The Museum

On display in the public galleries of the stoa is a selection of the thousands of objects recovered in the past 75 years, reflecting the use of the area from 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1500.

2004.01.2202.tif
The public galleries in the Stoa of Attalos.

Most significant perhaps, is the material—unique to the site—illustrating the mechanics of the world’s first attested democracy. This material includes ostraka (inscribed potsherds used as ballots to exile over-ambitious politicians), allotment machines and bronze identification tags (used in selecting an Athenian jury), and clay tokens and inscribed lead strips (used in the administration of the Athenian cavalry).

Ostrakon.tif
Ostraka of the Athenian generals Alkibiades and Nikias, both candidates for ostracism in 417–415 B.C. (P 29373, P 31179, Agora Museum).
Allotment1.tif
Fragment of an allotment machine (kleroterion), probably used in the Council House (in the period when there were 12 tribes) for the selection of committees representing all the tribes except that holding the presidency. Bronze tickets similar to that below would have been inserted in the slots, which are clearly visible in the photograph. On the left side of the stone can be seen the holes for an attachment, a mechanical device that would have made the selection by chance (I 3967, Agora Museum).
ClayTokens.tif
Clay tokens or passports of a border commander, 4th century B.C. (SS 8080, MC 1245, Agora Museum)
CavalryTag.tif
Bronze juror’s ticket (pinakion), 4th century B.C. This identification ticket carries the juror’s name, Demophanes, the first letters of his father’s name, Phi[- - -], and his deme, Kephesia (B822, Agora Museum).

Context is essential in understanding archaeological material. The great museums of Europe and the United States often display magnificent objects with little or no information as to where they were found and what else was found with them. What sets the Agora project and museum apart from most collections is that this context information is known for almost every single object.

Because the excavation began comparatively late, a generation or more after other large-scale digs in the Mediterranean (Pompeii, Ostia, Knossos, Dephi, Olympia, Pergamon, Ephesos, and Priene, to name a few), the same record-keeping system adopted at the beginning has been used to the present day. This means that every object found in the Agora excavations is stored in the Stoa of Attalos, together with the record of its recovery. The inventory is large: 35,000 pieces of pottery, 7,600 inscriptions, 3,500 pieces of sculpture, 5,000 architectural fragments, 6,000 lamps, 15,000 stamped amphora handles, and over 70,000 coins. This vast collection has all been entered into a unified database, part of a collaborative project with the Packard Humanities Institute. Because of this correlation of objects and archives, the museum collection serves as a center for archaeological research, used every year by hundreds of scholars from all over the world.

Excavations in the Athenian Agora are conducted by the American School of Classical Studies.
Primary funding is provided by the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI).