The Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens supports significant Australian fieldwork projects in Greece. This includes at Torone, Zagora, Kythera and Paphos.
Zagora Archaeological Project
Australian excavations were first undertaken at the Early Iron Age settlement site of Zagora between 1967 and 1974 under the directorship of the late Professor Alexander Cambitoglou (University of Sydney). Since 2012 the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens in collaboration with the Department of Archaeology of the University of Sydney, the Archaeological Society at Athens, the Powerhouse Museum (until 2014) and GMIL Heritage (in 2019) has continued the research program at the site. Field seasons, including excavation and survey work, have been undertaken as well as a successful architectural conservation program and numerous study seasons.
The ancient settlement of Zagora is located on the Aegean island of Andros, about two hours by ferry east of the Attica.
Current evidence suggests that Zagora was founded about 900 BCE and that its inhabitants left their settlement around 700 BCE. We’re not sure why, after approximately two centuries of successful occupation, they moved on but it has been suggested that the water supply dried up. The area was never reoccupied but for a few centuries after its abandonment the sanctuary of the settlement was visited and a temple was constructed. The fact that the settlement was not reoccupied means that its buildings and their contents are remarkably well preserved. Zagora approaches that classic ideal of a snapshot in time.
Many other settlement sites have been ruined by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or the ravages of war. Or their architecture and artefacts provide, at best, an opaque picture of the lives once lived there due to subsequent periods of habitation which have obscured or confused the evidence of earlier phases.
However, the settlement layout at Zagora -over 6.7 hectares- was not disturbed by subsequent settlement. The building materials of its houses, fortification wall and temple were not removed to construct other structures as is often the case at sites which have seen successive occupation phases.
Of course, not much remains standing after almost 3,000 years; the buildings eventually collapsed where they had stood. But the building layout remains, along with a wide range or objects (mostly pottery) in the rooms where they had been stored and used. This material provides clear evidence of how life was lived at Zagora -which is extremely rare among Greek Early Iron Age sites. The settlement of Zagora offers us unique insights into the past.
The ancient city of Torone, situated near the southern end of the Sithonia peninsula of the Chalkidike, was one of the richest and most important cities in the region during the Classical period. One of the highest tribute-paying members of the Delian League, it is best known from Thucydides’ detailed accounts of the campaign of the Spartan King Brasidas to take control of the city in 424 BC, and the Athenian General Cleon’s reprisals in 423 BC (Thucydides IV, 110-116; V, 2-3).
The Australian excavations at Torone began in 1975, directed by the late Professor Alexander Cambitoglou, then Head of Department of Classical Archaeology at the University of Sydney. The fieldwork at Torone was initially conducted under the auspices of the Archaeological Society at Athens and from 1986 as a collaborative project between that Society and the AAIA. Excavations were conducted at the site until 1990, followed by underwater and topographic and geophysical survey of the coastal environs since 1993.
The Australian excavations at Torone have shown that the site was occupied from the Final Neolithic period to the destruction of the Ottoman Kastro by Francesco Morisini in 1659.
Just as is clear from its role as a highly disputed territory during the Peloponnesian War, the key to the longevity and success of the settlement lies in its strategic position as a protected harbour on trade routes from the southern Aegean to the Black Sea and the Asia Minor coast. The inhabitants at Torone were perfectly placed to provide shelter and reprovisioning for ships engaged in long distance trade. Throughout its long history of occupation, the range of imported goods recovered indicate that Torone played a significant role as a trading way station to a lesser or greater extent throughout its 5000 year history.
As such, study of the material from Torone provides a unique view of the ebbs and flows of local and long distance economic and cultural interactions in the Northern Aegean.
Recent coring and geophysical examinations directed by Associate Professor Thomas Hillard (Macquarie University, Sydney) have been undertaken in the floodplain immediately northeast of the ancient city. Preliminary results strongly suggest that this area was once a deep embayment that may well have served as a, if not the, major anchorage of Torone in antiquity.
The Perachora Peninsula Archaeological Project
Co-Directors: Panagiota Kasimi, Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Corinthia, and Susan Lupack, Lecturer of Greek and Roman Archaeology, Macquarie University; Deputy Director: Shawn Ross, Macquarie University.
