Pylos Regional Archaeological Project

THE PYLOS REGIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROJECT: 9th Season Preliminary Report to the 7th Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, Olympia on the Results of Museum Study April-October, 1999

By Jack L. Davis
University of Cincinnati


1. Staff

The ninth season of PRAP was again conducted with a small staff, consisting of the following team members:

2. Introduction

Goals of the 1999 season were:

  1. To restudy selected published and unpublished finds from Blegen’s excavations.
  2. To improve the storage conditions of artifacts from Blegen’s excavations at the Palace of Nestor
  3. To explore the condition of and conduct a preliminary examination of the human skeletal material stored in the Hora museum.

Reorganization of the Blegen finds and their study was conducted exclusively on tables behind the second apotheke of the museum, under direct supervision of museum guards and was organized by Sharon Stocker on behalf of PRAP. Stocker describes the program of reorganization of the storerooms below. Reports on specific aspects of the research programs pursued by other members of our team and regarding other activities follow her summary.

3. Reorganization of the Blegen Finds

Sharon R. Stocker, University of Cincinnati

The goals of the Hora Apotheke Reorganization Project (HARP) are to reorganize, conserve, restudy and publish material from Carl Blegen's excavations at the Palace of Nestor in Pylos. The 1999 season was funded primarily by a grant received from the Institute for Aegean Prehistory. HARP is directed and coordinated by Sharon R. Stocker of the University of Cincinnati. In 1999, the reorganization and repacking of artifacts in the Hora museum storeroom took place during the two week period from June 1 to June 13. The participants were Susanne Hofstra (University of Texas at Austin), Rob Schon (Bryn Mawr College), and Michael Lane (University of Sheffield). Lynne Schepartz from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Cincinnati came to examine the human skeletal remains, and was also present at this time. Hariclia Brecoulaki visited the Hora museum in August to discuss long-term storage options for the frescoes found by Blegen during his excavations.

The focus of the 1999 season was the back of Storeroom (Apotheke) #2 where the pottery from the pantries is stored. Much of this material was either stored in large barrels that were too heavy to be moved or placed in smaller barrels and boxes that had been extensively damaged over the years by water seepage. We were able to rebag much of the material from the "pantries" of the Palace of Nestor, i.e., Rooms 18-20. This included disassembling several of the large, extremely heavy barrels. The material in these barrels was broken down into its individual lots and placed in separate plastic bags which were then stored in plastic fruit crates purchased for this purpose. All information from each individual label was transcribed directly onto the plastic bag in permanent magic marker and recorded for entry into the HARP inventory.

Much of the material from the Lagou trenches was rebagged and placed in plastic fruit crates. Work also continued in the front of the main part of the storeroom and along the inner wall. Extra room was made in this area by shifting numerous boxes so that they were more compactly arranged (without changing their order/organization): this space was then used for the new wooden boxes of various heights that were designed specifically for the storeroom shelves. Most of these boxes were used by Lynne Schepartz for the human skeletal remains. A list of the material that was conserved this summer is attached to the end of this report.

Lynne Schepartz rebagged all of the human skeletal material present in Storeroom #2. This included a large steamer trunk located in the front of the apotheke that was bottomless and completely waterlogged. Much of this skeletal material was from the Vayenas tombs. That at bottom of the heap could not be salvaged due to its advanced stage of decomposition. The rest of the material from the trunk was dried and then placed in wooden boxes that were transferred to the inner part of the storeroom. All other human remains from Ano Englianos were relocated to the same area in the storeroom.

Hariclia Brecoulaki came to look at the the numerous fresco fragments that are stored in Apotheke #1. Happily, she thought they were in good condition and discussed options for repacking and long-term storage. The frescoes will require cleaning and repacking with the help of a fresco expert, but will not need conservation work.

Still to be completed is reorganization of material stored along the line of inner shelves of the storeroom; these finds include those from the long transverse section dug by Blegen and Camp in 1968. Additionally, the Blegen material in Apotheke #1 (mostly frescoes) needs to be sorted, catalogued, cleaned, and repacked. Both these issues will be addressed in the summer of 2000, provided sufficient funds can be found. Also, 200 wooden boxes are on order for next summer to replace the cardboard boxes in which the ceramic material is currently stored. During the final stages of HARP the artifacts will be transferred into these boxes for long-term storage.

Finds conserved in 1999:

4. The Formative Stages of the Palace of Nestor

Sharon R. Stocker, University of Cincinnati

During the winter and spring of 1999 the process of integrating the ceramic data collected in the field in 1998 about the pre-LH IIIB sherds recovered by Blegen in his excavations at the Palace of Nestor with photographs and illustrations of the material was begun. In collaboration with Sebastian Heath a Filemaker database has been set up for catalogued ceramic material that will be interfaced with photographs and drawings. The ceramic data will be entered and the photographs and illustrations scanned in Cincinnati.

The specific areas under detailed investigation include: Under Corridor 26 (Area M, MR 1960); Under Corridor 25 (NW Pit, CWB 1958); Petropoulos Trench (MR, 1959); NW of Main Building (GP 1958 and 1963); Paraskevopoulos (WPD 1956); Tr. 64-3, 64-5 and 64-17 (JP 1964); P13 (P. Smith 1963); W5 and W6 (MR 1959); W9 and W10 and W10, SW ext.(PS 1963); W12 (CK 1962); W13 (MR 1961); W14 (WK Trs I-VII, 1962); W15 (MR 1961); W17a (WAM 1953); W17b (GP 1960); W 20 (= Tr. 64.1 and 64.1, ext., JP 1964, CWB 1965); W31, W32, W33, S10, S12, Tr. 18, 19, and 8, ext. III (CK 1962); Pit outside Room 24 (RH 1955); and Under Hall 65 (EPB 1956); Lower Trenches LI (GP 1959) and LIII (CWB 1959); Tholos IV = Kanakaris aloni (WDT 1953); Vayenas aloni = Grave Circle (WDT 1957).

The Blegen notebooks that reside in the Classics Department at the University of Cincinnati are now available on CD-Rom, as are those in the archives at the American School of Classical Studies. A final CD-Rom edition that contains images of all the excavation notebooks is in the final stages of preparation. This project is due to be completed in the winter of 2000.

In addition to work at the Palace of Nestor, my MA Thesis "Deriziotis Aloni: A Small Bronze Age Site in Messenia" is being prepared for submission to Hesperia.

5. Small Finds from the Palace of Nestor

Susanne Hofstra, University of Texas

The 1999 season, lasting June 13-August 20, was very productive for the study of the small finds. This summer was my final season of research for my doctoral thesis, "Small Things Considered: The Objects from Pylos in their Context." During 1999-2000 I will complete the writing of the dissertation, and anticipate the defense in late spring of 2000. Part of the findings from the summer will also be presented in two papers at the 1999 meetings of the AIA/APA (Dec 27-30, 1999): "Tracking Mycenaean Deer," (with Ruth Palmer, University of Ohio), and "Heirlooms at Pylos Too? Decorative Stone from the Palace of Nestor." I am most grateful to the University of Cincinnati, the University of Texas Classics Department and Graduate Studies, and INSTAP for financial assistance in this research, and to the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Classics Department of the University of Cincinnati for their permission to study this material. Plans for future study of other assemblages from the Palace, such as pottery types, are now under consideration for the summer of 2000.

5.1. Research on the small finds

Study of the finds in 1999 was focused on preparation of the database of small finds (checking of references, labels, photographs, and drawings) and on several categories of objects: metal, ivory, decorative stone, and lithics.

In order to more objectively and precisely quantify the amount of bronze found in the palace excavations, the bronze finds from the apothikis, from museum displays, and from under museum cases were counted and weighed on a scale accurate to 1g. (A few pieces which were glued to backings could not be weighed, and their dimensions were noted and an estimate of weight made.) Silver fragments were counted but it was found that they were largely too small and infrequent to justify weighing. Many of the bronze and silver objects were photographed and drawn, including all that showed any sign of decoration. Blegen and Rawson had photographed and briefly described some of these metal objects in the Palace of Nestor publication, but the black and white published photographs rarely made details explicable. In addition, bronze and other metal from the excavation were often described no more precisely than "a few bits and scraps"per room. More precise quantification will allow a comparison to be made both on a room-to-room basis within the palace, and between the palace and other sites.

