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More on New finds at Thessaloniki metro station


Thousands of artefacts have been unearthed in what is without question the largest excavation ever undertaken in the Macedonian capital of Thessaloniki in Northern Greece ahead of the construction of the new metro.

More on New finds at Thessaloniki metro station
The pre-Cassandrian settlement of the 4th century BC at Pylea 
[Credit: Ephorate of Antiquities of Thessaloniki City]
The excavations, conducted by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Thessaloniki City, have slowly revealed the settlement history of Thessaloniki from the 4th century BC until its most recent past.

Five excavations were undertaken in 2016 at the main stations of metro line from Pylea Station to New Railway Station with a stopover on the 'Decamanus Maximus' which for centuries was the commercial heart of the city.

The pre-Cassandrian settlement of the 4th century BC at the Pylea Station, the monumental complex at the junction of the main Roman road 'Decumanus Maximus' (Egnatia Odos) and the 'cardo' of Aghia Sofia (located on the axis of two important Early Christian monuments at the site of the Aghia Sofia church), and the rich burials from two ancient cemeteries spread over three other stations, have brought to light major discoveries.

The discoveries, say the archaeologists, "complement our knowledge about the city from its inception in 316/317 BC by King Cassander of Macedon (who in fact named the city after his wife Thessalonike, half-sister of Alexander the Great and princess of Macedon as daughter of Philip II) to the development of a civitas libera in Roman times, and the reigning co-capital of Constantinople until its transformation into a modern European city."

More on New finds at Thessaloniki metro station
Selection of artefact from the pre-Cassandrian settlement of the 4th century BC at Pylea 
[Credit: Ephorate of Antiquities of Thessaloniki City]
The pre-Cassandrian settlement of the 4th century BC at Pylea, where the Macedonian tomb of Phoenix is also located, was probably one of the 26 small towns unified by Cassander to establish the city of Thessaloniki.

"The ancient settlement", the researchers explain, "was designed with the hippodamian urban planning system and is an excellent example of the political and economic organization of the later classical period in the Thessaloniki region."

Part of a subterranean shrine, carved out of the solid bedrock and dedicated to the worship of Athena Ergane, was also found there.

In the heart of the historic centre, one stop before the important archaeological assemblage at Venizelos Station, research at the entrances of the St. Sophia Station revealed the remains of a marble paved square and columns belonging to a circular portico.

More on New finds at Thessaloniki metro station
Late Roman glass ware retrieved from the Eastern cemetery 
[Credit: Ephorate of Antiquities of Thessaloniki City]
These finds illustrate the urban organization of Thessaloniki from late Antiquity to the Byzantine period, with its the commercial hub located at the intersection of the 'Decumanus Maximus' (Egnatia Odos) and the 'cardo' at the height of Agia Sophia street.

At this point, opposite two Paleochristian monuments, the Basilica of Acheiropoietos and the Episcopal Basilica at the site of the Aghia Sofia church, colonnaded semicircular arcades defined paved public squares.

“These monumental arrangements of public space, integrated in large-scale building programmes, are dated back to the 5th and 6th centuries and were in use at least up to the 9th century", explain the researchers.

"In Byzantine times, shops and workshops that opened to the street were built on top of the ruins of the square. Certainly the archaeological finds indicate the operation of an organised market square."

The archaeological investigation of the two cemeteries, the East and West cemeteries, at two other stations further down the track, are dated to the 4th century BC until the 7th century AD.

The wide variety of grave goods from the different burial structures indicate economic prosperity, luxury living and diverse burial customs.

A few metres outside the Golden Gate of the Byzantine Walls, near the entrance of the 'Democracy Square' Station, a cobbled street of the 15th-16th century and Byzantine graves provide details of the spatial development of the area at the entrance of the city.

More articles on the Thessaloniki metro digs here.

Source: Kathimerini [March 18, 2017]
TANN

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