Excavations at Nichoria in Southwest Greece

Volume III

William A. McDonald, William D.E. Coulson, and John Rosser, editors
Illustrations by Bryan Carlson, Duane Bingham, and Jennifer Moody

This volume is the third of four reports (and the second to be published) on the findings of an excavation in the Southwestern Peloponnese of Greece. In the 1960s an interdisciplinary group known as the University of Minnesota Messenia Expedition first explored the region of Messenia, then focused on a specific site, the Nichoria ridge, where fieldwork was completed in 1975. Volume I in the Nichoria Series, published by Minnesota in 1978, dealt with the site and environs as they existed in prehistoric times and evolved to the present, and with specific analytic techniques. Volume II (in preparation) will present the cultural evidence for human occupation of the ridge in its most flourishing phases, the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, and Volume IV will provide an overview of the site within the context of the Messenian region and the wider Aegean setting.

Volume III deals with the two major occupation phases after the Bronze Age - the so-called Dark and Early Iron Age (about 11500-800 B.C.) and the Middle Byzantine period (about 961-1205 A.D.) Previous documentation on these periods has been meagre; information on the Dark Age was based on the contents of scattered graves and cemeteries, and the absence of stratified habitation debris made it difficult to establish a dependable relative chronology. The Nichoria study, however, derives from the first intensively excavated Dark Age settlement on the Greek mainland, and it should help illuminate these poorly understood epochs in Greek history.

In fourteen papers, the authors describe architectural remains, pottery, burials, and small finds of metal and clay, and discuss their significance. Among their findings is archaeological evidence that Nichoria may be equated with one of the major towns recorded in Linear B tablets as part of the kingdom of Pylos. The discovery of a very large apsidal building of the Dark Age, which seems to have been a communal religious center and home of the chieftain, may represent an important early link in the evolution of the classical Greek temple. And the ruined homes of a medieval farming village provide the first material evidence recovered outside of Corinth for secular life in the Peloponnese during the Middle Byzantine period.

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