In 2016, the School of Humanities of the International Hellenic University started the systematic educational excavation “Trapeza of Neo Rysio –Kardia” outside the Neo Rysio village, 17 kilometres southeast of Thessaloniki.
The excavation, funded by the “Alexandros Onassis” Foundation during the first two years, serves two basic functions, education and research.
The excavation aims to enrich our knowledge regarding human activities in the wider area of Thessaloniki long before the city was created by Cassandrus in 316/5 B.C.E., a time that remains quite dark due to the lack of written and archaeological testimonies.
To this day, four points in Upper and one in Lower Trapeza have been excavated. The total surface explored is still small but has led to some preliminary conclusions. The four excavated areas in “Upper Trapeza” extend until the northern and southern border as well as to large areas in the middle.
So, it becomes clear and certain that the site comprised a settlement, not just a military installation. It was a settlement with buildings featuring multiple rooms and crisscrossing streets that divided it to building blocks.
The primary building material was undoubtedly local stone, possibly from the very slopes of the “trapeza”. Stones of various sizes are abundant throughout the dig and were found even when the trial trenches were opened.
Most of the stone-built walls uncovered to this day have a height of around half metre, which is also their average width. The rooms in buildings have walls of 2 to 2.50 m., in some cases reaching up to 4 metres, while the roofs were probably covered with branches, straws or reeds, which do not withstand the passage of time.
The use of the site “trapeza” is dated on the basis of the movable findings, the various categories of pottery (handmade and wheel-made, unpainted, monochrome, ash-coloured, egg-shelled, or with decora – tions that could be geometrical, roulette, embossed or engraved). These were pots made in local workshops. The imported ones were few, brought mainly from eastern Greece, Attica and Corinth. Most of them dated from the Early Iron Age and the Archaic Era, between the 10th and the 6th centuries BCE.
A much smaller number of findings date from the Late Bronze Age (1600-1100 BCE), while fragments of pottery dating from the Classical and the Hellenistic times (that is, after the 5th century BCE) barely reach double digits, which indicates that the settlement was abandoned in the 6th century BCE.
Some of the pottery of this category is also found in various sites in Central Macedonia and along the valley of Axios.
Clay, stone and iron objects and tools have also been found, as well as bones and shells, testimonies to the variety of activities and the existence of workshops.
Naturally, quite a few significant questions remain unanswered, except the one regarding the morphology of the “trapeza”.
For example, why was a site of such strategic importance, as mentioned earlier, abandoned so early and not inhabited again? The reasons for abandoning the site could have to do with the identity of the inhabitants.
According to the prevailing opinion, Macedonians who expanded westwards from the centre of their kingdom in Aiges, gradually displacing the Thracians, crossed the Axios river around the mid-6th century BCE. The inhabitants of the “trapeza” in Neo Rysio probably belonged to Thracian tribes.
The temporal overlap of the abandonment of the site in the 6th century BCE, according to archaeological evidence to this day, with this historical change is surely notable.
Continuing excavation, combined with the results of excavations in neighbouring sites, is expected to shed light on these and other matters of grave importance for research in the greater area regarding these historical periods.
It should be noted that the excavation in “Trapeza of Neo Rysio – Kardia” is the only active and educational dig in the greater area south and southeast of Thessaloniki today.