Expedition organized by Department of Classical Archaeology Institute of Archaeology at Nicolaus Copernicus University has been conducting excavations in ancient Nikonion since 1995, when professor Mariusz Mielczarek established an official research collaboration with the Archaeological Museum of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Odessa.
The site is situated in Ukraine, several kilometres north of the mouth of the Dniester to the Black Sea. The settlement is situated on the rugged cliff, over 40 metres in height, overlooking Dniestrowski Liman has been hiding its secrets for over two thousand years. Nikonion was a settlement founded probably by settlers from Miletus in Ionia (west coast of present-day Turkey). It was a village, whose inhabitants were mainly growing grain, the surpluses of which were exported to Greece. An extremely interesting aspect of Greek life on the northern shores of the Black Sea was their relationship with the tribes of the Scythians.
From the archeological research emerges a picture of a culture in which Greek and Scythian elements are closely intertwined. In general, Greek colonists abstained from everyday contacts with the people among whom they decided to settle down, confining themselves only to trade.
In areas controlled by the Scythians, Greeks came into close relations with their powerful neighbors. Nomadic Scythians in a specific way took their care of the scattered Greek settlements and cities. The result of this situation was, on one hand, the penetration of Greek craft to Scythia, whilst on the other, Scythians played an important political role in the life of the Black Sea Greeks.
Nikonion was inhabited by a community steeped in Greek culture, but in the archaeological material Scythian elements are clearly distinguishable. The result of the research so far, has been the discovery and unveiling of a large part of the Greek house, which can be pre-dated to the IV-III century BC Inside, next to the Greek red-figured pottery and countless fragments of amphorae, Scythian pottery can be found. It is less numerous than Greek, but there are more Scythian findings such as characteristic arrowheads and elements of horse tack made of either bronze or bone and horn.
An absolutely remarkable finding was a part of an amphora, on which an ancient Nikonion inhabitant placed an inscription concerning the grain trade. This Ostrakon of Nikonion is almost a completely preserved ancient “ESEM”, a short written information, but its uniqueness lies in the fact that the contents relate to matters of everyday life, not a religious issue. The coexistence of such different findings in one cultural context places Nikonion among the most interesting archaeological sites of ancient Greece.
It is our immense pleasure, that our Foundation provided patronage and supported the excavations in ancient Nikonion (now Roksolany, oblast’ Odessa) in 2012 research season.
Department of Classical Archaeology
Institute of Archaeology
Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun