Aegina Kolonna The History of a Greek Acropolis

Florens Felten

The main topic of the contributions collected in this volume is the Aegean Middle Bronze Age and the position of Aegina within this framework. The importance of the island in this epoch has become quite clear, and J. Rutter has characterized it most convincingly as a "Middle Helladic site without peer in the Greek mainland".1 We must, however, not forget that the history of Cape Kolonna covers a much longer period of time and that archaeological research at the site started with an entirely different aim. It was the ruin of a late Archaic Doric temple on the hill that attracted the interest of the first excavators, and their hope was to uncover a Greek sanctuary like that of Aphaia within the inland of Aegi-

1 Rutter 1993, 776.

2 For the history of excavations at Kolonna see Wurster 1974, 12 -7.

na.2 They wanted to catch a glimpse of the flourishing island Pindar sings about as "the queen of the Doric sea";3 the home of Sostratos, the wealthiest man of Greece, as Herodotos reports;4 and the rival of Athens in naval supremacy, "the pest in the eye of Piraeus", as Perikles is said to have called it5 - that is, Archaic and early Classical Aegina.

But even in the odes of Pindar for Aeginetan athletic victors we get hints of an Aeginetan "prehistory". He does not tire of evoking the glorious beginnings of Aegina's fame by referring again and again to Aiakos, son of Zeus and first ruler of Aegina, and his sons and grandsons - Peleus and Telamon, and Achilleus and Aias, respectively.6 Thus connecting

Kolonna Aegina

the history of Aegina with the history of the Trojan wars, he stresses the leading role the island had played in the dim and distant past - we shall come back to this point later. What I want to do in the following pages is to give a - certainly very condensed -overall picture in which I will try to do justice to the continuity of human activities that is recognizable, on the basis of long years of research since the 18th century, on the headland of Kolonna.

The promontory on the west side of the island evolved at the latest in the course of the fourth millennium B.C. as the most important habitation site of the isle (Fig. 1). Without a doubt, it was the natural advantages that caused this development: elevated about 12 m above sea level, protected on three sides by steep cliffs, accompanied by shallow bays ideal for harbors on the north and south side, and with an expanded and fertile hinterland to the east it offered, as no other place on the island, sufficient space and all prerequisites for a successful exploitation of the agricultural and marine resources. The first clearly recognizable settlement is already fairly extended and consists of at least partially stone-built rectangular and curvilinear houses (black in the schematic plan Fig. 6), dated by its ceramic finds - pattern-burnished bowls, relief-decorated vessels, and a red-burnished biconical jug - to the final stage of the Late Neolithic period (Fig. 2).7 Most noteworthy among the finds of this phase is a series of more or less naturalistic human clay idols (Fig. 3). They appear repeatedly in pairs but, all in all, males are predominant.8

If it is correct to say that Late Neolithic society underwent a change from an economy dominated by agriculture to a system of transhumant pastoralism connected with a wide interactive market or a trade/exchange network,9 we may possibly - with the help of those idols - catch a glimpse of the Aeginetan way of life in those times: since in the case of a small island like Aegina we can surely exclude a system of transhumant pastoralism, the Aeginetans may have played a role in the second postulated economic factor - the trade/exchange network. If we interpret the repeatedly appearing male headgear - conical caps -rightly as helmets, the conclusion seems rather obvious: inhabitants of the headland settlement characterized as warriors imply a seafaring occupation - that means in all probability sea trade, possibly connected with piracy. Perhaps we see here the starting point of a tradition that becomes apparent again and again throughout the prehistory and history of Aegina.

The beginnings of the Early Bronze Age on Kolonna are still elusive because of later Early Hel-ladic leveling actions and it is not until a developed phase of Early Helladic II that we get an impression of the settlement structure. The most characteristic feature of this period is the occurrence of the monumental two-storied corridor houses, best known from Lerna, Akovitika and Thebes,10 which - because the

7 Walter and Felten 1981, 10-1, 86-91; Weisshaar 1994, 675-89; Alram-Stern 1996, 157-9, 219-20; Felten and Hiller 1996, 90; 2004, 1090; Maran 2000, 179-81.

8 Felten and Hiller 1996, 90, fig. 3, 91, fig. 1; Felten 2003a, 19-20.

9 Douzougli 1998, 145; Alram-Stern 2001, 7-8.

10 Themelis 1984, 340-50; Aravantinos 1986, 57-63; Shaw

1987, 59-79; 1990, 183-94; Wiencke 1989, 503-8; Cos-

mopoulos 1991, 23-4.

Aegina Kolonna
Fig. 4 Reconstruction of fortification of town V. Clay model by G. Praschak

urban background of these seemingly isolated buildings remains quite hazy - have provoked some speculation about their function.11 Aegina may provide some new indications. Through the uncovering of quite a number of Early Helladic II wall remains with roughly the same direction north and northwest of the "White House",12 it has become clear that the impression of isolation and of an architectural hierarchy transmitted by the "White House" does not fit the facts. We see now that the plateau of the Kolon-na hill bore quite a number of buildings in this period. One of them, the so-called "House of the Dyer" at the north edge of the hill, was certainly one-storied but of considerably larger dimensions than the "White House", and a second one, to the west of the "White House", was in all probability two-storied, on the evidence of the greater than 60 cm thickness of its walls, even if we cannot at present determine its ground plan. So not only the impression of isolation, but also the impression of an architectural hierarchy may be misleading. We get instead the picture of an area loosely filled by a series of large-dimensioned houses and the general impression changes from a clearly stratified hierarchy to an accumulation of more or less homogeneous self-sufficient unities. But only further excavations can shed more light on this still open question.

