1994 Preliminary Report

Fieldwork at Isthmia sponsored by The Ohio State University took place from May 3 to August 12. 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 had begun in 1992 and, by the end of the 1993 season, 69 of a total of 148 sections had been restored to their original location. Conservation this year began on May 17 and ended on June 16, although detailed work was carried out until the end of August. This work was directly supervised by Ioannis Daglis, with the assistance of Vasilis Marinos and Panagiotis Elias of the Fourth Ephoreia. Conservation this year proceeded rapidly and a total of 35 sections was re-laid, bringing the grand total in three seasons to 104 sections. A particularly time-consuming aspect of this work was the identification and conservation of the sections of mosaic lifted in 1980. No plan of these sections existed and many of the pieces were in bad condition, requiring considerable work and care. Nonetheless, work proceeded well and we hope that the task of relaying the whole mosaic will be completed during the 1995 season.

Men restoring Mosaic
Restoring the Mosaic, Summer 1994.

Further fieldwork was carried out in the area of the Roman Bath, where we began a process of removing dumped material from previous excavations, and in the East Field, between the Temenos of Poseidon and the Byzantine Fortress (see enclosed plan). This latter area had been excavated between 1970 and 1972 by Paul Clement but he was unable to prepare a final report on those excavations before his death in 1986. We therefore have initiated 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. We were able this year to investigate the detailed stratigraphy in two of these old trenches. Most important of these was one in the central part of the area (Trench 94-3) where we were able to identify two successive floor levels and associate them with their appropriate walls. This provides an important fixed point for an understanding of this complex area, in terms of both its architecture and chronology. Examination in 1994 confirms that there was considerable activity in the East Field in the third century and it sheds light on the architectural environment of the so-called cult tunnel in the area.

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 the present writer. We also began the study of a large pottery dump left near the site by our predecessors in the 1970's. Examination of this material will help to provide a picture of the total artifact assemblage recovered from exploration of the site in earlier years. This, in turn, will offer a valuable data base for the study of trade connections and site use in the ancient past. Only a very preliminary examination of this material was possible this year, but we did identify some 72,153 sherds, weighing a total of 2,828.40 kg. These dated almost exclusively to the second to the fourth centuries after Christ and included many examples of the so-called Aegean amphoras, micaceous water jars, and various pieces of Eastern Sigillata wares. Further study is necessary before the full importance of this material will be realized.

An important new initiative was a conservation assessment study carried out with a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. This was the first year of a two-year pilot program to evaluate the conservation needs and resources of the Ohio State Excavations. This program was carried out by Margaret Little of the University of Delaware and the Winterthur Museum and Katherine Holbrow of the Smithsonian Institution and the Winterthur Museum. The goal was to investigate all aspects of object storage and conservation needs, considering both individual excavated objects and architecture in the field. The primary purpose of this project was thus to assess current conservation considerations and to devise a plan that will be implemented over the next few years. In addition, some limited object conservation was carried out by Katherine Holbrow: in total 23 ceramic vessels and 3 metal coins were treated in 1994. Eight of these vessels were desalinated, and six were filled with new plaster. Initial steps were taken for the establishment of a conservation working space for the OSU Excavations, and this should be available for use in future seasons. Equipment and supply needs were assessed, and a small quantity of supplies left at the site for use next year. A supplier in the area was identified for the purchase of further materials, and a tentative order list prepared for purchases next spring. Much additional conservation time was expended on discussion and planning for related conservation concerns, including: architectural conservation, excavation and treatment of specialized material such as waterlogged bone and fresco, organizational concerns such as obtaining laboratory equipment and supplies, and establishing appropriate data retrieval systems.

During the 1994 season the Ohio State University Excavations also conducted a Summer Seminar for College Teachers, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. As participants in this seminar 12 teachers from colleges and universities in the United States took part in the work of the Excavation and learned about practical field archaeology in Greece. They worked largely with the records from previous excavations and they considered how classical archaeology can fit into their own individual research and teaching. This Seminar was part of the OSU Excavations' plan to make its records and resources available to a broader scholarly public and to encourage greater awareness and utilization of archaeological material.

Timothy E. Gregory
October, 1994