Director Donald Haggis and several of the department’s graduate students have returned to work at the Azoria Project. Below, Haggis details the developments made at the award-winning site in summer 2013.

Donald Haggis
Nicholas A. Cassas Term Professor of Greek Studies and Professor of Classical Archaeology
Director, Azoria Project

The Department of Classics reopened excavations at the site of Azoria in eastern Crete during the summer of 2013, beginning a second five-year stage of fieldwork. The focus of work in 2013 was the South Acropolis, the southernmost peak of the site, which was occupied by houses of Archaic date, as well as two large-scale public buildings: the Monumental Civic Building (a prytaneion or bouleuterion) and the Communal Dining Building (possibly an andreion).

Work was conducted in a series of stratigraphic soundings beneath Archaic (6th and early 5th century B.C.) destruction levels that had been exposed during the first campaign of excavation in 2002-2006. The aim was to investigate earlier phases of occupation; to understand the stratigraphic transition from the Early Iron Age to Archaic periods; and to refine the chronology of a site-wide episode of rebuilding, renovation and alteration of the topography in the late 7th century B.C. The second goal of work was to increase our sample of domestic space, by completing the excavation of an Archaic house on the northwest slope.

The 2013 field staff consisted of over 90 people. The primary excavation was conducted by nine trench supervisors who are graduate students in classical archaeology from the UNC Department of Classics (Cicek Beeby, Bailey Benson, Emma Buckingham, Sarah Hilker, and Catharine Judson); undergraduate classical archaeology majors, Drew Cabaniss and Julia Juhasz; and Tim Shea from Duke University, and Kristen Mann from University of Sydney. They were assisted in the field by 40 students from UNC (Caroline Carter, Ann Evans, Katie Reinberger, Zac Stelling, Mikel Wein, and Victoria Wilson) and several other universities, as well as 19 workmen from the local villages of Kavousi and Pacheia Ammos.

Excavations in 2013 have contributed significantly to our understanding of the early development of the settlement from Late

Juglet from the potter’s workshop | Photo by Donald Haggis
Juglet from the potter’s workshop | Photo by Donald Haggis

Minoan IIIC (ca. 1200 B.C.) to the Archaic period (700-500 B.C.), as well as the transformation of the site in the late 7th century. The restructuring of the settlement involved the destruction and burial of Early Iron Age and 7th century buildings in the wake of the establishment of a town plan, new house types and public or civic architecture. Several new buildings were uncovered in 2013, including a large five room structure on the southwest slope (Early Iron Age-Orientalizing Building), excavated by Catharine Judson, Cicek Beeby, Kristen Mann, and Julia Juhasz. Underlying an Archaic city street and dump, the excavators exposed the main rooms of the building. About ten meters long and eight meters wide internal dimensions, the central part of the building was subdivided into two rooms in its earliest phase (8th c. B.C.) and three rooms in its latest phase of use. A large hearth occupied the center of the main room. In the 7th century, a long eastern room was added to the building, evidently a potter’s workshop with a kiln in its northern end. A number of whole vessels were recovered along the east side of the room—including a small cookpot, two short necked cups, an hydria, an aryballos, and a coarse plain krater with a fragmentary inscription ([-aron) inscribed before firing, in sinistrograde.

In the northern sector of the South Acropolis we completed excavation of the Northwest Building—a large house with use phases spanning the 6th and early 5th centuries. The building has two large interconnected halls and an adjoining storeroom; a vestibule connects the halls to a spacious kitchen, and beyond it, to the south, there is a second storeroom. The northernmost hall, excavated by Sarah Hilker, contained a complete sympotic assemblage, including a large krater, krater stand, a pedestalled krater, and a number of drinking cups. Unusual finds in the room were a marble louterion, as well as a series of burned animal bones: left sided goat horns and right-sided metapodials (lower legs). This odd selection of bones suggests a structured deposit, very likely the result of sacrificial activity or the setting aside of portions of the animal as trapezomata (table offerings).

Inscribed krater from the potter’s workshop | Photo by Donald Haggis
Inscribed krater from the potter’s workshop | Photo by Donald Haggis

Other finds from the house include a complete krater stand from the vestibule, a bronze shield boss from the kitchen, and from the southern storeroom, several complete pithoi; at least three hydrias; a fine jug; several early 5th-century black-gloss cups and cup skyphoi; and one small chytra. Imports include a black-figure oinochoe and an Attic exaleiptron.

The excavations at Azoria are reshaping our understanding of Archaic Crete, a phase of cultural development on the island that hitherto has been known through inscriptions. Our traditional historical picture of Archaic and Classical Crete is one of cultural isolation from the wider Greek world—the island is thought to have suffered an economic collapse following the 7th century, only to be revived in the late Classical and Hellenistic periods. Our work at Azoria is transforming this picture, showing a thriving urban center, with imports from Lakonia, Attica, Aegina, the east Aegean, and more distant ports. The scale of building and the establishment of elite houses, civic buildings and shrines at the end of the 7th century are evidence for a radical restructuring of the settlement, allowing us to investigate stratigraphically the process of urbanization and polis formation in the Aegean, as well as the form, function, and economy of the early Greek house.

The Azoria Project is a collaboration of the Department of Classics, the Curriculum in Archaeology, the Research Laboratories of Archaeology, and the Duke-UNC Consortium for Classical and Mediterranean Archaeology. The excavation is conducted under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, with a permit from the Greek Ministry Culture. Funding for fieldwork in 2013 was provided by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities; National Geographic Society; Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research; Institute for Aegean Prehistory; Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation; the UNC Department of Classics (Azoria Project Fund; Cassas Professorship; J.P. Harland funds); the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Vice Chancellor for Research.

Excavations continue at Azoria in summer 2014. Private donations are accepted by the Department of Classics Azoria Project Fund.