Summary of some of the older research projects of the Institute

Previous research projects of the Institute


by Prof. Jan Bouzek (transl. by Adam Pažout)

This contribution aims to summarize informations about previous research projects of the Institute abroad in Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Sri Lanka. Some of them were carried out with limited resources between the 1960s and 1980s, mostly in preparation for the publication of even older Czech excavations of two prominent scholars who, in the 1920s, most contributed to the Czech excavations abroad.

Antonín Salač, later an academic and director of the Cabinet for Greek and Latin Studies of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, was at first director of the Institute and after its merger with the Seminar of the Ancient History headed the newly created Department of the Classical Antiquity. In the 1920s he worked at the French School in Athens, focusing on epigraphy and assembling large corpus of stamps found on Thassian amphorae. He participated in the excavations at Delos and spent two season investigating Sanctuary of the Great Gods in Samothrace. In 1923 together with the French School and then in 1927 on his own. The second season was never published by him, and so when I had the opportunity to travel with yacht club to the Mediterranean in 1983 I managed to spend several days on the island, also with the support of the American expedition, which is still active. With the help of photographer Jan Šváb we were able to document all the structures investigated by Antonín Salač. Later, with Assistant Prof. Iva Ondřejová we succeeded in obtaining the original drawings and excavation diaries of A. Salač, partly from his heirs, partly from the archive of the Archaeological Institute of the CSAS and we prepared the final excavation report, that was positively received and nicely complements other excavation reports of the sanctuary. Part of this “Egeis Expedition” was also investigation of the harbour of Samothrace, and this survey was added to the final report.

Preparations for the publication of Salač’s second largest excavation, that in Cyme in Asia Minor, the birthplace of Homer’s wife, were begun during the better days of the 1960s with Dr. Dufková and Assistant Prof. Ondřejová and we managed to involve several internationally recognized specialist for the analysis of the finds, stored at the Institute. It was not possible afterwards, but thanks to kindness of Ekrem Akurgal, director of the Archaeological Institute of the University of Ancara and Prof. Jörg Schäfer from the University of Heidelberg, we undertook a survey mapping the ancient city and locating Salač’s excavations. In the year 1978 I managed – with the same yacht club as later in Samothrace – to visit also Cyme (lying close to Ali Aga) and document the visible remains and the ancient harbour before the construction of a refinery. Further, thanks to the kindness of then directrice of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum Nuşin Asgari I was able to inspect all the finds stored therein in span of just few days. And as such, the second volume of the excavations was published, mainly thanks to our former PhD candidate Philippos Kostomitsopoulos. Prof. Akurgal “reserved” the site for us for several years, but when the excavations were still not possible in the 1980s, the license went to the University of Catania, Sicily. The excavations were not published, not even in preliminary manner, and the site, located by town of Ali Aga that grew considerably and thanks to the refinery now lies in industrial landscape and is not visited by many tourists.

In that year (1978) I was able to visit several other harbours together with divers, although without a scuba set since at that time it was already hard to receive a diving permit for them. These observations still form the basic information about the harbours, because later the conditions for underwater archaeology were even less favourable. Even though these were small, confined expeditions, given the travel restrictions, it was possible to gain experiences in excavations and survey publication.

The second “Classic” of the Czech expeditions abroad was Bedřich (Friedrich) Hrozný, the famous decipherer of the Hittite language. Before coming to Turkey, where he wanted to go because of the Hittites, he conducted two excavations in Syria at the beginning of the 1920s with permission from the French colonial authorities. According to former laws he acquired half of the excavated material from his digs. He brought several terracotta figurines and other ware from Tell Erfad, the figurines were published by Dr. Nea Nováková, the rest of the material from the Classical periods was published by myself together with Ladislav Boháč in the 1990s. There is stil little unpublished material in the Oriental department of the National Gallery, it needs to be finished, but partly only with the help of archive photographs. Unfortunately, majority of terracottas, glass and pottery from Tell Erfad perished in a fire of the chateau of Benešov nad Ploučnicí, where it was stored and only several pieces exhibited in the Museum of Bedřich Hrozný in Lysá nad Labem survived. Even here somebody can follow in his steps, although there was a British expedition to the site after the war and they could also apply for license renewal. The site was visited in the 1990s by Ladislav Boháč, but everything was back-filled and nothing extraordinary is visible nowadays.

The other site excavated by Hrozný in Syria was Sheikh Sa’ad in Hauran. From there Bedřich hrozný acquired interesting set of sculptures which were published in a volume of Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani (in the publishing house of the Charles University, which also published books on Cyme and Samothrace), the inscriptions from Sheikh Sa’ad were prepared by Prof. Radislav Hošek (Greek) and by Prof. Stanislav Segert (Aramaean and later), working in Los Angeles since 1968. Hrozný investigated a Roman period temple that was apparently built on a terrace of an older temple from the Neo-Hittite period, and one of the recovered relief apparently comes from this period. Before the war in Syria we were offered to continue at Sheikh Sa’ad but only a preliminary prospection in 2007 was done (see Studia Hercynia 11/2008 and contribution to the Damascus-Paris exhibition 2008).

In 1971 it seemed that Cyprus will become almost a communist country under rule of Archbishop Makarios and the National Museum [of Czechoslovakia, transl.] was commisioned to seek an archaeological project on the island. Prof. Jiří Neústupný was a prehistorian, without experiences in Classical Archaeology and therefore he authorized me to proceed with the project, also there were several Cypriot students at our Institute at that time. The then director of the Archaeological Service Vassos Karageorghis, who later became my good friend, offered us, during our visit in 1972, a site called Akrotiri, close to Ayios Theodoros on the southern side of an elongated peninsula of Karponisi, which is called by British a “pan-handle”. We inspected the site, finding a city wall, small harbour, number of surface finds, among them stone mills and looted tombs, with pottery showing settlement activity from the Early Bronze Age to the Byzantine period. The ancient name of the site was Cnidus, which nicely reminiscents of the Venus of Cnidus. During my visit to the site and especially in the harbour I had a dream that I am conducting successful excavations there. It was a pleasant and strong experience of a “daydream” but when it ended I already knew it will never happen. The results of the survey were summarily published at home and in Cyprus. Collected pottery was stored in the museum in Nicosia, but they are currently missing. Soon afterwards a civil war broke out and the place remained on the northern, Turkish, side of the island and for now it is sort of “reserved” for whoever wants to continue in this work. Since currently the director of the Antiquities in Cyprus is one of our former students, and since hopefuly the situation on the island will get calmer, such research project would not be without a chance, even though Cyprus is rather expensive country.

Afterwards, several invitations did not come through, because even without incuring expenses on our side, we never recieved a permit: that was the case with the invitation by UNESCO to conduct a research in Carthage (I was able to visit the place only recently), and with the French rescue excavations in Ugarit, damaged by trench digging by the military during the 1967 war with Israel. Both were forbidden to me, as other travels.

