This week, we continued the excavations in the two trenches laid out along the south wall of the basilica in the former sanctuary of Apollo Klarios (see July 17-21, 2005). Peter Talloen with the help of our medical Dr. Else Gysels focused on the area, where previously two tombs were unearthed, in order to document the distribution of the burials within the former temple precinct. These tombs seem to belong to the same cemetery as that unearthed in previous campaigns in the debris slope caused by the seventh-century A.D. earthquake covering the west side of the Lower Agora. The shape of some crosses as well as a glass bracelet discovered during the second week of this season in a tomb north of the basilica, suggest a seventh century A.D. date for this graveyard. But, at a later stage constructions built against the (ruins?) of the church proper were established above this cemetery on the south side of the basilica. An eleventh-century A.D. coin found on top of these walls and the pottery suggest here as well (as in the shrine of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius and on top of Alexander's Hill) a Middle Byzantine occupation (see Apollo Klarios, July 17-21, 2005).
Again, a tomb (number 3) was unearthed in room 2, immediately south of the wall separating it from room 3 to the north. The east-west orientated structure was partly dug into the bedrock (on its south side) and partly built with rubble stones (on its north side). It had a length of 2.40 m, a width of 0.65 m and a total depth of 0.70 m.
In its upper part (0.30 m deep), the tomb contained the remains of three individuals, of which only one was represented by a skeleton of an adult person; of the other two only skulls and some bones were retrieved. These human remains were thoroughly disturbed and mixed with many tile fragments and stones, suggesting that the burial had been opened for some reason, its contents removed and then reburied, possibly adding the incomplete skeletons (the two skulls) to an original burial.
The upper part of the tomb was separated from the lower part by means of roof tiles, which were apparently placed on a ledge cut into the bedrock (south) and on top of a second row of stones (north). The remains of two further individuals were retrieved from this lower story (0.40 m deep). A more or less complete skeleton represented again only one adult individual, though the left leg as well as the right part of the rib cage were missing; of the other person only the skull remained. Although the tomb appears to have been designed for multiple burials, the peculiar anatomical situation of the remains suggests that this part of the tomb had equally been tampered with.
No grave goods or other extraordinary finds were made in either of the two levels within the tomb. The retrieved artifacts included some pottery fragments, as well as several glass and stone tesserae (mosaic stones) undoubtedly originating from the basilica, which must have been out of use and at least partly destroyed, when the human remains were reburied.
The concentration of burials in this area suggests that we are dealing here with a kind of "churchyard" cemetery, laid out in the immediate vicinity of the basilica during the Early Byzantine period (fifth-seventh century A.D.) when the latter was still in use. Past campaigns have made it clear that this burial within the walls had already started just before the catastrophic seismic event of the seventh century A.D. in the rather restricted space between the eastern enclosure wall of the Apollo shrine turned into a church and the back wall of the West Portico of the Lower Agora, and that it continued afterwards in the earthquake debris covering the western half of the latter square. The practice of reburial may have occurred in the middle Byzantine period (tenth-twelfth century A.D.), when the area saw renewed activity after the abandonment of the site (and the possible destruction of the church) following the above mentioned catastrophe around the middle or during the second half of the seventh century. Perhaps the human remains added to the burials originated from tombs in the area of room 1, which appears to have been constructed at this time and incorporated the wall separating the two burial zones.
As it is clear that any further attempt to continue on the south side of the basilica will produce more burials, next week the excavations with a full team of workers will move towards the northeast corner inside the basilica, where K. Lanckoronski found a mosaic during his survey of the 1880s, and to the area immediately north of the church that can be reached by one of our cranes, where hopefully an excavation without burials will produce evidence as to the exact construction date of the basilica and its pagan predecessor.