Corinth Report: South Stoa excavations 2016, by Alexandra Daly and Thalia Parr (May 4 - May 20)
Collection:   Corinth
Type:   Report
Name:   South Stoa excavations 2016, by Alexandra Daly and Thalia Parr (May 4 - May 20)
Title:   Final Report: Excavations of South Stoa, Shop 1 Rear, Session 2 2016
Area:   South Stoa
Site:   Corinth
City:   Ancient Corinth
Country:   Greece
Final Report: Excavations of South Stoa, Shop 1 Rear, Session 2 2016

Alexandra Daly and Thalia Parr

DATES OF EXCAVATION: May 4-20 2016

COORDINATES: N: N 1090.40; E: E 353.95; S: N 1084.70; W: E 349.60

INTRODUCTION

This is the final report for the excavation of Shop 1 Rear in Session II of the 2016 season. Shop 1 Rear is the rear room of Shop 1 in the South Stoa. It is bounded by four walls built of large, well-worked ashlar blocks: 457 to the east (N: N 1106.51, E: E 356.40, S: N 1086.50, W: E 348.67), 458 to the south (Greek phase; N: N 1086.38, E: E 355.83, S: N 1084.15, W: E 351.81), 459 to the west (N: N 1095.75, E: E 351.30, S: N 1086.60, W: E 347.25), and 461 to the north (N: N 1092.75, E: E 35364, S: N 1090.63, W: E 349.19). The coordinates of the interior space of the room are: NE corner, E 353.85, N 1092.30; NW corner, E 349.60, N 1090.80; SW corner, E 351.80, N 1084.70; SE corner, E 355.90, N 1086.50. Our excavation was limited to the portion of this area south of the section line (running from E 350.2, N 1090.4 to E 353.95, N 1088.05) laid at the beginning of Session II; the area north of the line has been saved for microstratigraphic analysis by Panagiotis Karkanas. Excavation began on May 4th and continued until May 20th. Guy Sanders (director), James Herbst (architect), and Danielle Smotherman (field director) supervised. Our team consisted of Alexandra Daly and Thalia Parr (area supervisors), Panos Kakouros (pickman), Marios Vathis (pickman and sieve), and Panagiotis Rontzokos (shovelman, barrowman, sieve). Photogrammetry has been carried out for every context of the excavation.

Shop 1 Rear was first excavated by Oscar Broneer in the 1930s and 1940s, mainly in March 1934 (Corinth NB 139). During Session I Jiang and Judson removed most of his backfill, and thus everything excavated in Session II seemed undisturbed by his activities. Broneer's sounding beside the west wall (Wall 459), excavated as Cut 301/Context 298 in Session I, cut through the center of the foundation trench on the east side of Wall 459. The Neolithic and Early Helladic sherds Broneer found in the fill of the trench were most likely redeposited by the stoa builders from some of the purely prehistoric deposits excavated in Session II. The fill of the foundation trench to the north and south of Broneer's sounding (excavated in Session II as Cut 507/Contexts 511, 544; Cut 506/Contexts 505, 510, 512) appeared undisturbed by Broneer, since it yielded only ancient material and was overlaid by ancient contexts. Broneer’s trench along the east and south walls (Cut 509) was probably an excavation of those foundation trenches.

Shop 1 Rear was next excavated by An Jiang and Catharine Judson in Session I of the 2016 season (April 5th-21st). After removing Broneer’s backfill, they excavated several layers of Roman and Hellenistic fill. A compact, partially preserved deposit (Context 449) with two cuts for pithoi (Cuts 382, 389) was the only possible surface identified in Session I. Because of its 4th cent. BC pottery date, Jiang and Judson proposed that this surface had been in use before the construction of the stoa and was repurposed for Shop 1 Rear. The last context excavated in Session I, a large rectilinear cut (Cut 497/Context 478), was closed artificially at the end of the session and reopened in Session II.
The goals of this session are to find evidence for the date of the construction of the stoa, to investigate activities in the area during and before the use of the stoa, and to prepare the stoa for consolidation, conservation, and presentation to the public.

