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9 Aug 2015

Getting Stoned

Posted by Daniel John Majarwitz. No Comments

1-2% HCl solution in a syringe.

1-2% HCl solution in a syringe.

 

Figuring out rocks?
Use hydrochloric acid.
Fizz! Oh, a limestone…

Acid testing is crucial for identifying various stone types in the field. Often, rocks look the same, but are quite different. Let’s use limestone as an example. Dolomitic fossiliferous limestone and fossiliferous limestones look rather similar. However, a chemical difference exists. Fossiliferous limestone, as we define in our stone maps, has a high percentage of calcite, or calcium carbonate (CaCO3), where as dolomitic fossiliferous limestone, or CaMg(CaCO3)2, has more magnesium present, replacing some of the calcium. Due to the slight variation in chemical properties, fossiliferous limestone will react instantaneously with hydrochloric acid (HCl), releasing carbon dioxide (CO2). This reaction can be seen in the form of a fizz; bubbles will start forming on the stone. In contrast, dolomitic fossiliferous limestone will have a delayed reaction when presented with HCl, and won’t fizz as violently. Therefore, HCl is a great way to test for dolomitic qualities in limestones.

 

The reaction of calcite with hydrochloric acid:

CaCO3 (s) + 2HCl (aq) –> CO2 (g) + H2O (l) + Ca+ (aq) + 2Cl- (aq)

 

IMG_8854

6 Aug 2015

Archiving the Sanctuary of the Great Gods

Posted by Joanna Mundy. No Comments

As one of my research focuses this summer I have been working to organize and prepare the digital archive of the excavation and research history of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothrace. This project includes the collection and organization of various record types from the history of the project. I have been collecting photographs and have continued the collection and organization of drawings, on which I already had been working from Emory. And critically for the archive, I have been collecting and organizing the records, documents, and reports of excavation and research interventions at the site, which reach back to the mid-nineteenth century. As a part of adding to the still growing archive, Abi Green has been scanning conservation documentation for our digital archive this summer.

A. Green, J. Mundy, and D. Majarwitz working on Samothrace research, Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat, 2015.

A. Green, J. Mundy, and D. Majarwitz working on Samothrace research, Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat, 2015.

We are in the process of preparing a plan for the maintenance of this archive, so that it will be securely stored and accessible for researchers. This data collection project will not only provide a resource for the currently available excavation data, but also allow us to see what data is still needed for the archive, so that we can prepare to scan still missing materials.

The archive records the history of the interpretations of each monument. As we have spent this summer analyzing the Nike Precinct and Hieron, the archive has provided the opportunity to pour over the original Excavation Diary and Catalogue entries from the excavations in the late 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1980’s. We have sought photographs and drawings of specific objects and detailed original photographs from the time when the architectural structures were uncovered.

Phyllis Williams Lehmann working with the blocks of the Hieron in the 1960’s.

Phyllis Williams Lehmann working with the blocks of the Hieron in the 1960’s.

The collection of archival data also has provided the opportunity to review the changes to the site over the years. The conservation team has accessed the archive in order to prepare for interventions of conservation and restoration of different sites in the Sanctuary. For their work related to the Theatral Circle, they looked back at early photographs of the site at its discovery and at past interventions.

Photograph 1965, taken during the excavation of the Theatral Circle.

Photograph 1965, taken during the excavation of the Theatral Circle.

Joy Bloser and HaeMin Park working with conservator Elisavet Mantzana on the Theatral Circle, Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat, 2015.

Joy Bloser and HaeMin Park working with conservator Elisavet Mantzana on the Theatral Circle, Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat, 2015.

The archive records the people who have worked at the site and invested in its study over the years. The first photograph below shows the archaeological team from 2001 including emeritus head of the project, Dr. James McCredie. The current professor in charge of the American Archaeological Project in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothrace, Dr. Bonna Wescoat, can be seen below in a photograph during her second season here.

Group Photo 2001 with Dr. J. McCredie on the right, 2001.

Group Photo 2001 with Dr. J. McCredie on the right, 2001.

Dr. Bonna Wescoat, Samothrace, 1978.

Dr. Bonna Wescoat, Samothrace, 1978.

The work completed by the archaeological team this year for the American Archaeological Project of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothrace will become a part of the future digital archive.

Archaeological and Conservation team, Samothrace 2015, Photograph taken by A. Green.

Archaeological and Conservation team, Samothrace 2015, Photograph taken by A. Green.

5 Aug 2015

Perilous Plaster Pieces (Poem)

Posted by Daniel John Majarwitz. No Comments

Egad! Hey guess what! A picture of me! Brace yourself for my poetic story.

Egad! Hey guess what! A picture of me!
Brace yourself for my poetic story.

Sometime before, I had encountered you.
I remember the years; it was just two.
But now trouble you bring me, my great foe.
Oh, here in Samothrace, you mock me so!

Let's take a look at plaster; it's so fun! Now you get to peek at the work we've done...

Let’s take a look at plaster; it’s so fun!
Now you get to peek at the work we’ve done…

Many fragments there are, much work to do.
The colors, you ask? White, red, pink and blue.
White and blue (with a little red as well)
Are found on the topcoat; there they do dwell.
Some backings exist, but first you must think
Of what hue they are, either white or pink.

Red, white, and blue are plasters that I see.  Each fragment special and priceless to me.

Red, white, and blue are plasters that I see.
Each fragment special and priceless to me.

Architectural features also live
On the plasters’ faces; answers they give.
Cavetto and cyma and ovolo,
Numerous moldings to look at and know.
Confusing perhaps, but alas, truth calls,
Be prepared, for I shall build Nike’s walls!

This is an ovolo, a monstrous force. But where does it go? Pin it on a course!

This is an ovolo, a monstrous force.
But where does it go? Pin it on a course!

And you, oh lion, I have a small doubt;
Help! Are you a functional water spout?
Maybe I made a fantastic mistake?
In reality, you may be a fake!
The more that I learn, more questions soar.
One day, King Simba, I’ll hear your great roar.

Plaster lion - an intellectual scare. It's hard to fathom. Enemies, beware!

Plaster lion – an intellectual scare.
It’s hard to fathom. Enemies, beware!

We learned a lot, our knowledge superior
It’s time to finalize this interior.
The finish, I see, is within my sight.
If I fail? Bonna won’t feed me tonight!

Queen Bonna rules with her helper, Abi. What'll they make for dinner? Something yummy!

Queen Bonna rules with her helper, Abi.
What’ll they make for dinner? Something yummy!

(Thanks to Madeleine and architect Chase,
Whose aid helped create Nike’s wondrous space.
Also to Bonna and to her big brain
Of which without we would all go insane.)

Here Madeleine sketches a plaster piece. She gets more tired as fragments increase.

Here Madeleine sketches a plaster piece.
She gets more tired as fragments increase.

5 Aug 2015

Columns, Altar Courts, and Angel Babies: An architecture blog post on Samothrace

Posted by Daniel John Majarwitz. No Comments

By: Chase Jordan

The 2015 summer season had many architectural projects to tackle! Within our office cottage lies the “architecture grotto,” where our motto is “home is where the surfboard is,” surfboard being the nickname of the tank of a laptop used for architecture software.

In order to get started, the Master Sanctuary AutoCAD file containing the cumulative survey points and linework of our previous seasons needed to be organized. There were mislabeled polylines, multiple layer colors for similar stones, duplicate points, and unused layers. After going through each layer of the file, creating a color coding system that builds off of the previous one, and restructuring how to show dates for point data, the file is now a perfect angel baby! Each new set of survey points is placed on its own layer titled “PNTS – (1 or 2 word description + the date it was placed in the file).” The linework from the survey data, however, is identified and color coded according to its function. For example, all euthynteria blocks are blue, and all foundation courses are green, etc.

AutoCAD line drawing of the sanctuary

AutoCAD line drawing of the sanctuary

With the AutoCAD file in good shape, we began work on the Altar Court. One of the major goals of the season is to better understand the original elevation of the Altar Court. It is a surprisingly puzzling question, due to the comparatively low floor level of the Hall of Votive Gifts immediately to the north and additionally the relationship to the relatively high level of the theater orchestra to the west. Somehow, the Altar court must have met the same level of the theater orchestra, and simultaneously provide circulation down to the Hall of Votive Gifts. Additionally, new theories are being tested regarding the number of bays above the diazoma in the theater.

AutoCAD drawing of the Altar Court, Theater, and Nike Precinct

AutoCAD drawing of the Altar Court, Theater, and Nike Precinct

Another test project in the architecture grotto was testing 3D modeling of trenches from excavations of the Nike precinct. Using excavation diaries and a provided grid coordinate system, we mapped our first trench on the eastern side of the precinct, using the elevation data to plot the finds. One experimental method of representing this data is to use an exploded axonometric drawing, which shows both plan and section data of the trench and stratifies the layers where different materials where found in the trench. This technique would show the shape and location of the trench, elevations of layers in which materials were found, what type of materials, how many, and their respective catalog numbers. The data collected from this exercise will be used to find if there is any correlation between the layers of excavated materials and what materials were used to show interiority, exteriority, and whether or not the Nike precinct was a covered monument.

Axonometric drawing of a trench in the Nike precinct

Axonometric drawing of a trench in the Nike precinct

Another ongoing project throughout the summer was converting the hand colored stone maps into a digital format. Different types of stone from each of the major monuments have been previously identified and mapped on paper, and now we’re transferring the data into illustrator and ArchGIS. The illustrator maps will be designed for publication and the ArchGIS data can be used to geotag the stones to better understand the elevation and topography of the site.

CJ4

Hand-colored stone map

The rediscovery of the M190 column in the central ravine outside of the sanctuary was an exciting find! It belonged to the Milesian Dedication building, whose other column drums have been measured and drawn for publication of the Western Hill. With a team of very precise archeologists as measuring assistants, we drew the column in 1:10 scale with noteworthy characteristics to represent its current state. The drawing will eventually be inked to be included with the other inked column drum drawings of the Milesian Dedication.

Drawing of the M190 column

Drawing of the M190 column

And last, but certainly not least, the Nike monument! Last summer, we worked very carefully to understand the relationship of the Nike Monument to the Theater. After several weeks of measuring the archeological finds and comparing that to the survey data in the field, we were able to put together a rendering of the reconstructed monument, which has since been published by the Louvre and several other publications. The goal this year was to update the rendering with colored plaster wall panels that have been excavated in the precinct, update the 3D model of the Nike sculpture herself, and adjust the architectural features to line up more closely with the archeological evidence.

Rendering of the reconstruction of the Nike Monument

Rendering of the reconstruction of the Nike Monument

 

 

4 Aug 2015

Surveying on Samothrace

Posted by aeckhar. No Comments

The 2015 Samothrace survey team has been very busy capturing data throughout the site to help spatially locate a number of buildings and geographical features. This year, we used several new technologies to improve our understanding of the site. For the first time in Samothracian history, we captured aerial imagery using an aerial robot. Unfortunately, the aerial robot encountered some technical difficulties, resulting in its decommissioning for the remainder of the season. However, we did get some great photos and videos of the sanctuary before then and look forward to its use in future seasons!

Aerial photo of the sanctuary

Aerial photo of the sanctuary

Another exciting resource this season is the ability to capture 3-D videos and still photographs using 3-D cameras. We documented various monuments and geographical features throughout the site with the cameras. This imagery will be useful for future site management by documenting the current state of various elements in three-dimensional space.

Ethan and Daniel, our 3-D camera crew

Stay tuned for some fantastic underwater footage when the survey team took the 3-D cameras under the sea exploring a potential ancient quarry site off the Phonias shoals!

Jordan capturing underwater video

Jordan capturing underwater video

In addition to these thrilling new technologies, we continue to survey in the traditional manner using a total station to capture geolocation data. We also continue to employ photoscanning software for 3-D modeling of specific features on the site.

Jordan operating the total station

The main focus of our survey work this season has been exploring how the two main streams in the sanctuary ran through the site in antiquity. Consequently, we have been capturing large amounts of data in the central and eastern ravines through survey, photoscans, and 3-D imagery. As part of this project, we investigated a possible Roman bridge that spanned the central ravine. Using survey data and photoscans of the bridge remains, we hope to determine what the original bridge might have looked like in antiquity.

Kyriaki surveying boulders in the central ravine

An unexpected but extremely beneficial project conducted early in the field season was completing the survey of every visible block of the orchestra of the Theatral Circle, which had recently been cleaned. The stalwart survey team logged numerous hours in the sun to capture this data and those efforts will enhance our understanding of this very important architectural feature.

Theatral Circle, newly cleaned

What do we do with all this data? Much of the survey data captured during this and recent field seasons has been used by our architect to create a current state plan of the sanctuary, documenting the current condition of both the monuments and the geographical features of the site. The 2-D and 3-D imagery assists in site management, providing a clear record of what the site looks like in 2015, for comparison in future years. Such data will allow future teams to assess which areas of the sanctuary are most in need of attention. Further, this information places monuments and geographical features within their geospatial location, creating an accurate site plan and helping us understand how the sanctuary looked in antiquity and how people would have moved through it.

1 Aug 2015

Mapping the Stones of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods

Posted by Joanna Mundy. No Comments

The Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothrace is constructed from a wide variety of local stone types. Over the past three seasons we have researched which types of stones were used in the construction of these buildings and from which parts of the island they may have been quarried. The choices of stone types for specific monuments can reveal information about dating various buildings as well as potentially reveal information about the degrees to which different stone types were valued.

Stones in the Faux-Mycenaean Niche, including Vuggy Crystalline Limestone and Porphyritic Quartz Trachyte.  Photograph by J. Mundy

Stones in the Faux-Mycenaean Niche, including Vuggy Crystalline Limestone and Porphyritic Quartz Trachyte. Photograph by J. Mundy

In 2013 Sara Chang, with the assistance of Dr. Bill Size from Emory University, mapped the different types of stone used in most of the buildings around the sanctuary. She created thirteen maps of various buildings around the sanctuary, and in 2014 Rao Lu cleaned and color-coded the maps for future reference.

This year geologist Dr. Bill Size from Emory University has been verifying the stone maps. He has also been standardizing the scientific language used to describe the stones and regulating the identification of the stones from all of the major ancient architectural structures in the sanctuary. Additionally, with Dr. Size’s assistance and expertise, I have been creating new stone maps for areas around the Lower Stoa. The Lower Stoa complex of dining rooms A-P was the only architectural area not previously catalogued.

Lower Stoa drawing 9F of the entire Lower Stoa Plan by J. Kurtich 1980

Lower Stoa drawing 9F of the entire Lower Stoa Plan by J. Kurtich 1980

In order to create the new stone maps of this area, I had to work from an actual state plan to keep track of the complicated layers, walls, and structures made of rocks and stones. I first consulted the scanned architectural drawings of the site, and then printed copies of the actual state drawings of the Lower Stoa.

For the past two and half years, I have been working with the Samothrace project to help sort and organize the database of Samothrace records and have worked closely with the digital copies of the architectural drawings of the site. For this stone mapping project I went through our records and printed copies of the 1994 actual state drawing of the south portion of the Lower Stoa by John Kurtich, as well as three other drawings for other parts of the Lower Stoa.

Actual State plan of the south Lower Stoa, drawing 9D, from 1994 by J. Kurtich

Actual State plan of the south Lower Stoa, drawing 9D, from 1994 by J. Kurtich

After I had prepared the plans, I consulted with Dr. Size on types of stones. Dr. Size taught me how to identify the different types of stones that were used in the structures around the Lower Stoa. Then I spent time in the field closely inspecting each stone, and identifying the types on the actual state plan for four different sections of the Lower Stoa. Finally, I checked back with Dr. Size for corrections to my determinations for accuracy.

Lower Stoa, viewed from north. Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat 2009

Lower Stoa, viewed from north. Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat 2009

The stone maps are now being digitized for future research, using a combination of Adobe Illustrator and ArcGIS software. Once finished we will be able to use these plans as a resource for future studies on the construction sequence of the buildings, the sources of stone for the sanctuary, and various other future studies.

Working stone map of the south Lower Stoa, plan by J. Kurtich, 1994, stone mapping by Dr. Size and J. Mundy, 2015

Working stone map of the south Lower Stoa, plan by J. Kurtich, 1994, stone mapping by Dr. Size and J. Mundy, 2015

29 Jul 2014

Octopi, Goats, and Bugs, Oh, My!

Posted by aeckhar. No Comments

Even for those who have traveled to the island of Samothrace in past seasons, life on the island holds many surprises.  Dominated by the towering peaks of Mount Fengari, the island’s rugged, mountainous landscape is contrasted by the azure blue sea that surrounds it.  As one of our fellow teammates, Matthew, has remarked on several occasions, it is clear from the landscape why the ancient Greeks made up such epic myths about their origins.  Homer even reports that Samothrace’s own Fengari served as the vantage point from which Poseidon observed the Trojan War.

Our intrepid archaeological team has had its own share of heroic adventures and encounters over the past few weeks.  So, let us invoke the muses and begin our tale.

The wildlife of Samothrace is worthy in itself of an ode.  The island is known for its goat population and Samothracian goat was once considered a delicacy elsewhere in Greece.  Allegedly, the goats outnumber the human inhabitants 33 to 1.  Many of the goats wear bells around their necks as individual goatherders use distinctive bells to keep track of their herds.  The resulting sound as the goats traverse the island can be considered either melodious or cacophonous, depending on one’s point of view…or the time of day.

One of the many goat crossing signs that line the roads on Samothrace.

One of the many goat crossing signs that line the roads on Samothrace

More sinister characters, however, lurk just beyond the island’s rocky shores in the Aegean Sea.  After our first day working at the site, four team members trekked to the seashore for some refreshment and relaxation.  Not long after our arrival, we encountered our first octopus, and it was not in the least bit interested in sharing its watery abode with a bunch of American archaeologists.  In a massive battle of wills, the octopus and the archaeologists squared off.  The octopus, however, brought reinforcements and valiantly defended its aquatic habitat from the encroaching Americans.  Octopi 1 – Americans 0.  (Never fear, in days since the shores have been free from the terrors of the territorial cephalopods.)

The defensive octopus from the beach.

The defensive octopus from the beach

Even on land, however, Samothracian fauna can take on epic proportions.  Case in point, a caterpillar straight out of Alice in Wonderland joined us for dinner one evening.  Fortunately, neither it nor us became the main course, thanks to our canine companion/bodyguard’s valiant efforts to thwart the oversized insect.

Our caterpillar dinner guest.

Our caterpillar dinner guest, with a 2 Euro coin for scale

While on the topic of oversized insects, the spiders that live in the woods outside the Sanctuary could easily have been the inspiration for those found in J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels.  They continually attempt to entrap members of the survey team with their vast and intricate webs.  Fortunately, our survey team has remained vigilant and we have yet to lose anyone to the spiders’ insidious snares.

Super Samothracian spider encountered by the survey team with the surveying rod as scale.

Super Samothracian spider encountered by the survey team.  The surveying prism to the right of the spider is for scale.

Fortunately, our hotel and team members are vigilantly guarded by one of the greatest heroes in all of Greek mythology: Hector.  The Trojan prince has been reincarnated as an adorable, fluffy dog who not only protects our hotel from potentially wayward goats and Cyclopean insects, but also happily serves as the mascot of this year’s excavation and provides much entertainment with his gleeful antics and brazen culinary thievery.

Our intrepid guard dog, Hector.

Our intrepid guard dog, Hector

While it may seem that the 2014 team is frequently engaging in valiant battles with the Samothracian wildlife, we actually spend more time appreciating the beauty of the island and the generosity of our Samothracian hosts.  We have made several visits to the charming town of Chora, a mountainside village with gorgeous views, quaint shops, and delicious food.

Julianne, Chase, and Hannah enjoying a local taverna in Chora with an unbeatable view.

Julianne, Chase, and Hannah enjoying a local taverna in Chora with an unbeatable view

Among our adventures on Samothrace, we have trekked to some of the island’s stunning waterfalls, where we swam in the crystal clear water that pools at their bases.  We have also hiked to other archaeological sites on the island and enjoyed a number of (octopus-free!) beaches, each experience opening us up to new aspects of island life and topography.

One of the beautiful waterfalls found on the island.

One of the beautiful waterfalls found on the island

The natural beauty of the island can be expressed neither in words nor pictures.  Our temporary home on the shores of the Aegean beneath the slopes of the mountain is one we appreciate daily and is well worth the occasional skirmish with a voluminous insect or incensed octopus.

12 Jul 2014

To the Rescue! Excavating for Site Management

Posted by hsmagh. No Comments

Excavation has a long and glorious history here on Samothrace.  Antiquarians have visited the sanctuary since 1444, when Cyriacus of Ancona visited the Genoese nobility on the island and drew some of the sanctuary’s buildings.  German, French, Greek, Austrian, and Czech teams have all completed excavations on the site; American excavations sponsored by New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts began in 1938 under the direction of Karl Lehmann and continued under James R. McCredie.  They are presently sponsored by Emory University and directed by Bonna D. Wescoat.

Although we are not currently excavating new territory, we have completed two rescue excavations on the Eastern Hill for the site management of the sanctuary: one to make way for the new retaining wall of the Theatral Circle and another behind the retaining wall along the Sacred Way, in order to conserve the wall.

Plan of the Sanctuary.  Our trenches were on the Eastern Hill near the Theatral Circle and on the Sacred Way.

Plan of the Sanctuary. Our trenches were on the Eastern Hill near the Theatral Circle (25)  and on the Sacred Way (the path leading from 33).

Our Greek colleagues have put together a plan to build a new retaining wall near the Theatral Circle to replace the one built in 1999 and to repair the ancient retaining wall along the Sacred Way, which is leaning precariously into the ancient paved pathway.

Theatral Circle

Our trench on the far side of the Theatral Circle, as seen from the Dedication of Philip III and Alexander IV.

Our trench on the far side of the Theatral Circle, as seen from the Dedication of Philip III and Alexander IV.

We started excavating the earth behind the 1999 retaining wall behind the Theatral Circle after it was removed.  What we expected to be sterile previously excavated soil (a trench had been cut there by McCredie’s team in the 1960s) ended up producing a multitude of interesting finds.  We divided up the area of excavation into three trenches labeled very creatively as Trench 1, Trench 2, and the Balk (the area in between Trenches 1 & 2 which was excavated last).

Hannah, Julianne, and Ashley make notes on the progress of the day on site.

Hannah, Julianne, and Ashley make notes on the progress of the day on site.

When excavating, context is vital and we therefore use a system of stratigraphy units to denote contexts that represent different periods of time.  Because archaeology is destructive and not replicable, we also keep a field notebook detailing the actions we take as we excavate, describing each stratigraphy unit as we remove it and the finds that are discovered.

A broken coarse ware ring foot found during excavation of the Theatral Circle's retaining wall.

A broken coarse ware ring foot found during excavation of the Theatral Circle’s retaining wall.  It probably belongs to a small bowl.

Fragments of a plate found in situ.

Fragments of a plate found in situ.

The multitudes of broken pottery, roof tiles, and bones that we found behind the retaining wall were striking.  We also discovered a potentially unexcavated marble cache that was probably only missed by inches in the 1965 trench.   These marble fragments were probably intended for the nearby lime kiln that had been built on top of the Theatral Circle.

Sacred Way

Our trench behind the ancient retaining wall of the Sacred Way.

Our trench behind the ancient retaining wall of the Sacred Way.

