September 12, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Last week I blogged a bit about working my way through J. Bintliff’s new survey of the archaeology of Greece. This week, I reflected on the sections dedicated to the archaeology of Byzantine and Crusader Greece. These three chapters are strong enough to stand on their own as a short survey of Byzantine archaeology. They feature vivid case studies that introduce readers to some unfamiliar places while at the same time providing to the traditional monuments central to long-standing discussions of Byzantine archaeology and architecture.
There are a handful of things that really stood out in these chapters:
1. Domestic Spaces. Bintliff does a great job bringing in recent research on Byzantine and “Frankish period” housing (most notably the work of E. Sigalos). Attention to Byzantine housing, of course, is an important step to developing a more sophisticated understanding of the functional character of surface assemblages for this period. While Bintliff offers little that is new, he does provide a very accessible synthesis of recent work on Byzantine domestic space which a student could easily use as a jumping off point for more in-depth research. The only period for which Bintliff’s work seems a bit lacking is for the Early Byzantine period or the “Dark Ages” where recent work stands poised to make a serious contribution to habitation practices during this important transitional time.
2. Urban and Rural. A better understanding of both urban and rural housing allows us to begin to unravel the complexities associated with Byzantine settlement. At present, as Bintliff acknowledged, the lines between various types so Byzantine settlements are exceedingly blurry. While the ends of the continuum – say isolated farms and major urban areas – are clear, the differences between monasteries, hamlets, villages, town, and small cities remains difficult at best. Even if we concede that some of these terms may reflect contemporary definitions of settlement more than Byzantine, the organization of space outside of the most monumentalized centers (Mistras, Thessaloniki, Constantinople, et c.) continues to offer a serious challenge to scholars interested in Byzantine economy and society.
3. Texts. It was a bit striking that there was so little appeal to texts throughout these chapters. Byzantine archaeology has long been beholden to texts and the abundance of texts -from the most modest hagiography to various documentary sources like the typika edited and published by Dumbarton Oaks. These texts have long worked in conjunction with archaeological observation to offer a robust perspective on the Byzantine and Frankish material culture. Despite all the difficulties that texts from the Medieval period have created for archaeologists, their absence of this section reflects an obvious oversight to specialists in Byzantine archaeology.
4. No Longer Periphery. Most surveys of Byzantine archaeology – as much as such things exist – regard Greece as somehow peripheral to the Byzantine heartland and part of a larger discussion of “provincial” architecture, archaeology, and traditions. Bintliff’s book offers almost no hint of this provincializing discourse and locates southern and central Greece at the center of his discussion of archaeology. This makes some sense, of course, as his book focuses on the archaeology of a particular region defined by both the modern nationstate and earlier concentrations of distinct cultural practices. By focusing on regional practices in their own rights rather than as just pale imitations of the center, Bintliff locates the material culture of Byzantine and Frankish Greece within local traditions and evidence. As his entire book shows, the remains of Byzantine and Frankish Greece fit within a larger and independent narrative of Greek history and archaeology. (This is something that Greek archaeologists have largely recognized, but Bintliff avoids the potential for a nationalist archaeology by treading very critically and carefully the minefield of continuity.)
The most vexing thing about this otherwise commendable survey is that it’s attached to 300+ pages of careful scholarship on the archaeology of earlier periods. This makes this volume not particularly appealing for a course in Medieval or Byzantine history course where it would clearly fill a gap in current offerings. This left me wishing that this book (and others like it) come in a more modular form where an instructor could purchase only particular sections of a text (at I am sure a healthy mark up!).
September 3, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This weekend, I smoked a whole bunch of pork with a few friends. As we set out the pork for our dinner feast, it was literally swarmed by what I called bees. Some friends corrected me (including one who keeps bees) and told me that they were wasps or yellow-jackets which is apparently another name for wasp. A pro-wasp or, perhaps more properly, pro-stinging insect lobby has tried to convince people that these insects, in fact, prey on other pests. I reject the clearly politicized attitudes of the pro-stinging insect lobby and regard humans and bees/wasps in a prolonged state of total war.
