prove that the Nunnery is actually an extremely well-preserved Roman military structure.

The 2008 excavation put a trench against the outer face of the north wall of the structure. Whilst only two fragments of tile and 11 small Roman sherds were found the trench did show that the fort wall continued for almost 2m below the modern surface, giving the rampart a height of 6.8m. The foundations were made up of a layer of beach stones in mortar and built directly on sand. It may have been that the foundations were built on timber piles, a common Roman technique.

 In 2009 attention turned to a wall that was thought to be ‘new’, that is, a later addition thought to have been built to replace the collapsed east rampart. The ‘new’ wall did not seem to make sense militarily, and some scholars had previously observed that its outer face looked older than the fort it was repairing. When the overgrown ivy was stripped from the ‘new’ east wall it revealed a double tile-bonding course with two buttresses and running for 17m. It was a Roman wall. This proved there was a Roman building inside the Nunnery and the excavators began to suspect that it was a tower since all northern English Roman forts have a tower in the middle.
In 2010 the excavators went back to try and find the tower - and found it. Dr Monaghan of Guernsey Museums said, "The walls are 2.8m (9ft) thick, we don't know how high it was, but it would have been a very big structure - it's as thick as Hadrian's Wall." The tower was around 18 sq m.

Old postcard showing 'The Nunnery'
The fort is in an extremely good state of preservation: "It's in a better state than what they call the Saxon shore forts off southern England, it's in better nick than most of Hadrian's Wall” said Dr. Monaghan.  

As with the Saxon shore forts, this was build to guard the shore, in this case the entrance to Longis Bay, Alderney's only natural harbour. The fort is also placed to control the sea between the island and the French coast, some 8 miles away. It dates to the late 4th century, a period of anxiety for the Romans that led to the construction of these forts in various locations.

The extent of the Roman presence on the island of Alderney is still not well understood. There is some sparse evidence for Roman settlement on Alderney but it is known from literary sources that the Channel Islands were visited by Roman officials and traders. The traditional Latin name of the island is Riduna though the exact etymology of the Island's name is obscure.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Roman supply camp from Drusus' campaigns in Germany discovered

In 1890, archaeologists discovered a bronze Roman military helmet near Olfen, a spectacular find which led them to hope that a Roman camp might be nearby. The river Lippe, which runs through the area, was a natural defense which provided an excellent site for military camps, and several other camps were known which extended in a chain across the country. 
Photo: DPL

Olfen is a small town, not far from Münster near the Ruhr Valley, and the find of the helmet in 1890 has led archaeologists to the area ever since to look for the camp, the ‘missing link’ in the chain.  It was known from literary sources that Olfen was strategically important for the legions during Drusus’ campaigns in Germania. Drusus, a Roman General, waged a long and bloody war against the tribes that inhabited what is now western Germany. But, until recently, archaeologists had not been able to locate the camp, used from 11 to 7 B.C. as a base to control the river crossing.
This year, volunteers discovered pottery sherds from the Roman period in the area, causing the Westphalia-Lippe Municipal Association (LWL) to initiate aerial photography to search for traces of building works. At the same time, archaeologists and volunteers field-walked, looking for artefacts which could confirm the location of the camp.

They found convincing evidence including coins, pottery and fibulae, but were also able to trace a moat surrounding the camp and the remains of a wooden wall that could have protected 1,000 legionaries from attack within an area the size of  seven football fields.
Photo: DPL

The camp was relatively small in comparison to other Roman military establishments in the area and this factor,  along with the construction of its wood and earthen wall and location on the Lippe River, suggest that it may have functioned as a supply depot.

“It’s a sensational discovery for Roman research in Westphalia,” LWL Director Wolfgang Kirsch said in a statement. LWL is also responsible for five other Roman military ruins along the Lippe and finds from Olfen, including the bronze helmet and latest material, will join artefacts from the other sites on display in the Roman Museum in Haltern.

