Report on the 1995 Season

Elizabeth R. Gebhard, Director

The season began in early June and continued until early October. It was the third summer of a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to complete field work for publication of objects from the Chicago excavations at Isthmia.

Archaic Pottery, ca 700-550 B.C.
Karim Arafat; ass’t Kate Adams; photographer Michiel Bootsman; drawings by Kees Neeft and Anneke Aarts

Preliminary statistical studies regarding the volume of pottery and quantity of imports lend support to the traditional date of 582/580 B.C. assigned to the beginning of the Panhellenic Isthmian Games. After a hiatus during most of the 7th c., ceramic imports resume ca. 588-575 B.C. and the overall volume of pottery increases dramatically. The same rise is seen in the arms and armor, other metal vessels, and the terracotta figurines. Terracotta perirrhanteria and evidence for buildings in addition to the Temple of Poseidon appear at about the same time.

Bootsman completed photographs for the catalogue; Neeft continued drawing the figured vessels while Aarts greatly expanded the collection of profiles. Conservation was carried out by Nikos Didaskalos.

Arms and Armor
Alastar Jackson; ass’t Panayiotis Theodoridhes

Conservation and restoration of selected pieces of arms and armor undertaken in collaboration with conservator, Stella Bouzakis over the past six years nears completion. Three fragmentary helmets, at first inspection beyond repair, underwent restoration and, together with a fourth helmet mended last year, were arranged for display in the Isthmia Museum. A figured shield strap of the 6th c. B.C., exactly paralleled by an example from Olympia, was cleaned and remounted.

Further study of the armor resulted in its being assigned to 64 groups, with one-third falling in the 7th to early 6th c. and the other two-thirds in the period between ca. 550 and the early 5th c. B.C. A provisional estimate shows that well over 33 hoplite shields belong to the latter period. Since most of the bronze armor and shields is represented by small fragments, all inventoried and uninventoried pieces were weighed. A Roman pilum-head found in the Rachi Settlement lends support to the hypothesis, based on deposits of building debris and pottery from the sanctuary, that the shrine was attacked by the Romans ca. 200 B.C.

Archaic Temple of Poseidon
Frederick Hemans North and East Gateways

The presence of a wooden ceiling over the peristyle is suggested by cuttings for a lattice-work of planks that would have supported such a construction. Every fourth plank was also connected to a wooden pilaster standing against the cella wall. At a higher level on the cella walls geison-shaped blocks received ths sloping rafters for the roof and, on the inside, horizontal beams for the ceiling of the cella. A new trench plan, including all tests not previously recorded, was made for the temple.

Two sets of blocks and painted roof tiles were identified as the north and east gates of the Hellenistic temenos. On the basis of the decorated tiles the larger structure, the north gate, is dated ca. 325 B.C. Roof tiles assigned to the second group, probably coming from the east gate, give a construction date in the early 3rd c. B.C.

Rachi Settlement
Virginia Anderson-Stojanovic; ass’t Jamie Morton

Three dimensional analysis of objects from the destruction of the community in ca. 200 B.C. yielded information on the contents of the basements, the rooms above and the adjacent courtyards at the time of the disaster.

Study of over 300 loomweights from the Rachi and 150 from the sanctuary showed that the upper part of the weight was made by a conical mold and the lower part and base were formed by by hand. Many of the weights were stamped and/or incised with gem seals and finger-rings or a stylus. New stamp types that were identified include a male head in profile, a Macedonian star, Nike crowning an armed warrior, a flaming torch, a bull’s head festooned for sacrifice, and a serpent approaching a small child.

Faunal Studies and Materials Analysis
David Reese, Richard Evershed, Sarah Vaughan, Ruth Siddal

David Reese‘s examination of faunal remains from the area around the long altar of Poseidon revealed that the unburnt bones of sheep and goats seem to come largely from the legs, while the burnt bones may well belong to the hind quarters, thus supporting the traditional view of Greek sacrificial practice. Some deposits of unburnt bones as well as masses of burnt bone near the altar suggests that dining as well as sacrifice took place near the area of sacrifice.

The three sacrificial pits in the Roman Palaimonion (mid 1st-mid 3rd c. A.D.) yielded over 122.4 pounds (55.60 kilograms) of burnt bones. The cattle were between 1-4 years of age and unbutchered at the time of sacrifice.

