Agora Excavations

Excavations in the Athenian Agora are formally published through the Athenian Agora monograph series and articles in Hesperia, the journal of the American School. A number of digital resources are also made available free-of-charge for teaching and research purposes.

With the support of the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI) the Athenian Agora Excavations have been involved over the last decade in an ambitious program of digitizing older materials and experimenting with the use of new technology to record continuing excavations.

For general information about the Athenian Agora excavations, including contact information and a history of the excavations, please visit


Archaeological excavation in the Athenian Agora is recorded in a series of four separate notebooks: the field notebooks, the pottery notebooks, the find notebooks, and the coin notebooks.

A field notebook contains a daily diary that records the results of excavation. This notebook contains a textual description of the excavation process, dividing an area into Contexts (independent archaeological contexts such as layers, walls, rooms, etc.). This notebook also contains Photographs, Plans and Drawings, and references to Objects found during excavation.

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Field Notebooks.

A pottery notebook contains a list of the material contents from each archaeological context. This notebook organizes the archaeological contexts into chronological and hierarchical structures. It records the pottery and other non-inventoried objects, using these objects to determine a date for each context.

Pottery Notebook.

The find and coin notebooks contain more detailed information on the individual objects found during excavation (such as title, description, date, dimensions, etc.). A catalog card is created for each find based on these initial descriptions.

Find Notebook.


The Athenian Agora has been excavated in sections. As land is acquired for excavation, each new section is designated by a series of Greek letters (Α-Ω). Some of these sections have been subdivided after work began and are distinguished by adding a prime after the Greek letters (Δ'). Other sections have been given combinations of letters indicating initials or abbreviations of the names of the actual areas or buildings (ΔΕ = Doerpfeld Excavations, ΜΣ = Middle Stoa, ΠΑ = Panathenaic Way, etc.).

Agora Sections. A plan showing the areas of several sections designated with Greek letters (here in green): ΒΓ', ΛΛ, Α, ΒΓ, Η', ΚΚ, ΟΕ, and E.

Each section contains its own series of field, pottery, and find notebooks. Each inventoried object is also initially given a section number (an internal tracking number) consisting of the section where it was found and a running serial number (ΣΑ 2414).

The Card Catalog

In addition to the find notebooks, a card catalog system has been used since the beginning of excavations to record the important information related to inventoried objects.

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Catalog card for object P 24113: "Red Figured Kylix Signed by Gorgos as Potter."

When objects are inventoried, they are classified and given an inventory number (e.g. P 24113) based primarily on function (i.e. architecture, inscriptions, sculpture, pottery, etc.). Classes are as follows, with the class letter always preceding the catalog number of the object:

A Architecture
B Bronze
BI Bone and Ivory
G Glass
I Inscriptions
IL Iron and Lead
J Jewelry and Gems
L Lamps
MC Miscellaneous Clay Objects
N Coins
P Pottery
S Sculpture
SS Stamps and Seals
ST Stone Objects
T Terracotta Objects
W Wooden Objects


For historical reasons, several types of archaeological contexts have been given specific names.

A Basket is the smallest unit of excavation that is recorded in the field notebooks (one floor layer, one layer in a well, one wall, etc.). All pottery and objects found within a basket are initially kept separate for analysis.

Recording in the field is currently performed on hand-held computers.
Here is a screen showing a basket from Room M.

Lots are made up of one or more baskets and represent a single archaeological context. Lots are the smallest unit of storage in the Agora. All material from each lot is stored separately and can be re-analyzed later if necessary. Lots are designated by the section and a serial number (e.g. Lot ΠΘ 145).

Vases and fragments from a well spread out into lots for sorting and mending.

Deposits are contexts (one or more lots) that refer to any closed physical unit (well, cistern, grave, pit, etc.) in which the recovered finds present sufficient homogeneity to be of value in the study of type, style, and/or chronology.

A plan showing various deposits around the temple of Hephaistos.

Deposits are designated by a grid location (a 20-meter square) and a group number within that particular square (e.g. C 10:2).

The general word Context is used here to designate any of these named archaeological contexts, be it a basket, a lot, a deposit, a room, a building, or even an entire excavation trench.


Photographic negatives in the Agora have been traditionally given accession numbers. All digital Images presented here (whether they are scanned negatives or new digital photographs) are given an Image Archive Number consisting of three pieces of data: the year they were digitized, a group number, and a serial number (e.g. 2003.02.0001).

Red figure cup signed by Gorgos. View of the interior.
Archive Number: 2000.02.0172
Aerial view of the bath of the Late Roman Complex.
Archive Number: 2000.03.0014

Plans and Drawings

Outdoor plans and object drawings are each given unique serial and version numbers (e.g. PD 1190-23d). Three-dimensional data is recorded in the field using Leica Total Stations. Modern contexts and objects can be plotted using the map view.

PD 1190-23d: Drawing of a bowl with glaze decoration.