During this process several damaged cigarette boxes and labels were replaced, and 15-20 lots of bronze fragments, which were stored only loosely wrapped in paper towels or lying on plexiglas strips in cabinets under museum cases, were placed in boxes with appropriate labeling. In general it was found that silverfish and other insects have seriously damaged a number of paper labels belonging to finds under the museum cases. In all cases when this was discovered information from the damaged label was recopied as far as possible on a more archivally sound basis using plastic tags and permanent ink. Some re-identifications were also made using the Chora Museum accession books and the Palace of Nestor I and III volumes belonging the museum.

All the fragments of ivory from the Palace in the Chora Museum (some remain in the National Museum in Athens), both from display cases and storage, were counted, measured and recorded. Many were drawn and photographed, with special attention to decorative motifs, construction and attachment, and possible production areas within the Palace. Early study shows little evidence for a significant ivory-carving industry in the LH IIIB period; the few pieces possibly indicating production in the latest occupation period of the palace stem, surprisingly, not from the Northeast Workshop (where carving of ivory had been hypothesized) but from an upper floor of the palace above the Oil Magazines 23 and 24. No clear evidence was found for the use of hippopotamus ivory, which has been recognized at Mycenae and Knossos.

Objects and fragments of decorative stone, from bits of crystal inlay, carnelian beads, and vases of Egyptian diorite and tufa were drawn, photographed, and recorded. Several additional pieces of stone, including a piece of diorite, probably from an Egyptian stone vase like those already known from the palace, were discovered and separated from pottery lots during repacking in Apothiki 2, and the context of an important piece was rediscovered (see the "stone revetment" below). Identification of the types of decorative stone used at the palace, and their sources, was a priority this summer, and helpful assistance in this was provided both by Scott Pike and the geological study collection of the Weiner Laboratory at the ASCSA, and the research collection of the Geology Department of the University of Texas. Blegen and Rawson’s frequent reference to many pieces of "crystalline stone" found both in industrial areas of the palace (the Northeast Workshop) and other rooms (the Megaron) was investigated. Many of these pieces of stone appear to be ordinary quartz and halite, and possible functions for the large quantity recorded for the Northeast Workshop — a large pithos was said to be full of "crystalline stone and many colored earths" — is still being studied. One piece of lapis lazuli (mistakenly labeled "obsidian") was identified, the first known from the Palace Main Building. In addition, a number of pieces of "partly worked" poros from Room 55 were examined for evidence of a stone working facility in this area. The new accessibility of the Marion Rawson’s notes and drawings from the Cincinnati excavation notebooks on CD-Rom has helped considerably in the investigation of the Room 55 "stone cutter’s workshop."

The lithic (obsidian and chert) finds from the Palace, which like the metal finds were generally only vaguely quantified in the excavation report ("a couple of chips and flakes") were counted and carefully photographed. Preliminary study hints at several production areas in the palace and on the Ano Englianos hill which previously went undetected due to the inadequacy of the published information. In storage, the lithics had generally been combined with other types of material (bronze fragments, decorative stone, bits of bone and ivory) and had been placed loosely in cigarette boxes which by now were often deteriorating and gaping. The contents of these boxes were segregated by material and packed in small closed and labeled plastic bags within the cigarette boxes to prevent loss of loose objects. When necessary cigarette boxes were replaced.

5.2. Conservation, storage, and records

In consultation with the local Ephoreia representative the small finds in the apothikis were repacked from their deteriorating cardboard boxes into large clearly labeled wooden boxes, and those from Apothiki 1 were moved to Apothiki 2 so that all the small finds from the Blegen excavations will be consolidated together in a single area of Apothiki 2. The small finds are now organized so that objects from the Palace, outlying areas of the acropolis, and tombs are clearly separated and accessible to researchers. A division by material (metal objects, terracotta objects, stone objects, and so on) was considered but it was decided to leave this step to the future if and when funds for more archivally sophisticated packaging become available.

