Information for Staff

Welcome to the Ohio State University Excavations at Isthmia. We are pleased to have you work with us and we hope that you will enjoy your stay here and profit from it in many ways. You should already have the brief Guide to the Korinthia, which provides information about Ancient Korinth and our overall surroundings. You should read that Guide carefully to orient yourself in the area around Korinth. The following information is provided to help you understand the overall goals and procedures of our project. This introduction covers only certain aspects of the project and many questions will certainly remain. Please ask when you are uncertain or want more information. Senior staff may sometimes seem busy or preoccupied, but you should understand that we depend on your assistance, and we therefore feel a real responsibility to help you understand exactly what it is that we are trying to do at this site.

Ancient Korinth from the Acrokorinth
Ancient Korinth from the Acrokorinth

The Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia was one of the most important religious and cultural centers of the ancient world. Its location on the Isthmus of Korinth placed it astride the busiest transportation routes of ancient Greece: the main north-south land road and the major east-west sea lane met at Isthmia. Administered by the city of Korinth, Isthmia attracted visitors from the whole of the Mediterranean world, and rulers and religious figures (among them Alexander the Great, the Apostle Paul, and the emperor Nero) came to Isthmia to address the crowds that gathered there.

Modern excavation at Isthmia began in 1952 under the direction of Oscar Broneer of the University of Chicago, and Paul A. Clement of UCLA continued exploration at Isthmia beginning in 1967. In 1987 Timothy E. Gregory was named to succeed Professor Clement as Director at Isthmia, and Ohio State University undertook sponsorship of the excavation. The University of Chicago continues its program of research under the direction of Professor Elizabeth R. Gebhard; the Chicago excavation enjoys the longest tenure at the site, while our project is now over 25 years old. The two projects (Chicago and Ohio State) cooperate on many levels and we promote joint study and publication of materials, yet we are separate organizations with our own staff and financing structure.

The OSU Excavations at Isthmia represent more than a simple "archaeological dig;" we are, rather, a research and educational center--and actual excavation forms only part of the focus of activities. Scholars from various universities gather each year to carry out research on excavated material, and students are given opportunities to learn about archaeology through a regular program of study organized by Ohio State. To date some 120 students have participated in credit courses at Isthmia and several of these have completed graduate degrees using material from our excavation. We have opened our project and our records to scholars from various institutions, and we seek cooperation with all responsible scholarly institutions and groups.

As one of Four Panhellenic Sanctuaries Isthmia had special importance in the Greek and Roman period. Its athletic and religious festival was second in importance only to Olympia. Part of that importance was because Isthmia lay at an important crossroad, linking north and south, east and west. It was the natural central meeting place in the Greek world and was used as such by many rulers from Alexander the Great to the Emperor Nero. This importance continued in the Middle Ages when Isthmia became the main bastion in the Byzantine defenses of southern Greece.

Although Isthmia was an important athletic center, most of the athletic buildings remain undiscovered; only the stadium (in three separate phases) has so far been excavated. Most of the athletic complex probably lies in the area of the Roman Bath. Isthmia thus holds out the promise of providing new information about sport in ancient times.

The Theatre and the Roman Bath
The Theatre and the Roman Bath

Isthmia provides especially significant information about interaction between Greek and Roman cultures. Although a Greek sanctuary, it was especially important in Roman times and it allowed the Romans an opportunity for propaganda and political statement. In a very real sense "East" met "West" at Isthmia and the remains--especially the Roman Bath--allow an unusually good opportunity to study that interaction. Isthmia is also especially significant because it had an important post-classical phase, allowing the study of medieval, as well as classical, material.

Our broader goal is essentially historical (rather than aesthetic) and we seek to use the site as a laboratory to investigate social, economic, and cultural change. This is really our forte. We have been developing a data base for all excavated material, and we continue to organize the material and bring copies of all documents to America for study there. Our goal is to use the site to train a new generation of ancient historians, art historians, classicists, and anthropologists who will think and work in interdisciplinary terms, using archaeology in a sophisticated manner to answer historical questions.

We have an excellent physical plant at Isthmia, facilitating research: these include two permanent laboratory/storage buildings, excavation equipment, office furniture, and supplies. In addition, we have outstanding residence and classroom facilities in nearby Ancient Korinth.

OSU Excavations at Isthmia provide students, scholars, and the interested public with a nearly unique opportunity to learn archaeological technique and the use of archaeological sources in a historical context. We have a certain approach that is not shared by all Greek excavations--openness, interest in all periods (including the Middle Ages and the very recent past), an exclusive rather than inclusive view. Our program is serious and has serious goals, but we seek to enjoy our work and our experience in Greece. We wish to be part of life in this country--rather than foreigners and strangers who come simply to take things from it. Again, we welcome you to become part of this adventure.

Practical matters

We wish for you to enjoy your work at Isthmia, and your time in Greece generally. At the same time, we need to make sure that the educational and scientific goals of the excavation are pursued in a vigorous and appropriate manner. For that reason we have to have a number of working arrangements and rules. Most of these are contained in this Manual. We ask you to read these over now and consult them frequently. It will be assumed that you are fully familiar with everything in this document.

We will normally be making one trip to and from Isthmia each day, at specifically announced times. Individuals who are late may have to find their own way to the site.