The retaining wall of the Sacred Way was built in the Hellenistic period to hold back the hillside as the pathway cut into the earth, taking the initiates from the Theatral Circle down into the heart of the sanctuary.  The centuries have taken their toll on the wall and it is now leaning into the Sacred Way.  Our Greek colleagues plan to conserve and straighten the wall; the first stage of this plan was to excavate the earth behind the wall.

We dug down all the way to bedrock; the soil was completely sterile. When we began to clean the packing between the stones of the wall, we found a few fragments of pottery.  The packing itself  included river pebbles, which is intriguing and we sampled some to investigate further.  Although we have very few finds from this trench, key sherds have now helped us date the wall.  In addition, we learned valuable information about how the retaining wall was constructed.

After Excavation

Finds laying out to dry after washing.

Finds laying out to dry after washing.

Once both excavations were finished, we processed our finds by washing them and cataloging them in our database.

 

 

 

23 Jul 2013

The Byzantine Mysteries

Posted by hsmagh. No Comments

Commanding a majestic view of the central sanctuary, the Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike) would not have been left exposed to the elements up in her precinct.  We believe that she was surrounded by a superstructure but what this building looked like, or even if it was roofed, remains a mystery.  The superstructure appears to have been made from two different types of sandstone: one medium grained (“calcareous”) and one coarse grain (“calcareous pebbly”).  Very little of it remains in the precinct.

Nike Stone is easy to identify because its texture, color, weathering patterns, and inclusions and it is quite unique as a building material.  Its inclusions (“clasts”) consist of basalt, jasper, quartz, magnetite, and fossil fragments.  After investigating the material of all the buildings which could have been constructed with the calcareous sandstone, such as the Hestiatorion, we concluded that the Nike Precinct is the only known structure containing the calcareous sandstone found in the Byzantine Industrial Complex.

Partial plan of the Western Hill with the Byzantine Industrial Complex shaded red.

Partial plan of the Western Hill with the Byzantine Industrial Complex shaded red.

The Byzantine Industrial Complex was exposed during the excavation of the Neorion in 1986-1987.  Built in the 10th century C.E., the complex is slightly earlier than the nearby Byzantine fort, although its use was roughly contemporary.  The complex served an agricultural or industrial function; it contains a possible kiln or oven from Late Antiquity in the first phase of the building.  The second to fourth phases of the building are Byzantine.  It likely went out of use during the late 10th century C.E. around the same time as the Byzantine fort.  The final destruction of the building appears to be intentional; it was filled with debris from both itself and the Byzantine fort in an effort to level the area.  The building and debris include fragments of various monuments.  Many stones from the sanctuary were reused in the heavily mortared walls including pieces of sculpture (notably a fragment of the hull of the Nike ship) and inscribed blocks.  While some of the reused blocks in the Byzantine Industrial Complex’s walls originate from the Stoa, Hieron, Propylon of Ptolemy II, and Hall of Choral Dancers, numerous fragments have not yet been associated with a particular building.  We have identified many of these unclaimed blocks as belonging to the superstructure of the Nike Precinct.  The easternmost and westernmost chambers in the Byzantine building have only a few traces of the calcareous sandstone while the central chambers have a significant amount.  It appears mostly in medium sized blocks in the superstructure of the chambers.

Hannah and Zach measuring a Nike Stone in the easternmost chamber.

Hannah and Zach measuring a Nike Stone in the easternmost chamber.

We began our catalogue of Nike blocks in the Byzantine Industrial Complex by photographing the interior and exterior of each wall.  While photographing the walls, each stone in the complex was analyzed and the ones determined to be the calcareous sandstones associated with the Nike precinct were marked with tape.  The photographs were put into greyscale in photoshop, printed, and taken back up to the site.  Once on site, we traced the blocks in each wall in sharpie to make them more visible on the paper.  We then traced the blocks on tracing paper back in Hall E to get a clearer view of the stone structure of the wall.  After tracing the blocks we noted their worked surfaces and measured the height, width, and length of each marked stones. We took preserved measurements where they were available and visible measurements when mortar or other stones were obscuring the preserved surface.  A total of 535 wall blocks and some stones lying in the surrounding area were measured. We proceeded to catalogue all our notes and measurements of the Nike stones.

