Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More on the necropolis at Archontiko, near Pella


More information is emerging about the 2010 season’s finds from the necropolis at Archontiko near Pella. I’ve previously reported on the 37 new burials found during the season, but now more detailed information has become available. 
Helmet in situ. Bones and a glazed dish are also visible.
 Of the 37 burials excavated, six belong to the Late Iron Age (circa 650-580 BC) and thirty-one to the Classical and Hellenistic periods (5th-3rd century BC). Sixteen of the graves contain burials of the elite of Macedonia: both men and women buried with impressive assemblages of personal and precious items. The martial aspects of men’s lives are attested by the inclusion of iron weapons such as spearheads and knives, but they also include luxury items such as jewellery, gilded bronze wreaths, iron strigils, bronze coins and ceramic vessels. Women are buried with a greater range of jewellery, gilded bronze wreaths of myrtle, bronze coins, glass and ceramic vessels, ceramic busts and figurines, and knucklebones, which were used to play a game similar to 'jacks'. There are also examples of amber beads and faience vessels in the women’s graves.
Perhaps the finest burials are those of nine male warriors, including one that dates to around 650 BC. The quantity and range of material found in the burial of this individual is astonishing. He was buried with a bronze helmet decorated with gold strips, a sword with a gold-covered handle, two spearheads, four knives, a gold ring, a gold mouthpiece, gold hand coverings decorated with spirals and gorgons, gold shoe covers adorned with gold strands; three iron fibulae (one gold topped), iron models of a two-wheeled farm cart, furniture and roasting spits and ceramic vessels.           
With only about 5% of the 20 hectare site excavated to date, it is difficult to imagine just how wealthy this area must have been in ancient times. Given that many of the richer burials date back into the 7th century (including the one described above) it is perhaps time to rethink the current position on the ‘backward’ nature of Macedonia before the time of Philip II and Alexander. Excavations at sites like Aiane have already led to a rethink, and the necropolis at Archontiko must surely add weight to the new theories.
One of the gold decorated helmets from the site