Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Greek-American Excavations at Koutsongila, Kenchreai: Records from excavation on the edge of an ancient port-town in southern Greece.

The Greek-American Excavations at Koutsongila, a collaboration between the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, investigated the low coastal ridge on the northeast periphery of the port-town of Kenchreai, the eastern port of Corinth in the northeastern Peloponnese. Elena Korka and Joseph L. Rife led a campaign of intensive excavation, together with study of the natural environment and site conservation, in 2007-2009, followed by four seasons for the study of artifactual, biological, and structural remains in 2011-2014. The goals of the project were to contextualize the Koutsongila Ridge as an intermediate zone in the broader topography of the settlement, between its core at the harbor and its hinterland; to study social, economic, and religious identities in the local community as they were reflected in the spaces of burial and habitation; and to examine how local residents responded to large-scale historical changes, including the spread of Christianity, natural catastrophe, and the Late Roman-Early Byzantine transition.

Published here are the essential graphic records of finds from the Greek-American Excavations at Koutsongila. These include color photographs and scaled illustrations of nearly 1,000 inventoried and many non-inventoried finds of all classes, including pottery, lamps, and glass, as well as metal, coins, building material, lithics, inscriptions, worked bone and shell, figurines, sculpture, and modern debris. Altogether these finds represent the shifting nature and density of human activity over time on the Koutsongila Ridge, which was used most intensively between the early 1st and the late 6th to early 7th centuries C.E. for habitation, burial, and travel by road. Furthermore, these finds constitute a rich assemblage for comparison with other well-known datasets produced by excavation and survey in the northeastern Peloponnese, including those from Corinth, Isthmia, Sikyon, and Argos.

In total the Greek-American Excavations at Koutsongila recovered and studied nearly 225,000 individual artifactual or structural remains and well over 18,940 individual biological remains from across the southern, southeasterm and central areas of the ridge. These objects were collected by hand or from dry-sieving (3-5 mm mesh) during the systematic, stratigraphic excavation of 33 trenches measuring in total 663 cubic meters. Thus, each find is associated with an excavated unit (locus) that represents a discrete depositional context. Of the large amount of cultural and biological material found, only a very small fraction (<1%) was selected for inventory, or full documentation. The criteria for selecting an object for inventory was its uniqueness or inherent interest, the significance of its context, and its state of preservation. Each inventoried object was assigned a unique label consisting of a prefix and a serial number in three digits (e.g., “KC023”, “KP402”). The prefixes indicate broad typological classes: KA (architecture), KC (coins), KI (inscriptions), KL (lamps), KM (miscellaneous, “minor,” or “small” artifacts in metal, glass, terracotta, stone, bone/shell), KP (pottery), and KS (sculpture). In assigning inventory numbers, we continued the series that had been previously established by the Kenchreai Cemetery Project, which explored Koutsongila in 2002-2006.

All these finds have been conserved, labelled, and stored in the annexes of the Isthmia Museum in Kyras Vrysi, Corinthia.

The photographs and illustrations presented here support the full description and interpretation of the inventoried finds that appears in the final publication of the Greek-American Excavations at Koutsongila:

E. Korka and J. L. Rife, On the Edge of a Roman Port: Excavations at Koutsongila, Kenchreai, 2007-2014 (Princeton: American School of Classical Studies, 2022), ISBN 9780876615546


We acknowledge the collaboration and support of Carol Stein and the American School of Classical Studies in the digital publication of these images. Sebastian Heath of ISAW/NYU provided crucial advice on technical aspects of the digital publication of these images.



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