The largest action of my life was an excavation of a Buddhist monastery complex in Abhayagiri, Anuradhapura in northern part of Sri Lanka between 1980-1983. It was during an exceptional situation when the USSR still did not lose hope to maintain influence shortly after premiership of Mrs. Bandaranaike. Sri Lankans managed to receive funding which was meant for Angor Vat, where, after the takeover of Khmer Rouge, no investigation was possible. UNESCO approved a project “Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka” and the Minister of Culture J. Herulle at that time visited (among others) Czechoslovakia asking for a help with expedition. American, British and French teams were invited as well but the new government wanted to show that they seek also good relations with the Eastern bloc, too. The Soviet war in Afghanistan already started, so the small Czechoslovakia seemed as a safe and less dangerous option (that is otherwise advantageous in other situations also, as nobody would think that Czechoslovak/Czech army would attack any country in the Near or Far East). Prof. Poulík [then director of the Czechoslovak Institute of Archaeology, transl.] and other colleagues were afraid of excavating Buddhist stupas, I, on several public occassions, declared that it should not be a problem because archaeology is like a surgery and it can be applied anywhere with the same methods. At that time Minister of Foreign Affairs Chňoupek and President of the Parliament Indra visited Sri Lanka and they promised support and money for the expedition, so there were expectations and our Ministry of Culture was obliged to do something. Surprisingly, I was offered a position, with option to “drop by somewhere along the road”, which was for a person of my standing – always a suspicious, apolitical [i.e. not a Communist party member, transl.] person and with poor cadre profile – a very tempting offer. Only when I was escorted by an official of the Ministry of Culture, oddly, all the way to the airplane (with a flyover at Moscow), I was told there were no money, only experts. At the airport in Colombo we were greeted with a ceremony, together with the Czechoslovak ambassador we immediately went to the government office where they were expecting promised money. The ambassador’s lips remained tightly shut, so it was up to me to declare that there will be no money. After this declaration there was a silence and after additional five minutes I wisely added that the economic situation of many countries is difficult and after another five minutes that the Czechoslovak koruna is not freely convertible currencz. At that moment a local bureaucrat, standing in the background, glanced at me and we both smiled – there was a spark between us – I got another friend, who was a director of the local archaeological service. For three weeks afterwards we worked on a proposal and negotiated with Japanese companies for support – all quite light-heartedly as I was sure that nothing will work out. However, Roland Silva, my new friend (later he was a high official in the UNESCO office in Paris) obtained money for three experts and so we undertook two three-month expeditions together with late Dr. Jiří Břeň and Prof. Petr Charvát, with 750 workers and 30 supervisors, mostly local PhD students (and women). Local director was Prof. Chandra Wikramagamage, who on the one hand knew well Theravada Buddhism (before he married he was a buddhist monk of many years), on the other hand he had little knowledge of archaeology and therefore he was rather a hindrance and Roland Silva, who had full confidence in me, had to redress situations often. I fell sick during the second excavation season and could not walk, I was driven in car even along the probes, and I could not join the third season. That one was conducted by Petr Charvát and Martin Kuna but afterwards the Sri Lankan party lost interest.

We made revisions on several places, at the monasteris, water basins and around the stupa itself (a domed structure containing reliquary with Buddha’s bones, similar to Christian reliquaries in churches). We developed chronology of local pottery from the 3rd c. BCE to the 12 c. CE, found many Western imports (Roman coins and glass, Arabian glass, Persian faïence) and Eastern imports (especially Chinese porcelain) and even in the older layers we were first to identify Hellenistic pottery imported from today’s Iraq and an Egyptian scarab of the Saïte period. We published couple of articles about the excavation results and one monograph in the Karolinum Press, which was awarded as a best monograph of the year byma rector. Unlike the neighbouring Jetavanaramaya monastery, where Sri Lankan chronicle Mahavansa was compiled, Abhayagiti monastery was less orthodox and that is perhaps why we found such quantity of imports, larger than recovered from Jetavanaramaya monastery. The French expedition therein however took part only occassionaly as guest since the local difficult conditions did not suit them. At that time I realized how we managed to work even in harsh conditions and improvise when we were faced with lack of tools or equipment (and others would not even think about it).

Several attempts ended in survey, such as a survey of Late Antique necropolis and mansio in Escales by Carcassone, some ended in negotiations, but important was our contribution to the rescue excavations after the civil war in Lebanon in 1996. We were assigned a sector on the Martyr’s Square in the downtown Beirut not far from the harbour. Apart from myself, Jiří Musil, Radislav Hošek, Petr Charvát and four students: Alice Hayerová, Jana Kupková (married Maříková), Pavel Titz and Martin Trefný participated. The then ambassador in Beirut Petr Skalník and the director of the Directorate of Antiquities of Lebanon Kamil Samar were instrumental in the undertaking of the expedition, the main financial contribution came from the UNESCO office for the Middle East. It was shortly after the civil war and the passerbys reminiscented about nice coffee shop and about other shops that used to stand here in our sector. Our local assistant told us how he served in the Red Cross taking dead and half-dead from the streets during cease fires and how Israeli jets flew over the city every day. The airforce bombed an ammunition depot of Hezbollah on the night before our trip to Ba’albek, which was only 500 m from the town. They were showing 300 m high flames on the TV at night. When we were supposed to go there the next day in the morning with a rented car I called a lady in the company and asked if we can really go and she simply answered why not, it is only about a habit. Everybody cooperated greatly, even our Shi’te conservator invited us to his village close to the Israeli security zone, where we drink coffee and he showed us a new mosaic that was uncovered by an Israeli rocket (and not looted by Hezbollah like others).

We were preparing for Phoenician finds but our sector was underwater until the Early Hellenistic period. Only in the 3rd c. BCE a settlement rose up and already around 150 BCE it was destroyed in the Seleucid civil wars. We found large number of imports of Greek pottery, lamps and transport amphorae. The collection is similar to the finds from Delos, where Berytian merchants maintained commercial ties. The city was again damaged during the Roman annexation and re-built on different plan after foundation of a Roman colony, many buildings were dedicated to the city by Herod the Great. During the 2nd and 3rd c. CE the city flourished, according to the inscriptions in stone and on pottery Latin was the main vernacular (an exception in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire). Not far from the place of our excavations stood the law school where Justinianic Codex was compiled, whic forms the model even for our contemporary European law.

In the 4th c. the city was rebuilt using different contruction method with cement and irregular stones, the buildings were equipped with channels bringing waste water to the sea. In 551 CE (and perhaps also in 529) the city was damaged by a lare earthquake, but the houses and mosaics were repaired and channels rebuilt. During the Arab invasion in 632 the maritime side of the city was destroyed and deserted and the place served as a rubbish dump where refuse from glass workshops and pottery from the Umayyad, Abbasid and Crusader (ruling between 1098-1291) period was deposited. In the Mameluke period (1291-1516) pottery workshops were added, whose refuse was deposited also during the Ottoman period (we found one pottery kiln from that period), the Early Ottoman pottery reminds of our Renessaince pottery. In the early 17th c. Fakhr ed-Din (1595-1634) ordered construction of a garden for himself, using the garbage composed of badly fired pottery for levelling. In his garden we found large tree flower pots made of stone. Substanial building was an Ottoman construction of a souq from the 19th c. intrusive in the earlier levels and a channel running north-south. The next levels were composed of the ruins of the civil war.

Architecture and material from the Hellenistic levels was processed already at the end of the last century and published in Studia Hercynia VI and Eirene 38 in 2002. In 2006 we conducted a study session in Beirut and documented most of the Roman, Byzantine and later finds.


Samothrace, Greece (excavations of A. Salač and later survey)

Sanmothrace 1923, 1927, 1978. The results of the Czechoslovak excavations in 1927 conducted by Antonín Salač and Jan Nepomucký and the unpublished results of the 1923 Franco-Czechoslovak excavations conducted by Antonín Salač and François Chapouthoer, prepared for publication by Jan Bouzek and Iva Ondřejová, with a contribution by Radislav Hošek, Praha, Universita Karlova 1985

J. Bouzek et Iva Ondřejová, Samothracica in Prague, Graecolatina Pragensia 10 1983 (1986), 57-76

Samothráké, Exhibition Catalogue Hostinné 1985, 24 p.


Cyme, Turkey (excavations of A. Salač and later survey 1978)

Kyme I, Anatolian Collection of Charles University, ed. by Jan Bouzek, with contributions by Jan Bouzek, Marie Dufková, Virginia Grace, Roman Haken, Huberta Heres, Radilav Hošek, Libuše Jansová, Jiří Marsa, Iva Ondřejová, Jörg Schäfer and Miroslav Verner, Universita Karlova, Praha 1974

Kyme II. The Results of the Czechoslovak Expedition, comducted by A Salač and Jan Nepomucký and prepared for the publication by Jan Bouzek, Philippos Kostomitsopoulos and Iva. Ondřejová, with contributions by Marie Dufková and Jörg Schäfer, Praha, Universita Karlova 1980

J. Bouzek, Kyme, A report on the visit of the site, Graecolatina Pragensia 8 1980, 127-133


Harbours in the Aegean, 1978

J. Bouzek et alii, Some underwater observations on ancient harbours in the Aegean, Graecolatina Pragensia 9 1982, 133-141


Tell Erfad, Syria (excavations of Bedřich Hrozný and later revisions)

Nea Nováková, Terres cuites de Tell Erfad, I-II, Praha, Náprstek museum 1971

Ladislav Boháč, Jan Bouzek, V. Grace, Hellenistic and Roman finds from Bedřich Hrozný’s excavations at Tell Erfad, Syria, Parts I-II, Eirene 32 1997 (1998), 122-157.

