Corinth Report: Temple E, Southeast excavations 2017, by Tori Bedingfield (May 2 - May 19)
Collection:   Corinth
Type:   Report
Name:   Temple E, Southeast excavations 2017, by Tori Bedingfield (May 2 - May 19)
Title:   Frankish Area: Unit 1, Courtyard, Northeast Corner
Area:   Temple E, Southeast
Site:   Corinth
City:   Ancient Corinth
Country:   Greece
Temple E, Southeast Excavations 2017
Coordinates: N: 1043.270, S: 1039.866, E: 114.763, W: 109.937

This is the final summary report for work undertaken in the northeastern corner of the courtyard of Unit 1, Frankish Area, during the second excavation session of the 2017 season. Personnel: Guy Sanders (Director), Ioulia Tzonou-Herbst (Assistant Director), James Herbst (Architect), Orestes Zervos (Numismatist), Rossana Valente (Field Director), Panos Kakouros (Assistant Foreman and Pickman), Marios Vathis (Shovelman and Sieve), and Tori Bedingfield (Recorder).

The area of excavation is located in the northeast corner of the unpaved section north of the paved courtyard in Unit 1. The western section of the unpaved part, 4.5 meters wide (E-W), had previously been excavated during session 1 of the 2017 excavation season. The excavation during session 2 was conducted in the remaining eastern section, approximately 5m (E-W) x 4m (N-S) area. The excavation was bounded in the north by an E-W reconstructed wall (labelled wall 2 in the 1992 excavations, NB 849); in the east by a N-S reconstructed wall (referred to as the south wall of room 8, or annex, in the 1992 excavations, NB 852); in the south by the northern limit of the paved courtyard; and in the west by the excavation scarp created in session 1 excavations. Room 8 is situated directly north of the excavation area, and room 3 is situated to the east. The unpaved portion of the courtyard in Unit 1 was last systematically excavated in April-May 1992 (NB 849, pp. 11-17, pp. 29-51, pp. 69-73, pp. 83-101, lots 1992-24, 1992-42, 1992-39, 1992-40, 1992-50, lot 1992-51; NB 852, pp. 8-10, pp. 38-62, lot 1992-31). The previous excavations removed approximately 1 meter of destruction debris, with a “Turkish house” built over the destruction layer (NB 832). The final elevation recorded in the excavation area by the 1992 excavation team (85.546 masl, NB 852, basket 114) is approximately ten centimeters higher than the opening elevations recorded for the 2017 excavation season (85.46 masl). The final context (NB 849, basket 54) of May 1992 excavation season in the eastern part of the unit, and the final context (NB 852, basket 114) of the June 1992 excavations in the north and western part of the unit, was recorded as being a hard clean clay surface, which is not incongruous with the hard, marl clay surface that was on the surface at the start on the 2017 excavation. The approximately ten centimeters of difference in level between 1992 and 2017 may be explained by a number of reasons. Given that this area was exposed to the elements for 25 years and experienced foot traffic from the restoration efforts on the north and east walls, it is not entirely impossible to exclude that there has been some loss from wind erosion and wear. As in all areas left open to the elements for such a long time, cleaning operations are imperative before the beginning of a new excavation season, in order to remove any potentially mixed strata. The coordinates of the excavation area are N: 1043.270, S: 1039.866, E: 114.763, W: 109.937; the opening elevation was 85.494 masl, and the closing is 84.99 masl, though the lowest elevation recorded was at the bottom of a pit cut at 84.42 masl.

The overall goals of session 2, 2017 excavation season were threefold: to understand the phasing of the east wall, the floor layers, and the pit deposit visible on the surface, and their relationship to one another; to understand the so-called “mud brick structure” (feature 1073) exposed during season 1 of the 2017 excavations; and to look for evidence for reorientation of the entire space, a theory posited in previous scholarship. By and large, theories and responses to these goals were satisfactorily developed, though more excavation is required to verify any conclusions with absolute certainty. In particular, excavation underneath the paved courtyard to the south of the excavation area would be fruitful for our understanding of this part of the Frankish occupation.

Frankish Period (1210-1458 CE)

The earliest use of this space that was uncovered was a levelling event made up of redeposited mud brick, resulting in a unified elevation in this portion of the unpaved section of the courtyard (context 1107, lot 2017-1). The westernmost boundary of the mud brick redeposited layer was first uncovered in session 1 of the 2017 excavations (feature 1073).

During the late 13th to the early 14th century, a subfloor (context 1107, lot 2017-1) and accompanying lime floor (1106, lot 2017-3) were laid down on the redeposited mudbrick floor. Despite its relatively durable construction, a repair patch (context 1105) in the floor was needed in the southwest corner of the floor some time later in its use. The west edge of this floor was visible in the excavation unit, and it did not continue over the “mud brick structure” (feature 1073). Therefore, the original western boundary of the floor may be preserved. The southern boundary is unknown, as the floor stretches under the paved courtyard.