Samples of pottery and lamps from the Rachi Settlement were selected by Evershed to investigate their contents through organic residue analysis using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Vaughan will undertake a study of the provenance of the clay used in the manufacture of loomweights, roof tiles, and bricks.

Different types of Greek plaster were collected by Siddal for her research on the technology and materials used in binders in concrete and plaster.

Michael Jameson; ass’t Radcliffe Edmonds

Analysis of the locations of all inscribed stones at the time of excavation showed a concentration in and around the Temple of Poseidon. It appears that the favored place of display in both the Greek and Roman periods was the temple. Contextual evidence suggests that three large stelai bearing decrees relating to Philip V were set up either in the temple or along the Corinth-Isthmus road at the north border of the temenos. Another Hellenistic inscription may have stood at the entrance to the Early Stadium. Find spots of inscriptions were plotted on the trench plans, and Edmonds wrote a description of the context for each piece noting date and associated material. After being broken up, some inscriptions were found in deposits that had been moved at least once and sometimes two or three times within the area of the temenos.

Michael Jameson, after study of the fragments from the Hellenistic inscriptions, was able to assign more pieces to the various texts and thus to progress with their decipherment.

Field Work and Conservation
Elizabeth Gebhard, Frederick Hemans

To test the depth and contents of fill in Oscar Broneer’s excavation dump covering the northeast end of the sanctuary plateau six trenches were opened by excavation workmen from Corinth. Terracotta roof tiles and Roman coarse wares comprised the majority of the finds. The soil was used to fill old excavation trenches at the northeast and north sides of the central plateau.

Walls damaged by the heavy rains of last winter were conserved, and plans were made for Stella Bouzakis to continue site conservation during Autumn, 1995 and Winter, 1996. Fragments of a large Roman marble arch that Broneer excavated in the center of the Palaimonion were brought into the museum, reassembled, and glued. The curved opening was found to extend for more than 180 degrees.

Site Studies
Elizabeth Gebhard

Mary Sturgeon and Gebhard considered the placement of four statues, perhaps representing officials and a donor (see report for 1994), that stood in the Palaimonion during the second half of the second century. The “officials”, badly fragmented, were excavated in layers of debris within the passage through the base of the temple, at the east and north sides of the temple, and near the east wall of the precinct. On the basis of the latest pottery, Gebhard concluded that the deposits were formed at the end of the 5th century or early in the 6th c. A.D. It appears that the sanctuary was finally destroyed at this time, although abandoned earlier, and the marbles were broken up for the lime kilns.

Helga Butzer-Feleisen reports that the terracotta perirrhanteria from the Archaic sanctuary number about 52. Since none was found in place, distribution of the fragments within secondary deposits may give some indication of their original placement. The Great Circular Pit held 23 fragments, pieces of another 9 basins were divided between the pit and other areas, parts of 15 occurred in deposits wholly outside the pit, while the provenience of 5 is unknown but they are not likely to have come from the pit. At present it appears that many of the perirrhanteria stood at the west or southwest side of the Archaic Temple, while others were at the north and east sides of the temenos, possibly near the gates.



Catherine Morgan submitted the revised manuscript of her book on the Mycenaean Settlement and Early Iron Age Sanctuary at Isthmia (with chapter and appendix by E. Gebhard) to the Publications Committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

The late Isabelle Raubitschek‘s manuscript on the Isthmia Metal Objects exclusive of arms and armor (Isthmia VII) is in press.


K. Arafat

“Archaic Pottery at Isthmia,” (approx. title) in R. Rouillard and F. Lissarague eds., Ceramique et peinture greques. Modes d’emploi, Paris/Rome, (1995) forthcoming.

Richard P. Evershed

“Identification of Beeswax from Anceint Beehives,” AJA (abstract) 99, 1995, 323.

E. Gebhard

“Melikertes-Palaimon: The literary evidence,” in Ancient Greek Hero Cult, ed. R. Hägg, Göteborg (April 1995), forthcoming.

C. Morgan

“From Palace to Polis? Religious Developments on the Greek Mainland during the Bronze Age/Iron Age Transition,” in P. Hellstrom, ed. Religion and Power in the Ancient Greek World, Uppsala, 1996 forthcoming.”The Human Figure in Eighth Century Corinthian Vase Painting,” in P. Rouillard and F. Lissarague eds., Ceramique et peinture greques. Modes d’emploi, Paris/Rome, (1995) forthcoming.