L. Boháč a J. Bouzek, Hellenistic and Roman finds from Bedřich Hrozný’s excavations at Tell Erfad, Syria, Part III and Addenda, Eirene 35 1999, 47-60


Sheikh Sa’ad, Syria (excavations of Bedřich Hrozný and later revisions)

J. Bouzek, La sculpture romaine des fouilles de Bedřich Hrozný a Sheikh S’ad, Etudes et Travaux, Varšava 15 1990, 87-92

Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani, Czech Republic I: Roman Sculpture from Syria and Asia Minor in Czech Collections, By Jan Bouzek, Marie Dufková, Radislav Hošek, Iva Ondřejová a Stanislav Segert,.Edited by Jan Bouzek. Karolinum, Charles University Press 1999 – ISBN 80-7184-752-6. A4, 26 pp. and 37 pls.

J. Bouzek, J. Musil, M. Dufková, Sheikh Sa’ad, A preliminary report on the project of publication of Hrozný’s digs, Studia Hercynia XI 2008, 98-100

J. Bouzek, Bedřich Hrozný en Syrie, les fouilles de Sheijh Sa’ad et Telle Erfad en 1924 et 1925, in: Al-Maqdisi, Michel, Pioniers et protagonistes de l’archéologie syrienne 1860-1960 , Cat. d’exposition Damas 2008, 437-438


Anuradhapura, Abhayagirí Vihara, Srí Lanka, (Ceylon), 1980-1984

J. Bouzek, J. Břeň, P. Charvát, The chronology of the local pottery and other finds uncovered in the SW sector of the Abhayagiri Vihara (Asnuradhapura, Sri Lanka), Archeologické rozhled 38 1986, 241-262

J. Bouzek – S. Deraniyagala, Tessons des vases hellénistiques trouvés a Sri Lanka, Bulletin de Corespondence Hellénique 109 1985, 499-506

J. Bouzek, ed. (+ P. Charvát, M. Kuna a d.) Ceylon between East and West, Anuradhapura, Abhayagiri Vihara 1981-1984, Praha 1993

J. Bouzek, Ceylon und die hellenistische Welt, Akten des XIII. Kongresses für Klassische Archäologie Berlin 1988, Mainz 1990, 316-318

Anuradhapura Excavations, preliminary reports, by J. Bouzek, J. Břeň a P. Charvát, Archiv Orientální 51 1983, 337-371, 52 1984, 42-77, 53 1985, 226-256

J. Bouzek – M. Čtvrtníková, Ceylon mezi východem a Západem, Exhibition Catalogue Hostinné 1995


Cyprus, Cnidus, 1973

J. Bouzek, Preliminary prospection on the site of Akrotiri (Knidos), Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus 1988/1, 125-137 a

J. Bouzek, Prospection on the site of Akrotiri (Knidos), Graecolatina Pragensisa 12 1988, 125-137


Beirut, Lebanon, 1996 and 2006

J. Bouzek et alii, “Bey 069, Sondage A”, Bulletin d’Archéologie et d’Architecture Libanaises 1 1996, 135- 147

J. Bouzek, Charles University of Prague excavations in Beirut, Martyrs Square, preliminary report, in: Centennary of Mediterranean Archaeology at the Jagellonian University 1897-1997, Cracow 1999, pp. 48-57

Czech excavations in Beirut, Martyrs‘ Square (Bey 069, sondage A). by Jan Bouzek, Jiří Musil and others.. Part I Eirene 38 2002, Part II Studia Hercynia VI 2002, 41-106.   .

Part III Jan Bouzek – Jiří Musil, Czech excavations at Beirut, Martyrs‘ Square, Part III Studia Hercynia XII 2008, pp. 5-79


Escales, France 2000

Jan Bouzek – Ladislav Boháč, La prospection préliminaire du site La Boriette et d’autres sites près du village d’Escales, Studia Hercynia 8 2003, 169-172

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