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Hidden details of Pella’s ancient marketplace surveyed in depth

Pella’s ancient marketplace was a financial, commercial and spiritual center where it was possible to find practically anything – from objects for daily use, foodstuffs and cosmetics to shops and workshops churning out goods. Covering 70,000 square meters, it was the commercial and administrative center of an empire, said Professor Ioannis Akamatis, head of the archaeological excavation. The market, however, was not only a hub for commercial activity and trade contacts but also an administrative center with public archives. Stoas and rows of spaces were arranged around a huge square, 200 meters (660 feet) by 170 meters (561 feet), decorated with bronze and stone monuments. The ancient Macedonian capital was to be the subject of a recent talk by Akamatis organized by the Friends of the National Archaeological Museum. «The administrative and economic life of Pella is reflected to a great extent in the Agora building, from its construction at the end of the fourth century BC on an underlying cemetery to its destruction by a violent natural event, an earthquake, in the first century AD,» said Akamatis. The southern part of the eastern wing of the Agora contained pottery workshops and stores, further north were the chandlers’ workshops, while butchers’ and fishmongers’ shops were located in the southern wing. In the northwestern area, there were shops selling aromatic goods, while imported ceramics had their own area, as did the metal workshops. Precious metals were worked in one section of the stoa and wheat and flour were sold in the west wing. Numerous finds, including statue parts and inscriptions (one of which bears the name of six politarchs), show its dual function as an administrative center, as do seals from papyrus documents with the symbols of a club and eight-pointed star and the inscription «Pellis/politarchon.» Of considerable importance is the two-story building in the southwestern corner of the market that has been identified as a public archive, part of which was destroyed by fire. Dozens of clay seals were found which had been placed on papyrus documents to preserve the secrecy of the contents. Excavations below the stores of the southwestern wing of the Agora showed that the cemetery, dating to the late fifth century BC and the first half of the fourth century BC, was used for over half a century. But the busy market came to a dramatic end. The abandoned goods on the floor of the Agora suggest they were dropped in flight from an untoward catastrophe. An earthquake, as shown by some Roman coins and a hoard of 100 Athenian tetradrachms that were buried below the last floor of the building, must have occurred at the end of the first decade of the first century BC, said Akamatis.