Isthmia is located on the Isthmus of Korinth, about 90 minutes southwest of Athens and just above the Saronic Gulf. Our excavation team lives in the village of Ancient Korinth, site of the ancient city and about 15 minutes away from Isthmia.
Unlike many projects in North America and the Near East, excavations in Greece are not normally dependent on volunteer labor. We rely primarily on local Greek laborers and we use volunteers mainly in skilled positions and to assist staff members in various tasks. Therefore, we do not need and cannot make use of large numbers of volunteers. We do, on the other hand, want to make Isthmia accessible to bona fide students and others wishing to learn about excavation in Greece through participation. We especially want to welcome retired persons and others who may have a special skill to lend.
Volunteers work and learn in a variety of capacities under the direction of experienced staff members. This work involves a mix of physical labor, record-keeping and organization, and study of excavated material. As always, the details of our program this year will depend, in part, on permissions we are seeking from the Greek government. Work will certainly involve study and analysis, but there will also be considerable active fieldwork; volunteers will be assigned to senior staff members and they will work in context pottery analysis, record-keeping, architectural survey, and in the conservation and study of the Roman Bath, East Field, and surrounding areas. Volunteers will be rotated through a number of jobs and they may have the opportunity to assist in actual limited excavation.
Volunteers are normally expected to pay for their own transportation to Greece and for their own maintenance. The latter is a fixed amount of around $350 per week, including printed material about the site, a double room for the duration of the stay, all local transportation, breakfast and dinner seven days a week in Ancient Korinth, and all weekday lunches. We cannot reimburse participants for meals or weekends away from the site. Single rooms are generally available at a slightly higher price. Financial assistance for some volunteers is occasionally possible, but you should be aware that our ability to provide such assistance is extremely limited. Please note that we must charge this fee simply to meet our expenses. This excavation does not attempt to raise money by making a profit on payments made by volunteers. We welcome and appreciate the assistance that volunteers provide, but we simply have to make sure that the volunteer program pays for itself.
You should be aware that work in an excavation is commonly demanding and occasionally strenuous; only those in good health and willing to work hard should apply. We are, however, willing to accept volunteers regardless of age and we seek a mix of volunteers, including students, teachers, and individuals who are simply looking for a unique experience. The most important qualifications for an Isthmia volunteer are patience, flexibility, and a good sense of humor. The excavation schedule is rigorous but allows some time for rest and relaxation. We provide volunteers with a thorough introduction to the site and the methods used in this project. There are visits to nearby archaeological sites, daily excursions to the beach, and frequent outings to places of local interest --village festivals, restaurants at the resort city of Loutraki, local markets, etc.
A highlight of the program is our accommodation at Rooms Marinos, a small family-operated 'bed-and breakfast' in Ancient Korinth. Spyro, Elizavet, and their family have been taking care of Isthmia staff for the past 17 years, and we all feel as though we are part of their family. The home-cooked food at our family-style dinners is plentiful and delicious, while Spyro frequently treats us to impromptu music, a lesson on Greek traditional cooking, or a visit from an important local dignitary. Although we always work hard during the excavation season, there is always time for enjoyment and appreciation of the local setting.
Ancient Korinth is safe and quiet (except for the farm animals!) and there is a hospital in nearby Korinth in case of any emergency. The village has a few small restaurants and places for a drink. Many tourists come through the village, but very few stay for the night, and Ancient Korinth retains its traditional character.
Volunteers accepted into the program will receive full information about packing, transportation, and other practical matters.