The Perachora Peninsula, which curves off of the isthmus that connects the Peloponnese to mainland Greece, is home to one of the earliest sanctuaries of historical Greek times, with its first cult building dating to the 8th century BC, and other objects dating to even earlier in the Geometric period. Inscribed votive objects tell us that it was dedicated to the worship of Hera Akraia, or Hera of the Promontory, which makes sense given the sanctuary’s position at the westernmost tip of the peninsula, opposite Corinth. The close association between Corinth and the Heraion is illustrated in literature: the Sanctuary of Hera Akraia is specified in Euripides’ Medea (line 1379) as the location at which Medea will bury her murdered children before flying off to Athens for refuge. This mythical event is the aition for one of the cult uses of the sanctuary – it was the site where Corinth’s elite youth underwent their rites of passage as they were sent there to “mourn” for Medea’s children. Historical sources also demonstrate the link between the Corinth and the sanctuary. For instance, Xenophon (Hellen. IV.5.1-6) relates that the early 4th century Spartan king Agesilaos invaded the peninsula and captured the sanctuary because the Corinthians had retreated there with their livestock and provisions. The archaeological finds discovered at the Heraion demonstrate that it was also one of the wealthiest sanctuaries of its time, with its dedications of gold jewellery and over 200 bronze phialai. The finding of 700+ Egyptian-style scarabs also makes this sanctuary intriguing in terms of its interconnections with the rest of the Mediterranean world.
The Perachora Peninsula Archaeological Project focused its first season of intensive surface survey, which was very fortunately held in January and February of 2020, on the region referred to as the Upper Plain, running 2 km east from the sanctuary to Lake Vouliagmeni. A plan of the Upper Plain was produced by the site’s initial excavator, Humfry Payne, in the 1930s, and was added to by Richard Tomlinson, who returned in the 1960s. One of the main aims of our project was to verify and document the many walls, domestic structures of varying sizes, two small temples, an ancient road, and an extensive waterworks system comprising wells, cisterns, a 4th century Fountain House, three 50 m-deep shafts that apparently operated as cisterns, a 160-step staircase that connected with those shafts, and the channels and tunnels that ran between them. The nature of this settlement in the Upper Plain has been disputed, with Payne seeing it as a substantial town, while Tomlinson referred to it as “a scatter of houses.” Thus, another of the project’s research aims is to clarify the diachronic nature of the settlement in the Upper Plain and its purpose in relation to the sanctuary. We are also extremely interested in the habitation in the area before and after the life of the sanctuary, as Early Helladic and Mycenaean sherds were found in the excavation, and a Roman house was built on the sanctuary site, but very little attention has been paid to these time periods.
Archaeological excavations of the Paphos Theatre site, Cyprus
The Department of Archaeology of the University of Sydney and the Chau Chak Wing Museum has been excavating the World Heritage listed site of the ancient Hellenistic-Roman theatre of Nea Paphos, under the auspices of the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus since 1995.
The project is directed by Dr Craig Barker, with a senior team led by Emeritus Professor J.R. Green and Dr Smadar Gabrieli. The excavations are focussed on understanding the Hellenistic, Late Roman and Medieval urban infrastructure of the theatre precinct of the ancient capital city of Cyprus. The project has received financial sponsorship from the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens since 2009. Read more on the Paphos website.
Australian Paliochora-Kythera Archaeological Survey (APKAS)
Co-Directors: Professor Timothy E. Gregory (Ohio State University, USA), Dr Stavros Paspalas (AAIA), and Dr Lita Tzortzopoulou-Gregory (AAIA).
The primary objective of this project is to produce information to help us understand the settlement history of northern Kythera, from remote antiquity to the present. More specifically, we seek to elucidate one of the most perplexing problems in the history of Kythera: why the area of Paliochora was not settled until ca. 1000 AD, why it was abandoned some time after the sack of 1537, and why it remained abandoned thereafter.
At a broader level, the project will help to illuminate the history not only of Paliochora but also of the many similarly-located sites throughout the Aegean and elsewhere in the world. The project will make a significant contribution through exploring theoretical models for settlements in moderately adverse environments in middle range cultural settings, and provide an explanatory model for the utilisation of marginal niches for discrete periods of time. This will contribute to discussion of the role such settlements have in their broader cultural setting. Read more on the APKAS website.