Wednesday, June 25, 2008

After three weeks of work...

More than three weeks have passed since we began our excavation project at the Ay. Traidha cave. Since then we have opened the total of 8 test trenches in the cave, most of which in the main entrance corridor. The most important find from the corridor are successive in situ floors found in Trench 3, which support our belief that the cave was consistently used in the prehistoric times and intentionally altered to accommodate that usage. In the area of the cave consisting of the long entrance corridor we have excavated cultural layers preliminarily dated to three chronological periods known to us from the 2007 season: Early Bronze Age (EBA), Final Neolithic (Attica-Kephala type), and Late Neolithic. We consider the Late Neolithic remains in this part particularly significant as they are the earliest known material found to this date in southern Euboea and they point to strong Aegean connection of the area in this period.

Our decision to begin excavating in two connecting chambers south of the main entrance proved to be a good one. Currently we have two trenches opened in that area (Trench 4 and 8) but the current finds warrant our detailed exploration of the rest of that part of the cave. We have so far found at least two burials in the chamber farther from the entrance. The burials can be tentatively dated to the Early Bronze Age II period. Moreover, our brief preliminary study of the pottery shows that the EBA finds from the area include several Cycladic imports, which testify to the close connections between the two areas during the period in question. In fact, the quality and types of pottery found in this area of the cave have not been recorded at other sites of the same date in the area, which makes our finds unique in southern Euboean context.

Our main claim to uniqueness, however, does not stop at pottery. In a burnt layer exactly below the possible EBA burials (and, we believe, in relation to them) we have recovered through careful excavation a large amount of carbonized whole fruits, legumes, and grains. Some of those carbonized foods may still be in their original containers. This type of find, although perhaps not unique, is extremely rare in Greek (or elsewhere) prehistoric contexts and especially in such large quantities. If related to the burials, it will provide us not only with valuable insights into the burial practices of the period but also into the diet of the local population during the Early Bronze Age. Not to mention that these types of rare finds are ideal for precise radiocarbon dating of the layers that contained them.

Trenches 4 and 8 are still under excavation and are producing plentiful material related to the preceding FN phase of the so-called Attica-Kephala culture. The pottery from these layers is undergoing preliminary but careful analysis in the hours after the work in the field has ended and it will be properly studied and the results prepared for publication in the months to come. Besides pottery, in all of the excavated trenches and especially in the ones in the southern chamber we have found and are still finding significant amounts of chipped stone tools made of obsidian. It is our belief that the Karystia was an important center for production and redistribution of obsidian in the Final Neolithic and the Early Bronze periods.

The last week of works in 2008 will be dedicated to the continued excavation of the two trenches in the southern chamber, collecting samples for geological and pedological analyses, and we also plan to open a small test trench in an adjacent entrance to the cave to check the viability of next year’s detailed research.

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