The Texas Foundation for Archaeological & Historical Research
TFAHR Archaeology Projects
TFAHR Excavations at
Bylazora (Sveti Nikole)
2008 Season
View from the acropolis of
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Excavating the acropolis of
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Painted skyphos.
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Site Map
June - July 2008.  Bylazora (Sveti Nikole), Republic of Macedonia.
FULL REPORT:  TFAHR September 2008 Publication.

SUMMARY REPORT:                                                       

In February 2008, TFAHR was invited by the People’s Museum of Sveti Nikole to
begin a systematic excavation of the site that many archaeologists believe is
Bylazora, the fabled capital of the Paionian people.  The Paionians occupied what
would become the Kingdom of Macedonia before the ancient Macedonians arrived
there.  Their relationship with the Macedonians changed radically over the
centuries:  they were conquered by the Macedonians, they rebelled against the
Macedonians, they served loyally in Alexander’s army, they regained their freedom,
and eventually they were crushed by the Gauls, Macedonians, and finally, the
Romans.  The Paionians graced the pages of many Greek and Roman authors.  
They are first mentioned by Homer as allies of the Trojans, and their demise is
chronicled by Polybius and Livy.  By all ancient accounts, Bylazora was their capital,
their largest and best defended city.

Bylazora has traditionally been associated with the city of (Titov) Veles.  The
association was based upon a dubious etymological connection.  But in 1976, after a
survey of the surrounding areas, Dr. Ivan Mikulčić suggested that perhaps Bylazora
might be located on a plateau in the village of Knezje, near the town of Sveti Nikole.  
Sporadic soundings in the 1980s and 1990s gave hope that the site might in fact
prove to be Bylazora.

Hearing of TFAHR’s International Field School, the Director of the People’s Museum
of Sveti Nikole, Mr. Aleksandar Danev, contacted TFAHR to see if TFAHR would be
interested in establishing the International Field School in connection with the
excavation of Bylazora.  This year TFAHR was able to provide support for 33
teachers, students and volunteers from 9 countries, as well as hiring 10 workers from
the local area.

One structure partially uncovered in the 1980s was a subterranean stone-lined
chamber approached by a wide stone staircase.  It has been called variously a tomb,
a pool, a fortified reservoir, and a ritual bath.  In 2008, after draining the water and
digging out the mud, we cleared down to the last (22nd) step with the hope of doing
a series of soundings to determine the nature of the structure.  Unfortunately, on the
night of July 3, a torrential downpour filled the structure once more with mud and
water.  Further excavation will have to be conducted only after the structure is
adequately protected from rain and mudslides.

Most of our efforts in the 2008 season were concentrated in Sector 3 on the
acropolis.  During the first days of the excavation season, we cleared a sizeable
section of a thick (1.5 meter wide) stone wall.  This wall may be the northern
defensive wall of the acropolis.  Excavating to the north of this wall, we uncovered
building remains and pottery of an earlier stratum.  Unfortunately, the July rains
prevented any further clearance of this stratum.  

Perhaps the most interesting feature uncovered in the 2008 season was a steep
inclined stone ramp, about 4 meters wide, leading up from the wall to a well-built
threshold.  The threshold has a square socket hole in it which indicates the ability to
securely bolt the gate of whatever structure lies behind the threshold.  From the
abundance of roof tiles discovered on the ramp, it appears that this ramp was a
roofed structure.  At the base of the ramp, where it intersects the wall, a mass of ash,
charcoal and charred animal bones was found.  This suggests to some that the ramp
might lead to a temple, whereas others of us posit the possibility that the threshold
might lead to a large civic building or perhaps be the gateway to the city forum.  But
what lies behind the threshold will have to await the 2009 excavation season.

Evidence from our excavations alongside the ramp and the defensive wall suggests
that this section of the city was destroyed in the 4th century BC.  After the
destruction, squatters moved into the ruins, leaving behind simple hearths and
heaps of pottery, but little in the way of substantial architectural remains.  On the last
days of the 2008 dig, we excavated beneath this squatter level, and located two
large walls which are connected with the defensive wall.  This complex will also have
to await further elucidation in 2009.

TFAHR has already signed an agreement with the People’s Museum of Sveti Nikole
to return in the summer of 2009 for further excavations at Bylazora.  We are now in
the process of fundraising so that we can organize another season of the TFAHR
International Field School at Sveti Nikole.

FULL REPORT:  TFAHR September 2008 Publication
TFAHR team in July 2008.
Click on photo to enlarge.
To view more images of
the excavations and finds,
To view more images
of the excavations and
finds, click
2007 Excavations
in Macedonia

September 2007
A stone-lined chamber with
staircase at Bylazora.  Click
on photo to enlarge.

on the 2008
excavations at

CLICK HERE for 2008