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This webpage reproduces an article in
The Classical Journal
Vol. 13, No. 3 (Dec. 1917), pp186‑192.

The text is in the public domain.

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 p186  Archaeology in 1916
By George H. Chase
Harvard University

The most striking feature of the archaeological news of the year 1916 is the almost complete lack of information from Greece. Whether this is largely due to the censor­ship, which in recent months has passed very little Greek news of any kind, or whether there actually has been a stagnation of archaeological activities in Greece it is impossible to say. Certainly conditions in that distracted country must have been most unfavorable for excavation, and such brief notices as I have seen suggest that little work was undertaken.

For some discoveries, as in 1915, the war was directly responsible. It was reported that vessels of the Greek navy, while engaged in mine-sweeping practice in and near the Bay of Salamis, encountered obstacles which are thought to be remains of Persian galleys sunk in the battle of Salamis, and that after the war an attempt will be made to raise them. Near Salonica, also, sarcophagi, inscriptions, vases, coins, and other relics of antiquity continued to be found as a result of military operations, and were carefully collected by French and English archaeologists in the Allied forces. The most interesting notice that I have seen speaks especially of an inscription, probably of the second century after Christ, in honor of Manius Salarius Saborius, who, in addition to other benefactions, "in time of scarcity often supplied grain at a price far below the current rate, and at the passage of the troops of the Emperor supplied 600 measures of wheat, 100 measures of barley, 60 measures of beans, and 100 measures of wine at far below current prices." One cannot help wondering whether, as a result of present conditions, similar inscriptions will some day adorn American cities.

The most striking discovery that has been reported was made by chance at Tiryns in the winter of 1915‑16. About a hundred yards from the citadel a workman connected with the Agricultural  p187 School, in digging a deep trench, came upon a Mycenaean treasure, which was carefully collected under the supervision of Mr. Arvanitopoullos and taken to the National Museum at Athens. It consists of a large number of objects which had been packed in a wooden chest. Among them are a tripod, several daggers, and various utensils of bronze, and especially a large cauldron, in which the most important part of the treasure was placed. The tantalizing brief reports tell of many objects of gold, including bracelets, necklaces, two diadems ornamented with amber, and many rings, some of them set with engraved stones. On one of these gems is carved a boat with passengers and men and women waiting to welcome them. On another is a religious scene, with a goddess, or a priestess, in the usual Mycenaean costume, seated before an altar and approached by four of the fantastic figures which are so common in Cretan and Mycenaean art, and which have been interpreted by some as lesser deities, by others as worshipers dressed as animals; above are represented the sun, the moon, and stars. The whole clearly forms one of the most important Mycenaean "finds" of recent years, and its scientific publication will be awaited with interest.

In the fall of 1916 Mr. Arvanitopoullos conducted some excavations at Gonnoi in Thessaly, exploring especially a sanctuary of Artemis, which yielded more than a hundred inscribed and sculptured stones. One of the inscriptions records the thanks of a woman to Artemis Geneteira, and creates a presumption that the sanctuary was dedicated to that goddess.

At Nicopolis, Mr. Philadelpheus, continuing his investigations, opened a large number of tombs of the sixth and the fifth centuries, containing terra-cottas and vases, the later partly of "proto-Corinthian" types, partly black-figured. He also discovered a small temple.

