Overview

The Molyvoti, Thrace, Archaeological Project is a Greek-American scientific expedition in northwestern Greece, a co-operation (synergasia) between the Ephorate of Antiquities of Rhodope and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), represented by Princeton University. MTAP received a permit from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture for excavation and survey 2013-2015 and was awarded a second permit for 2019-2021, extended to 2022 due to COVID.

The project explores an Archaic-Classical trading port (emporion) and polis identifed as ancient Stryme. It combines excavation and pedestrian surface survey to investigate the relationship of settlement to its landscape from a diachronic perspective. Of particular interest is the relationship of Greek settlers in the Archaic and Classical periods with the indigenous Thracian population and the changes in the environment and in communication and trade networks over the longue durée.

Stryme was established by Greek settlers from the island of Thasos in the Archaic period, the easternmost colony (or apoikia) of that powerful island. It was quickly a bone of contention, fought over by Thasos and nearby Maroneia on at least two occasions. It appears to have fallen under the political and economic power of Maroneia at least by the 4th century BC. The site had access to rich grain fields, to a maritime network oriented toward the eastern Aegean, and to a road network extending into the Thracian heartland.

The first phase of MTAP made major contributions to our understanding of the settlement and the region. It established the dimensions of the city and its grid plan, identified harbors, and tracked how the coastline and the course of the nearby river  changed. It provided a new chronology of the site, with evidence for activity down into the early 3rd cen. BC and again in the Late Roman period, and the identification of a Byzantine - Late Antique settlement on the headland and an extramural sanctuary in the chora. It excavated, for the first time at Molyvoti, a complete Classical house (The House of the Gorgon), with multiple 4th-cen. BC architectural phases that testify to the resilience of the community following destruction by Philip. The recovery of bones, plant remains, shells, and pollen revealed the types of diet at the site and the changing relationship of the settlement to the landscape and the sea. The surface survey provided data on the differential use of space within the city walls and also demonstrated the changing relationship between the city and its chora. Furthermore, it has shown how settlement patterns in the landscape developed over time, documenting, for example, the placement of tumuli on the landscape in the Classical period and the nucleation of settlement in the Byzantine period. Analyses of discrete aspects of material culture (amphoras, coins, lamps, graffiti) have also made contributions to scholarship, elucidating in particular the trading networks to which the emprion belonged. Publication of this first phase is well underway.

The principal goals of the second phase of the project (2019 onward) are to fine tune the chronology of the site and the region, especially in the Archaic and Hellenistic periods; to further explore the impact of Greek colonization on Thracian peoples and landscapes, by extending the scope of the surface survey; to investigate the relationship between the form and function of an emporion; and to assess how various settlement types responded to and engaged with changes in the broader environmental, political, and cultural landscapes, such as the construction of the Via Egnatia. The second phase builds on the strong relations between Greek and American archaeologists and continues to support the local community.