Jess, Hannah, and Zach describing a Nike stone wall block.

Jess, Hannah, and Zach describing a Nike stone wall block.

Jess, Hannah, and Zach measuring a Nike stone outside the Byzantine building.

Jess, Hannah, and Zach measuring a Nike stone outside the Byzantine building.

The numbers obtained from our measurements are consistent with our observations that the Nike Stone blocks in the Byzantine Industrial Complex are medium-sized, likely because a single man could have carried one from the Precinct down to the intermediate terrace.  The complete lack of wall course blocks in the Precinct is best explained by the re-use of the blocks in the walls of the Byzantine Industrial Complex.

 

17 Jul 2013

The Topography of Sacred Space

Posted by Zachary. No Comments

Even a casual glance at the Sanctuary of the Great Gods will reveal that it is situated in a ravine so that the central sanctuary is flanked by one hill to the west and another to the east. How the topography of the landscape enhanced the Sanctuary’s effect on initiates and supplicants is less obvious. In order to understand the relationship between the landscape, the buildings, and the viewer, as well as to obtain highly accurate maps of the site, a Geographic Information System (GIS) survey project of the Sanctuary and surrounding area was instigated several years ago . Although the general survey is now complete many details remain to be filled in.

Much of this season’s investigation revolves around the Nike statue. Consequentially Alexander Myers, Josh Miller, and I began an extremely precise survey of the Nike Precinct. Using a total station, we first took points mapping the elevation changes across the Nike Precinct and the surrounding retaining walls. Then we focused on the foundations, mapping each ashlar block individually. Once the foundations were surveyed Alexander and I moved onto the large boulders of basalt within the Precinct. Smaller fieldstones, also basalt, were used as packing between courses of the ashlar blocks. In many areas, especially the eastern wall, few ashlar blocks are extant; the packing, however, is still present and gives us a visual guide to where the foundation once stood. Josh and I surveyed many of these packing stones, some no larger than a closed fist, to generate points for a digital section of the Nike foundation. We also captured points across the packing which once served as part of the support for the Rhodian marble ship base of the Nike statue.

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Zach using the total station with the Hieron in the background.

The points measure elevation, latitude, and longitude and contribute to building accurate 3D models of the Sanctuary in programs such as AutoCAD and Rhino 5.0. Detailed surveys, like that of the Nike Precinct, allow us to analyze small areas accurately. For example, the Nike Precinct slopes down from east to west: not only are the western foundations slightly lower than their surviving eastern counterparts, but the surrounding retaining wall begins at a lower elevation on the west. By capturing points across the Precinct we can not only establish the overall slope from east to west, but also the minute changes in that slope.

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Alexander in the Nike Precinct holding the prism, bouncing the laser back to the total station.

The points further function as a digital map. We have been comparing this map with drawings of the Precinct made in the 1950s and 1980s as well as with earlier sketches by Austrians and French excavators. Since the Nike’s discovery 150 years ago many blocks of the Precinct, present on the earliest sketches, have disappeared. As an investigative and reconstructive tool of the original Precinct, the digital map offers a level of precision and flexibility unavailable to previous excavators. It reveals architectural lines which were unclear and reassesses lines drawn in the 1950s and 1980s. Such lines provide spatial clues as to where courses, crosswalls, and the statue base could have extended.

Another area of GIS focus this season is the stoa on the Western Hill. The stoa is longest building in the Sanctuary, once thought to be ca. 104 meters, but found to be ca. 102 meters by a recent general survey. One purpose of our current survey is to firmly establish this length. Another is to capture points on every block, creating a highly detailed map similar to that of the Nike Precinct.

Much work remains to be done, but the earliest fruits of the surveying can be seen in video walkthroughs of the Sanctuary found at http://www.samothrace.emory.edu/visualizing-the-sanctuary/3-D-walkthroughs.