2007 Preliminary Report

Members of the Ohio State University Excavations at Isthmia worked at the site from 18 May to 27 July 2007.  During this time the project was able to complete virtually all of the tasks set out for it in the permit granted by the Ministry of Culture for 2007.  More specifically, we completed the furnishing of the addition (upper floor) to the Excavation House, so that this facility is fully functional; we finished the task of cleaning and stabilizing the area of old excavations (from the 1970s) along the south side of the Roman Bath; we cooperated with the officials of the ΛΖ΄Ephoreia in the laying out of walkways and other necessary work in order to make the areas of the Roman Bath and the East Field accessible to visitors; and we have prepared the material (texts, photographs, and drawings) for signs to explain the Hexamilion and the East Field to visitors.

Major work in 2007 can be divided into several basic categories:

  1. Continued study of the Roman Baths, with the goal of full publication of the building (Figures 1-4).  As last year, the work this season focused especially on the gathering of illustrations (photographs and drawings) and their transformation to digital form appropriate for publication.  Considerable progress was made on this project, especially in terms of scanning the very large drawings of various parts of the Baths

    Figure 1. Elevation section, Room III

     


    Figure 1. Elevation section, Room III

    Figure 2. Picture of Pottery
    Figure 2. Profile of IRP 72-61

    Figure 3. Isometric drawing of southwest corner of Room V
    Figure 3. Isometric drawing of southwest corner of Room V

  2. Work continued in the renewed study of the area East of Temenos (also called the East Field), located between the Temple of Poseidon and the Byzantine Fortress, and partially excavated between 1970 and 1972 (Figures 5-11).  This new phase of research was supervised in 2007 by Professor Steven Ellis (University of Cincinnati), assisted by Kevin Cole and Eric Poehler, along with a team of four students from the University of Michigan.  Work in 2007 was successful in refining the phasing of the walls of the buildings in this area.  Figures 4-7 show the illustrate the activity in this area, while Figures 8-9 show some of the building phases. At present, we seem to have as many as 17 different phases (not all of which, of course, must have chronological significance).  In an early period (perhaps in the 2nd century AD) the area was dominated by several large structures, probably of a public nature.

    Plan of the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia

    Plan of the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia

    Figure 5. Walls East of Temenos, May 2007
    Figure 5. Walls East of Temenos, May 2007

    Figure 6.  Team, East of Temenos
    Figure 6.  Team, East of Temenos

    Figure 7. Team examining walls, East of Temenos
    Figure 7. Team examining walls, East of Temenos

    Figure 8. Phase 1 (earliest) walls shown in black in the center right of the plan
    Figure 8. Phase 1 (earliest) walls shown in black in the center right of the plan

    Figure 9. Showing many of the later construction phases of the area
    Figure 9. Showing many of the later construction phases of the area

    Figure 10.  Students from OSU, Augsburg College (Minnesota) and Mercer University (Georgia) removing bricks from around the mosaic in Room VI.
    Figure 10.  Students from OSU, Augsburg College (Minnesota) and Mercer University (Georgia) removing bricks from around the mosaic in Room VI.

    Figure 11. Removing the protective sand and pumice from the mosaic
    Figure 11. Removing the protective sand and pumice from the mosaic

    Figure 12.  Detail of the mosaic
    Figure 12.  Detail of the mosaic

    During June and July of 2007 we completed the task of 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.

    Figure 13. State Plan of Roman Bath, with red line showing extent of cleaning 2003-07
    Figure 13. State Plan of Roman Bath, with red line showing extent of cleaning 2003-07

    This work was begun in 2003 and continued in subsequent years (see Figure 13).  Cleaning in 2007 was, again, done primarily for conservation purposes, but it also provided some new information about the history of the south end of the building and gave our the students experience in conducting actual archaeological work (Figures 14-16 show the educational aspect of the project). 

    Figure 14. Lessons in using the dumpy level
    Figure 14. Lessons in using the dumpy level

    Figure 15. Students drawing the levels in the soil south of the Roman Baths
    Figure 15. Students drawing the levels in the soil south of the Roman Baths

    Figure 16. Cleaning the side of a trench from 1978
    Figure 16. Cleaning the side of a trench from 1978

    The cleaning operation in 2007 continued to the southwest corner of the Roman Bath (the southwest corner of Room XIV), and thus completed the project.  During the winter of 2007/8 a dry stone wall will be built to hold the soil in place along the length of this work. 

