In 1937, a deep well was excavated on the brow of the Kolonos Agoraios, the hill that overlooks the agora, or public center, of the ancient city of Athens. The well contained the usual assortment of material culture, including pottery and the stamped handles of transport amphorae (trade containers) that date its filling to the second quarter of the 2nd century B.C. Unlike most other wells, however, this one contained a large collection of human bones: the remains of 450 new-born infants, along with the skeleton of an 11-year old child and one adult. It also had a rich collection of faunal material, including the bones of about 150 dogs, an unusually large collection. Perhaps because of its unsettling contents, the deposit has never been studied in detail.
The lecture will present the results of an interdisciplinary study of the contents of the well, concluding with hypotheses as to why and how the babies and the dogs found their way into the well. Plague? Famine? Infanticide? Or simply natural infant mortality?