2005 Preliminary Report

Members of the Ohio State University Excavations at Isthmia worked at Isthmia from 20 May to 30 June 2005.  Major work was divided into four basic categories:

  1. Continued study of the Roman Baths, with the goal of full publication of the building.

    Figure 1. Roman Bath, view from south

    Fikret Yegül (University of California, Santa Barbara) was in residence for three weeks at Isthmia and he spent his time checking details of his manuscript on the architectural history of the building and examining and correcting the many drawings that had previously been made.  Karen Soteriou worked for much of the summer in the preparation of drawings for the illustration of objects and the correction of the architectural drawings, under the supervision of Professor Yegül.
  2. Panayiotis Elias continued the task of preserving the monochrome mosaic in Room VI of the Roman Baths.  Conservation and stabilization of this unique work of ancient art was completed in 2004 (having begun in 1990).  We had long noted a problem at the western end of the mosaic, where water built up in an area that had not been conserved.  This was solved by construction of a small drain to allow the water that gathers there to run off into the original ancient drains.

    Figure 2.  Drain designed to allow water in the west end of mosaic to run off
    Figure 2.  Drain designed to allow water in the west end of mosaic to run off

    Since no protective structure has been placed over the mosaic, however, only temporary measures can be carried out for its long-term protection and this is done by Panayiotis Elias, under the supervision of the Director.  Thus, in the autumn a water-permeable cloth is laid down over the surface of the mosaic, and this is covered with a mixture of sand and pumice.  In the spring this is removed, but the surface of the mosaic is periodically watered to minimize further damage from the heat of the sun.  In 2005 the completely destroyed surface of the patternless, white mosaic in Room XII was removed, and the process of relaying this mosaic will begin in 2006.

    Figure 3. Plan of Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia.  Note location of "East of Temenos"= "East Field"
    Figure 3. Plan of Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia.  Note location of "East of Temenos"= "East Field"
  3. Work was begun again in the study of the so-called East Field (now more commonly called East of Temenos), located between the Temple of Poseidon and the Byzantine Fortress, and partially excavated between 1970 and 1972.  This new phase of research is being carried out by Professor Steven Ellis (University of Michigan).  The area of the East Field is characterized by the remains of buildings of Roman and Late Roman date, close to the presumed road that ran between the Hellenistic Stadium and the entrance to the Sanctuary of Poseidon.  The excavators exposed a complex of structures in this area, apparently constructed in several phases, whose use is currently uncertain.  Some of the buildings may have been of a monumental character, but most of the spaces are small and they seem to suggest a more humble use; previous publications suggested that this was a residential area of some kind.  The goal of the first part of this new campaign in the East Field is to establish a general phase plan of the site, and to determine the boundaries of individual buildings and their relative chronology.  It should then be possible to add further information on the character of each building and/or phase, such as the activities that were carried out at each, and how the area might have related to the surrounding sanctuary.  Considerable work was accomplished in 2005, a tentative phase plan was constructed, focusing on the northern and eastern areas, and arrangements were made for the continuation of this work in 2006.
  4. During May and June of 2005 we continued cleaning the edge of the southern boundary of the excavated area of the Roman Bath, in order to stabilize the earth and even out this line, which has been eroding seriously since it was exposed in the 1970s.  This work was begun in 2003 and continued in 2004.

    Figure 4. Work south of the Bath.
    Figure 4. Work south of the Bath.

    Figure 5.  See who is doing most of the work!!!!
    Figure 5.  See who is doing most of the work!!!!

    Figure 6. Supports for doorway into classical-period pool
    Figure 6. Supports for doorway into classical-period pool

    Our plan was to complete this task, up to the southwest corner of the building, but a proposed season in September could not be carried out.  As a result, completion of this task will have to wait until 2006.  Nonetheless, considerable progress was made, both in the cleaning of the scarp and in construction of the dry-stone retaining wall that now runs for a distance of some 30 meters, well over half way across the south side of the building.  In addition, along the line of the south wall of the room along the south side of the classical-period Bath, another set of doorways was discovered, to match those found in 2004.  These show that there were at least six entrances into the classical-period Bath, allowing access into the complex from the direction of the Temple of Poseidon.  Two walls running south from the main South Wall of the Roman Bath were also examined carefully and they can now be seen to have formed part of the original construction of that structure, suggesting the existence of further monumental architecture in the area to the south of the Bath.

    As in the past, all of our efforts were aided by the hard work and good humor of the many students who came and took part in the project.  Among the Universities that sent students in 2005 were Ohio State, Mercer, and Southern Mississippi.

    Students making notes
    Figure 7.  OSU students at Isthmia (hard at work)

    Figure 8.  Well, you can tell what's going on here!!
    Figure 8.  Well, you can tell what's going on here!!

    Figure 9.  See ... I can move wheelbarows ... and everyone loves it!
    Figure 9.  See ... I can move wheelbarows ... and everyone loves it!

    In addition to this fieldwork, construction of a second-floor addition to the Excavation House was nearly completed.  Despite considerable delays, the doors and windows have now been installed, the ceiling built, the floor and exterior stairway covered with ceramic paving tiles, and the painting of the interior is currently underway.  Electrical installations, shelving, and furniture will be installed early in 2006 and the area should be fully usable by the summer.  The last of the artifacts excavated by the UCLA/OSU Excavations at Isthmia were removed from the basement of the Museum and installed in temporary shelving in the Excavation House.  These will be permanently stored as soon as furniture and other arrangements make this possible.  Finally, the excavation dump from the excavations of 1972-1978 in the area of the Roman Bath was completely removed from the site, making the area much more attractive and open.

    Figure 10.  South side of the Excavation House, end of season 2005

    Figure 11.  East side of Excavation House, 2005
    Figure 11.  East side of Excavation House, 2005