PREHISTORIC

Prehistoric activity in the area of Shop 1 Rear may be divided into five phases, all occurring during the Early Helladic II period. This date is firmly established, with twenty-two of the prehistoric contexts dated to that period by their own pottery. The remaining eight are dated broadly to the Early Helladic period by their pottery, but seven of these may be narrowed to EH II by their stratigraphic relationships. Only our last context from this session (Context 551) lacks a precise date within EH. A larger, unexcavated portion of what appears to be the same surface as Context 551, separated from it by a large bothros (Cut 548/Context 547) and extending to the bedrock in the southeast corner of the section, may yield material with a more specific date when it is excavated in Session III.

In the first phase of prehistoric activity, the EH inhabitants of Corinth leveled off and trampled down a sandy exterior surface (Context 551, preserved in a 1.00 x 0.50 m area). Although its full extent is unknown—it is truncated by the foundation trench of Shop 1 Rear to the west and continues under our section line to the east—it appears to be bounded by bedrock to the northwest and southeast. In the northwest, it lay over a small portion of downward sloping bedrock, as well as some rocky fill. In the southeast (to be excavated in Session III), it runs up to the edge of what appears to be a deep, anthropogenic cut in the bedrock. It is clear from the scarp of Broneer’s sounding (Cut 301) that the bedrock, though visible at the level of this surface to its northwest and southeast, drops dramatically in the area below this surface, creating a deep gully that appears to be have been filled deliberately. For this reason, we believe that this hard, compacted surface may be the result of the EH II inhabitants of Corinth filling this gully and then packing down the fill. The small amount of pottery in this surface suggests that it was not used or exposed for very long before being covered by later fill.

In the second phase, a broad, shallow bothros was cut into this surface and filled with waste (Cut 548/Context 547). Some of the waste appeared to derive from the collapse of a building nearby: pieces of chopped up bedrock, some stone tools, pieces of lime (perhaps plaster or flooring), several cobbles with faces, and many pieces of mudbrick, one of which had a face. The bothros also contained 120 pieces of bone, many of which were preserved in rather large pieces, and a great deal of pottery: 458 sherds at 4.64kg. Among the pottery were an EH II firedog stand knob (C-2016-20) and a Late Neolithic ritual vessel handle (C-2016-19). The majority of the pottery was EH II and so, along with the bone, might have been the accumulated trash of nearby inhabitants. The Late Neolithic sherds and chert blade (MF-2016-39) in this deposit may already have been in the soil excavated to create the pit, so that they were redeposited as backfill in the pit.

This bothros may be associated with another EH II bothros excavated in Session I beneath Shop 2 Rear (Cut 430/Context 429). Both bothroi were cut into surfaces at relatively similar elevations: the sandy surface (Context 551) in Shop 1 Rear at 80.68-80.49 and the clayey surface (Context 442) in Shop 2 Rear at 80.70-80.59. Like the bothros beneath Shop 1 Rear, the bothros beneath Shop 2 Rear contained large pieces of bone in smaller quantities, a comparable amount of pottery (368 sherds at 6.15kg), and material possibly from a collapsed building: many cobbles, some stone tools, and two EH rooftiles. The similarity of these bothroi suggests that they were dug and filled at around the same time. This in turn suggests that their respective surfaces may be two parts of the same large surface, separated from one another by the digging of the foundation trench for Wall 459. The difference in soil between the two surfaces is attributable to the mixed nature of the packed down fill of which they are composed.