The American School conducted excavations at Corinth from May to November, principally on three of the eleven prehistoric sites which have now been identified in this region. The work was directly in charge of Mr. Blegen, the secretary of the School, to whom the discovery of these settlements is due,​1 but Mr. Hill, the director, Mr. Dinsmoor, the architect, and Mr. Scott, the one  p188 member of the School, also took part in it. Mr. Wace, the director of the British School in Athens, who is a recognized authority on the prehistoric antiquities of Greece, spent a month at the excavations and assisted in the classification of the masses of early pottery which came to light. The most important of the sites is one called Koráko, a little less than two miles west of New Corinth. Here undisturbed and stratified remains of prehistoric settlements show that the site was occupied during the whole of the Bronze Age. In a brief report Mr. Blegen has distinguished three periods of occupation and carefully analyzed the different classes of pottery from each period. Among the important points which he brings out is the fact that imported vases show extensive trade relations — with Crete and the Aegean Islands, with settlements in Argolis and in Central Greece — and that one new type, consisting of two-handled goblets, decorated over a smooth, glazelike slip with flowers, rosettes, and spirals in black-to‑red lustrous paint, is a local Corinthian ware, dating from the latter part of the Late Minoan I period. For it he proposes the suggestive name "Ephyrean." Numerous foundation walls of houses were uncovered, several of them so well preserved that plans could be plotted by Mr. Dinsmoor. Even from a brief report it is clear that this excavation, the first in Southern Greece where a definite sequence of styles of pottery in use during the Bronze Age can be traced, is destined to play an important part in future discussions of the prehistoric period.

In addition to the work on the prehistoric sites, an ancient cemetery northwest of the modern town of Old Corinth was partially explored by Mr. Hill. Forty-one sarcophagi and a small number of trench and tile graves were opened, which yielded over two hundred vases, two mirrors and three strigils of bronze, and some smaller objects. Examination of a row of column bases in the same region (some of them are plotted near "Trench I" on the map of Corinth in the American Journal of Archaeology for 1897, Plate XIV) showed that they formed part of a large colonnade of Roman date, measuring over three hundred feet long and about forty feet deep.

The French School in Athens is reported to have had seven members, but as the School was closed early in December, 1916, it  p189 seems clear that the members found it difficult to carry on their work successfully. The director states in his report that Thasos and Macedonia, the regions to which the members of the School have devoted much attention in recent years, were "quite impossible" under war conditions. One member, Mr. Plassart, undertook to finish the exploration of the two Sacred Ways leading to the two summits of Mt. Cynthus, on the island of Delos, and apparently carried out his plan. On the principal summit, where Lebègue in 1873 excavated the sanctuary of Zeus Cynthius and Athena Cynthia, Mr. Plassart found remains of an earlier temple, and on the second summit, traces of a sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos. He also discovered two new precincts dedicated to oriental divinities, and cleared considerable portions of the two Sacred Ways with their chapels. Of the other foreign schools in Athens I have not been able to gain any information.

In marked contrast to the dearth of news from Greece, reports from Italy show little diminution of archaeological activities. Dr. Spinazzola, to be sure, mentions a reduction in the number of workmen at Pompeii, and especially in the number of younger men, due to the "successive calls to the colors." But the government excavations at Pompeii and Ostia were carried on throughout the year, and the Notizie degli scavi contain almost as many notices as usual of discoveries and minor excavations in many parts of the peninsula.

From Rome there is not much to record. It was announced during the year that the well-preserved republican temple in the Forum Boarium, which is commonly called the Temple of Fortuna Virilis, was to be freed from the adjoining modern structures and restored; and a more recent report states that the work of tearing down the modern houses has begun. In the neighborhood of the Porta San Lorenzo, the widening of the modern roads made clearer the relations of the various aqueducts, gates, and other constructions about the ancient Porta Tiburtina and brought to light a republican archway that had not been known before. Between the Porta Maggiore and the Lateran, building operations in the Villa Wolkonsky resulted in the discovery of several late republican tombs containing portrait busts.

 p190  The activities of the foreign schools in Rome were much curtailed as a result of the war. The French School had but two students, and the German Institute, naturally, was closed. Our own American Academy was able to carry out its usual program of lectures and research, but here too the difficulties created by the war have at last had their effect, and it is announced that no new students are to be sent over until conditions of living in Italy improve. Much of the time of the officials of the Academy was devoted to preparing the first volume of the Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, which was published early in 1917. The death of Professor Carter in July last came as a great shock to his many friends in America, who find it difficult to think of the Academy without him as its director. He died at Cervignano, while on his way to the Italian front with a commission sent by the American Red Cross. The problem of carrying on the work of the Academy has been met for the present by the appointment of Mr. Stevens as acting director.

