Excavations on Chios: Livanou, 2017-2018

Finds from the dig range from as early as the late Roman period to as late as the 20th Century, so I have managed to interact with a wide variety of artifacts

For the last two summers (2017 and 2018) I have spent a considerable amount of time volunteering for the Archaeological Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities on the Greek island of Chios. My work has consisted mostly of sorting and reconstructing antique ceramics ranging in period from the Late Roman to the Late Ottoman. The ceramics with which I worked during the summer of 2018 are from a site called Livanou, and the ceramics with which I worked with the previous summer were from a field directly beside Livanou.

In Greece, most building projects require permits from archaeological authorities in order to ensure that no antiquities are destroyed in the construction process. This was how the site at Livanou was discovered: the owner of the plot, Nikolaos Livanos, was preparing to demolish an old villa which turned out to have been from the Late Ottoman period.  When archaeological authorities were brought in to preserve it, a Byzantine church was discovered underneath, dating from before the 15th century, and so the plot was converted into an active dig. One unique feature of the church was that, while its structure was impossible to preserve, a number of exhumed bodies were buried inside it, and so not only ceramics, but also massive amounts of bones, were retrieved.

All of the artifacts retrieved from the site eventually made their way to the Osmaniye Mosque, which today functions not as a religious institution, but as both a warehouse and a workshop operated by the Ephorate. It was here that I worked, sorting and reassembling ceramics, as well as other ancient artifacts. Namely glass, bones, nails, and pieces of frescoes, would have to be separated from the ceramics and stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.

The following artifacts are from the Byzantine period; I have chosen to catalog them because of their rarity. While many more Byzantine shards of ceramics were found at Livanou, their styles were generally similar, and so assembling them together was almost impossible: most of the pieces found would seem to belong to the same ceramic, but in reality, they were almost always broken from different pieces.

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The following pieces are post-Byzantine. Like the previous and all future ceramics shown here, they have been chosen for their uniqueness, although hundreds of other pieces from this period were discovered at Livanou.

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The following ceramics are all of (likely) northern Italian origin, although they vary greatly in their time of production. The earliest of these pieces are Genoese Renaissance, while the latest are 19th Century.

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The following ceramics were all produced during the Ottoman occupation of Chios, although non of them were produced on the island itself. These pieces exhibit the shift in trends and influences of certain ceramic-making schools: the old Byzantine manufacturers from Macedonia and Thrace slowly lost influence and were replaced by manufacturers from centers of Turkish culture such as Canakkale, Iznik, and Kutayha.

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Finally, the following ceramics were all produced during the Ottoman occupation of Chios, although unlike the ones shown above, these ceramics were all produced on the island of Chios itself.

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Pyrgi, Chios

Pyrgi is perhaps unique in all of Europe for its extensive preservation of an intricate Renaissance Italian facade called sgraffito.

Pyrgi, a village in the southern Mastichochoria region of the Greek island of Chios, is perhaps unique in all of Europe for its extensive preservation of a Renaissance Italian design called sgraffito. Sgraffito is characterized by its contrasting colors created by shading layers of applied plaster. Usually, the layers of plaster are tinted shades of gray, so sgraffito designs are recognizable by their distinct black and white color scheme.

Pyrgi was founded before the 10th century, but was extensively colonized by the Genoese Italians during their occupation of Chios from 1304 to 1566. The Genoese spread the sgraffito design to the island during this time. The cultural legacy of the Genoese is well preserved by the locals of Pyrgi, as evidenced by their continued use of sgraffito in local constructions, as well as their perpetuation of the legend that the explorer Christopher Colombus, of whose birth it is only known that he was raised in ‘Genoan territory’, was born in the village.

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The sgraffito technique is so popular that even important public buildings, such as the local branch of the national bank, the local pharmacy, and the main church, are covered in the style.

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Like most of Greece, the culture of Pyrgi cannot be represented by a single style or period. The village also preserves the Byzantine culture that largely defines the culture of the island of Chios on the whole. The Byzantine culture is represented by the Church of the Holy Apostles, originally built around the 14th century and renovated during the Genoese period in 1564. Unfortunately, I was unable to take pictures of the frescoes on the inside of the church, which were painted in 1665. The church was designed as a miniature version of the Katholikon of Nea Moni, a famous church at the monastery of Nea Moni, build in the middle of the 11th century.

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The house in which Christopher Columbus was purportedly born is designated today by the locals. As stated above, the legend that he was born here, although unlikely, cannot be disputed by fact as the only source on Columbus’ early life comes from his own statement in which he said that he was born ‘inside of Genoese territory’.

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The purported birthplace of Christopher Colombus

Castle Walls of Chios

The Castle which still stands in the town today was build around the remains of an older Byzantine structure, evidence of the long-term influence of the site

Historical Overview-Data

The fate of the Castle of Chios has always been intertwined with the fate of the city and island of Chios, as the Castle has played a major role in the political, military, and economic functions of the island.  The Castle which exists in the town today was build around the remains of an older Byzantine castle, evidencing the lasting influence of the site. While the Castle remains in remarkably good condition, especially for its age, it did suffer extensive deconstruction during the refugee crisis of the 1920’s as a result of the Greco-Turkish War in which thousands of Anatolian Greeks took refuge on the island.

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Porta Maggiore

The walls form an uneven quadrilateral, which, at each corner, have tall, wide bastions with integrated older towers called torrioni, while the linear parts of the wall are interrupted by smaller bastions and half-bastions.  Eight of the original twelve bastions are preserved. The land walls are surrounded by a wide moat, with three gates providing access to both the mainland and the sea. Today, only the Porta Maggiore (main entrance) is preserved in its original state.

