1993 Preliminary Report

Fieldwork at Isthmia sponsored by The Ohio State University took place from May 3 to September 11, with most activity between 27 June and 14 August. Thanks are due to Mrs. F. Pachygianni and Mrs. Z. Aslamatizdou of the Fourth Ephoreia of Classical Antiquities and to Mr. Ioannis Daglis of the Department of Conservation of the Ministry of Culture, for unfailing support and encouragement.

Our primary focus this year was the continued conservation of the monochrome mosaic in the Roman Bath, discovered in 1976 and lifted in 1990. Relaying of the mosaic began in 1992 and 21 of a total of 148 sections were put back in their original places. Conservation this year began on May 17 and continued until June 14, with an additional two weeks of conservation in mid-August. This work was directly supervised by loannis Daglis, with the assistance of Vasilis Marinos of the Fourth Ephoreia and technicians from the Department of Conservation. Work this year proceeded rapidly and a total of 48 sections were re-laid, bringing the total in two seasons to 69 sections, and allowing us to reach the middle of the mosaic. A particularly time-consuming aspect of this conservation is the relaying of a single line of tesserae between each of the sections; the new hardened mortar has to be chiseled out, the tesserae properly selected and often cut to size, and these then carefully set in a line that completely conceals the joint between restored sections. Conservation work proceeded rapidly this year and we hope that the task of relaying the whole mosaic may be completed during the 1994 season.

Middle of Mosaic

Reaching the middle of the mosaic, 1993.

Further fieldwork was carried out in the area of the Roman Bath, where we cleaned out several trenches excavated in previous years. Most notable was trench GB 70-1/93-2 located just north of the north wall of the Bath. This trench had been excavated to a depth of over 4 m. below the modem ground level and it exposed a sequence of collapses that are clearly visible in its west scarp. This scarp was carefully photographed and drawn and material from the 1970 excavation was examined to provide chronological information. At the top of the scarp was a large collapse, involving large blocks, that sloped down gradually from south to north; this collapse is dated by pottery of the 7th century after Christ and seems to represent a significant abandonment of the Hexamilion fortification at that time. Below this upper collapse was a hard-packed level that appears to represent ground-level at the time the Hexamilion was constructed in the early years of the fifth century. Below this was another series of sloping fills that included enormous quantities of marble chips and mosaic tesserae and debitage; the tesserae were similar to those found in the mosaics on the floors of the Roman Bath. Surprisingly, however, this material was found in a context dated by pottery that may be assigned to the middle and latter years of the third century after Christ. On the basis of the slope of these fills, this material must have been thrown from the top of the north wall of the Bath, suggesting that the roof of the building must have been removed (and presumably repaired) at that time. This provides an interesting and otherwise undocumented event in the history of the Roman Bath. At the bottom of these sloping fills is another horizontal level, dating to the middle of the second century and representing ground-level at the time the Roman Bath was constructed. Finally, below this level were two east west walls, roughly parallel to the north wall of the Roman Bath. One of these (the northern of the two) was apparently standing at the time the Bath was constructed, although it had been dismantled by the time the third-century sloping fills were deposited. The southern wall, by contrast, had no connection with the Roman Bath and its foundations had already been covered by soil at the time the Bath was built. There is presently no evidence about the building to which this latter wall belonged although it is tempting to suggest that it could have been part of the Greek-period bathing establishment, whose remains are visible further to the south.

Investigation this year was begun in the area of the so-called East Field, located east of the Temple of Poseidon and west of the Byzantine Fortress. This area had been excavated between 1970 and 1972 by Paul Clement but he had been unable to prepare a final report on those excavations. We therefore began a program to study all the architectural features and context material (pottery and other finds) from this area. The East Field contains a veritable maze of walls of poor quality, clearly representing more than one period of construction. These walls seem to be from small buildings (houses or other small establishments) with facilities for water and the preparation of food. The earliest of the walls seem to date from the second century after Christ, although most of the ceramic material appears to date from the third century and later. In all, there are objects from over 700 individual stratigraphic units in approximately 30 trenches. Of these we were able to examine and analyze approximately one-third this season. It is premature to speculate about the purpose and history of this fascinating area, although research in subsequent years will surely lead to important conclusions.

In addition to these investigations, we continued study of the architecture and finds in the area of the Roman Bath. Progress toward publication of this important monument is well under way, under the supervision of Jeanne Marty (University of North Carolina at Asheville), Fikret Yegul (University of California at Santa Barbara), and Timothy E. Gregory (The Ohio State University). Architectural documentation of the Bath neared completion with the execution of some eleven elevation sections through the building and a composite drawing of the features of the Greek Bath, whose remains lie under the Roman structure.

Timothy E. Gregory
September 1993