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Two The Dema Wall, Form and Function
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Archaeological Evidence for the Date of the Dema Wall

Masonry style within the southern, or main, sector of the wall provides the most readily observable evidence by which provisional limits can be established for the date of the Dema. The variety of dates that have been suggested for the Dema using masonry style as at least one of the principal criteria must serve as a warning on how subjective and imprecise masonry style can be as a chronological criterion, especially in a work like this where the style is so variable and is often not much more than artless rubble. Nevertheless, attention to those stretches of the wall where the stones have been worked and laid with enough care to display the stylistic preferences of the masons who built it does provide useful evidence with which a discussion of the dating of the Dema can begin.[7] The northern sector of the wall, being simple rubble built according to a different plan, lies outside of the discussion for the moment.

The masonry of the wall and its chronological implications have been adequately examined by Jones, Sackett, and Eliot. My own examination of the wall confirms their observations, so what follows is, for the most part, a summary of their conclusions.[8] The use of quadrilateral blocks, occasionally in short stretches of horizontal coursing, suggests a date in the fifth century or later (see figures 15 and 16). The use of stacks of smaller fiat stones to fill vertical gaps between larger blocks is a practice commonly found in Attic masonry of the fifth century; it is attested as early as the end of the sixth century and continues to appear in works of the fourth century (see figure 14, and cf. figure 8). The occurrence of a drafted corner at the end of one wall-section also indicates a date in the fifth century or later (see figure 18). In Attic fortifications, drafted corners are best attested in late-fifth- and fourth-century works and may occur later. In addition to these details of technique, some stretches of the wall display a style of polygonal masonry characteristic of Attic walls of the late fifth or fourth century. This style consists of quadrilateral blocks interspersed with polygons, with small filler-stones of various shapes employed to fill irregular notches in larger stones and to provide level bedding for the stones above (see figures 15 and 16). The best-known exemplar of this style, albeit finished with greater care, is the so-


called Kononian phase of the city walls of Athens, belonging to the early fourth century (see figure 17).[9]

Taking all of these factors into consideration, a date within the classical period seems most likely for the wall.[10] As Jones, Sackett, and Eliot have recognized, clear indications of classical masonry styles, such as the prevalent use of quadrangular blocks and, especially, the drafted corner, render the resemblance of some stretches of the wall to Archaic polygonal work, with its characteristic use of curvilinear joints (e.g., figures 12 and 13), fortuitous and without chronological value.[11] On the whole, the implication of the drafted corner and the resemblance of some stretches to the style of walls known to date to the fourth century suggest that a late-fifth- or fourth-century date is more likely than one earlier in the fifth century.[12] These considerations are only suggestive, however, and not conclusive. It must be admitted that a date even later than the fourth century cannot be ruled out on the basis of masonry style alone.

The chance discovery of a datable sherd in a significant context confirms the above provisional conclusion about the date of the wall. The find was made during excavations at the Dema house, which is located 13 meters in front of the wall near the bottom of the southern saddle and which was investigated soon after the publication of the survey of the wall. The sherd came from the fill of the section of the Dema wall adjacent to the house, where it evidently had been buried during the construction of the wall. It is a black-glazed saltcellar, three-quarters in-


tact, dated in the publication of the Dema house excavations to the mid fourth century. A comparison of this piece to similar saltcellars dated according to their find contexts shows, however, that this date must be revised upward by as much as a half-century. The sherd can be dated with assurance to the last quarter of the fifth or first quarter of the fourth century (see appendix I). The evidence provided by the saltcellar proves that the Dema wall could not have been built earlier than the last quarter of the fifth century at the very earliest, and more likely no earlier than the first quarter of the fourth century.[13]