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Ruins of the Tower of Antonio Zeno

The point at which the North West land wall and the Seaside Wall meet sits the Northeast Bastion, usually referred to as the Tower of Antonio Zeno. The bastion features a ring corridor with chambers of artillery-firearms at the moat level. In the center of the fortress lies an integrated tower whose core part forms an older section of the coastal Castle that dates back to the Hellenistic period. Recent excavations within the Castle have confirmed the habitation of the area from the Hellenistic times onward.

The existence of the castle in the Byzantine period is confirmed between the 7th and 9th centuries; this period was characterized by a consolidation of the Byzantine Empire which was faced numerous internal and external threats. From then up to the 14th century, the existence of the city in the same area is confirmed by excavations, while the fortifications were referenced in primary sources.

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South Turret

The restoration and alterations to the walls were mostly undertaken during the Genoese era (1346-1466 AD) and from the 15th century onward. The Ottoman occupation of the Castle of Chios (1566-1912 AD) was interrupted by a brief period of Venetian occupation (1694-1695) under the leadership of Admiral Antonio Zeno, for whom the Northeast Bastion is named.

The Seaside Wall

The Seaside Wall, which is the east side of the Castle of Chios, extents between the Northeast Bastion and another lost Bastion at the southeast end, with a total current length of approximately 248m.

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The Seaside Wall – external wall to the left, internal wall to the right, with the gap filled by a chemin de ronde

Preserved near the Seaside Wall is a Byzantine fountain referred to as the Kyra Bysi (Cold Fountain). While the Venetian admiral Antonio Zeno did not actually construct the Northeast Bastion, he did build the external layer of the Seaside Wall, connecting it with the Northeast by use of two towers-bastions. The Northeast and Southeast walls then formed a larger walkway, called a chemin de ronde, as the void in between the new external and the old internal Seaside walls was filled. This project, although it would prove to be last major modification to the walls of the Castle, would enable the Castle to successfully defend itself from the sea for the first time in its history, as the old internal Seaside Wall had always been a weak-spot.

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External Wall, Antonio Zeno tower visible on the left

The Venetian renovations saw much of the old Seaside wall completely dismantled in order to be merged with the new external Seaside wall. The gap between the two walls was filled so as to accommodate the needs of contemporary systems of artillery, as no constructions had been undertaken since the Genoese occupation.

The old inclined retaining wall (called a scarpa) is concealed within the filling between the internal and external walls; some of the original parapets and battlements of the Seaside Wall have recently been restored. These recent excavations have revealed previously concealed sections of the walls as well as confirmed historical traditions regarding the construction phases of the Castle.

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Battlements of the Seaside Wall

New Scientific Evidence

As the project was carried out, the scientific research and restoration works of the Internal Seaside Wall indicated that an older construction phase was undertaken during the Byzantine era, specifically during the 13th century, although these repairs are currently concealed within the newer constructions.

These constructions were carried out during the Genoese occupation of Chios from (1304-1327 A.D.). At the north section of the Internal Seaside Wall, elements of the fortification architecture of contemporary structures of the Genoese occupation, before the use of artillery, are evidenced, for example, by the triangular arrow-slits that were later enclosed by the Venetians. At the north section of the Internal Seaside Wall  the square protracted towers of the Byzantine and Genoese era are not preserved, although they are at the south section.

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Internal Wall, facing the city

During the Venetian period, the chemin de ronde was filled, and the Wall raised and reinforced with the Internal Wall facing the city, a construction that appears to be designed by the Italian architect Leonardo d’Andria from 1409-1427. The last addition to the Seaside Wall was the construction of the retaining wall at its east external facade. This addition can be attributed to the Italian architect Michelozzo Michelozzi, as part of a program of re-fortification of the Castle of Chios that he had instigated and which was executed from 1464-1471. At the south section the Internal Seaside Wall features almost the same total dimensions as the north but with differences in the preserved phases of construction.

Ottoman Fountain in Chios (town)

This fountain was constructed in the late 18th century by a wealthy Ottoman administrator of Chian descent, Melik Pasha

This fountain was constructed in the late 18th century by a wealthy Ottoman administrator of Chian descent, Melik Pasha; the inscriptions on the fountain describe Melik’s devotion to his hometown.

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Below are details of the Turkish calligraphy.

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Turkish Baths of Chios

The Turkish Baths were constructed within the confines of the Kastro (castle) of Chios town in the 18th century

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The Turkish Baths were constructed within the confines of the Kastro (castle) of Chios town in the 18th Century. The Baths were originally part of a complex which also included a mosque and a cemetery meant to serve the Muslim men and women of the Kastro. The interior of the Baths is composed of a series of rooms meant to increase in heat as the patron made their way through the building. Continue reading “Turkish Baths of Chios”

Tombstones From the Ottoman Cemetery on Chios

The tombstones displayed here commemorate the Ottoman Turkish soldiers who died on the flagship of the Kapudan Pasha Nasuhzade Ali

The tombstones displayed here commemorate the Ottoman Turkish soldiers who died on the flagship of the Kapudan Pasha Nasuhzade Ali. The ship was destroyed on the night of June 6/7 1822 by the revolutionary and future five-time Prime Minister of Greece Constantine Kanaris in response to the Massacre of Chios, which had taken place over the previous months. Kanaris was from Psara, a small island neighboring Chios which was also by massacred by the Turks only two years later (June 1824). Today, Psara is only inhabited by around 400 people, while before the massacre it was home to around 7,000; Chios today has around 52,000 people, while it had around 120,000 before the massacre. Continue reading “Tombstones From the Ottoman Cemetery on Chios”