    In the course of the 2007 season an east-west wall was found sitting in fill of the 7th century AD (Figures 17-18).  This wall was poorly made, of rough stones in a mud mortar, and it had no return, either on the east or the west.  The surviving stretch of wall was, however, ca. 2.30 m. long and 0.60 m. wide, and it must have come from a building that was reasonably large for this period (in the so-called Byzantine Dark Ages).  The wall ran just to the south of the edge of a trench excavated in 1978 and it seems very likely that the excavators then simply removed the rest of this admittedly poorly-built structure, fortunately leaving a part of it for us to explore in 2007.

    Figure 17. Wall of a building from the early Byzantine Dark Ages
    Figure 17. Wall of a building from the early Byzantine Dark Ages

    Figure 18. Drawing of the wall shown in Figure 17
    Figure 18. Drawing of the wall shown in Figure 17

    Figure 19. East-west wall at the southwest corner of the Roman Baths, from north
    Figure 19. East-west wall at the southwest corner of the Roman Baths, from north

    Figure 20. East-west wall at the southwest corner of the Roman Baths, from south
    Figure 20. East-west wall at the southwest corner of the Roman Baths, from south

    We cannot be certain if the wall was contemporary with construction of the Baths, but it must certainly have been built before the Baths went out of operation, and this suggests that there was at least one other room, or at least architecturally defined space, to the west of Room XIV (i.e., toward the NW Ravine).  The small area available to us and the depth of the fill made it impossible to say much about this wall and the space it seems to have partially defined.  The fills on the two sides of the wall, however, were very different: that on the south was made up of rubble and brown earth, while that to the north was made up almost entirely of black ash, presumably from the furnaces of the building.  The space north of the wall, therefore, seems to have been used as a depository for ash, perhaps for some later use.

    Finally, as part of this cleaning operation, we investigated two trenches from the 1970s, ca. 18 m. south of the South Wall of the Roman Baths (shown as the light red circle in Figure 21). 

    Figure 21. Roman Baths, state plan with trenches from 1972 and 1978 highlighted
    Figure 21. Roman Baths, state plan with trenches from 1972 and 1978 highlighted

    This investigation revealed considerable debris from what appears to have been a large wall, built largely of mortar, rubble, and tiles (like the upper portions of the walls of the Roman Bath, Figures 22-23).  These remains were, however, ca. 3 m. below present ground level, so it was impossible to be certain about the nature of the wall, although it presumably was part of a monumental building to the south of the Baths, and not unlikely connected with the two sets of parallel walls that can be seen to the east and the north of the trenches under consideration.  This is significant information about the area that lies between the Roman Baths and the Temple of Poseidon to the south and the Theater to the southeast

    Figure 22. Cleaning of Trench 78-32, remains of collapsed wall, from north
    Figure 22. Cleaning of Trench 78-32, remains of collapsed wall, from north

    Figure 23. Cleaning of Trench 78-32, remains of collapsed wall, from north
    Figure 23. Cleaning of Trench 78-32, remains of collapsed wall, from north

  3. In 2007 work continued in the cleaning of the so-called Hexamilion Outworks area, northeast of the Roman Baths, at the point where the Byzantine fortifications (the Hexamilion) run eastward toward the Fortress (Figures 4, 27-31).

    Figure 24. Digital version of state plan of the Hexamilion Outworks area, showing distances between north-south walls (north is to the top of the plan) north of the Hexamilion
    Figure 24. Digital version of state plan of the Hexamilion Outworks area, showing distances between north-south walls (north is to the top of the plan) north of the Hexamilion

     

    Figure 25. Hexamilion Outworks area, from west, July 2007
    Figure 25. Hexamilion Outworks area, from west, July 2007

    Figure 26. Hexamilion Outworks area, cleaning brush
    Figure 26. Hexamilion Outworks area, cleaning brush

    It has long been known that there were several buildings of Roman date in this vicinity, and a project (begun in the mid-1990s) was re-started to record the architectural pieces that remain in this area and attempt to associate them with the existing foundations (Figures 27-28 show two of the many architectural fragments in the vicinity).

