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The Assos Excavations December 2006-July 2008


The tomb of Publius Varius, in a restoration drawing by Francis Bacon. It was in the ruins of this tomb that--as he noted in his journal--he often ate dinner!

Beginning in 1881, the Archaeological Institute of America sponsored investigations at Assos, a classical site on the Aegean coast of Turkey some 30 miles south of Troy. With its ruined sixth-century B.C. temple atop a rocky promontory overlooking the sea, extensive fortification walls, a large cemetery, and Roman theater, Assos was a promising site. The excavations lasted for only three seasons, investigating and documenting the Temple of Athena, a gymnasium, the agora (with a two-story stoa on one side), the theater, the bouleuterion (council house), and elaborate tombs. Afterward, the finds from the site were divided, as was customary at the time. Sculptures from the Temple of Athena were dispersed, most going to the archaeology museum in Istanbul, but some going to the AIA (and hence into the Museum of Fines Arts, Boston). A few removed earlier are in the Louvre. Today, the Aegean University in Turkey is working at the Assos, conducting some excavations and working on restoration of the Temple of Athena, the theater, and other structures.

New Hope for a Forgotten City
The renaissance of a Greco-Roman metropolis after a century of neglect

Assos Online Tour New!
A virtual visit to Assos with the photography of Haldun Aydıngün

The Assos Journals of Francis H. Bacon
Edited by Lenore O. Keene Congdon
Extracts from the journal of Francis H. Bacon, one of the Assos expedition leaders, appeared in the April 1974 issue of ARCHAEOLOGY. Those are republished here, illustrated with a selection of photographs and drawings from his monumental publication of the excavation, Investigations at Assos.

Assos and Early AIA Excavations
In 1968, the Archaeological Institute of America contemplated a resumption of fieldwork. An article titled "Return to Assos" in the April issue of ARCHAEOLOGY that year summarized the history of early AIA excavations, the reasons they were discontinued, and the benefits of digging again. Ultimately, plans to return to Assos did not come to fruition and the site has been investigated instead by a Turkish expedition since 1981.

"Americans in the East": Francis Henry Bacon, Joseph Thacher Clarke, and the AIA at Assos
Susan Heuck Allen's history of Francis Henry Bacon, Joseph Thacher Clarke, and the AIA at Assos, which originally appeared in the book Excavating Our Past, is now available online. Of the two youthful directors of the excavation dispatched by AIA President Charles Eliot Norton in 1881, one would set professional standards for architectural plans and renderings for his own and future generations, while the other would be accused by colleagues of being a "libertine," a "charlatan," and an "unmitigated evil."

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Left to right:

(Photos by Mark Rose)
The Temple of Athena atop the acropolis of Assos
From the theater, the view extends over the Aegean to the island of Lesbos.
The Hellenistic fortifications of Assos include the West Gate.
The tomb of Publius Varius
Tombs along the street leading to the West Gate

© 2008 by the Archaeological Institute of America