In any event, I was happy enough to read about ancient bee keeping in J.E. Francis recent article in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology (31 (2012), 143-159) where she provides a brief overview of ancient authors’ knowledge of bee keeping and then considers the ceramic bee hives commonly found on survey project in Greece. The most common examples in my experience are open vessels of a medium coarse to coarse fabric with groves or combing on the interior (rather than on the exterior as is far more common). This distinctive surface treatment make these vessels stand out, although it is interesting to note that the characteristic interior combing does not appear to have been necessary for bees to build their nests and does not appear in more recent examples of ceramic hives.
Apparently, this tubular form of ceramic beehive is particularly common in ancient Greece and almost completely absent in Italy. In fact, in Italy some ancient authors complained that the ceramic hives got too warm inside for the bees to survive. The significant quantities of hive ceramic fragments found in Greece and the continued use of ceramic hives into the 19th century offers a significant challenge to this argument. Francis conducted an experiment with a damaged 19th century hive to add strength to the archaeological and ethnographic record. The interior of the hive reached only 38 degree C which was well within the temperature range suitable for bees.
The ancient authors who commented on apiculture practices in Italy (Varro, Columella, and Pliny) criticize the use of ceramic hives suggesting that they were not at all familiar with Greek practices where ceramic hives were used from at least the 5th c. BC. In Italy, apparently, wood hives were the norm. It is interesting to observe that these authors must have never encountered ceramic hives in the Greek countryside and this practice never made it from Greece to Italy. It reinforces the distinctly regional character of certain agricultural practices and demonstrates the urban focus of even those members of the literary classes who travelled outside of their home regions.
July 25, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Anyone who has taken students abroad know how hard it is to introduce students to local languages and give them a chance to gain basic proficiency in those languages. Peter Schultz, a buddy of mine down at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, has made an effort to produce a short primer for students travelling to Greece.
Two things to know. Peter is an absolute rock-star. Not only is he completely proficient in Modern Greek (he got his Ph.D. at the University of Athens), but he’s also an experienced leader of student trips to Greece.
The coolest thing about this is that it’s being funded through Kickstarter meaning YOU (dear reader) can get in on the ground floor and help fund a great project. By funding it through Kickstarter you can help make the book affordable for students who travel abroad (and who often have saved, scrimped, and spent their precious savings just to get abroad and don’t have much left over for an expensive book!).
The book has been reviewed by experts and Peter’s credentials are impeccable. He needs $2,350 to make this happen. Go and make a donation to a brilliant project.
March 20, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This past week, I’ve been working away on a paper about monumentality in Early Christian architecture in Greece. Most of the work has involved re-familiarizing myself with my dissertation (which is almost 10 years old now… yikes!), but I have spent some of the week pondering the way in which monumental architecture communicated social, political, and economic ideas to a Late Antique Greek audience.
In my dissertation, I suggested that the organization of the Christian liturgy combined with the arrangement of space within the Early Christian basilica served to promote the privileged position of the clergy to the growing Christian community. The clergy had access to the most sacred areas of the church, performed key roles in the liturgy, and wore distinctive clothing in a hierarchically arrange procession. Moreover, the architecture of Early Christian churches presented a series of barriers starting with western narthex which separated the nave and aisles of the church from the atrium or exterior space, to the barriers that separated the congregation in the aisles from the central nave, to the chancel barrier that separated the eastern end of the church from the processional space of the main nave. These barriers typically served to emphasize a sense of privilege dependent upon access and, in combination with the Christian liturgy promoted hierarchical separation between members of the clergy and the laity.
Nothing in this line of argument is particularly novel. In fact, scholars have observed that Late Antique society had a growing interest in hierarchical display ranging from great urban processions and growing emphasis on the social distinction offered by Late Roman paideia to the carefully articulated ritual spaces of the new capital at Constantinople. While some of these practices had roots reaching back to the early Roman Empire, it seems probable that the changing nature of authority in Late Antiquity required more explicit gestures to enforce distinction between groups within society vying for social and political authority. It makes an easy, tidy argument to suggest, then, that the church invested in buildings and rituals that reinforced social distinction by manipulating access and performing hierarchy.
The only issue is, of course, that the church was not the only institution that invested in these buildings. A wide range of social actors invested in the construction and decoration of churches in Early Christian Greece. To be sure, some buildings appear to be the products of the institutional church. For example the Church Alpha at Nikopolis appears to have been founded by the Bishop Dometios who celebrated his donation with elaborate mosaics and flowery inscriptions (which quoted Homer!) A later bishop of the same name added some decorative flourishes.
Elsewhere, however, we have buildings that appear to be the product of imperial patronage or constructed by members of the local aristocracy. In some instances, it would appear that the numerous members of the local community chipped in to decorate a building. In one case, a donor provided only a half a solidus to the decoration of the church. This would be a modest donation for anyone above the poorest class of urban or rural laborers.
So, if the institutional church used architecture to promote the growing authority of the ecclesiastical hierarchy in Greece, they did not do this without the support of members of the elite and the communities in which these churches stood. Are we to understand that the church exerted a kind of hegemony over certain segments of the Greek population which allowed it to leverage the wealth of these communities to promote its interests? Or was this a more complex form of collusion where independent social actors from across Greek society found common cause in promoting the church as a way to gain access to the political, social, and spiritual power vested in that institution?
I’m increasingly seeing church architecture as both high permeable to a range of actors and, at the same time, the same time space central to the (re)production of the church’s role in Greek and Late Antique society more generally. Looking carefully at these buildings – after some time away – has reminded me how messy the process of social and political change can be and that institutions rarely command unambiguous authority.
March 13, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been working on a review of Y. Lolos, Land of Sikyon. Hesperia Supplement 39 (2011). I’ve posted more specific discussions of the book’s various sections here and here.
Here is a working version of the final review:
Crossposted to Corinthian Matters.
March 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
One of my first opportunities to shape the research directions of a project came when David Pettegrew and I were allowed to help design the survey methods and goals of Australian Paleochora Kythera Archaeological Survey. I am pretty sure we didn’t do anything marvelous there, but I did meet my wife on that project. So, any work done on Kythera or in its general vicinity has continued to pique my interest over the years. The survey conducted by Andrew Bevan and his team on the island of Antikythera – a mere speck in the Mediterranean on the main sailing route between Kythera and Crete – has attracted my attention of late not only because he conducted it on a Mediterranean island, but also because Bevan (and co.) are among the most sophisticated survey archaeologist in the business right now.
In an article slated to appear in Archaeometry, Bevan and a group of collaborators proposed some new ways of measuring chronological uncertainty in intensive survey (here’s a preprint (pdf)). This is a long standing and vexing issue for survey archaeologists where artifacts datable only to broad or multiple periods are common. The absence of stratigraphy makes it impossible to propose narrower dates for these objects, so a number of strategies have developed to document the uncertainly associated with these objects. The Chronotype system, that we have employed at both the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey (EKAS) and, in Cyprus at the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project (PKAP) has provided one method for documenting artifacts of uncertain date. The Chronotype systems has a wide range of roughly hierarchical chronological categories into which we can group objects. For example, an artifact could be “Late Roman” or “Roman” or “Roman-Medieval” or even “Post-Prehistoric”. When we assign an artifact to one of these categories we are assuming that the artifact could appear with equal probability in any year (decade or century) in that chronological span. Of course, in practice, we know that artifact are unlikely to appear with equal probability in each decade or century, but this does provide a way to smooth chronological data and, when mapped across the landscape, it can help identify areas where handfuls of specifically dated artifacts appear alongside larger quantities of artifacts only datable to broad periods. Additional problems with this system, however, arise when artifacts can appear, for example, in one of two non-continuous periods (Hellenistic OR Late Roman).