The scanning of the Blegen excavation notebooks and archive photographs onto CD-Rom has been invaluable in the study of the small finds, and especially in reconstructing find context for objects with lost or damaged labels. One particularly exciting example is the re-identification of a carved stone revetment from the Palace which had been on display in the Chora Museum for years, but when examined, proved to have no identifying label or number whatsoever. This object had surprisingly escaped publication by Blegen and so for some time there was doubt whether it actually had come from Ano Englianos; but after some weeks of study after return from Greece a photograph of it was discovered in the scanned archival collection and its context determined from the original excavation notebook reference. This piece, which has parallels in the palaces at Mycenae, Tiryns, and Knossos, as well as the Tomb of Atreus at Mycenae, will be presented with others in the AIA paper on decorative stone mentioned above.

A searchable database has now been completed on Filemaker Pro which includes all the Blegen excavation small finds from the apothikis, the display cases, and the storage areas under cases, with their Chora Museum numbers (if they possess them). Keyed to this database are copies of any information from original Blegen/Rawson labels (which includes important notation about trenches and stratigraphy), pages and figures in the Palace of Nestor volume, references in excavation notebooks, descriptions, measurements, drawings and photographs. This information (thanks to the kindness of Ephoreia representative Evangelitsa ---- ) has also been checked and cross-referenced with the Chora Museum accession books. The database can ultimately be made available on disk or via the internet for the convenience of future researchers.

6. Human Osteology Report 1999

(Lynne A. Schepartz, University of Cincinnati)

Analysis of the human skeletal material from the Palace of Nestor and associated chamber and tholos tombs was initiated in June 1999. A portion of the sample had been studied by J. Lawrence Angel in 1957. He made some brief notes about the sex and age of the individuals but the information was never published. The objectives of the 1999 visit were 1) to assess the degree of preservation and state of curation for the skeletons, and 2) to assess whether it is feasible to conduct a more detailed analysis.

6.1. Preservation and curation

The materials are housed in a storeroom of the Hora Museum. Some crania were found to be reconstructed and stored in cardboard boxes that are deteriorating. The postcrania associated with these crania are in fairly good condition. The labels and provenience tags are easy to read and no information has been lost. Approximately half of the skeletal sample, primarily the individuals from the Vayenas grave circle, was packed with straw and newspaper in an old steamer trunk. The trunk was considerably water-damaged from a leak in the storeroom. These bones were typically encrusted with wax or dirt, and the crania were in matrix. Many associations between skeletal elements were lost due to the deterioration of the packing material and labels. Some of these bones are well-preserved, but the majority of the material consists of limb shafts. These are generally identifiable to skeletal element and side, so an estimate of the minimum number of individuals is possible.

Angel had studied individuals from four locations: Kanakaris (Tholos IV), Vayenas, Tsakalis and Kondou. He identified approximately fifty individuals. All of these skeletons, with the exception of the Tholos IV individuals, have been located. Angel identified 17 individuals with 12 crania from Tholos IV, so a substantial portion of the skeletal sample is not yet located. All of the sample excavated after Angel’s study were located.

The bones were given a preliminary cleaning to remove dirt and matrix and then repacked in new, specially-designed wooden boxes. The boxes are open to prevent a build-up of moisture on the bones. The sample now fills 46 wooden boxes; of these, 25 are filled with bones that were originally stored in the steamer trunk.

6.2. Potential for further study

A conservative estimate is that one quarter of the individuals have a fairly complete cranium and some associated postcranial bones. For the rest of the sample, at least 30% can possibly be aged and sexed. As the postcranial sample is fairly large, and there appears to be an appreciable degree of variation in size and muscularity, it should be possible to do some sexing using metric criteria. There is also some pathology present, in the form of dental caries and cranial trauma, that may show an interesting distribution.

A more detailed study of this sample is certainly warranted. As the burials date from the Middle through the Late Helladic periods, a time span of some 500 years is represented. Future work should focus on temporal changes in the population (in terms of health, gender and age distribution, and differential burial treatment) and the relation of this skeletal sample to other contemporaneous populations in the Mycenaean realm.

This work should take place in three stages:

  1. initial study of the sample to determine a minimum number of individuals and their age and sex (involving morphological as well as metrical data collection), followed by a more detailed assessment of their health;
  2. analysis of the skeletal data in conjunction with the archaeological data on burial treatment;
  3. comparison of the Palace of Nestor sample with other Mycenaean and Mediterranean skeletal series. This may involve use of published data or direct study of other collections.

I estimate that the first stage will take approximately three to four months of work in Hora. This is based upon the current condition of the materials, which will require more cleaning and sorting, and the size of the sample. The costs, aside from airfare and living expenses, will be minimal. A supply budget of $400 for preparation materials, photography and illustration should be sufficient. If there is interest in the genetic relationships between individuals and the material proves to be suitable for DNA analysis, additional funds will be required for the laboratory analyses.

The second stage can be accomplished at the University of Cincinnati using resources in the Blegen library and archives. This stage should involve approximately four months. No extra costs are anticipated.

The third stage may involve further fieldwork in Greece or other institutions with comparative skeletal collections. It is not possible to estimate the costs of this stage until the most appropriate collections are identified and the feasibility of studying them is determined.

6.3. Shelf Inventory

Shelf I

  1. Tomb E-9 Skeleton B and other odd bone WPD 1966
  2. Tsakalis Tomb E-9 Burial A WPD 1966 Human Bones
  3. Tsakalis Tomb E-8 Burial G Skull J Human Bones WPD 1966
  4. WPD Tomb E-4 Human Bones
  5. Tomb E-6 1957 Human Bones
  6. Tomb E-6 1957 Human Bones
Shelf II
  1. Tsakalis Tomb E-6 WPD 1957
  2. Kokkevis Tomb V Bones
  3. Kokkevis Tomb 1959 Human Bones
  4. Kokkevis Tomb 1959 Human Bones
  5. Kokkevis Tomb V Bones
  6. Kokkevis Tomb 1959 Bones
Shelf III
  1. Vayenas Tholos Tomb Human Bones (+2 Kondou bags)
  2. 2 Kondou 1, 1 Vayenas, Skulls 1957
Shelf I
  1. Tsakalis Tomb E-8 Skulls A, B WPD 1966
  2. Tsakalis Tomb E-6
  3. Tsakalis Tomb E-9 Pits I&II WPD 1966 Human Bones
  4. Tsakalis Tomb E-8 WPD
  5. Kokkevis Tomb V Bones
  6. Kokkevis a (alpha) Human Bones
Shelf II
  1. Vayenas? [Trunk] LAS 1; x K-1 5 22-7-57 Bones, etc.... from Chamber E [Trunk] LAS 2
  2. 20-7-57 [Trunk] LAS 3 Kondou (K-1) Bones
  3. 31 PY [Trunk] LAS 5
  4. Vayenas? [Trunk] LAS 4
  5. 25 PY Vayenas 11-7-57 Pit M 39 5 x [Trunk] Bones LAS 6
  6. 23-7-57 K-1 Chamber Pit + 6 1 [Trunk] LAS 5a
Shelf III
  1. [Trunk] LAS 7a
  2. Vayenas? [Trunk] 24 PY LAS 7
  3. Vayenas Pit M Bones x 11-7-57 39 (4) [Trunk] LAS 8
  4. Vayenas 11-7-57 Pit M Bones [Trunk] 39 (3) LAS 9
  5. Vayenas 10-7-57 Pit 39 (2) Bones x [Trunk] LAS 10
  6. Vayenas 11-7-57 Pit in 39 (1) Bones [Trunk] LAS 11
Shelf IV
  1. [Trunk] LAS 12
  2. [Trunk] 19 PY LAS 13
  3. [Trunk] Vayenas? LAS 14
  4. [Trunk] LAS 16
  5. Vayenas 8-7-57 Pit L [Trunk] LAS 17
  6. [Trunk] Vayenas? LAS 18
Shelf V
  1. Vayenas 8-7-57 Pit P? SW? LAS 19 36
  2. [Trunk] LAS 20
  3. [Trunk] Vayenas? LAS 21
  4. [Trunk] LAS 22
  5. [Trunk] Vayenas? LAS 23
  6. [Trunk] LAS 24
Shelf VI
  1. [Trunk] LAS 25 ("tag destroyed")
  2. Box found by Shari, after search later in June
Note: there is no LAS 15

7. The Northeast Workshop

Rob Schon (Bryn Mawr College) will begin a review and analysis of the material from the Northeast Building in 1999. The results of this research will supplement the conclusions reached in his M.A. and will be published, probably as an article in Hesperia.

8. Publications

The following major reports have now been published:

Several new publications are in revision or will be submitted shortly for publication:

Jack Davis, Director, University of Cincinnati. Date: