This is my fifth year joining the Kastro Kallithea project, and the second summer I am working on the terracottas from Building 10. It has been a rewarding experience to go from climbing the hill every morning and excavating dirt-covered lumps to lovingly curating them in the workroom (under the watchful eye of Tracene and Amber, the wonderful directors of the apothiki) and now finally attempting to put it all in context.
Much remains to be done, but there are already tantalizing clues as to the use of terracottas in Building 10. Because finds were recorded carefully using GIS, we have been able to spot two clusters of terracotta figurines within the house. These clusters are situated in contexts dated quite differently, and the terracottas can hopefully shed some additional light on which parts of the house were used and abandoned at any given time. Whether the figurines would have been parts of domestic altars or decorative elements remains to be decided after closer study of their context, but it is already obvious there would have been a range of statuettes in the house. Again, all the painstaking cleaning and recording of finds has paid off: while some of the objects were immediately identifiable as “special finds” – such as the head of a goddess shown below – from others only small, worn fragments remain. By studying the fabrics (the make-up of the clay) of these fragments, I have been able to infer there were many more terracottas in Building 10, even though we cannot say what they would have looked like.
This kind of preliminary analysis is, of course, only the beginning. I will next spend time in Athens, reading up on terracottas and especially finds from other domestic sites in the area to see if the figurines we have are similar to them. Next summer, a conservator will come and put together two of our best-preserved figurines, which will hopefully give us an even clearer idea of what they originally looked like and how they were produced, as well as make them easier to appreciate by the visitor should the artefacts get placed on display in one of the regional museums. Over the next few years, we will hopefully be able to integrate these pretty little things into the larger narrative of Building 10 and the site of Kastro Kallithea as a whole.
Elina Salminen, University of Michigan