Corinth Report: South Stoa excavations 2016, by Alexandra Daly & Thalia Parr (April 5 - April 22)
Collection:   Corinth
Type:   Report
Name:   South Stoa excavations 2016, by Alexandra Daly & Thalia Parr (April 5 - April 22)
Title:   EXCAVATIONS OF SOUTH STOA, SHOP 2 REAR
Area:   South Stoa
Site:   Corinth
City:   Ancient Corinth
Country:   Greece
FINAL REPORT: EXCAVATIONS OF SOUTH STOA, SHOP 2 REAR, SESSION 1 2016

Alexandra Daly and Thalia Parr
Dates of Excavation: April 5 – April 22
Coordinates: N: 1090.40 N, S: 1085.50 N, E: 351.40 E, W: 345.20 E


INTRODUCTION

This is the final report for the excavation of Shop 2 Rear in the first session of the 2016 season. Shop 2 Rear is a rear shop room in the South Stoa. It is bounded by four walls built of large, well-worked ashlar blocks—Walls 459 (coordinates to be taken in Session 2), 462 (N: 1086.10 N, S: 1084.80 N, E: 350.90 E, W: 346.70 E), 464 (N: 1091.10 N, S: 1089.10 N, E: 349.40 E, W: 345.05 E), 465 (N: 1094.75 N, S: 1086.00 N, E: 346.00 E, W: 342.10 E)—and by the robbing trench (Cut 428, N: 1086.70 N, S: 1078.65 N, E: 349.60 E, W: 332.65 E) that spoliated most of the south wall of the stoa. Shops 1, 3, and 4 were excavated by two other teams at the same time as our excavation of Shop 2 Rear. Excavation began on April 5th and continued until April 22nd. Guy Sanders (director) and Danielle Smotherman (field director) supervised. Our team consisted of Alexandra Daly and Thalia Parr (area supervisors), Thanasis Notis (foreman and pickman), Kostas Arberores (pickman), Vassilis Kollias (barrowman), and Panagiotis Rontzokos (shovelman).

Shop 2 Rear was first excavated in 1934 by Oscar Broneer. In addition to exposing the walls, he excavated the north and west foundation trenches (Cuts 349, 352), as recorded in NB 139 and shown in Broneer 1954 Corinth 1.4 Pl. 6.2 and 7.1. Modern material throughout the fills of these foundation trenches (Contexts 345, 348) demonstrates that Broneer backfilled them after excavation. Broneer later excavated the robbing trench (Cut 428) and in doing so widened it and cut into his own backfill of Shop 2 Rear. We have found no indication in his notebooks and publications that Broneer excavated the east or south foundation trenches, and we believe that their fills have remained undisturbed since the construction of the room, because they yielded only ancient material and were overlaid by ancient contexts. In the southeast corner of the room Broneer left a Late Roman or Byzantine wall (Wall 288), which was laid over earlier contexts.

The goals of this session were to remove Broneer’s backfill, to find evidence for the date of the construction of the South Stoa, to investigate layers predating the stoa, and to prepare the stoa for presentation to the public.


PREHISTORIC

The earliest layers in our area are a series of deposits containing a mixture of prehistoric pottery, mainly Early Helladic and Late Neolithic, including a ritual vessel leg (C-2016-6 in Context 445), with some Middle Neolithic. These layers also contained two Cycladic frying pan base fragments (in Contexts 420, 442), some non-local chert, much obsidian, and several pieces of andesite (including a grinder in Context 476), all of which suggest trade or migration. There were also several stone tools in these layers, including a burnisher MF-2016-7 in Context 415, and an Early Helladic spindle whorl (MF-2016-11 in Context 452). The current understanding is that most of these layers are colluvium filling a sharp drop in the bedrock, which is represented by Cut 502 and may be an erosion gully. The amount of pottery in all these colluvial layers, and of bone in Contexts 476 and 477 (the latter containing a cow or bull horn), suggests that they may have washed down from a nearby settlement.

