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Aigeira, located in the Greek region of Achaia, has been the focus of research activity by the OeAI since the 1970’s. Until now, amongst the most significant discoveries of the pre-Hellenistic period are a sanctuary of the Archaic and Classical period uncovered on the acropolis, and a Mycenaean settlement, also on the acropolis, dating to the 12th century B.C.
The Mycenaean settlement has recently been the centre of attention of research at Aigeira. In order to address the question of its extent, in 2011 the excavations on the slope of the acropolis and on the plateau lying to the south-east beneath it were resumed, and have resulted in new information regarding the prehistoric settlement history. Of particular interest is the evidence that the Mycenaean settlement extended up to the plateau lying below the acropolis (the ›lower city‹), as well as the discovery of a massive fortification wall on the eastern slope of the acropolis.
Remains of the ›lower city‹ have now been excavated in a number of places in the immediate vicinity of the acropolis. From these excavations come two well-preserved, characteristically Late Bronze Age vessels – a wheel-thrown low-stemmed carinated kylix, and a hand-made jug with flat base, vertical handle, and indented spout. The vessels were found in 2012 on a floor, exposed to fire, made out of hard-packed marl. Evidence regarding the extent of the Mycenaean settlement was already provided by the test cuttings made in the 1970’s, in which settlement structures – in part at a considerable distance from the acropolis – of the Mycenaean period, and related pottery, came to light. Based on these findings, it can be assumed that the Mycenaean settlement extended over the entire eastern and southern plateau, covering an area of up to 12,000 m² – a not insubstantial development given the conditions of the time.
The acropolis, the centre of the community, is situated at the border of the two plateaus on a narrow, towering rock outcrop which provided natural protection. In spite of this magnificent strategic location, the acropolis fell victim to fire, during which probably also elements of the ›lower city‹ were affected; the burned levels discovered in the recent excavations support this theory. Indeed, the precise causes of the destruction by fire are not known, nor has any evidence of warlike conflict come to light until now, yet the fact that after this catastrophe the acropolis was protected by a fortification wall suggests a need for increased defensive measures. Sections of the wall in the west of the acropolis were already brought to light in the 1970’s; due to the steep slope of the land, however, the wall is significantly less massive than in the newly discovered section on the east side of the acropolis. Here, the more easily accessible and less steeply inclined slope is particularly well protected by a 2–3 m fortification wall. For the front face of the wall foundation and the lowest stone courses, particularly large, unworked stones were utilized, whereas on the rear face and between the two wythes, smaller stones were used. An upper structure made out of air-dried mudbrick probably followed on top of this massive lower section. Supporting this theory are the remains of dark reddish-brown earth, identified in the area of the wall and immediately in front of it, which can be interpreted as the weathered material of the mudbrick.
The stratigraphic observations made so far, and the evaluation of the finds, allow a chronological classification of the fortifications to the late 12th century B.C. The wall of Aigeira therefore represents an important finding on the Greek mainland, since the fortification walls in this area which are known so far are all a few generations earlier in date. The Aigeira defensive wall therefore constitutes one of the few examples from the latest phase of the Mycenaean era. Further excavations and research will contribute to a better understanding of the significance of the Mycenaean settlement and its fortification wall, and will clarify their status within the northern Peloponnese of the Late Bronze Age.