    Figure 27. Hexamilion Outworks, Doric epistyle-frieze block reused in the Hexamilion
    Figure 27. Hexamilion Outworks, Doric epistyle-frieze block reused in the Hexamilion

    Figure 28. Hexamilion Outworks, Doric capital, presumably reused in the Hexamilion
    Figure 28. Hexamilion Outworks, Doric capital, presumably reused in the Hexamilion

    This initiative is under the supervision of Professor Jon Frey of Michigan State University.  The work in 2007 focused on the removal of several trees and the dense weeds in the vicinity, as well as some of the considerable mounds of earth left from previous excavations.

    Second-floor addition to Apotheke:

    In addition to this fieldwork, furnishing of the second-floor addition to the Excavation House was completed, involving the installation of desks and chairs, workspaces, and bookcases (Figures 32-37).  With the 2007 season, the task of outfitting this new work area has been finishedand we are happy to name it the Packard Research Center at Isthmia.

    Figure 29. Front of the Ohio State University main research and artifact storage building at Isthmia,   including the addition of an upper floor
    Figure 29. Front of the Ohio State University main research and artifact storage building at Isthmia,including the addition of an upper floor

    Figure 30. Interior of the new Packard Research Center looking south
    Figure 30. Interior of the new Packard Research Center looking south

    Figure 31. Interior of the new research facility; two work stations
    Figure 31. Interior of the new research facility; two work stations

    Figure 32. Packard Research Center, work stations and bookcases
    Figure 32. Packard Research Center, work stations and bookcases

    Figure 33. Packard Research Center, looking north toward entrance
    Figure 33. Packard Research Center, looking north toward entrance

    Figure 34. Commemorative plaque to celebrate opening of the Packard Research Center
    Figure 34. Commemorative plaque to celebrate opening of the Packard Research Center

    Storage of Context Material:

    The program for the complete re-boxing of the context material from past excavations was continued during 2007 (Figures 35-36).

    Figure 35.  Beginning of the reboxing project for 2007 (May)
    Figure 35.  Beginning of the reboxing project for 2007 (May)

    Figure 36. Objects being put in plastic bags to go in the new large blue boxes
    Figure 36. Objects being put in plastic bags to go in the new large blue boxes

    This is a slow process, in part because care has to be taken in assuring that the excavation context for the material is not lost in the transfer.  In addition, we are using this project as an opportunity to check and update our context material database, and important and timely undertaking that brought to our attention that some of the material from the older excavations had never been read or entered into the database.  This is something that needs immediate attention, especially for the areas of the East Field and the Hexamilion Outworks where new investigations are now taking place.  During 2006 a total of 214 context boxes (each representing the material from a stratigraphic level, or “lot”) were re-processed in conservation-quality plastic bags and stored in a total of 21 large plastic boxes.  During 2007 a total of 471 context boxes were re-processed and placed into 59 large plastic boxes, bringing the total over two seasons to 685 context boxes, stored in 80 large plastic boxes.

    In March of 2007 we found that during the previous winter, while we were not at the site, some 230,000 sherds discovered in 1993 had been removed from the small shed in which they were stored and placed elsewhere, many of them in metal tins left open and protected from the rain only by old tables (Figures 37-38).  Requests were made for the immediate protection of these objects and we hope that this will be complete before the end of 2007.

    Figure 37.  Artifacts left under tables covered with plastic (March 2007)
    Figure 37.  Artifacts left under tables covered with plastic (March 2007)

    Figure 38. Artifacts from 1993 stored outside the proper storage area
    Figure 38. Artifacts from 1993 stored outside the proper storage area

    Half a Century on the Isthmus

    One of the main accomplishments of 2007 was the international conference, “Half a Century on the Isthmus,” a celebration of over fifty years of excavation and survey on the Isthmus of Corinth, held at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, 15-17 June (Figure 39).  This was a successful event, attended by approximately 250 people.  Some twenty-two scholars gave presentations, highlighting recent work in the archaeology of the region, both in the old excavation projects and in new surveys and other projects.

    Figure 39.  Poster for the Conference, Half a Century on the Isthmus
    Figure 39.  Poster for the Conference, Half a Century on the Isthmus

 

Timothy E. Gregory

31 October 2007

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