Report on the 2016 Study Season

The University of Chicago Excavations at Isthmia, 2016

19 September 2016


Jean Perras supervised activities at the site and worked with authors of Isthmia studies and final preparation of manuscripts on the arms and armor, Rachi Settlement, Classical and Roman Pottery, and coins. She also managed a project to stabilize the west wall of the storage area in the Isthmia Museum, lower floor.

Due to water seepage, the west wall of the apotheke had begun to crumble. The Chicago Excavations undertook with approval of EFAKor to clear the soil from a trench outside the wall and cover the embankment with a waterproofing substance. Appropriate landscaping was carried out.

The Sacred Glen  (Hiera Nape), Martha Risser, Virginia Anderson-Stojanovic

Votives inscribed to Demeter from the 4th century B.C. signal a cult to the goddess in an area ca. 200-300 m. west of the Temple of Poseidon. Further deposits in two cisterns excavated by Broneer have recently been identified as debris from feasting (2015).

Current analysis continued this season under Martha Risser and Virginia Anderson-Stojanovic. Exploration of the deep ravine running along the west side of the area, perhaps the hiera nape that is recorded as the site of two temples to Demeter, Kore, Dionysos and Artemis probably of the third quarter of the 2nd century A.D. (IG IV.203), is planned for Fall 2016 with the aid of a drone manned by James Herbst, in conjunction with Tim Gregory and Jon Frey.

Since there is no sign of the temples in the area of the cisterns and feasting debris, it may be that the builders of the Roman period did not know or chose not to use the original site of the shrine, as appears to have been the case with the hero Palaimon.

Pottery from the Sanctuary of Poseidon: Late Archaic and Classical periods, ca. 550-300 B.C.

Martha Risser continued her study, supervising drawings and checking records for her monograph .

Concerning the feasting debris from the shrine to Demeter, Martha Risser notes that the range of shapes is very limited. The material reminds her of the 4th century lots from the Demeter Sanctuary at Corinth. It also looks like later versions of the feasting assemblages in the Archaic Reservoir (Large Circular Pit) and the dining cave above the theater at the Poseidon sanctuary.

Arms and Armor , Alastar Jackson

Dr. Jackson made his final selection and notes for his catalogue from fragments of the so-called “Illyrian” helmet type, of which Isthmia has half of one from the earliest stage (ca.750 to ca 650 B.C.), ten (with one complete) of the middle stage (ca. 650 to ca. 550 B.C.) and fragments of over 30 of the late stage (ca.550-470 B.C.). Though we cannot know when any particular helmet was dedicated at Isthmia, this slow then rapid acceleration of offerings of “Illyrian” helmets exactly parallels the increases in Isthmia’s dedications of other Greek armor, (and resembles rather similar increases at Olympia). That suggests that early on, when Isthmia was a small local roadside shrine, it received small numbers of armor dedications,  but when the Archaic Temple was built, and could shelter and display the armor, more came. When Isthmia had become a Panhellenic center, by the mid 6th century, martial dedications flooded in, only to ease off after the Persian Wars. This decline was due partly to overall changes in Greek votive practices, but was also due to new and strong feelings among Corinthians and others that Greeks should not,  thank Poseidon for help in defeating, killing and despoiling fellow Greeks.

The Rachi Settlement (late 4th to 198 B.C.), Virginia Anderson-Stojanovic

Inspection of the feasting deposits near the Sacred Glen showed that the kotylai and skyphoi are earlier and quite unlike anything found in the deposits sacred to Demeter on the Rachi  (except for a few kotylai associated with the earliest votives). The small number of skyphoi from the Rachi (1 Attic, the rest Corinthian ) are of late 4th century B.C. date. Blister ware sherds in the Sacred Glen lots have decoration primarily of earlier types. Cooking ware is quite thin-walled and profiles of casseroles are quite different from those in Rachi deposits.

Thus, it appears that there may have been two shrines to Demeter ,  one belonging to the earlier 4th century B.C. west of the Temple of Poseidon and another  later in the 4th century B.C.  on the Rachi.

Late Hellenistic and Roman Pottery, John Hayes

Jennifer Palinkas finished copy-editing Hayes’ manuscript. She spent July at Isthmia checking the catalogue and drawings. Completion of the manuscript is expected the end of 2016.

Roman Inscriptions, Matthew Trundle continuing the work of Daniel Geagan

Christopher de Lisle, student assistant to Matthew Trundle, aided in revising in digital format Geagan’s manuscript and checking the excavation records .

Coins, Michael Ierardi

Carrying on the work of Liane Houghtalin, Mike Ierardi checked the entire coin collection that is now housed in the Isthmia Museum and updated the coin cards. He also consulted with Virginia Anderson-Stojanovic and Liane Houghtalin about coins from the Rachi Settlement.

Respectfully submitted,
Elizabeth R. Gebhard