Olbia, Sector NGS
RA 3B The Lower City of Olbia (Sector NGS) in the 6th Century BC to the 4th Century AD
In 2003, the Danish National Research Foundation's Centre for Black Sea Studies initiated the project The Lower City of Olbia (Sector NGS) in the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev.
Olbia, settled by Milesian colonists during the second quarter or mid-6th century BC, was one of the dominant Greek cities of the northern Black Sea region. Though the city has been cannibalised of ancient building materials following its abandonment in the late Roman period, in a comparative perspective it remains relatively well preserved, not least due to the fact that the city site itself has been spared major post-antique building activities. Olbia is situated strategically on a widely extended plateau by the estuary of the Bug River (the Hypanis River of antiquity). On the plateau are the city’s main public institutions including the agora, two temenoi as well as large houses of the late Classical and Hellenistic period. North and west of the city are the vast necropoleis, and east of the city plateau is the Lower City, were has been found the remains of living quarters built in different periods. Of these, the Sector NGS is situated in the northernmost part of the city near the city wall. This part of the ancient city has been excavated since 1985 during annual campaigns by Ukranian archaeologists directed by Nina Lejpunskaja from the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev.
In this sector remains of eight houseblocks have been identified, two of which are now fully excavated. The house blocks range in size between 522 and 1,200 m2 and each contain four to seven living units. The houses are relatively modest. They do not have any uniform plan, but they have a number of common features such as three to four rooms grouped around a central paved courtyard and one or more well-built cellars. The cellars and the foundation of the walls were constructed of more or less well-dressed stones, whereas the upper part of the houses was built of mudbricks.
NGS was situated not far from the harbour, and it is quite evident from the finds in the houses that here lived fishermen and artisans. Net weights and fishing hooks attest to this as well as small moulds for crafting simple metal jewellery.he collaborative project initiated in 2003 involves the analysis, interpretation and publication of the excavations carried out in the Lower City of Olbia made by the Kiev institute between 1985 and 2002. In the work participate Ukrainian, Russian and Canadian scholars as well as employees of the Danish Black Sea Centre. The Centre is responsible for the analysis of the Black Gloss pottery (J.H. Petersen, S. Handberg), the West Slope pottery (L. Bjerg), the lamps (J.M. Højte), the Mouldmade and related pottery (P. Guldager Bilde), the terracottas (P. Guldager Bilde) as well as the coins (V. Stolba).
The analysis of architecture and finds has furnished us with a detailed understanding of the life in this part of Olbia through c. 1,000 years, and it provides us with a precious picture of the historical and economical development of this micro-region forming a sequence of fairly sharp oscillations between prosperous periods interrupted by periods of severe decline.
The earliest activity here seems to have taken place in the late Archaic period, when at least one hut dug into the ground as well as a number of pits were made. Plenty of 5th and early 4th century BC material testifies that the area was inhabited in the Classical period, but building remains of that period are scarce because they are situated beneath later houses. The main building phases belong to the late Classical and early Hellenistic periods. In 331 BC, Alexander the Great’s general, Zopyrion, besieged the city. This may have been the reason for a significant drop in activities in the city as well as in NGS during the last third of the 4th century, but already in the early 3rd century, extended building activity took place. This came to an abrupt end already sometime in the second quarter of the 3rd century BC. This period was a time of crisis in the northern Black Sea region as such, and during the next decennia, very little activity can be noted in NGS. In the end of the 3rd century BC, this sector of the city was partly re-inhabited. The late Hellenistic period until the 130s BC remained the last major habitation phase in the Sector NGS. It may have come to the end as the result of the Scythian King Skiluros’ contemporary expansion policy. At least, this part of the city was almost completely abandoned in the 130s BC. In the 60s BC the contracted city was once more subjected to the region’s larger powers, now the Thracian tribe, the Getes, under their King Burebista. It was only in the Roman period Olbia regained some kind of position. However, the Sector NGS was never rebuilt, even though there was occasional activity attested by a number of furnaces and tombs.
BSS 13: The Lower City of Olbia (Sector NGS) in the 6th Century BC to the 4th Century AD