Between these colluvial layers, four separate phases of human activity are represented by three thin compacted surfaces (Contexts 388, 442, 500) with prehistoric cultural material trampled into them and by two pits (Cuts 419, 422). If the majority of the other prehistoric layers are in fact colluvium, then these surfaces would have been formed by brief and probably intensive activity during dry periods, when prehistoric people could have made use of and traversed the area.

The earliest phase of human activity is represented by a surface (Context 500, preserved in a 2.8m x 1.8m area) dating to EH II and containing much ash, which was probably used as a hardening agent. An exceptionally high number of snails was present throughout the surface, and one part contained a concentration of carbon. Context 500, then, appears to have been a surface intentionally created through the use of ash, perhaps for cooking, as evidenced by the snails and carbon. An anthropogenic (rather than natural) deposition of the snails is supported by the presence of many more snails in an unexcavated bothros immediately below Context 500.

After this surface (Context 500) had fallen out of use, several layers of colluvium accumulated above it, forming overlapping ledges of soil within the erosion gully (Cut 502). During excavation, these ledges appeared to be anthropogenic and were recorded as cuts (Cuts 453, 475, 483), but they are now considered to be the result of water action.

Another earthen surface containing a high concentration of bone was formed during EH II (Context 442, preserved in a 1.9m x 1.55m area). Because this surface lacked evidence for the intentional preparation seen in the earlier floor (the ash in Context 500), we believe it may have been created circumstantially by a single event, such as a feast, which could have generated the bone trampled into it. A bothros cut into this surface and filled with bone (Cut 430/Context 429) may support this interpretation. The Neolithic sherds in the fill of this cut would then be the result of backfilling the pit with soil containing Neolithic sherds.

Above the earthen surface with bone (Context 442), more colluvium accumulated (Contexts 415, 420, 425) until the end of EH II and into EH III (as indicated by the inclusion of a fine-incised body sherd in Context 425). Two of these deposits (Contexts 415, 420) filled two pits (Cuts 419, 422) that are the only evidence for human activity during this phase. Along with Cut 430, these pits run along the southwest corner of the area in a line from east to west, each cutting the one that came before it. The alignment of these three cuts suggests chronological proximity, but the function of Cuts 419 and 422 seems to have been different from that of Cut 430. While Cut 430 appears to have been intentionally filled with waste, Cuts 419 and 422 appear to have been filled with colluvium, and thus were standing open. If so, they may have been storage pits.

Above all of this lay more colluvium (Contexts 392, 393, 397, 400, 404, and 413), above which a third surface (Context 388, preserved in a 3.2m x 2.45m area) represents the fourth and final phase of prehistoric human activity, also during EH III. A chert scraper and two whetstones trampled into this surface, as well as a chert awl just below it in a layer of colluvium (Context 393), suggest that it may have served as a working area.


HELLENISTIC

The only possible testament to Hellenistic activity in the area before the construction of Shop 2 Rear is a pit (Cut 386/Context 384) that contains Hellenistic pottery. This cut was made before construction of the room began as it was covered by a deposit cut by the south foundation trench (Context 365) and was likely unrelated to the construction because it was not oriented with the room.

The earliest layers that may be associated with the construction of the South Stoa are Hellenistic deposits of fill (Contexts 359, 365, 368, and 370), which together covered most of the southeastern half of Shop 2 Rear. Given the quantity of prehistoric pottery mixed with the Hellenistic (including a fine incised EH III handle fragment C-2016-3 and body sherd C-2016-4 in Context 365), we believe that the builders of the South Stoa excavated this soil from foundation trenches elsewhere and dumped it into the area that later became Shop 2 Rear. This sequence of events is supported by the fact that all of these layers were cut by the south and east foundation trenches of Shop 2 Rear (Cuts 322, 325). The area of Shop 2 Rear may have been chosen because the erosion gully had created a natural depression suitable for dumping. The fill belonging to the pre-construction pit discussed above (Context 384) had a diffuse boundary with one of the Hellenistic deposits of fill (Context 365) and so may have been part of this dumping process.