At Pompeii the excavation of the Via dell' Abbondanza and its neighborhood was carried considerably farther. The house of Trebius Valens was completely cleared and found to be in excellent preservation. In the ambulacrum, part of the roof was still in situ — the first example that has been found at Pompeii. Under a part of the roof that had fallen, and close to a wall, were the skeletons of four occupants of the house who evidently had tried to find refuge from the falling ashes. At the back of the peristyle was a stibadium with a support for a circular table, which was also used as a fountain. This arrangement is similar to that found in 1907 in the House of the Silver Wedding,​2 and both recall Pliny's statement in the description of his Tuscan villa, though there the water pipes were placed in the stibadium itself.3

Another interesting structure in this neighborhood is a large square apartment, measuring nearly twenty-eight feet on each side and opening on the street for a width of slightly over twenty feet. On two sides of the room the upper part of the walls shows definite  p191 traces of the existence of wooden wall cases, which were supported by stout pilasters. The spaces between the pilasters are decorated with figures of flying Victories, and on the exterior wall, on each side of the wide doorway, is painted an elaborate trophy. Dr. Spinazzola argues that the room served as a station and armory (armamentarium) of a local military organization, such as are known to have existed in some Roman towns, charged with the performance of many of the duties of a modern police force.4

Among the minor discoveries of the year is a new example of the interesting group of Oscan inscriptions sometimes called the "Eituns" inscriptions. These are notices in red paint on the walls of the houses, which give directions for reaching the city wall by the shortest routes.​5 They are commonly supposed to date from the time of the Social War, when Pompeii was besieged by Sulla, and to have served as directions for the allied forces which held the city.

From Ostia no discoveries of great importance have been reported. The principal area excavated was the insula east of the Temple of Vulcan, bounded on the north by the Via della Casa di Diana and on the south by the Strada Decumana. Parts of this had been cleared before. Some of the buildings offered new evidence for the three-story house with an interior court and exterior balconies on the level of the upper floors. Besides houses of this sort, with shops on the ground floor, the insula contained a small basilica and, in one corner, an elaborate fountain of late date. It is reported, also, that the Piazzale delle Corporazioni​6 has been completely cleared. On its northern side was found an inscription of the Narbonenses, which is the first record at Ostia of a corporation from the district of Gallia Narbonensis.

Finally, I cannot resist the temptation to note two examples of the wide ramifications of the great war, although they have to do with districts which I have not usually included in these reports. Some forty miles west of Fez in Morocco, the French have been conducting excavations on the site of the ancient town of Volubilis.  p192 These were begun in May, 1915, by order of General Lyautey, resident commissioner-general, and are stated to have been undertaken with a purpose "partly political" — that is, to impress the natives with the ability of the French government to carry out scientific work in the midst of war. An arch and a basilica, which had always been visible, have been completely excavated, and near the basilica the forum has been located and largely cleared. It is certainly to be hoped that both the scientific and the political aims of the officials will be realized. The other "war news" is found in a letter from Dr. Carton, director of the excavations at Bulla Regia, in Tunisia, which was read at a session of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres on May 19, 1916. In this it is stated that as the government has taken the German prisoners employed on the excavations for agricultural work in France, they have been replaced by native workmen. To the German prisoners the trenches of Bulla Regia must have been welcome indeed after the trenches of the Western Front.

The Author's Notes:

1 Cf. Classical Journal, XII, 204.

2 Cf. Not. Scav., 1910, p326.

3 Cf. Pliny Epist. V.6.36: "E stibadio aqua, velut expressa cubantium pondere, siphunculis effluit."

4 Cf. Daremberg and Saglio, Dict. des Ant., art. "Militiae municipales."

5 Cf. Mau-Kelsey, Pompeii, p240; Buck, Grammar of Oscan and Umbrian, pp242, 243.

6 Cf. Classical Journal, XI, 205.º

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