At some point later in time, still during the late 13th to early 14th c., a wall stretching across the northern boundary of the courtyard was constructed, and a foundation trench cut through the lower flooring and redeposited mudbrick layer. Contemporary with this north wall, a clay floor approximately 8 centimeters thick was laid down (context 1104, lot 2017-2). After this, a pit (approximately 1 meter by 1 meter) was cut in the northwest corner of the excavation unit to a depth below context 1107 (bottom elevation 84.11 masl), the deepest layer excavated. Due to several days of heavy rain during the excavation season and the high clay content of the surrounding layers, the fill of the pit is not excavated. After this, though still in the late 13th to early 14th c., the clay floor and pit were overlaid by three subfloor layers (8-9 cm thickness in total, context 1103 lot 2017-4, context 1102 lot 2017-5, and context 1101 lot 2017-6), and a cement floor (context 1100).

In the 14th c., three more cement floor layers were laid down directly on one another (context 1099 lot 2017-7, context 1097, and context 1085, lot 2017-8), lacking the subfloors seen in previous layers. All layers up to this stage had continued under the paved courtyard to the south of the excavation unit. Additionally, all floor layers are characterized by a high residuality in respect to the artifacts recovered, due to the redeposited material used for the floors.

Continuing in the 14th c., another north wall was constructed on top of the earlier wall, and its foundation trench cut through all floor layers down to the lowest of three subfloor layers associated with one of the cement floors (context 1103, lot 2017-4, bottom elevation 85.22 masl). This wall was built directly on top of the earlier north wall. Due to the modern intrusion of the wall restoration, the exact dimensions of the earlier wall are not clear. The existence of an earlier wall was evident mostly in the presence of its foundation trench.

A paved courtyard was constructed to the south of the excavation area, probably contemporaneously with the construction of this later north wall. Paving stones were laid over a section of the floor layers (to the south of the excavation area), and may have reoriented the space from a north-south orientation to an east-west one. In addition to the construction of a paved courtyard and the north wall, a marl floor was laid down in this area. During the 2017 excavation season, the floor was patchy and relatively thin, though in previous excavation this was recorded as being a sturdy clay floor layer (NB 849, p. 41). The clay floor was described as being flush with the level of the paving stones in the paved courtyard, though at the start of this excavation period, the floor was some centimeters lower than the courtyard. Even at its deepest level, this marl floor does not continue under the paved courtyard to the south, and so it is certain that the marl floor was laid down after the paving stones.

After the paving of the stone courtyard, the space seems to have fallen into a period of disuse, and in the east of the excavation unit a pit was cut into the floor layers. Beginning at some point in the 14th c. and ending sometime in the second half of the 14th c., the pit was filled with dump fills of large joining fragments of matt painted amphora and other ceramics, tile, and refuse (from first to last deposited: contexts 1076, 1086-1089, lot 2017-10). Due to the relatively few animal bones and organics recovered and the absence in the soils of the loamy quality common in cesspits, it appears this was not used in a household context, at least in the latter part of the 14th c. During the 1992 excavations, the other portion of this pit was excavated (“pit A” in NB 849). The final elevation of pit A as well as the nature of the finds make it very likely they are from the same event, though there seem to have been around three different pits cut in this area, with at least one pit cutting through the southeast portion of pit A. In addition, a destruction layer covered over this whole area (NB 832), and the excavators who recorded the context below the deposit (NB 849) were ambiguous about the boundaries of the various pits at the start of their excavation. This makes it difficult to be certain the pits are related. The excavation drawings also show an outline that roughly aligns with pit 1078, though it was not explored. The drawing may show the slumping of the floor over the pit, as well as the difference in the adherence of the clay floor to the layer below it.

Following this activity, a wall in the east of the excavation unit was built that cut through the pit. This was the last phase of activity excavated during this season. The clay floor layer mentioned in the 1992 excavation probably dates to this period as well, though it isn’t possible to be certain. To compensate for the loose fill of the pit, it was necessary to fortify the foundation with large cobbles and stones below and around the foundation trench within the pit. A precise date cannot be offered for this wall, other than the terminus post quem is sometime after the final fill of the pit was deposited (1076, lot 2017-10), in the second half of the 14th c., and after the second phase of the north wall, which dates to the late 14th c.

The previous excavations of April-May 1992 had recovered evidence for a large scale destruction event covering the whole area. It had been assumed that this was due to the Catalan destruction of Corinth in 1312. Given the dating of the pit (after the second half of the 14th c.), this gives good reason to rethink the phasing of the Frankish alteration of the site, as well as to the cause of the destruction layer. In fact, during the year 1312, this area of the site was experiencing continuous maintenance.

Outstanding goals

The removal of the mudbrick floor level would be important in clarifying the murky understanding of the relationship between the excavation units of session 1 and session 2. In addition, the removal of the paved courtyard would provide more understanding of the function of this area prior to the paving of the stone courtyard.