LWL's chief archaeologist Dr. Michael Rind said “The monument has up to this point been allowed to lie in the ground widely undisturbed for over 2,000 years – an absolute rarity, and from an archaeological point of view, absolutely ideal.

“Our primary concern is to protect and preserve this monument for the future – and not, to completely excavate it as soon as possible,” Rind said in a statement. “The exploration of the camp will probably take several decades to complete.”

Around 2,000 years ago, the region now known as Westphalia became the focus of Roman campaigns aimed at expanding territory and Roman troops marched up the Lippe river.  The campaign to make Germany into a Roman province failed in the year 9 AD when Publius Quinctilius Varus was defeated in the Teutoburg Forest. An alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius of the Cherusci ambushed and annihilated three Roman legions, along with their auxiliaries, in the forest.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Farmers found buried with their animals in Macedonia

An excavation in north Macedonia has brought to light a group of graves where the farmers were buried with their livestock.  The burials, near the town of Mavropigi, and 21km from Kozani, date from the late 6th or early 5th century.

Individuals have been found buried with horses before, but these types of burials are usually associated with prominent citizens or warriors. In the case of Mavropigi it seems that “these were simple people, farmers, who were buried with their horse, their buffalo, deer, dogs and pigs," according to the Head of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mentesidi.

 At least 11 burials associated with 16 animals have been found at the side of the cemetery, and it is the extent of the occurrence of the animals, and the range of them, that marks it from other similar burials. There have been examples of people buried with their horses in Doxipara Evros which seems to be linked to the high esteem in which the individuals were held, and Rhodes has yielded examples of children buried with their dogs. What makes Mavropigi different is that these are ordinary people buried with the animals they worked and lived with.

The cemetery has been excavated over the past season and extends over 100 metres. It consists of nine pit burials with eight animals (five horses and three dogs) and the other two burials have eight animals (two horses, three dogs, two cattle and one pig). The animals were placed around the burials and within walking distance, from about 0.5 to 1.3 metres.

Some of the burials were at a shallow depth and were initially disturbed by tillage and later from the roots of trees planted in more recent years.  The pits include pottery vessels, copper earrings, bracelets, anklets and pins. Iron blades and spearheads were found in the male burials.

The area of Kozani has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, and a number of sites have been identified in recent years. In
2005/6 the Neolithic settlement of Fyllotsairi was excavated, which is among the most ancient in the Balkans. The area was important for early agriculture, and also as a crossroads between the North-South and East -West.

Nowadays the area is extensively mined for lignite by the Public Power Corporation, and this has led to the identification of a number of sites, like the one at Mavropigi.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Dionysiac mosaic found in Bulgaria

Yet more exciting finds are coming to light in Bulgaria this season. Dimitar Yankov, chief curator of the Museum of Stara Zagora, recently revealed the discovery of a beautiful mosaic depicting dancing Bacchantes.
The mosaic was discovered during excavations made in advance of the construction of a new apartment block just outside the northern gate of the ancient Roman settlement of Augusta Traiana, modern day Stara Zagora.
There has been a settlement in the vicinity of Stara Zagora since at least the 6th millennium BC, thanks partly due to the fact that copper was mined just to the east of the city and traded across the continent. The history of the Roman city dates back to around106 AD when it was founded by the Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD). Augusta Traiana was the second largest city in the Roman province of Thrace during the 2nd to 3rd centuries AD. The city occupied an area of 38 hectares and was strongly fortified.

Roman Forum of Augusta Traiana
The mosaic has been dated to the late 2nd or  early 3rd century AD, when the town was flourishing.  The archaeologists, led by Dimitar Yankov, are still unsure of the exact nature of the building in which the mosaic was found. It may have been either a private building or perhaps a temple. If a temple, it would seem to be that of Dionysus, since the mosaic depicts one male and two female followers of the god. The location may also be key, since the building is 30 meters away from the walls of the forum of the ancient Roman city. The mosaic is in a fragmentary state, measuring seven by three metres, but it is hoped that further excavation will reveal more images, including a figure of the god Dionysus himself.
Yankov expects to find a representation of Dionysus, one of the most popular Thracian deities, in a part of the mosaic to the north.  Unfortunately there is a problem with the land adjacent to the current excavation with regard to permission to dig, but Yankov hopes to resolve this shortly.

