We continued working in the Lower Agora's northeast corner, in several sectors having to remove more earthquake debris from the Roman Baths' western facade, mixed with wall remains from the early Byzantine structures that encroached on the eastern portico. Just south of the eastern guard station (see July 20-26), we excavated another room (5). Its floor was almost completely collapsed, together with the supporting vault (preserved only in the room's northern extremity). This vault once covered a room at a lower level, apparently turned into a cistern during the last phase of its use. The cistern received water through two terra-cotta pipes in the vault. Part of the room's south wall seems to have been a door that was closed with poor quality masonry during a later occupation phase. Another entrance, in its east wall, towards the street in front of the Baths (see July 27-August 2) had also been blocked off at a later period. In the street itself, part of which we further exposed this week, were two coins from the reign of Anastasius (491-518). During its first occupation period, the vaulted room had a tile floor and must have belonged to the late Roman to early Byzantine dwelling encroaching on the east portico. Based on the ceramics, this dwelling now can finally be dated to the second half of the first century A.D. (a date confirmed by some Ionic capital fragments). This is very important, as we had assumed that the Lower Agora's current layout was only initiated during the reign of Trajan (98-117).
Farther south, we excavated two more rooms (3 and, to the south of it, 4), which formed the dwelling's northern end, at a level below that of the guard stations. Room 3, which could only be entered from room 4, had a curved west wall corresponding to the curve of the northeastern entry to the Lower Agora. We excavated mainly in room 4. The eastern post of the door connecting it to room 3 contained the base of a north-south oriented arch made of tuffo blocks and bricks. This arch must have spanned the total width of the room, separating it into western and eastern halfs. Inside room 4 we excavated a destruction level containing mainly rubble from the room itself along with the iron lock cover from its southern entrance and an iron balance. One of the nicest objects from this layer was a terra-cotta head (12 x 11 cm) representing a soldier and carrying a Christian inscription below its chin. We found two similar heads in the same area in 2002. These finds--plus the discovery of an iron catapult bolt head in room 5 and a three-bladed iron arrowhead in room 4--support the hypothesis that the two rooms on the terrace above the dwelling had a policing or military function during the sixth century. The same destruction layer produced a fragment of a beautiful Hellenistic ash urn with Corinthian columns that must have been reused here as simple building material. We also found a coin from the reign of Constantine the Great.
There's no doubt, that the greatest surprise this week, selected as our find of the week, was the exposure of a collapsed floor in room 4, leading to the discovery of a perfectly preserved gutter built of mortared rubble and large ashlars, running over a distance of 27.7 m below the eastern portico and built, like it, in the second half of the second century). The drain has a width of 0.90 m and a height of 1.20 m. Its eastern end is blocked off by a wall with a small exit (0.40 by 0.40 m) below, possibly the start of a system taking the water through the valley south of the Lower Agora. Mining engineer Etienne Landuyt had the time of his life (on his fortieth wedding anniversary!) exploring the whole system. That Jeroen Poblome was wearing that day a London T-shirt with the text "I'm Going Underground" may have been predictive of the discovery.