The construction of Shop 2 Rear is dated broadly to the Hellenistic period by the fill of the south foundation trench (Cut 325/Contexts 328, 339, 498) and more narrowly to the first quarter of the third century BC by the fill of the east foundation trench (Cuts 322, 496/Contexts 321, 372, 431, 491, 499). Given the mixture in these fills of Hellenistic pottery with much earlier material, including an Early Helladic spindle whorl (MF-2016-20 in Context 499), the backfill of the east and south foundation trenches, like the Hellenistic deposits cut by the foundation trenches, is most likely the result of digging by the builders of the stoa.

The south foundation trench must have been constructed before the east, as it was cut by the lowest portion of the east foundation trench (Cut 496, 1.7m x 0.6m). This lowest portion was an undercutting of the east foundation trench that made it significantly wider than the portion of the trench above, and it may have been meant to accommodate the wider blocks in the southern portion of the fifth course down of the east wall (Wall 459). Regardless, the stratigraphy of the foundation trenches makes it clear that the south wall was constructed before the east. The east wall abuts and so must postdate the north wall (Wall 464). It seems, then, that the north and south (Wall 462) walls were constructed first, followed by the east and west (Wall 465) walls. This is the most logical order in which to construct the walls of a stoa: first the walls that constitute its length, then those dividing individual rooms.

There is some evidence for the use of Shop 2 Rear after its construction. A small rocky deposit of fill (Context 324) was laid over the fill of the south foundation trench and therefore provides a terminus ante quem for the construction of Room 2 Rear in the second half of the third century BC. Given its quantity of prehistoric sherds, it was likely not use accumulation but a leveling fill, perhaps needed after the fill of the south foundation trench had sunken as it settled over time. A shallow circular pit (Cut 319) in a reddish patch of fill (Context 359) in the northeast of the room is more likely to post- rather than pre-date the construction of Shop 2 Rear, as it respected the boundary of the east wall. It may have been a pithos stand. Its mixture of prehistoric and third century BC pottery suggests that the fill of this pit (Cut 319/Context 318) was backfill after the pit had fallen out of use.


LATE ROMAN

The next phase of activity for which we have evidence in the area of Shop 2 Rear dates to the second quarter of the fifth century AD or later. A Roman lamp rim in a deposit of fill along the east wall of the room (L-2016-2 in Context 315) provides this date as a terminus post quem for all the other contexts discussed in this section.

It is clear that some of the Late Roman activity took place while Shop 2 Rear was still in use as a room, because several layers of fill (Contexts 315, 309, 296, Cut 307/Context 319) from this period respect the east and south walls. Two layers (Contexts 309, 315) covering the foundation trenches contained material over a large chronological range and may have been deposited as leveling fill after the original construction of the room. After the deposition of these layers, a large pit (Cut 307), which given its depth may have served as a storage pit, was cut into them. After this pit had fallen out of use, it was filled with soil containing material ranging in date from prehistoric to the third century BC, including two fourth century BC loomweights (MF-2016-1, MF-2016-2 in Context 304), three lead weights (MF-2016-3, MF-2016-4, MF-2016-5 in Context 306), and an iron ring (MF-2016-6 in Context 308). Next, another deposit (Context 296) seems to have served the same purpose as the previous leveling fills (Contexts 315, 309), this time to level off the filling of the storage pit (Cut 307). The Middle Roman pottery and large amount of carbon in this leveling fill (Context 296) suggest that its soil derives from a destruction layer, perhaps from Alaric’s destruction of Corinth in 396 A.D, which would match the date provided by its pottery.