The third phase of EH II activity in Shop 1 Rear is represented by the construction, use, and maintenance of an exterior surface over a considerable period of time. The surface was initially constructed by laying down rocky fills (Contexts 539-546) over the sandy surface discussed above (Context 551) and covering this fill with a lens of clayey silt, which was packed down, over the fill (Context 538, preserved in a 3.85 x 0.75 m area). This surface was then used for some time, as demonstrated by the significant amount of pottery that had been trampled into it. Eventually another layer of rocky fill (Context 537) was laid down on top of the first lens, with another compacted clayey lens created on top of it (Context 536 preserved in a 2.60 x 0.35 m area). After another period of use, a second remodeling, with a third layer of fill (Contexts 532, 534, and 535) and a third clayey lens, appears to have occurred. The second remodeling is less clear than the first, however, because the center of the third surface appeared to have been eroded away, leaving only two patches of it in the north (Context 533, preserved in a 1.20 x 0.55 m area) and south (Context 531, preserved in a 1.85 x 0.30 m area). Perhaps the surface went out of use for some time and slowly wore away, or perhaps it was destroyed in a single event such as a winter torrent. Either way, the eroded portion of the third lens seems then to have been repaired by three layers of fill (Contexts 527, 528, and 530) laid against the eroded edges of this lens. These repairs were not overlaid by any lens of the surface. In their full extent the next four lenses (Contexts 517 [1.50 x 0.40 m], 520 [1.20 x 0.65 m], 521 [1.70 x 0.20 m], 529 [1.50 x 0.30 m]) most likely overlay the repairs to the third lens, but these higher lenses were so eroded that they bore no stratigraphic relationship to the repairs They survived only in a small portion in the south of our area, truncated by the classical cellar to the south (Cut 497), eroded away to the north and west, and running under our section to the east. They formed directly over the third lens with no fill between them, and therefore appear to have accumulated unintentionally through use of the surface.

We argue that all these lenses and fills represent the construction, remodeling, use, and repair of a metaled road. Our pickman, Panos Kakouros, who has excavated other roads at Corinth, was the first to suggest this interpretation and has maintained it throughout our excavation. The character of the surface is consistent with this interpretation. First, it was very hard and compact, in parts composed of thin, overlying lenses. Second, it appeared to have been eroded away and repaired several times. Third, it had cultural material from disparate periods (from MN to EHII), sometimes in equal proportions, trampled into it. One would expect a much narrower chronological range for the artifacts in other kinds of exterior surfaces, such as working areas, whereas a road could have accumulated material from a wide range of periods through water action. Finally, the fills below the lenses, especially those below the first lens, contained many stones, generally increasing in size toward the bottom. The fill below another EH II road at Lerna is similar in composition (M. H. Wiencke 2000. The Architecture, Stratification, and Pottery of Lerna III. Vol. IV. Princeton: 287).

The orientation of this road is difficult to determine since only a relatively small part of it is both preserved and visible. If we look to the area below Shop 2 Rear for the continuation of this road, we do find another surface below Shop 2 Rear (Context 388, preserved in a 3.2m x 2.45m area) that lay at nearly the same level as the fourth lens of the road (Context 529)(81.00-80.81 and 80.98-80.83 respectively), but the surface below Shop 2 Rear does not have a series of lenses above or below it as we found in Shop 1 Rear. It is possible the upper lenses were destroyed during the construction of the South Stoa, since Context 388 is almost exclusively overlaid by Hellenistic fills, but this fails to explain why the first through third lenses of the road under Shop 1 Rear do not appear to continue into the area beneath Shop 2 Rear. Perhaps the road was oriented N-S, so that it continues not under Shop 2 Rear, but under Shop 1 Front. Context 388 under Shop 2 Rear, then, might have been a work area (as it was originally interpreted) beside or at the end of the road.