Община Стара Загора
The part of the mosaic that has been excavated depicts two dancing maenads following a satyr, perhaps processing in a Dionysiac ritual. The women hold musical instruments including finger cymbals.
The mosaic shows a degree sophistication in terms of colour range. The clothes have varying shades of blue and red, and there is an attempt to show shade. The mosaic is constructed from small stone cubes but glass tesserae have also been used for the finer parts of the figures, for example the chaplets and girdles of the two dancing maenads. This is the first mosaic of this type to be found in Bulgaria.
The mosaic will now be dismantled, since it cannot remain on the ground during the winter. After conservation and restoration, it will be exhibited in the new museum building in Stara Zagora.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New finds from Perperikon in Bulgaria

There have been a series of exciting finds at the ancient Thracian city of Perperikon this season.  Perperikon is in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains in modern day Bulgaria, near the town of Kardzhali, and has been excavated since 2000 by Professor Nikolay Ovcharov.

The first traces of human activity on the acropolis of the site (at 470 m) have been dated to around 5000BC, and the evidence of cult activity continues through the millennia with the development of a sanctuary with rock altars that seems to have been in use from the 2nd millennium BC until the advent of the Christian era.  At the foot of the hill there is evidence for a Thracian occupation, and the substantial remains of a medieval fortress (village of Gorna Krepost ‘Upper Fortress’).  Thus the city had a very long life, and its prosperity may have been linked to it location on a route through the mountains and also the nearby gold-bearing  River Perpereshka.
Prof. Ovcharov speculates that the earliest activity centred on a ‘high place’ sanctuary of the cult of the sun.  As evidence for his theory he cites images on ceramics from the Stone-Copper Age.
One of the main characteristics of this sanctuary are the rock altars, which were first cut into the sanctuary in the Bronze Age. The altars are certainly impressive: one is 3 metres high.  The round altar is almost 2 metres in diameter, all are hewn from the rock.
The latest finds are from a sanctuary in the Thracian settlement which Prof. Ovchavov considers may have links with the sanctuary on the acropolis.  On the basis of the finds from recent excavations Prof. Ovchavov believes that he has discovered the Thracian temple of Dionysos mentioned by ancient writers such as Herodotus and Suetonius, but not so far located.  The temple was famed in the ancient world, and was a major sanctuary, but its location remains a mystery. The local deity called Sabazios, came to be associated with the Greek god Dionysos over time. The sanctuary was a oracular shrine due to this particular aspect of Sabazios. A representation of Sabazios may be seen on an ivory from the tomb of Alexander IV at Vergina, perhaps because of the time spent by Roxane and Alexander IV in Thrace.
Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov with marble relief. Photo by BGNES
The recent finds at Perperikon include tiles, coins, and fibulae in quantities suggesting intense occupation of the site, but Ovcharov believes the marble reliefs of a Thracian horseman to have greater significance and to be proof of a sophisticated sanctuary at Perperikon.  The fragmentary reliefs show a Thracian horseman being welcomed by a goddess. The back of the marble is not smooth, leading Ovcharov to believe that it is an architectural relief.
The sanctuary building includes a chamber and an altar, and the relief was found 4 metres from the chamber. It was found together with an amulet of the sun, perhaps providing a link with the sanctuary on the acropolis. The horseman is a common motif in Thracian iconography, and may represent the supreme deity of Thrace: a small bronze figure of a horseman from the 3rd-2nd century BC was a previous find at the excavation.
Other finds of interest include a surgical instrument from Roman times used for plucking parasites from bodies and a miniature model of a stone grinder dated back to the 5th millennium.
Quite what evidence Prof. Ovcharov is relying on for the attribution of the sanctuary as that of Dionysos is not clear at present – all evidence so far is circumstantial, but it is certainly fair to say that the site is informing our knowledge of Thracian settlements, their continuity, way of life and religious practices.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Museion discovered on the Oppian Hill in Rome?