Bevan and his colleagues have suggested a system where the ceramicist assigns a probability to each period in which an artifact might appear. An artifact datable in the Chronotype system to a broad period like Roman might appear in Bevan’s system as: 10% Early Roman, 30% Middle Roman, 60% Late Roman. This more subtle way of documenting the probability of an artifact appearing in any given period not only more accurately represents the way ceramicists analyze pottery, but also allows for artifacts appearing in nonconsecutive periods. For example, they noted that certain kinds of chunky prehistoric pottery could date with a fairly good probability to the Bronze Age, but might also date to the Medieval period. Moreover, this method allows for particular classes of artifacts to be identified by their distinct statistical relationships between periods and artifacts identified through these statistical measures could then by plotted spatially. The resulting maps would indicate where similar kinds of localized (un)certainties would appear.
Bevan notes that this system also allows for multiple readings of the same group of artifacts by different ceramicists who could assign different levels of chronological uncertainty to each batch of artifacts. This is particularly useful for types of artifacts that could date to discontinuous periods like our prehistoric or Medieval coarse wares.
(As an aside, its funny to note that Tim Gregory long had a category of “certainty” on his recording sheets. I think I made fun of it and claimed that the category was redundant within the “rules” of the Chronotype system. Now I wonder whether Prof. Gregory continued to keep that category … )
This past year the Antikythera team published the Roman period material from their survey in the Annual of the British School at Athens (106 (2011), 47-98): here’s a preprint (pdf) and here it is published form (pdf). While there is little evidence for the sophisticated system of probabilistic dating the assemblage of Late Roman material on the island is interesting to compare to our Late Roman material from Cyprus. The significant quantities of Phocaean fine ware from Antikythera find clear parallels with our assemblage at Pyla-Koutsopetria. It may reflect, as they Antikythera team has noted, the relatively late date for our Late Roman assemblage which was formed after the supply of the ubiquitous African Red Slip became attenuated.
It is also interesting to note the ratios of Late Roman 2 to Late Roman 1 amphora on Antikythera are almost reversed from ours on Cyprus. This is unsurprising, of course, since LR2 production sites are most likely in Greece or the Aegean and LR1 sites are in southern Asia Minor or Cyprus. The folks at Antikythera noted that LR1 amphora are commonly thought to transport wine, but they – like the LR2 amphoras – might have also served alternate household purposes like storing water or grain that led to their wide distribution across the island.
Finally, they suggest that the absence of material from the post-Late Antique period could indicate that the island was abandoned for a time prior to a Byzantine re-occupation. This fits well within the prevailing ancient (and modern narratives) for the chronology of settlement in the Aegean.
March 1, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In May, I am going to a conference on the topic of monumentality in archaeology. When invited, I fired off a rather superficial abstract that talked about how Early Christian church architecture in Greece both used existing, earlier forms of urban and domestic architecture to communicate the new status of the Christian religious elite, but also subverted these forms by establishing new relationship between donor, visitors, and the social structures that informed traditional elite architecture.
This week, I’ve slowly turned my attention to this paper after completing a revised draft of the historical conclusion to the PKAP Survey Volume.
To begin, I re-read Kafka’s short story “The Great Wall of China”. The fictional narrator of the (obviously fictional) story considers the construction of the Great Wall of China and tells of how it was built piecemeal across China to preserve the moral of the workers. According to the narrator, the very enormity of the task ran the risk alienating the labor of the individual worker by reducing it to something inconsequential by comparison. To combat this, the workers built a single section of the wall – often in a remote location – and returned home for a time of recovery before heading out again like departing heroes to build another section. Thus the wall came to represent the entire community of China – and the narrator himself who hailed from the south, not the north where the wall stood – could take tremendous pride in its construction even though the purpose and extent remained as obscure and paradoxical as the body of the Emperor himself who called for the Wall’s construction. In Kafka’s story (hardly the only one in his oeuvre that featured architecture), the Wall represented the enormity of the Empire, the incomprehensibility of the Emperor, and the tension between the fragile individual and abyss of time, space, and power that surrounds human existence. (And I have to assume that the story means many other more significant, literary, and existential things!). Monumentality formed the delicate link between the individual and things much larger, more abstract, and more remote.
This story contributed to my larger meditation of monumentality in the discourse of Late Antiquity (or the Early Christian period). Shifting attitudes toward monumental architecture has represented a key indicator in social, religious, political, economic, and cultural change in the ancient world. Indeed, scholars often argue that the end of the ancient world came with the neglect and sometimes destruction of the pagan temple and the construction of Early Christian basilica style churches in their place. The widespread abandonment of basilica style churches, in turn, marks the end of the transitional period between ancient and “Medieval” or “Byzantine” forms of architecture, and scholars have neatly synced the transformation of architectural styles with political, economic, and social changes.
The link between architecture and social change often comes through the study of patronage practices. If we understand the social practices that led to the construction of Early Christian architecture to be largely identical to those that produced earlier forms of monumental architecture, then we can argue that these shift in building types is largely stylistic or a matter of taste or practice. In other words, we can see monumental architecture as evidence for continuity between the ancient world and Late Antiquity. If we see different social mechanisms producing the Early Christian monumental building boom, then it becomes easier to claim that the shift in large scale building practices represents a shift in the organization of society on a more profound level. Along these lines, scholars have seen Early Christian architecture as evidence for discontinuity between antiquity and the Middle Ages. The issue is, of course, that we still do not understand the mechanisms that produced the boom in Early Christian architecture and how these intersect with, say, changing attitudes toward the poor among the same group of people (and the study of Late Antique attitudes toward poverty is a particularly fertile ground for recent study).
The flip side of this concern with patronage, of course, is how these buildings were understood by their audiences across the Late Antique world. Not only are did these building represent a point of contact between massive and abstract institutions like the church and the bodies of individuals living throughout the Early Christian world, but they also represent a place of critique around which community responses to new forms of religious or social organization could cohere.
As Kafka articulated in a fictional context, monumental architecture had the potential for alienating the individuals responsible for their construction as the tension between their massively concrete appearance comes all too close to the abstract entities, institutions, and ideologies which they represent. This alienation provides fertile ground of critique inscribed on the monuments themselves, on the bodies of the laborers who produced them, and in the attitudes toward the buildings in broader social discourse.
February 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I’ve continued to work my way through Y. Lolos’s massive tome, Land of Sicyon. Hesperia Supplement 39 (Princeton: American School of Classical Studies, 2011) this weekend while waiting for the rain delayed Daytona 500. I posted the first part of my review a couple of weeks ago and, so, I suppose this is part two.
There are three areas, in particular, which attracted my interest:
1. Rural Fortifications. As I noted two weeks ago, there remains significant work to be done on the rural fortifications of the Peloponnesus, and Lolos’s book does its part by documenting a significant number of undocumented or poorly documented fortified sites in the countryside. Of particular interest to me were the irregular fortifications at Kokkinovrachos (pp. 234-240)and the round towers at Profetes Elias hill (p. 231) and at Tsakouthi (pp. 240-244) which my colleagues and I reference in a 2010 Hesperia article. While the Kokkinovrachos fortification is much larger than our fortification overlooking Vayia in the southwestern Corinthia, they share the same irregular masonry and both combine a fortification with a free standing tower. Lolos argues that this fortification occupied a height with good views of the crucial intersection between Stymphalos, Phlious, Acrocorinth, and the Sikyonian sites of Titane and Thyamia. Maintaining a substantial stronghold on this hill allowed Sikyonian forces to command several significant routes into the city.
The round tower at Tsakouthi resembled closely the round tower at Lychnari in the Corinthia. Lolos suggested that the upper course of the tower at Tsakouthi were likely mud brick, and this construction, in fact, combined with the towers round shape would have made the tower less vulnerable to artillery blows from forces passing on the nearby road. Our tower at Lychnari may have also had a mud brick superstructure, although there is a sufficient stone in the area to allow for a stone tower of significant height. The smaller and poorly preserved round tower at Profetes Elias may be a good parallel for the smaller tower at the site of Ano Vayia.
The explanations for building a round tower as opposed to a square or orthogonal tower has never entirely satisfied me. It seems to me that a round tower would entail a significant increase in technical difficulty as each block had to be cut or at least trimmed to match either the interior or exterior diameter of the tower. (Blocks in square towers could fit in numerous different positions.) While it seems likely the round towers were less susceptible to damage by artillery which would only ever inflict a glancing blow, the towers at Lychnari and Ano Vayia (and at Lolos’s Profetes Elias) do not seem close enough to major roads to make the additional work necessary. Moreover, there are numerous towers very close to major roads which are square or rectangular in plan.
Finally, Lolos contributes little the on going discussions of rural fortifications and land use. In fact, Lolos seems to be content suggesting that the fortification of Sikyonia primary served to allow the city to communicate with and deploy forces to across its hinterland. This may be the case, but for fortifications like the round tower at Tsakouthi, it seems like we should at least entertain the possibility that the tower was part of a agricultural complex serving the valley its overlooks.
2. The Late Roman Boom. Like most region in the Eastern Mediterranean, Lolos’s Sikyonia saw a boom in settlement and sits during the Late Roman times. The number of new sites is truly remarkable with over 60 site with Late Roman material and only 23 having material from immediately earlier periods. While the extensive nature of Lolos’s survey which did not sample his study area in a systematic way, makes it difficult to determine whether this pattern he identified would survive a more rigorous sampling regimen, it is nevertheless consistent with findings published from the Eastern Corinthia, for example, which documented the Late Roman period as time of particular prosperity.
Of particular note is Lolos’s documenting of several previous overlooked or under documented Early Christian churches including a “Early Byzantine Church” at the site of Litharia you Rakka of Poulitsa. The rather small number of Early Byzantine churches in the Peloponnesus alone makes this structure worth additional consideration. The presence of rural church apparently situated apart from significant settlements appears increasingly to be a feature of Late Roman Greece. Lolos’s argument that the site of Klisi-Boukoura of Stylia might be a monastic foundation based on its size of over 3,000 sq. m. This would be rather unprecedented in the Peloponnesus in Late Antiquity, but does show how many significant interpretative gaps exist in our knowledge of the Early Christian landscape. Recent work in the Eastern Corinthia has shown that even in the hinterland of a major city, rural churches remain undocumented.
3. Diachronic Survey. Finally, one of the most interesting parts of Lolos’s book is his commitment to treating the history of Sikyonia in a diachronic fashion. He not only includes discussions of the Venetian period census record, but also of Medieval, Ottoman, and Early Modern period sites. This includes a brief comment on zevgolateio which are groups of kalyvia, or modest, seasonal dwellings, that form a small hamlet (p. 365). From his short remarks, it would seem that the settlement at Lakka Skoutara in the Corinthia which my colleagues and I are now bringing to publication, represents a zevgolateio. The illustrations that he provides of the interior of a season dwelling coincide closely with those found in Lakka Skoutara, which is unsurprising, of course, considering the geographic proximity and similar ethnic make up of the populations.
I have a bit more to read and process from this rich, closely edited, and significant work, and I expect that I’ll provide some final words on the book in the coming weeks.
Crossposted to Corinthian Matters.
February 13, 2012 § 2 Comments
This weekend I spent some quality time with Y. Lolos newly published tome, Land of Sikyon. Hesperia Supplement 39 (Princeton: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2011). It runs to close to 650 pages and provides a nearly comprehensive view on (as his subtitle states) the archaeology and history of a Greek City-State. With a book of this size and level of detail, I feel a bit like a cat attacking a sofa. The best I’ll be able to do is attack various parts of it and then race off. That being said, over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting my observations on the book as I work my way through it. Scholars interested in the history, archaeology, and topography of the Corinthia and the northwest Peloponnesus have eagerly awaited this book (so eagerly, in fact, that it’s listed in World Cat as having been published in 2006, 2009, and 2011).
