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Fig. 1. 'Kampos' and 'Gogou', the landscape that is the focus of CAPS.  In the background, towards SE: the Kastro at Kallithea, and the Othrys Mountains

The Central Achaia Phthiotis Survey began in 2019 with a 6-week pilot season. But due to the COVID pandemic the team had to wait until the Fall of 2021 before we could get back into the field again. This year we were excited to start a season with a full team, working from July 4-August 14. Lots of work was done, and many new things saw the light!

CAPS is a synergasia of the Ephorate of Antiquities in Larissa (Thessaly), and the University of Alberta, with Sophia Karapanou and Margriet Haagsma as co-directors. The project is supported by a SSHRC grant, and we thank the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, the Canadian Institute in Greece, and the Municipality of Pharsala for their unwavering support in our research endeavours.

CAPS focuses on a landscape in Thessaly that can be characterized as a ‘marginal’. Betwixt and between sea and inland, mountains and plains, and encircled by the river Enipeus, it is not easy to reach this rural area by modern transport. Once arrived, one is immediately struck by a 600-meter high hill that dominates the landscape; the 4th-2nd-century BCE city of ‘Kastro’, probably ancient Peuma, which our team has mapped and excavated since 2004.

An archaeological survey of a large area surrounding this city is the focus of CAPS, and our five-year plan has been approved by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. We ask how this landscape, tucked into the utmost southern corner of the province Larissa, and currently viewed as an area of ‘low agricultural production’ far away from anything else, held communities that viewed this area as their homeland over the long-term.

Fig. 2. CAPS 2022: Map with survey tracts covered in 2019-2022. Map: C. Myles Chykerda

Our work terrain consists of almost 1800 hectares of rolling hills, cut into elongated strokes of land by torrents and brooks running down from Kastro to the river. Part of the land is cultivated, but a large area is covered with prickly shrub; pournari! Almost all of us find slivers of this prickly stone oak in our suitcases once we are back home. The uncultivated area is mostly a no-go, but that does not mean that it holds no archaeological remains, or that we cannot research it by other means. In 2020, we hired a company that flew a plane with a LiDAR sensor over ca. 1000 hectares, and the results are phenomenal! The Early Iron Age tombs we plotted in 2019, can easily be seen in the data, and we can now also see other features under the tree canopy that warrant further groundtruthing in upcoming seasons.

Fig. 3. DEM of the Kastro at Kallithea based on the LiDAR data. Image: Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa

Over the past year, systematic survey based on fieldwalking was conducted in the Fall of 2021 and in Summer 2022, and during that time our team covered almost 300 hectares of cultivated fields, in addition to the 130 hectares already covered in 2019. In Fall 2021, we spent three weeks in the field with a team of 10 people. In 2022, our team consisted of 6 staff and no less than 19 field school students from the University of Alberta. With such a big team we were able to make a lot of progress. Myles Chykerda was responsible for the GIS, and setting out tracts with the GNSS unit. Students worked in in three alternating modules: two field survey teams, led by Magie Aiken, Gino Canlas and Ed Middleton, and an apothiki team led by Adam Wiznura and Margriet Haagsma.

Fig. 4. CAPS 2022: Magie Aiken giving instruction on how to survey the next tract (with Keenan Walker, Janan Assaly, Anna Smythe, Matt Spinks, Rebecca Plouffe, and Megan Campbell). Photo: Margriet Haagsma

Fig. 5. CAPS 2022: Surveying early in the morning. Photo: Gino Canlas

Fig. 6. Group picture of Gino Canlas’ team (Jaden Villatoro, Gino Canlas, Cheyenne Widdecke, Gina Malaba, Ava Laville, Christie Allarie, Dylan Vadnais.). 

Fieldwalkers spaced c.10m apart made two passes along the length of the tract, collecting all artefacts to 1m on either side. At the end of the first pass, they changed positions before beginning walking back. While many fields yielded little to no material, the team also discovered areas where the increased density of finds point to areas of human activity. The majority of these areas could be dated to the Classical/Hellenistic, Late Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, and most finds indicate activities of an agrarian character, such as storage jars and grinding stones. In the Fall of 2021, the team discovered a prehistoric site in the form of a low magoula, in an area with the toponym Gogou. Over an area of 1.5 hectares more than 1000 pieces of ceramic, including pieces of figurines, were found, weighing over 20 kgs. Our ceramic specialists Giorgos Toufexis and Mies Wijnen presumed that the majority of finds date to the late phase of the Early Neolithic (6000-5800 BCE) and that the site was abandoned at the beginning of the Middle Neolithic.

Fig. 7 Ed Middleton giving instruction to the fieldschool students in the apothiki in Narthaki. Photo: Adam Wiznura

Fig. 8. Adam Wiznura giving instruction on processing ceramics. (with Keenan Walker, Jaden Villatoro, Amilia Hildahl, Jasper Dilts, Cheyenne Widdecke, Adam Wiznura, Alex Schirru, Matt Spinks) (NB. brooms have more than one function!) Photo: Margriet Haagsma

The apothiki team kept pace with the fieldwalkers. Students were taught how to wash, sort and date pottery and other finds, and how to populate the database with numbers, weights and dates of finds. Magie Aiken worked with students in the afternoon flotting the soil kept from the excavation of Tholos 7 in 2019, recovering animal and human remains, and a sliver of bronze in the heavy residue, indicating that this looted tomb likely held one or more bronze artefacts. Gino Canlas worked on drawing and documenting a number of vessels belonging to two Mycenaean tombs in the survey area, excavated by Dimitris Theocharis in 1963.

Other activities in 2022 included flying our drone over a number of areas of human activity with architecture, allowing us to make detailed DSM’s. We also documented a hitherto unknown fortified hillside north of the area known as Arabises, near Aghios Antonios. We are excited that in Fall 2022 Nelson Mattie of the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences of the UofA will arrive who will document a number of identified areas of human activity, including the Neolithic magoula, with a drone carrying a LiDAR sensor and multispectral camera. This will allow us to learn more about the layout, size and morphology of these areas.

Fig. 9. Dinner with the mayor of Farsala, Makis Eskioglou (L.). To the right: Margriet Haagsma, and Thanasis Lelentzis, proedros of Narthaki. Photo: Magie Aiken

On August 4th, the mayor of Farsala, Mr. Makis Eskioglou, treated us to a fantastic dinner at taverna ‘H Drosia,’ run by our always gracious host, Elias Papadopoulos and his family. We thank them, all who participated in our 2021 and 2021 seasons, and those who aided this project, and we are looking forward to our future seasons!

Fig. 10. The CAPS 2022 team, minus Link Amyot, Sophia Karapanou and Giorgos Toufexis. (Gino Canlas, Rebecca Plouffe, Jessica Hewitt, Dylan Vadnais, Amilia Hildahl, Keenan Walker, Gina Malaba, Anna Smythe, Ed Middleton, Matt Spinks, Ashlee Thompson, Janan Assaly, Alex Schirru, Cheyenne Widdecke, Christie Allarie, Jaden Villatoro, Magie Aiken, Adam Wiznura, Ava Laville, Megan Campbell, Jasper Dilts, Myles Chykerda, Alexander Dowsey, Margriet Haagsma) Photo: Margriet Haagsma

Margriet Haagsma (Co-Director, Central Achaia Phthiotis Survey, CAPS)