Images from

Discoveries made during the excavations under the Baths of Trajan on the Oppian Hill were announced in Rome yesterday.
Archaeologists were excavating in the southwest tunnel under the Baths of Trajan when they discovered a large wall mosaic dating to the second half of the first century AD.  The mosaic covers a section of the wall almost 16 metres in length and was excavated at a depth of almost 2 metres, but the archaeologists of the Sovraintendenza ai Beni Culturali di Roma Capitale who are conducting the excavation, consider that the excavation will continue to a much greater depth.
The subject matter of the mosaic, which depicts Apollo and the Muses, is thematically linked to the wall paintings discovered in the 1998 excavations in the same area that featured a philosopher and a Muse against an architectural background.

The god Apollo
The themes of the decoration of the two areas, along with a number of architectural clues, suggests that this may be the site of a Museion – a building devoted to the arts and philosophy under the patronage of Apollo and the Muses. The building complex is of very high quality and includes water features, sophisticated decoration and places for the artistic elite to gather.
However, use of the complex appears to have been very short lived, since along with other buildings in this sector of the ancient city it was built over as part of the construction of the Baths of Trajan. The excavations under the Baths are revealing information about a huge hitherto unknown part of the city (over one thousand square metres) whose life was interrupted at the end of the first century AD.

The wall mosaics cover a large area
The excavation is part of a project of upgrading and enhancing the archaeological centre of Ancient Rome. The idea is to re-imagine the monumental heart of the city as a single, accessible, protected areas, with more sites open to the public. It is hoped that this will give added value to the historical city and increase tourist income. The central area includes the Circus Maximus, the Theatre of Marcellus, the Capitol, Roman Forum, and Palatine, the Colosseum, and the Oppian and Caelian Hills.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

An Apollonia in Bulgaria

I have written previously about the lovely city of Apollonia in present day Albania, a Greek city ‘founded’ by Corinthians and Corcyraeans colonists invited in by the locals to form a new community, presumably ratified by the god Apollo himself via his oracle at Delphi.

As with other colonies, it seems that there was a pre-existing settlement. After all, the locals would know a good site better than newcomers. Often the locals already have contact with the colonists, through trade or other activity, and invite them into the city for a good reason. In the case of the Albanian Apollonia it may have been because the existing settlement was on the border of the Illyrian and Epirote tribes and the locals may have wished for protection.

Once a colony was founded the city was often renamed, with Apollonia being a popular choice if the new venture came about from, or was blessed by, an oracular pronouncement from Delphi. This is the reason for the prolific number of cities named Apollonia in the Greek world of which there are more than 30 that we currently know about.

In addition to the name, the city would also celebrate their connection to Apollo with a temple or sanctuary to the deity, and often feature the god on their coinage. This is the case with Apollonia Pontus Euxinus, in Bulgaria, a site on the Black Sea at the present day resort town of Sozopol. 

Coin of Apollonia Pontica with Apollo and anchor

The ancient sources reveal differing dates for the founding of the colony. Pseudo-Skymnos says that it was founded 50 years before Cyrus which would give a date of 610. Aelianus, on the other hand, says it was founded by Anaximander who was born around 610 or 609 BC so this would give a later foundation date. Both agree that the colonists were from Miletus in Turkey. The earliest pottery on the site is dated to the end of the 7th C BC, which appears to support Pseudo-Skymnos’s account. 

