The "gymnasium" area
The main result of our third week of excavation within the supposed gymnasium was a better perception of the layout and history of the complex. Thus far, our three trenches have partially exposed only two rooms along the north side of the building north of the exercise courtyard (palaestra). These are a western room and the large central room, the supposed ephebeion. However, the excavations show that at some point in late antiquity the "gymnasium" had been carefully dismantled, stripped of all its decoration, and used as a public dump. As was the case in the first trench, no traces of the original floor or of the wall veneering were retrieved in the second trench that was laid out within the main central room on the northern side of the building. The excavation, therefore, could not provide any further indications concerning its function. As no traces of wall plaster were found (neither on the walls nor within the destruction layers excavated within the rooms) the original wall furnishings probably consisted of marble slabs. The latter had undoubtedly have been removed upon the abandonment of the complex, as was the case for any furniture, floors, and upper parts of the walls. Two heaps of rubble stones present near the southern borders of trenches 1 and 2 may be remnants of the dismantling process.
We laid out a third trench 3 m east of the second trench in order to further investigate the large central room of the northern series as well as to uncover its southern wall and part of the large central courtyard (tentatively identified as the palaestra of the complex). Together with trench 2, trench 3 showed no internal divisions. This fact confirmed the large dimensions of the central room--the so-called ephebeion--as suggested by the results of the geophysical survey. We did not find he presumed south wall of the central room. Rather, as in the other trenches, we uncovered a series of layers, both within the room and to the south of it. The layers contained discarded material that again was both of domestic and artisanal origin. The material provided a date ranging between the late fourth and early sixth century, which suggests that the area was used as a dump over several decades.
The wall visible on the map of geomagnetic anomalies proved to be made of dry-laid rubble stones built into the first layer. Yet again the associated floor level could not be distinguished as a result of bioturbation and water movement in the upper stratum. We therefore remain in the dark concerning the re-use of the complex after its abandonment in the late fourth-early fifth century and the following infilling operations. The presence of late fifth-early sixth century material underneath this wall, however, establishes a date after which the wall's construction and the associated occupation occurred. The fact that no southern wall of the ephebeion has yet been identified does not create a problem, as this room usually opened towards the south by means of a row of columns which would bring in the sunlight. The discarded material suggests that the dismantling of the "gymnasium" took place during the late fourth century/early fifth century A.D. It is very tempting to connect this event with the contemporary destruction of the Neon Library. Both destructions perhaps documented growing tensions within the city between the Christian population and the remaining "pagans," for whom both buildings were essential for their paideia (the Greek "pagan" education). The fact that both were systematically destroyed and filled with waste material probably points to a intent to prevent reconstruction.