This weekend I took particular interest in Lolos detailed description of the history and land routes through the region. My very first article looked at a series of fortifications on the far eastern end of Mt. Oneion. In this article I discuss briefly the idea that an army could cross the eastern end of Mt. Oneion in order to enter the Peloponnesus while avoiding the fortifications around the city of Corinth.
From that article:
In addition, once an army crossed the mountain’s eastern end and moved south, it had bypassed the defenses of Acrocorinth and gained ac cess to a complex network of roads leading toward the population centers of the southwest Corinthia, such as Tenea, Kleonai, and Phlius, as well as the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea. Thereafter, an army could link up with routes into the Argolid or move toward the west through the uplands of the northeastern Peloponnese to descend into Sikyonia, Arkadia, and Achaia.
When I wrote this, however, I had only the faintest idea how a force could descend into Sikonia. Historically, I knew it was possible, as Xenophon tells us (Hell. 7.1.18-19) that the Theban general Epaminondas did just that during his second invasion of the Peloponnesus in 386, despite efforts by the Athenians, Spartans, and Pellenians to hold the eastern side of the mountain.
Lolos’s book provides some crucial clarification on the route of this invasion. It seems likely that the Thebans must have marched to Phlious before moving south to Sikyon along the route of the Asopos river or alternately veering slightly further west and passing the sanctuary of Titane on a decent to the Sikyonian plateau. Lolos’ book provides significant evidence for these routes through his thorough compilation of evidence for wheel ruts and road cuttings that suggest the presence of cart roads. Of course, the army of Epaminondas probably had very few carts as they had entered the Peloponnesus through a rather tricky march over the eastern part of Mt. Oneion.
While Lolos has worked out the routes west and south in Sikyonia and R. Bynum Jeanie Marchand, and Mike Dixon (all under the watchful eye of Prof. Ron Stroud) have pieced together the road networks of the southern and western Corinthia, as far as I know, no one has worked out the roads running south of Mt. Oneion from the area of Solygeia (and the modern village of Loutro Elenis) to the Xeropotamos River valley. This is a relatively small area, but one where one might expect to find areas of exposed bedrock that would preserve wheel ruts. Moreover, it’s tempting to imaging that the hills further south had watch towers to monitoring traffic obscured by the mass of Oneion.
As a side note, it feels strange to blog on ancient Greece at a time when the modern Greece is in such turmoil. I wonder whether reading, thinking, and writing about ancient Greece provides me with a safe way to keep that place in my head without incurring the emotional cost of reflecting on its current troubles.
February 6, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I just finished reading the T. Tartaron, D. Pullen, R. Dunn, L. Tzortsoulou-Gregory, A. Dill, and J. Boyce, “The Saronic Harbors Research Project (SHARP): Investigations at Mycenaean Kalamianos, 2007-2009,” Hesperia 80 (2011), 559-634. I rarely get excited about the Bronze Age, but it’s hard not to get excited about a major new site. Extending for over 7 ha and including over 50 buildings, the site of Kalamianos represented a major harbor on the Saronic coast. Constructed primarily of the grey Corinthian limestone, the outlines of the site remained visible on the surface allowing the SHARP team to outline the site and its buildings without excavating. Using the techniques of intensive pedestrian survey they produced a significant ceramic assemblage of material from the site which they feel grounds the site chronologically in the Late Bronze Age. A larger regional survey of the region north and west of the coastal village of Korphos has indicated that the area also had significant activity in the Early Bronze Age and rather little activity thereafter. Extensive survey of the hills and valleys surrounding Korphos has produced additional evidence for a vital Bronze Age landscape suggesting that the region was a particularly prosperous and well-developed corner of the busy Saronic world.
On a personal level, the documentation of activities in this area is interesting because the site of Lakka Skoutara where David Pettegrew and I have worked for close to a decade is just a few kilometers (as the crow flies) from their study area. The publication of the ancient, medieval, and modern landscape of Kalamianos and surrounding regions will form a key anchor to our analysis of Lakka Skoutara.
