Excavations at Molyvoti in Northern Greece

The Molyvoti, Thrace, Archaeological Project (MTAP) investigates an ancient trading port located on the Thracian Sea between ancient Abdera and Maroneia. The project, which began in 2013, aims to ascertain the identity, form, and chronology of the city on the Molyvoti Peninsula; to explore its various roles in regional communication and exchange networks; and to assess its evolving relationship with the landscape and local populations. A particular interest is the formation and evolution of an emporion (trading port) in its changing economic and cultural contexts, taking into consideration regional dynamics and constraints as well as individual agency. Trading ports are too often discussed as static nodes within networks, and few have received sustained archaeological attention. Excavation and survey of the city on the Molyvoti Peninsula—located between east and west, sea and land—promises to make a substantial contribution to our understanding of settlement, trade, politics, and society in the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods (6th century BCE to 6th century CE). Moreover, it will provide vital data on Thrace, an understudied region of Greece.

The first excavator of the site, Georgios Bakalakis, associated the settlement with ancient Stryme, a colony of Thasos thought to have been destroyed by Philip II, but this identification has not been universally accepted. The city was further excavated in the 1990s and in 2011, but most of the site lies unexplored, and major questions remain concerning its origins, topography, function, relationship to other cities, engagement with the environment, and destruction. This project adopts a variety of approaches and methodologies in pursuing its research questions. For instance, study of satellite images reveals the location of features like harbors; geophysical survey exposes the city plan; geoarchaeological study recovers the shape of the ancient coastline; single-context excavation provides stratified data; and surface survey integrates the site into its wider landscape. Specialists study the coins, ceramics, flora, and fauna, and their research is interwoven with the daily operation of the project.

MTAP is a synergasia (collaboration) between the 19th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities (Komotini) and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, represented by Princeton University. A synergasia relationship based on mutual respect and full collaboration informs all aspects of the project; Greeks and Americans work together in the trenches, fields, workrooms, laboratories, and libraries.

MTAP is committed to preservation, publication, and outreach. All finds are conserved and stored in the Archaeological Museum of Komotini, and the data from the excavation is stored in searchable, linked databases created in Microsoft Access. This information will be open access once the project’s final results are published. Preliminary results receive prompt publication, with annual presentations at major scholarly conferences and the annual preparation of a substantial preliminary report for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Moreover, more informal venues such as newspaper reports, radio broadcasts, and documentaries disseminate information about archaeological activity at the site. Updates on the dig can be found on Twitter @PrincetonDigs.

Graduate students may apply to participate in MTAP. Undergraduate students from Princeton are invited to apply to Art 304, “ Archaeology in the Field.” During this six-week, for-credit course, they participate in all aspects of the project, learn archaeological skills and methods, and receive a survey of the history and archaeology of ancient Greece, as well as an introduction to modern Greek culture and society.

Molyvoti July 19 cropped
P14 101-1806 cropped
Molyvoti stratified pottery deposits
Molyvoti: Studying fragments
On the water