in association with the


KNOSSOS 2000


REPORT ON EXCAVATION AND STUDY 1

Thanks to the generosity of many sponsors an excellent start has been made with archaeological exploration in the field to the north of the Villa Ariadne, originally bought by Sir Arthur Evans. This joint project of the University of Birmingham and the British School at Athens which started in 1993 is directed by Dr. K. A. and Mrs. Diana Wardle. Two seasons of excavation have been completed (1993 and 1995) and study of the results has continued in Birmingham and Knossos.

A rural landscape conceals much of the Roman city. This field, to the north of the Villa Ariadne, which was part of Sir Arthur Evans estate at Knossos, was the area available for exploration.

The principal aims of the excavation include examination of the Roman city plan in this area close to its centre, the establishment of a stratigraphic sequence to the natural bedrock and the initial exploration of public and private buildings. Fresh excavation has also shed light on the place in the history of the city of the Villa Dionysos with its splendid mosaics discovered in 1935.

Following geophysical survey in 1991 and 1993 by Dr. Colin Shell of the University of Cambridge in collaboration with the Fitch Laboratory of the British School at Athens, trial trenches were placed in different parts of this field, and three areas were selected for more extensive excavation. Buildings and strata discovered range in date from Middle Minoan, contemporary with the first palace at Knossos, c. 2000 BC, to Roman, of the 2nd to 4th centuries AD and early Christian and Byzantine of the 4th to the 8th centuries AD.

The principal period represented by the structures excavated belongs to the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries AD when the city of Knossos flourished under Roman rule. Most of the buildings of this period are of mortared or concrete-cored masonry, which shows, together with the frequent use of fine mosaic and marble facings, that Knossos was in no way inferior to the other major cities of the Eastern Empire. This prosperity was based on the fertile agricultural landscape, on commerce, and to no little extent on the attraction this historic site, the seat of the legendary King Minos, held for wealthy and educated Romans.

The excavation, despite its limited scale, has already shown some of the principal alignments of the city plan which still dominate the modern landscape. In the east of the field the walls and other features run parallel with the modern road, confirm that this marks one of the principal streets of the Roman city. In the west the buildings discovered, as well as the Villa Dionysos, have a different alignment, corresponding with the modern track which runs along the foot of the ancient acropolis.

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