Late Roman activity in this area appears to have continued after Shop 2 Rear had fallen out of use, since Wall 288 (N: 1087.70 N, S: 1085.10 N, E: 351.40 E, W: 349.60 E; 1.50m x 2.2m x .71m) and the layers of fill deposited under it (Context 294, which contained the lead weight MF-2016-8, Contexts 291, 290) were laid on top of the south and east walls of the room. The layers of fill are interpreted as leveling fill for the foundation of the Wall 288, which consisted of rubble and spolia. One of the spoliated materials was a threshold block with a possibly Byzantine cutting. This threshold block and the rubble served as the foundation for a spoliated stele base, with part of the stele foot embedded within it, which may be a member of the now lost superstructure of Wall 288.


EARLY MODERN

We believe that most early modern activity in Shop 2 Rear was related to Broneer’s excavation. His excavation of the north and west foundation trenches (Cuts 349, 352) has already been discussed above. Most likely, another part of his activity in this area is a small patch of soil near the north foundation trench, which contained modern material (aluminum and glass, Context 351). Over most of the interior of the room, Broneer deposited several layers containing modern material (Contexts 354, 313, including a belt buckle MF-2016-18, and 314) as well as a layer of a fine soil with very little material (Context 317). Panos Kakouros suggested that the fine, material-poor deposit may have been soil that Broneer had sieved (Context 317). All four of these contexts must have been deposited by Broneer, since they were cut by the robbing trench (Cut 428), which he excavated after Shop 2 Rear. A thin layer of soil under Structure 311 (Context 312) seems to have accumulated after Broneer’s excavation. Structure 311 consisted of three toppled column drums, roughly in a line extending from the northeast corner of the room (N: 1090.30 N, S: 1088.80 N, E: 349.00 E, W: 348.20 E). This structure does not appear in any of Broneer’s photographs of Shop 2 Rear during excavation, so it must have been placed there after his excavation of the room.


CONCLUSION

This excavation of Shop 2 Rear successfully removed Broneer’s backfill and clarified the extent of his activity in the room. After exposing the walls, Broneer appears to have focused on the north and west foundation trenches, neglecting the interior as well as the east and south foundation trenches. Our dating of the fill of the east foundation trench supports the down-dating of the construction of the South Stoa from the widely accepted date of 338-323 B.C. to the third century B.C. by Sanders, Miura, and Kvapil (2014) and James (forthcoming).
The most unexpected and exciting discovery of this excavation is the long series of undisturbed Early Helladic layers beneath Shop 2 Rear. This area seems to have been used sporadically during EH II and EH III for short-term, intensive activities such as food preparation. The accumulation of colluvium indicates that water action would periodically have made the space unusable. The great amount of cultural material within the layers of colluvium suggests that a settlement might have been located nearby. An analysis of water action in the surrounding area may indicate the source of this material.


FUTURE GOALS

• Excavate the redeposited bedrock in the northwestern half of Shop 2 Rear to find any other evidence of ancient activity and to clarify the relationship between Broneer’s activity and this deposit.
• Continue excavation of the foundation trenches to find the bottom of the foundations and any further dating evidence for the construction of the South Stoa.
• Through further excavation and Panagiotis Karkanas’ analysis of the microstratigraphy, clarify the formation and nature of the prehistoric layers (anthropogenic and natural) in the southeast portion of Shop 2 Rear.
• Process the soil samples taken from various parts of the trench. For the later deposits, we hope that this will clarify whether the carbon present in the soil is the result of cooking, destruction, or some other process. For the prehistoric deposits, we hope that this will shed light on aspects of diet and animal use in the Early Helladic period at Corinth.


Coins

2016-5, 2016-7, 2016-8, 2016-9, 2016-11, 2016-12, 2016-13, 2016-14, 2016-15, 2016-16, 2016-17, 2016-18, 2016-19, 2016-22


Inventoried objects

C-2016-3, C-2016-4, C-2016-6
L-2016-2
MF-2016-1, MF-2016-2, MF-2016-3, MF-2016-4, MF-2016-5, MF-2016-6, MF-2016-7, MF-2016-8, MF-2016-11, MF-2016-18, MF-2016-20