We hope you will enjoy the meals that are provided by the Marinos family (breakfast and dinner) and the excavation (lunch). Vegetarians should find plenty to eat but we hope you will make known any dietary concerns that you have; we can normally accommodate the needs of all staff members. As you know, lunch is provided each week day at Isthmia, and in Ancient Korinth when individuals are working there. Lunches are not normally provided on weekends.

Rooms Marinos
Rooms Marinos

Mail arrives sporadically on weekdays; sometimes it is delivered, sometimes Spyro or others pick it up. There is no mail on weekends. The "Excavation Coordinator" will have stamps for sale (120 drx. for a card or letter to America (yes, they cost the same); 90 drx. to Europe; and 60 drx. within Greece. Money can be changed at the post office in Ancient Korinth (open 7:30 to 2:00 or so) or in banks in Korinth and elsewhere. Some effort will be made to allow you the opportunity to change money, and the Director will normally be able to change money for you, or provide you with short-term loans. He will also normally assist you by accepting your personal checks in return for Drachmes; it is not possible to give you dollars, and there are often times when he does not have money for a short period. Please make arrangements in advance for exchange of large sums. In order to exchange money, give your checks or cash to the Excavation Coordinator, with any special instructions you may have, and we will exchange the money for you as quickly as possible (usually within one day, although our schedule sometimes requires greater delay). The exchange of money is provided simply as a service to you and we give you money at the rate we exchange it (often rounded off to make transactions simple).

Telephone calls are always problematic. You can use your American calling card at virtually any telephone (you will have to pay 10-15 drx. to make the call); you can purchase telephone cards for use in pay phones at all periptera; it is difficult to make collect calls. PLEASE try to limit the number and the duration of both outgoing and incoming calls at the hotel and the excavation. Generally speaking it is NOT possible for you to make long-distance telephone calls from the Excavation House.

We will plan to have drinks available for you to purchase (on a sign-up system) in the Saloni (glassed-in room at the top of the stairs); please do not take drinks from the refrigerator in the kitchen of the hotel. When you have problems with the plumbing in your room, please tell Spyro or use the "drain cleaner" we will be pleased to give you. Remember to turn off the hot water heaters and lights and do not flush any paper down the toilets.

The Isthmia Handbook

In the Excavation House, on the table directly in front of the entrance, are several loose-leave notebooks. These include the "Isthmia Handbook." This is, in fact, made up of many different documents that provide the basic information about the excavation process, recording and location systems, databases, drawings, offprints, etc., at the site. You will need to familiarize yourself with this material. Some of it may seem arcane and some you may not be able to understand at first (and some you should skim through), but you will find it necessary to look this all over and come back to it from time to time. Please do not remove the documents from the notebooks (except for a short time). Many of the most important documents in the Handbook are contained in this Manual, but the most up-to-date versions are always kept in the notebooks at the Excavation House.


Our regular daily schedule at present is as follows:

  • 6:30 - Breakfast
  • 7:00 - leave for Isthmia
  • 1:00 - lunch
  • 1:30-3:00 - break (normally an opportunity for the beach)
  • 5:30 - leave Isthmia
  • 9:00 - dinner

Commonly the staff will be divided into two or more groups, with some people remaining behind in Ancient Korinth. Unless other arrangements are made, you should plan on coming to Isthmia each day.

Naturally there will be many changes on a daily basis, for special events and necessities. You should look regularly for announcements and changes in the schedule. These will be posted on the bulletin board in the hall at Rooms Marinos and on the filing cabinet near the door of the Excavation House. These will have the weekly schedule and various announcements. We will normally work at Isthmia five days a week, Monday through Friday. Weekend day trips (as well as at least one overnight trip) to archaeological and other cultural sites have been arranged, and we will inform you about these in a timely fashion. All Field School students are expected to take part in these trips, and the cost is included in their program fee. All other people are welcome but they will need to sign up for the trips and these will have to be on a pay-as-you-go basis (hopefully the cost--mainly for the bus--will be low since it will be divided among all participants).

Work Assignments

We will seek to provide you with a broad experience of working on a Greek excavation, by asking you to perform a variety of tasks. Your first job, of course, is to familiarize yourself with the site at Isthmia and our various recording and operating procedures. For first-time staff this will naturally take a little time, and we have designed a series of seminars to introduce you to the details of the excavation for this purpose. We will then assign all students and volunteers to a senior staff member of to a project, for at least a week at a time. This will introduce you to a variety of tasks that will range from computer entry to moving soil and it will provide you with the opportunity to stay with a task for a long enough time to see something accomplished and to have constant direction and supervision. I am sure you will not enjoy all of these tasks equally, but I hope they will all be acceptable and that you will see how they fit into the broader program of the excavation. If you have a problem with a specific task, please consult with the Director (Timothy E. Gregory), the Assistant Director (Richard Rothaus), the Field Director (Nick Kardulias), or other senior staff members.

Library and computer room

You are welcome to use the Library and Computer Room, under the SW corner of the Marinos house. You are welcome to use books from the library (see the library list, which includes sign-out procedures--please return books to their proper place). All official excavation reports should be in MS Word, Word Perfect (DOS) 5.1, or any ASCII program. Otherwise, you are welcome to use the excavation computers and printers for your own purposes. We would, however, ask you to use the dot-matrix printers for non-excavation jobs. In addition, you are encouraged to make use of the excavation pottery Study Collection, which is also kept in the Library. An index of these and rules for its use is in the Library.