Excavations for the Athens Metro
This was the most important of the excavations by the 3rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. It was carried out in part of Syntagma Square and in Leoforos Amalias from the area in front of the Grande Bretagne Hotel as far as Odos Xenophontos encompassing an area of more than 7,000 m2. In a very short space of time (two periods of seven months) the main part of the task, the Leoforos Amalias section, was completed; the finds were of the greatest significance and have given us a picture of the history of the area from early historic times to the present day. The area was in continuous use from the 6th c. BC onwards, the earliest find being an 11th c. BC grave. The basic topographical features were the bed of the Iridanos stream and the ancient road along its north bank, part of the famous road to the Mesogeia which was used from the 4th c.. This road also marked the boundary on this side of the large Classical cemetery in the area, on the edges of which there were Classical and Hellenistic workshops, with work places and complex water supply and drainage systems. The most important of these finds were the casting pits for bronze statues and parts of the so-called Peisistratan conduit. The most impressive find, however, was the huge Baths, constructed in the time of the Roman occupation, when the city extended as far as this district, which was encircled by the Valerian Wall. The Baths covered all the earlier uses of the place. They were built over not only the cemetery and workshops, but also the ancient road and the bed of the Iridanos, which was filled in after a barrel-vaulted conduit was first built to collect its waters. In the part of the excavation south of the Iridanos the finds belonged the Roman period, with numerous late Roman drainage systems, and to the Byzantine period, to with buildings and built storage pithoi (silos). In the upper levels large cisterns and conduits of the Late Byzantine and Turkish periods were found, as well as parts of the 18th c. "Hasekis Wall", and lastly, remains of the paved way which preceded the final construction of Leoforos Amalias.
This station with entrances on the north and south sides and various extensions covered an area of over 4,000 m2, and produced, as had been expected, a great number of graves belonging to the famous Athenian Cemetery, whose number to date approaches 1,200. These graves belong chronologically to the periods from the end of the 8th to the 3rd c. BC, the place being most intensely used from the end of the 6th to the middle of the 4th c. BC. The largest number of graves date from the middle to the end of the 5th c. BC. They were chiefly of the cist and tile grave types, but there are also burials in larnakes and sarcophagi. There is also a large number of funeral pyres.
The excavation did not fully live up to our expectations, because it simply confirmed that this area is the northern limit of the extensive "East Cemetery" of the ancient city, which stretched from the modern Odos Korai to Syntagma, in the area bounded on the east and west by Odoi Panepistimiou and Stadiou.
This proved to be a welcome surprise in the excavations for the Metro, because contrary to the expected paucity of finds, antiquities were uncovered which give a good picture of this district outside the city. They included part of the road to the Mesogeia with a Classical funerary peribolos and funerary pedestals, as well as late Hellenistic kilns with the requisite ducts. A group of graves from the Early Roman period discovered.
In the region of these stations the finds were sporadic, with insignificant traces of late Roman dwellings at Sepolia. In the open Larisa Station trench as far as Deligianni Station sections were uncovered at intervals of a large late Classical aqueduct.
Here too the finds were what had been expected: 21 graves belong to the roadside cemetery on the ancient Phaleron Way, and parts of a water supply system.
In this district, known to be a cemetery site, at the junction of Odoi Vouliagmenis and Kasomouli an area of 3,700 m2 was excavated, which yielded few but interesting finds: a river bed with ancient retaining walls and signs of prehistoric occupation on the neighbouring hill, a group of 11 Classical graves and part of an important workshop installation belonging to the early Classical period.
Dr Liana Parlama
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