A new chapter in the history of the settlement and a break with older patterns starts at any rate in the following period, Early Helladic III. After the abandonment of the large EH II houses and, with regard to the architecture, a still rather obscure intermediate period that clearly belongs ceramically to EH III,13 we

Fig. 5 Jewelry hoard from EH III stratum

recognize a totally new start in town planning and building in the late third millennium B.C.14

Evidently a completely new settlement was erected on the basis of a general master plan and with the first surely verified fortification wall (Fig. 4). The main feature of the newly created settlement pattern is the fact that we now have to do not with separate houses, loosely dispersed over the headland, but with houses joined together in a form of "insulae" and enclosed by a tower-strengthened city wall. It seems

11 Summaries with bibliography: Maran 1998, 193-7; Alram-Stern 2004, 238-43.

12 Felten 2003a, 20-1, 24, fig. 2; Felten and Hiller 2004, 1090-1.

13 Walter and Felten 1981, 23-8, 105-7; Gauss and Smetana 2002, 13; 2003, 471-86; 2004, 1105-6.

14 Walter and Felten 1981, 28-42; Konsola 1986, 16; Forsen 1992, 114-7; Maran 1998, 209.

Aegina Colona Plan

quite clear that a general master plan of this size and the extensive common building activity necessary to realize this ambitious program demands a somehow centrally organized administration; it seems that we are here on the verge of a development that brought about the emergence of the "first Aegean 'State' outside of Crete", as W.-D. Niemeier has called it.15

The fact that at this time, when most of the other Bronze Age settlements were undergoing a phase of serious decline, there evolved in Aegina a wealthy elite, is shown by a hoard of jewelry that belongs to a stratum of this phase in the "Inner Town" (Fig. 5).16 Apparently it was hidden in a time of danger - the stratum shows traces of severe burning - and not subsequently recovered. It consists of a series of long, deliberately bent golden pins with loop terminals, gold and silver bracelets, one or more necklaces with differently shaped beads of gold, silver, rock crystal, faience and carnelian - one of them with etched decoration - and a number of gold and silver pendants with embossed and soldered wire decoration. Evidently the hoard is a mixtum compositum whose items show close affinities to types of rather different provenances - from the eastern Aegean area, Anatolia, and the Levant as far as Mesopotamia. It demonstrates that Aegina could muster some wealth in these unstable times and, again, this is only to be explained by far-reaching sea trade.

But even Aegina did not remain untouched by the disturbances which affected so many of the roughly contemporary settlements. The newly erected township was destroyed by an extensive conflagration -evidently inflicted by a hostile invasion. At any rate the future history of Aegina Kolonna is marked by continuous efforts to reinforce the fortification walls as heavily as possible.

I cannot here go into detail with regard to the development of the fortification system from the end of Early Helladic III and throughout the Middle Helladic period (Fig. 6).17 It is characterized by an ever-increasing thickness of the main wall that rose behind the old, now additionally strengthened city wall of the burnt settlement, and by an ever-growing complexity of the entrances, which developed from straight frontal gateways, flanked by rectangular towers, into an increasingly sophisticated system of more and more elongated, narrow and winding corridors which surely were much easier to defend.

About the extent of the rebuilding activities of the burnt houses in the "Inner Town" we are not altogether sure, but it seems that a number of curved walls found in the course of the new excavations in the area west of the fortification walls, and which seem to represent measures of repair of the old houses, belong to this phase.18 The picture remains hazy, but these walls do not attest isolated apsidal houses as we know them from Lerna IV, but instead, irregularly curved house combinations following the course of streets, as at Poliochni and Thermi.19

At the same time it is quite apparent that the destruction did not gravely affect the economic prosperity and its causes. The ceramic finds show that pottery imports - from Argos, Boeotia and the Cyclades - are instead increasing,20 and that the extent of local production is by no means reduced; the Aeginetan potters are eager to accept stimulation from outside and some of the vessels may be modeled on non-local forms such as the pattern-decorated jug, which imitates a Cycladic prototype, and the splendid red-polished jug with narrow neck, which copies an eastern Aegean shape (Figs. 7, 8).21

In spite of the sense of imminent danger, manifested in the efforts throughout the Middle Bronze Age to strengthen the fortification system permanently, the impression of a flourishing economy and community continues unbroken. It is now that the regular system of straight narrow streets running east-west and flanked by long rows of houses with common separation walls, still visible today, was introduced (Figs. 6, 9).22 In the pottery sector, import activities are growing, and more and more it is Crete that supplies Aegina, the Peloponnese, and the Cyclades with fine potteries; while, at the same time, Aegina is increasing the export of its pottery production, becoming the supplier, especially with its characteristic matt-painted ware, for a vast number of settlements in the

15 Niemeier 1995, 73.

16 Reinholdt 2004, 1113-9.

17 Walter and Felten 1981, 43-85.

18 Felten and Hiller 1996, 71; 2004, 1092; Felten 2003a, 21, 24, fig. 2.

19 Lerna: Caskey 1966, 145-51; Rutter 1995, 4-9, citing E.

C. Banks. Poliochni, Thermi, Kastri: Sinos 1971, pls.

20 Mommsen et al. 2001, 80-96; Gauss and Smetana 2002, 13; 2004, 1111-2.

21 Gauss and Smetana 2004, 1110 and pl. 12; see also Gauss and Smetana in this volume.

22 Walter and Weisshaar 1993, fig. 1 following p. 294; Felten and Hiller 1996, 31 and pl. following p. 75; 2004, pl. 1 following p. 1119.

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