Late Bronze Age fortification wall and ›Lower City‹ of Aigeira

The archaeological research conducted from 2011 to 2016 along the southern and eastern slope of the acropolis and the directly adjacent area of the ›Saddle‹ brought new insights into the history of the late Bronze Age settlement of Aigeira.

Already in the 1970s and 1980s, W. Alzinger’s excavations on the acropolis of Aigeira provided evidence for a late Bronze Age Mycenaean settlement with several phases and laid the foundation for the stratigraphical analysis of the prehistoric settlement. One of the highlights of the former excavations was the discovery of a considerable burnt layer that had destroyed one of the Mycenaean settlement phases. During the excavations numerous vessels and other artifacts were recovered from the burnt debris of the destroyed houses.

New excavations on the slope of the acropolis and the ›Saddle‹

The archaeological research conducted from 2011 to 2016 along the southern and eastern slope of the acropolis and the directly adjacent area of the ›Saddle‹ emphasizes the importance of Aigeira, particularly during the late Bronze Age, and also provided important new insights on the history of the settlement. For the first time it was established that the Mycenaean settlement of the late Bronze Age was not confined to the acropolis, as originally assumed, but that it extended all the way to the lower terraces of the ›Saddle‹. Thus, the acropolis was the center of a much larger settlement that, according to our current results, spread across the entire area of the plateau located to the south and east of the acropolis and covered an area of 12,000 m2.

›Lower City‹ and fortification

During the excavations in the area of the ›Saddle‹ one of the late Bronze Age buildings of the ›Lower City‹ was studied. The stratigraphy documented in the building and adjoining open courtyard area reaches from the natural soil to the modern topsoil and therefore belongs to one of the best stratigraphic sequences covering the longest time period observable in Aigeira. Of particular importance to the late Bronze Age settlement is the discovery that the natural soil was intentionally worked and leveled off for the construction of the Mycenaean settlement. Older settlement remains that possibly were located here were probably destroyed. Furthermore, the evidence of a substantial burnt layer is of particular interest. The dating of the pottery discovered in the burnt layer suggests that it is the same destruction by fire as was also identified during the excavations in the 1970s on the acropolis. It must be assumed that a large part or even the entire Mycenaean settlement of Aigeira was destroyed by a catastrophic fire.

The cause of the fire can only be speculated because no evidence of armed conflicts or human victims of the catastrophe have been discovered. The fact that following the fire the acropolis was surrounded by a fortification wall does suggest an increased need for protection.

The construction of the fortification wall is revealing because it demonstrates that even after the fire catastrophe a functioning settlement organization must have existed since such a large building project could not have been carried out without it. Furthermore, on the Peloponnese Aigeira is the only settlement that was fortified in this late stage of the Bronze Age.