After the road finally fell out of use, it appears to have suffered significant erosion, creating a wide, shallow depression running roughly NE-SW across our area. This depression was then filled in the fourth phase of EH II activity with a layer of cobbles (Context 524-526) with a thin layer of earth and pebbles over and between them (Context 523). These deposits must have been made at the same time, since fragments of the same Early Helladic black-slipped one-handled cup (C-2016-16) were found in both the pebbly soil (Context 523) and the cobbles (Context 525).. In addition to this vessel, a few Late Neolithic and Early Helladic sherds and a triangular stone burnisher (MF-2016-30 in Context 526), were found among the cobbles. Based on the flat, apparently worked surfaces of some of the cobbles, and the pieces of mudbrick and chopped up bedrock throughout, we believe these layers represent the ruins of an earlier structure that were redeposited in the depression caused by the erosion of the road.

These cobbles may have been laid as a pavement, and they do resemble the pavements identified at Eutresis (J. L. Caskey and E. G. Caskey. 1960. “The Earliest Settlements at Eutresis: Supplementary Excavations, 1958.” Hesperia 29: 126-167). Fragments of a complete vessel and pieces of mudbrick are more likely to be found in dumped rubble than among carefully laid stones, however, and pebbly soil (Context 523) laid over a pavement is difficult to account for. More likely, the cobbles and the soil were cleaned up from a nearby area and dumped in this convenient natural ditch by the inhabitants of Corinth.

If this layer of cobbles did serve some purpose, it had fallen out of use by the fifth and final phase of EH II activity. More soil (Context 522) was heaped upon the cobbles as well as upon the latest lens of the road (Context 516). Little more can be said about these fills, since they were partially disturbed by later activity and partially hidden by our section.

Our excavation produced a great deal of prehistoric pottery from purely prehistoric contexts. Almost every deposit contained a mixture of Late Neolithic and Early Helladic wares, with only a few Middle Neolithic sherds.

The Late Neolithic pottery was predominated by Grey Burnished (469 sherds), Black Burnished (380 sherds), and Matt Painted (277 sherds). The paint on the Matt-painted sherds was often very well preserved, especially the Late Neolithic Matt-painted fruitstand in Context 527 (C-2016-17) . The Late Neolithic ritual vessel handle in Context 547 (C-2016-19) is even more unique: although its triangular section is not uncommon, we have so far been unable to find any comparanda for its undulating ridge.

The Early Helladic pottery was most often represented by Red-slipped (725 sherds), Cream-slipped (547 sherds, some with fine incision), and Black-Slipped (400 sherds); the next most frequent ware was EH Lightware (31 sherds). The EH II black-slipped one-handled cup in Contexts 523 and 525 (C-2016-16) and the cooking pot in Contexts 540 and 543 (C-2016-21) were the two almost intact prehistoric vessels found this session. 24 sherds of an Early Cycladic Red-Slipped vessel (yet to be reconstructed or inventoried) found in Contexts 538, 542, 543, and 544 was also of interest.

Two Early Helladic terracotta spindle whorls were also found in Context 538 (MF-2016-35 and MF-2016-36), not upon the surface of the road, but within the fill beneath. Other important small finds from the fill that so far lack dates include two stone tools (MF-2016-33 in Context 532, MF-2016-38 in Context 537) and an obsidian core (MF-2016-37 in Context 537).

The good preservation of the finds and pottery from all periods in our trench suggests that they were probably close to their primary contexts, and that they had not been redeposited many times. Stone tools, textile tools, and pottery show that habitation layers were close by. At the same time, the solid date of all these contexts suggests that EH II was a period of major renovation of this area, apparently involving the cleanup of some nearby collapsed buildings (Context 523-526 and Context 537). In light of both these factors, as well as the current lack of evidence for EH I contexts, it seems that the area of Shop 1 Rear was abandoned in the Late Neolithic and only revisited in Early Helladic II. The Early Helladic inhabitants of Corinth would have encountered an area much altered by their Neolithic predecessors: earth filled with Late Neolithic sherds and tools as well as a deep cut in the bedrock. In filling and leveling off this cut and constructing their road, they would have mixed their own waste with that of their predecessors, creating a “Mixed Fill,” much like the one found in several places at Lerna (M. H. Wiencke 2000. The Architecture, Stratification, and Pottery of Lerna III. Vol. IV. Princeton: 29).