Circumstantial evidence bearing on the date of the wall comes from the Dema house itself. Jones, Sackett, and Eliot have pointed out that it is highly improbable that this house could have been standing at the same time that the wall itself was actively defended. The house is situated just in front of the wall at one of its most vulnerable points, on nearly level ground at a valley bottom, probably beside a road through a gate in the wall, where the house could have been an obstacle to the defenders of the wall and could have provided cover to attackers. On the evidence of surface sherds, later confirmed by excavation, the house had a comparatively short life span, having been built and destroyed within the last third of the fifth century, most probably within the Peace of Nikias (421-413). The Dema wall, it was argued, should be dated after the destruction of this house, since had the wall been standing, the house would not have been built in such a position as to compromise its defensibility, nor would the house have been built just outside of its protective line.[14] The subsequent discovery of the saltcellar in the fill of the wall provided even more convincing proof that the wall was built after the destruction of the house, but the relationship of the house to the wall remains a consideration in the dating of the wall because of the discovery during excavation of evidence for a second phase of occupation during which the house was partially rebuilt. Pottery associated with this second phase is dated by the excavators to the mid fourth century. Within this group, at least one sherd is certainly not earlier than the third quarter of the fourth century, and it is likely that the group as a whole is to be dated somewhat after, rather than before, 350.[15] More


precise limits for this phase cannot be readily established, but the comparative paucity of finds from this phase suggests that the reoccupation of the house was not very long-lived and was probably limited to a period within the third quarter of the fourth century, possibly into the fourth quarter.

The second phase of occupation of the Dema house is well within the period under consideration for the date of the wall, so it would be of considerable value if it could be shown that the reoccupation of the house is either earlier or later than the construction of the wall. If the wall were built earlier than the rebuilding of the house, the wall must have been regarded as obsolete by the time the house was rebuilt. In that case, Jones, Sackett, and Eliot suggest that "the house would probably have been placed so as to utilize the Dema as its rear wall as is the case with more recent structures along the Dema Wall."[16] The more recent structures are sheepfolds, however, and incorporating the Dema into the construction of a house for human habitation would not necessarily have seemed so attractive. It would have been virtually impossible to make the face of the wall watertight given the comparatively loose joining of the stones in its face and the mass of rubble and earth behind it, through which rainwater would inevitably percolate. The foundations of the original house would have been a much more suitable place to build another dwelling. The fact that the house was rebuilt away from the wall and not against it thus has no bearing on the issue of whether or not the Dema wall was already standing, and already obsolete, when the house was rebuilt.

There are, however, traces of a structure built against the face of the Dema wall close beside the Dema house. These remains were cleared in the course of the excavations of the house. No finds providing evidence for the date of this structure are reported, nor do the excavators posit any association between this structure and the Dema house, but the ruinous state of its remains and its proximity to the house make it possible to suppose that it was an outbuilding associated with the second phase


of the Dema house.[17] The remains of this structure, a single course of foundations for a roughly rectangular building or enclosure 5.80 meters long by 4.20 meters wide, were buried in the same shallow soil that covered the remains of the house, so there is reason at least to presume that it is ancient. Dilapidation and proximity are not the only reasons for supposing that this structure was associated with the house. In its second period of occupation, only a small part of the house—two rooms in ground plan—was rebuilt. This likely provided only a residential unit with little room for ancillary functions, such as room for work or storage or even penning animals.[18] The structure beside the wall might well have been put up to serve some ancillary function of this sort. For such a utilitarian structure, water seepage would not necessarily have been a problem, so the advantage noted above of building against the face of the Dema wall might actually have been realized in the construction of this outbuilding during the second occupation of the Dema house.

If so, the Dema wall would have to have been constructed a number of years earlier in the fourth century than the second phase of the house. While this supposition is circumstantially plausible, it cannot be proved on the basis of the evidence produced in the Dema house excavation. If other evidence is found to support a date for the Dema wall before the middle of the fourth century, then we may at least say that the evidence from the Dema house is consonant with that conclusion.

We may now review the chronological evidence coming from the wall itself and its relationship to the Dema house. Masonry style favors a date in the last quarter of the fifth century or later. The saltcellar found in the fill of the wall confirms this conclusion and indicates that a fourth-century date is rather more likely than one before the end of the fifth century. The wall cannot have been operationally effective with the Dema house standing in front of it, so the wall must either have been built well before the rebuilding of the house, which probably took place in the third quarter of the fourth century, or else it must have been built after this reoccupation of the house came to an end. Neither of these last two alternatives is supported by decisive evidence, but circumstantial evidence suggests that the wall may already have been obsolete when the Dema house was rebuilt. In sum, there is reason to consider a date for the wall within the first half of the fourth century to be a likelihood, but no specific date later in the fourth century, or even later still, can be positively excluded on the basis of the archaeological evidence so far considered.


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