The Vanished Basilica

It’s taken me almost a whole week excavating to let go of our year long belief that we would find an Early Christian basilica atop the height of Vigla.  We simply could not find any evidence of the feature that we had interpreted as an apse on the geophysical work done last year.  Moreover, we have turned up almost no Early Christian (Late Roman) pottery in our excavations. 

Our excavations have reveal, however, monumental architecture.  At least one massive wall (close to a meter in width) as well as a very complex trench with several large ashlar blocks.  Moreover, the vast majority of pottery appears to be Hellenistic in date.  Our new hypothesis, which relies on only a very, very small sample of material, is that there was a sanctuary on the height of Vigla.  Hopefully our excavations, designed as they were to determine the length and width of an Early Christian church, will produce enough chronological and functional evidence to allow us to press this point.

The fact remains that parts of the fortification wall around the circumference of the height still appear Late Roman in construction style — in particular the use of a white, gypsum based mortar that is very similar to the mortar used in the clearly the Late Roman buildings on the plain of Koutsopetria.  Unfortunately most of the wall does not show any signs of this diagnostic mortar.  Our confidence has been sufficiently shaken in our ability to date a monumental phase on Vigla to a Late Roman date that we have decided to dig a small probe to try to date a particularly well preserved stretch of fortification wall.  The biggest challenge is that the wall runs along the slope of the steep rise making it difficult to excavate.  We have a small section of the wall that is not only characteristic of the chronologically ambiguous sections of the wall in general (i.e. not clearly Late Roman) and situated on a relatively stable slope.  We began excavating this wall on Friday and hope to find datable foundation deposits.

For more on the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project see our sister blogs: Pyla-Koutsopetria Graduate Student Weblog, Pyla-Koutsopetria Undergraduate Perspectives, and Pyla-Koutsopetria Season Staff Blog.

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