Several previous excavations at Corinth uncovered mixed deposits of Early Helladic and Late Neolithic. According to Phelps 2004, Walker-Kosmopoulos found Late Neolithic in equal proportions with Early Helladic on the north side of Temple Hill in 1920. In 1931, Hill likewise discovered Late Neolithic with much Early Helladic on the site of the current museum. Finally, Weinberg in 1938 found Black and Grey Wares mixed with Early Helladic west of the museum. It would be valuable to revisit these deposits now that the pottery sequences of the Late Neolithic and Early Helladic in the Peloponnese have been better defined. Perhaps the Early Helladic material in these contexts is also confined to EH II.

CLASSICAL?

There is very little evidence of human activity between EH II and the construction of the South Stoa, probably because the builders of the South Stoa cleared and leveled the area before construction.

Before that, however, the inhabitants of Corinth dug a long, rectilinear pit (Cut 497/Contexts 478 and 513-515) running E-W that widens slightly toward the west (1.00m wide at the east, 1.40m wide at the west). Its preserved length is 2.70m, but it was truncated to the east by Broneer's excavation trench (509) and to the west by the foundation trench for Wall 459 (Cut 506). It is quite deep (0.72m), with vertical sides and a roughly leveled bottom. Its southern side and some of its base were cut into bedrock, while its northern side was cut into the prehistoric surfaces discussed above.

The form of this cut suggests that it was a Classical cellar. Two comparable cellars associated with the Classical Buildings I and II in the forum area of Corinth were excavated in 1971 by Charles Williams (Hesperia 41.2: 143-184). Both cellars are 1-2m wide (Cut 497 is 1.3m wide), cut into bedrock, and not waterproofed (as ours); Cellar B also widens toward one end.

HELLENISTIC (LATE 4TH TO EARLY 3RD CENT. BC)

After the cellar had fallen out of use, it was filled in the late 4th/early 3rd cent. BC or later (Contexts Contexts 478, 513-515), before the construction of the west foundation trench and probably during the initial leveling of the area in preparation for the stoa. The filling of the cellar was most likely part of the construction process, as joining sherds of the same matt-painted vessel (C-2016-14) were found in the cellar fill (Contexts 478, 515) and the foundation trench fill (Context 505). Next the foundation trenches were dug, the walls were constructed, and the trenches were backfilled. The builders then deposited several layers of fill (Contexts 456, 503, 508) over the cellar fill and the foundation trench fill in order to level Shop 1 Rear. Since none of the fills in the foundation trench itself dated later than the 4th cent. BC, they are all dated by their stratigraphic relationship to the cellar fill, which was cut by the foundation trench, to the late 4th/early 3rd cent. BC.

One of the leveling fills over the foundation trench (Context 508) was overlaid by a possible surface (Context 449) into which two pithos stands were cut (Cuts 382, 389). As stated above, Jiang and Judson believed that this surface predated the construction of Shop 1 Rear, and they therefore interpreted the Hellenistic fill of a large cut in this surface (Cut 493/4/Contexts 424 [first half of the 3rd cent. BC], 436, 438) as the leveling of Shop 1 Rear immediately after its construction. However, the fill (Context 508) over the foundation trench (Context 511) and beneath this surface (Context 449) makes it clear that this surface postdated the construction of Shop 1 Rear. For this reason, we believe that Context 449 may have been the original floor of the room, or at least another leveling fill for the floor, since the pithos stands were cut into it. Cut 493/4 and its fills would then reflect a significant change to the room, perhaps after it or part of the surface had fallen out of use.

This interpretation of Context 449 suggests that Shop 1 Rear was constructed and in use by the end of the 4th cent. BC or later. This date is brought down to the first quarter of the 3rd century BC by a single sherd found in Session I in the fill of the east foundation trench of Shop 2 Rear (Cut 322/Deposit 321)—the other side of the same foundation trench we excavated this session.