The most interesting thing to me is the methods used to document the site and the extraordinary transparency of the authors in describing their procedures. The integration of architectural, extensive, and intensive survey in a methodologically consistent treatment of a single area. The use of kite and balloon photography to assist in documenting the visible architecture produced some rather striking images that were effective in conveying both the methods and the character of the preserved architecture.
Over the course of intensive survey, the SHARP collected ceramic material using the chronotype system from both specific rooms within clearly defined buildings and across survey style transects. Using a gridded system for the most part, their work follows a similar approach our large site in Cyprus, and this is unsurprising since both David Pettegrew and myself learned the craft of survey from Tom Tartaron, Daniel Pullen, and Tim Gregory over the course of the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey. When the final results are published, the survey work at Korphos will represent another good example of the “4th Wave” intensive survey in Greece which tends to focus intensively on single sites or microregions of a few square kilometers rather than the large areas typical of “Third Wave” regional survey in Greece.
Figure 40. Satellite image of the Korphos region with the locations of small elliptical stone enclosures indicated by open white ovals, and two larger Mycenaean enclosures indicated by filled ovals.
I was gratified to see that their systematic extensive survey produced a preliminary map (above) of the strange round enclosures found on numerous height in the area. In his preliminary study of these enclosures, M. Dixon argued that they were Classical or Hellenistic in date and represented a series of ad hoc fortifications designed defend a vulnerable landscape from the historically documented threat of the Athenian fleet (in the Classical Age) and the more persistent threat of local raiding during the unstable Hellenistic centuries. The SHARP team found little to support a Classical or Hellenistic date for these enclosures and, noting the absence of any substantial quantity of ceramic material, preferred an Early Bronze Age date on the basis of a few sherds found wedged in the walls.
I had the opportunity to look at some of these strange little “fortifications” first hand about a decade ago while documenting the site of Lakka Skoutara. The absence of ceramic material from these sites is, indeed, vexing. And a few Early Bronze Age sherds do little more, at present, than provide a terminus post quem for these rough enclosures.
There were any number of interesting tidbits from their preliminary publication, but a few really stood out to me:
First, I was pretty interested to see that they used the absence of later pottery collected by the survey to argue for the absence of later activity at the site. To my mind, this is an important step for the field of survey archaeology. We are often relatively confident in arguing from the presence of activity based on the presence of ceramics, but we rarely have taken the next step. The vagaries of site formation and the differential visibility of various periods in the surface record have usually led us to stop short of making arguments ex silentio. But, I suppose the extraordinary geomorphological stability of the landscape around Korphos provided them with the confidence to make this claim.
Next, it is remarkable, however, that there is very little discussion of Byzantine material. The site of Stiri features a significant Middle Byzantine church dedicated to the Panayia. It was the katholikon of a monastery that may have been visited by Os. Loukas and is attested in census records as late as the 18th century. It probably functioned in some capacity into the 19th century. Remarkably, the area around the church which is strewn with important Early Bronze Age remains seems to have produced almost no Medieval pottery (according to their admittedly preliminary report). This may be the result of local geomorphological activity – the church site in a polje filled with sediment that may have covered the Byzantine surface – or perhaps a preference of non-cermaic material at the site during the Byzantine period (although this seems a bit unlikely).
Finally, it is a bit troubling, however, to imagine a Byzantine church leaving almost no trace in the local ceramic assemblage and, then, using that same assemblage to date walls visible on the surface. I have no reason to doubt their confidence in assigning Late Bronze Age or Early Bronze Age dates to features in the landscape, but I anxiously await a more systematic treatment of their results to understand the complexities of site formation in this area.
In my informal visits to the area over the years, I’ve seen significant evidence for Late Antique activity in the area including some Early Christian mullions at the church of Ay. Pantes in the village of Korphos itself. It was interesting to note that the SHARP team found a Late Roman kiln site amidst the ruins. Their suggestion that the center of habitation in the region moved to the location of Korphos town during antiquity seems plausible.
One last thing: the color photographs and illustrations in the article are fantastic!