The colony was founded on a small island that was ideally situated to give shelter to ships making their way along the Black Sea coast, also easily defensible and with access to agricultural land. Today Sozopol is on a peninsula, reflecting the changing coastline since ancient times. There is some confusion about the name of the earlier settlement, with some sources naming it as Antheia after a misreading of Pliny, however, the name became Apollonia, with a major sanctuary dedicated to Apollo in the town, in which was a famous colossal statue of the god by Kalamis, 30 cubits high, later carried off to Rome by Marcus Lucullus and placed in the Capitol.

Little is known of the city in the 6th century BC, but by 425BC it is important enough to be mentioned in an Athenian assessment list, but the city seems to have flourished during the Hellenistic period. 

Since 2010 a French-Bulgarian team has been excavating on the hill of St Marina, a site that appears to be outside the main area of the ancient town (above). They have found the remains of a villa dating to the 4th-3rd century BC, showing all the signs of a typical Hellenistic house. Within the villa, however, was an unexpected find: a cache of 30 bronze coins. The coins feature the head of Apollo, unsurprising for an Apollonia, and on the other side they show the god sitting on an omphalos. This is in contrast with most of the city’s coinage, which featured an anchor, emphasising the city’s links with the sea (see above). The choice of the omphalos is interesting, and may relate to the founding of the colony. 

In Greek, omphalos means ‘navel’. According to Greek mythology, Zeus sent out two eagles to fly across the world to meet at its centre or navel. Although several sites claimed this honour, the most famous was at the oracle in Delphi. The place itself was marked with a stone, a Roman copy of which is now in the Delphi museum.

Roman copy of omphalos at Delphi
Apollonia choosing to feature the god seated on the omphalus, and therefore at Delphi, may hark back to the earliest colonists obtaining the god’s direction or blessing in the founding of their city. Why the shift from the anchor to the omphalos was made must remain conjecture at this stage, but it is just possible that this is in some way related to alliances with the successors of Alexander the Great, some of whom put this image on their coinage. Further excavation may be able to shed light on the change of symbol. 

The excavations are part of a project to create a map of archaeological sites from the Ropotamo River in the south to Cape Atiya in the Sozopol municipality. It is to be hoped that projects of this kind will give extra protection to the archaeological sites in the area, some of which are said to be under threat due to the rapid development of tourism. 
Site in town of Sozopol at risk due to development

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tomb II at Vergina - who was the woman?

So, back to Tomb II at Vergina. Since its discovery by Andronikos in 1977, Tomb II has fascinated archaeologists and historians because it offers us the rare hope of being the tomb of a famous ancient individual – and not just any figure from history, but the father of Alexander the Great: Philip II of Macedon.
Arguments have raged back and forth, as discussed in a previous post (Tomb II at Vergina.... the mystery rumbles on, Friday, September 10, 2010) but few people have taken the line that the key to the identity of the male may actually lie with the identification of the female whose bones were in the gold larnax in the outer chamber. Obviously, the woman needs to be connected in some way to the man whose remains lie in the inner chamber. Those who think that the male is Philip Arridaios, son of Philip II and half brother of Alexander, must presumably believe that the bones are of Eurydice, his wife.
The bones of the female have been examined by Xirotiris and Langenscheidt and also Musgrave. These authorities agree that they belonged to a woman aged between 20 and 30, and probably about 25 years old. What is very striking is that they two sets of bones survive in very different quantities. The male is a virtually complete skeleton including whole limb bones, whilst the total fragments from the female weigh only 1312g and are small fragments, such as can be found in many ancient Greek cremations. The reason for this difference can be explained by the fact that the male seems to have been burnt in an enclosed space, a hypothesis since given weight by Dr Angeliki Kottaridi’s excavation of the funeral pyre remains, including the construction of a small building in which to burn the body.
On the other hand, it seems the woman was cremated on an open pyre. The cremains show that she was burned ‘fleshed’, that is, with the flesh still on the bones at the point of cremation. Scholars who would like this female to be Eurydike, wife of Philip Arrhidaios have, therefore a problem here, as she and her husband were reinterred, and cremated dry. At 25ish, she is also considerably older than Eurydike was at her death (her age at death was estimated at between 18 and 19 and some months).
Scholars who believe that the male occupant of the tomb is Philip II have often presumed that the woman must be Cleopatra, Philip’s last wife who was murdered, or forced to commit suicide, on the order of Olympias, Philip’s wife and the mother of Alexander, early in 335. She would have been between 20 and 30 at her death. But would Alexander have treated with such honour the young wife who supplanted his mother and whose marriage to Philip caused Alexander to fall out with his father and leave court in self-imposed exile? And where is her child Europa, who died with her mother?
An alternative answer to the question of the woman’s identity was put forward by the late great Nicholas Hammond, and is now at last gaining some credibility. The only other wife of Philip who was of the right age was Meda, whom he married in probably 339. Meda was of the tribe named Getae, neighbours of the Scythians, and there is at least one object in the antechamber that is of Scythian origin – the beautifully worked gold quiver cover. 