Most of our Hellenistic contexts contained a great deal of Late Neolithic and Early Helladic pottery. In the cellar we found a Late Neolithic Matt-painted bowl rim (C-2016-18 in Context 513) and a Late Neolithic Black-burnished roll handle (C-2016-15 in Context 515), as well as a Neolithic figurine (MF-2016-25 in Context 513); in the leveling fill we found an Early Helladic II obsidian blade (MF-2016-21 in Context 508). The presence of this material is easily explained. The builders of the South Stoa inevitably dug down into earlier layers while excavating the foundation trenches, and then used this same soil to backfill the trenches and level off the rooms. The soil in the cellar could have come from the foundation trench of another room that was built before Shop 1 Rear.

CONCLUSIONS

This excavation of Shop 1 Rear has provided evidence that the South Stoa was constructed in the late 4th to early 3rd cent. BC, which supports the down-dating of the construction of the stoa from the widely accepted date of 338-323 B.C. to the 3rd century B.C. by Sanders, Miura, and Kvapil (2014) and James (forthcoming).

Through the discovery of a Classical cellar beneath Shop 1 Rear, the excavation has added to our understanding of this area soon before the construction of the stoa. Along with Classical Buildings I and II, it indicates that this area was already occupied by structures and probably saw a good deal of activity.

The prehistoric layers beneath Shop 1 Rear have shed further light on the prehistoric layers beneath Shop 2 Rear. Together these layers have provided a wealth of material that promises to open up new lines of research in the prehistory of Corinth. Although no settlement has been located, the kinds of material culture we have found, as well as its good preservation, indicate that there were probably Late Neolithic and Early Helladic II settlements nearby. The discovery of the EH II road suggests that the Early Helladic settlement may have seen a good deal of traffic, and some of it (based on the discovery of obsidian, non-local chert, and Cycladic pottery) may have come from rather far away.

FUTURE GOALS

• Continue excavation to clarify the nature of the sandy surface (Context 551) as well as the fill below it.
• Explore the possibility of more connections between the prehistoric layers excavated last session in Shop 2 Rear and those in Shop 1 Rear.
• Use Panagiotis Karkanas’ analysis of the microstratigraphy to come to a better understanding of the formation processes in this area.
• Compare the pottery from our excavations with that from other prehistoric excavations at Corinth.


CONTEXTS: 497, 503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 511, 512, 513, 514, 515, 516, 517, 518, 519, 520, 521, 522, 523, 524, 525, 526, 527, 528, 529, 530, 531, 532, 533, 534, 535, 536, 537, 538, 539, 540, 541, 542, 543, 544, 545, 546, 547, 548, 549, 550, 551

MF-2016-21 Early Helladic II Obsidian Blade in 508
MF-2016-25 Neolithic Figurine in 513
MF-2016-30 Triangular Stone Burnisher in 526
MF-2016-33 Stone Tool 532
MF-2016-35 Early Helladic Terracotta Spindle Whorl in 538
MF-2016-36 Early Helladic Terracotta Spindle Whorl in 538
MF-2016-37 Obsidian Core in 537
MF-2016-38 Stone Tool in 537
MF-2016-39 Late Neolithic Chert Blade in 547

C-2016-14 Late Neolithic Matt-painted Jar in 505
C-2016-15 Late Neolithic Black-burnished Roll Handle in 515
C-2016-16 Early Helladic Black-slipped One-handled Cup in 523, 525
C-2016-17 Late Neolithic Matt-painted Fruitstand in 527
C-2016-18 Late Neolithic Matt-painted Bowl in 513
C-2016-19 Late Neolithic Ritual Vessel Handle in 547
C-2016-20 Early Helladic II Firedog Stand Knob in 547
C-2016-21 Tripod Vessel in 543, 540