Report on the 1992 Season

Elizabeth R. Gebhard, Director

During the season, May through September, the entire Isthmia staff spent time at the site for study of the objects and architecture that they are preparing for the final publications. Six volumes are underway:

  1. a new study of the Archaic Temple of Poseidon and its archaeological context by Fritz Hemans;
  2. Archaic pottery, ca. 700-550 B.C. by Karim Arafat;
  3. Late Archaic to Early Hellenistic pottery, ca. 550-200 B.C. by Julie Bentz;
  4. Late Hellenistic and Roman pottery by John Hayes;
  5. Arms and Armor by Alastar Jackson;
  6. the Rachi Settlement and shrine by Virginia Anderson-Stojanovic.

Mary Sturgeon returned to examine a large group of sculpture fragments that were not available when she wrote Isthmia, IV.  The following summary of the season is excerpted from their reports.

Objects from the Archaic Temple

Examination of objects from the Archaic Temple yielded heavily burnt Attic pottery that establishes a destruction date around 470 B.C. Large numbers of amphorai with heavily burnt interior surfaces suggest that oil and perhaps wine were stored inside the cella at the time of the fire, while a concentration of aryballoi, alabastra, and other fine pottery, jewlery, coins, and imported objects were kept in the pronaos.


Virtually all the context pottery from the sanctuary, excluding the Large Circular Pit that was studied last year, was examined for vases dating between ca. 700 and 550 B.C. The results were as follows: (1) drinking vessels, especially kotylai, predominate; (2) types show continuity with the second half of the 8th c. B.C.; (3) a number of Lakonian pieces were imported in the later 7th and first half of the 6th c., but no certainly Attic examples; (4) miniatures are largely confined to kalathiskoi; (5) substantially whole vessels are remarkably rare at Isthmia.

In the late 6th and 5th c. B.C. black-glazed, single-handled mugs, (one inscribed “kothon” and another “sacred to Poseidon”) occur in at least eight different fabrics and in such high numbers that they were probably dedications. The mugs are concentrated in the same areas as the arms and armor (Northwest Terrace and Large Circular Pit), leading to the suggestion that they were left by soldiers and travellers.


Pieces of worked poros found in the 1989 excavations of the East Terrace were identified as the remains left from fluting the columns of the Classical Temple (3,062 fragments). On the basis of the column’s entasis, the curved surfaces of the fragments reveal their location on the shaft. Fasciae were carved on 95 examples belonging to the upper edges of the drums, and ten of these carried inscribed notations consisting of 2-5 vertical strokes followed by a single letter. Two pieces had incised arrows. The incisions were filled with red pigment.

Study of architectural pieces from the north side of the temenos revealed that they came from a small Doric building of a size and shape to have stood on a nearby foundation of ashlar blocks (M 5). It seems likely it was a free-standing gateway. The deposit in which the Doric blocks occurred also contained fragments from the Classical Temple of Poseidon, a public inscription of 220 B.C., and pottery of the early 3rd c. B.C. Severe damage appears to have been inflicted on monuments in the temenos in ca. 200 B.C., perhaps by enemy action, and the debris was then cleaned up and used for terracing.

Uninventoried Metal Objects

Examination of the uninventoried metal objects in relation to their context showed that drips of molten lead and lead ingots were most frequently mixed with debris from building construction, while small fragments of iron and bronze occurred in deposits associated with destruction.

East Terrace Column Fragments

In the East Terraces numerous fragments of columns from the Classical Temple of Poseidon were found in deposits of about A.D. 100 related to construction of the first Roman temenos wall and associated landscaping. Their size and quantity indicate that at least some of the columns in the peristyle were replaced at that time, and it may be that the entire colonnade was rebuilt.

Marble Sculpture Fragments

The marble sculpture not included in Isthmia, IV amounted to almost 300 fragments. They yielded joins to three statues previously known and provided evidence for five new ones, bringing the total to eight over life-sized Roman portraits statues of the 2nd c. A.D., possibly the second half. The entire group very likely stood in the Antonine Palaimonion, and from the scale and clothing it represented important persons, such as emperors, officials, priests or early Corinthian kings.

Rachi Settlement

In the Rachi Settlement progress was made in reconstructing the plans of the houses and workshops and in identifying three long passages running along the ridge and one that crossed it. Destruction deposits were dated to ca. 200 B.C. on the basis of coins of Philip V, a Rhodian stamped amphora handle, and Athenian pottery; relief (Megarian) bowls were absent. The presence of 12 fragments of weapons (sling bullets, spear tips, and javelin sockets) suggest that enemy action may have caused the destruction.

Other Studies

Photographs of objects were expertly made by Michel Bootsman, restoration and mending was carried out by Stella Bouzakis, and information was entered into the site data base by Jean Perras. Eric Sorenson lent excellent assistance throughout the season, especially in describing deposits from Broneer’s excavations in a form consonant with the later excavation records.