There is a gold neck fitting also of a Scythian type, and a Greek archaeologist has also suggested that the small pair of mis-matched greaves (sometimes thought to be reflective of Philip’s leg injury, but actually smaller that the other sets in the tomb) might have belonged to an archer – since ancient archers  bent on one knee to fire their arrows and would need greater flexibility at the ankle, therefore one greave could be shorter.
The Scythians and their neighbours were famed for their archery skills and it is possible that these objects could have belonged to Meda. Further, and perhaps the most compelling and chilling, evidence for Meda is that the Getae are known to have practiced suttee – by which custom the wife voluntarily submits to be burned on an open pyre on the death of her husband. This would explain why the cremains of the man and the woman are so different.
And of course, if we accept that the female is Meda, then the male must be Philip II, her husband. What a life Meda must have led, sent far from her homeland and married to a man who was often away on campaign, while she was left in Pella, vying with the other wives of Philip for her position at court. At least in death she achieved the greatest prize of all the wives – buried with great honour and privilege near to her husband and king, one of the greatest figures in ancient history.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More on the necropolis at Archontiko, near Pella

More information is emerging about the 2010 season’s finds from the necropolis at Archontiko near Pella. I’ve previously reported on the 37 new burials found during the season, but now more detailed information has become available. 
Helmet in situ. Bones and a glazed dish are also visible.
 Of the 37 burials excavated, six belong to the Late Iron Age (circa 650-580 BC) and thirty-one to the Classical and Hellenistic periods (5th-3rd century BC). Sixteen of the graves contain burials of the elite of Macedonia: both men and women buried with impressive assemblages of personal and precious items. The martial aspects of men’s lives are attested by the inclusion of iron weapons such as spearheads and knives, but they also include luxury items such as jewellery, gilded bronze wreaths, iron strigils, bronze coins and ceramic vessels. Women are buried with a greater range of jewellery, gilded bronze wreaths of myrtle, bronze coins, glass and ceramic vessels, ceramic busts and figurines, and knucklebones, which were used to play a game similar to 'jacks'. There are also examples of amber beads and faience vessels in the women’s graves.
Perhaps the finest burials are those of nine male warriors, including one that dates to around 650 BC. The quantity and range of material found in the burial of this individual is astonishing. He was buried with a bronze helmet decorated with gold strips, a sword with a gold-covered handle, two spearheads, four knives, a gold ring, a gold mouthpiece, gold hand coverings decorated with spirals and gorgons, gold shoe covers adorned with gold strands; three iron fibulae (one gold topped), iron models of a two-wheeled farm cart, furniture and roasting spits and ceramic vessels.           
With only about 5% of the 20 hectare site excavated to date, it is difficult to imagine just how wealthy this area must have been in ancient times. Given that many of the richer burials date back into the 7th century (including the one described above) it is perhaps time to rethink the current position on the ‘backward’ nature of Macedonia before the time of Philip II and Alexander. Excavations at sites like Aiane have already led to a rethink, and the necropolis at Archontiko must surely add weight to the new theories.
One of the gold decorated helmets from the site