Abstract: At Home in Archaic Athens: the Archaeology of a House near the Athenian Agora


This lecture explores the material remains of a late Archaic Athenian household excavated on the northwestern edge of the Athenian Agora.  The Archaic house fell victim to the Persian destruction of Athens in 479 B.C., and the fragmentary remnants of the household possessions were discarded into the house’s well during the clean-up.  Excavation of the well and the limited remains of architecture provide us with a rich view of domestic activity for a single household.  The well contained a great deal of pottery: unglazed household wares, transport amphorai, plain black-glazed, black-figure and red-figure. 

The finer ceramic wares—the black-glaze and the figured wares—provide a first hand view of communal drinking in a domestic context: the symposium.  The assortment of fineware styles indicates that this household owned more than one “set” of drinking vessels, thus suggesting that there were different kinds of drinking taking place in the house.  The figured wares also allow us to look for iconographic themes, patterns that reveal the character of the one who chose them for purchase.

The well also preserved evidence for food preparation and consumption.  Pottery forms indicate that food was prepared as liquid stews or roasted on skewers as opposed to frying or casserole baking.  A portable oven represents bread baking.  Faunal analysis of bone from the well shows that the diet included the expected sheep/goat, pig and some beef, but also included the quite unexpected dog.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

J. McK. Camp, "Excavations in the Athenian Agora 1994 and 1995."  Hesperia 65 (1996): 231-61.

A. Dalby, Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece, Routledge, 1996.

J. Davidson, Courtesans and Fischakes: Consuming Passions of Classical Athens,  Fontana Press, 1998.

B. Sparkes, Greek Pottery: An Introduction, Manchester University Press, 1991.

B. Sparkes, The Red and the Black: studies in Greek Pottery, Routledge, 1996.

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