Saturday 13 March 2010

Thessalonike: "Villas" in Prehistoric Toumba - «Βίλες» στην προϊστορική Τούμπα

"Villas", graves and Baslicas uncovered by Thessalonike Metro

3200 years ago, the inhabitants of the prehistoric settlement in what is now Toumba region of Thessalonike lived in large buildings (up to 200 sq.m.) constructed with mud bricks, and having many rooms. They laid the floors with carpets woven from vegetable fibres. They threw their rubbish out onto the roads a,d cleaned their rooms and their fireplaces, but kept the house-hold animals separate from the settlement. They stored fruits and foodstuffs in large pithoi. The practiced weaving, metalworking, tannery and the dying of cloth. They did not bury their dead in organised cemeteries, but in the interior of the buildings which they inhabited. The age, sex and anatomical differentiation seem to have defined the ceremonial practices. Babies were buried in a contracted position, a child of seven with a benign tumor on his forearm was buried on its stomach, while the rest were buried on their backs.

The first conclusions from the analysis of the remains of carpets, dust, rubbish and bones concerning the lifa and the demographic composition of the groups at the beginning of the 11th century B.C. are being revealed in the prehistoric settlement at Toumba. Two building clusters and 17 burials of 1120-1090 B.C. were revealed by the digs of the Aristoteleian University. «This ensemble is the only one in the region of Central Macedonia that gives information about the way in which the inhabitants treated their dead. It appears that they did not follow a systematically defined ceremonial rite», explains the professor of Archaeology of the Aristoteleian University of Thessalonike speaking at the 23rd Congress of Archaeology in Thessalonike.

The digs at the metro stations under construction in Thessalonike of this year were rich is graves (80) and grave-goods (500) and architectural remains of monuments, according to the data presented at the Congress.

The new railway station, covering a surface of 1260 sq.m., revealed 15 graves of the western cemetery of the Hellenistic and roman period, with rich offerings. At the «Syntrivani» station, covering a surface of 1500 sq.m., apart from 35 unadorned graves of the eastern cemetery of the ancient town, an extra muros basilica is also impressive. It is dated to the early Christian period and is built on roman remains.

A large early Christian Basilica (1st to early 4th century AD) and an important late Byzantine period (1204-1430) building were unearthed at a same number of Thessaloniki metro construction sites over the recent period. Part of a three-aisled, 50-metre-long basilica was unearthed during earthworks for the construction of the Sintrivani station and according to archaeologists it belongs to a cemetery.

An important building with centuries-long but undetermined use was discovered during construction works for the Venizelos station. The building was used from the late Byzantine Period until the 18th century and comprised two underground spaces accessed through a hatch. A coin dated back to the time of late Byzantine Emperor Ioannis V Paleologus (1332-1391) found inside the building is indicative of the period during which it was constructed. Its use during the Ottoman period can be associated with nearby Ottoman monuments of Bezesten and Hamza Bei Tzami (Alkazar).

The 9th ephorate of Byzantine antiquities, responsible for the excavations, has proceeded with the creation of an electronic database to record and process the movable findings discovered during the Thessaloniki Metro construction works. More than 12,000 findings have been recorded so far. An e-book with all the findings unearthed will be published as soon as excavations are completed.

At the station «Panepistimio» (University) a rectangular building of unknown use was located to a height of approximately 5 m., while the works on the «Fleming» station brought to light 17 graves of the roman period. About 18.286 objects, mostly ceramic, metallic and clay vessels, jewels, perfume bottles and coins dated from 30 B.C. up to the 19th century, have been so far collected by the excavational research covering a total surface of 11000 sq.m. on the works for the new metro.

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