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The Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey: integrated methods for a dynamic landscape: introduction.


Corinth was one of the great cities of the ancient world, in large measure because of its location near strategic crossroads to the east. (1) The Isthmus of Corinth provided overland passage from southern to central Greece, and linked the Corinthian Gulf, leading to Italy and the west, with the Saronic Gulf, giving access to the Aegean Sea, Anatolia, and the Levant to the east (Fig. 1). The site of ancient Corinth has been excavated for more than 100 years by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. (2) Much archaeological and topographic work has been undertaken in the city's eastern hinterland, including excavations at the Panhellenic Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia, (3) the Saronic port at Kenchreai, (4) and the two major prehistoric sites of Korakou and Gonia, (5) as well as extensive studies of the built environment as it relates to historical sources. (6) A few unsystematic reconnaissance surveys were also undertaken, the most thorough being James Wiseman's walking survey of the entire Corinthia in the 1960s. (7)


Between 1997 and 2003, the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey (EKAS) investigated a 350-[km.sup.2] region east of the ancient city of Corinth; the underlying methodology of the project and preliminary findings are detailed below. For two decades prior to the survey, Timothy Gregory and other EKAS archaeologists produced a large body of work on the Corinthia, focused particularly but not exclusively on the Roman, Byzantine, and Frankish periods. (8) With this extensive archaeological and historical sequence, we have been able to firmly affix our study to a chronological framework covering more than 8,000 years, from the establishment of Early Neolithic communities to the present (Table 1). Nevertheless, previous research has offered only limited understanding of the territory in which these sites were found, including the locations of habitation and nonhabitation sites, road networks, and patterns of resource distribution and exploitation. (9) EKAS has thus been both a natural outgrowth of ongoing research and a specific means to address these gaps in knowledge, using modern survey methods unavailable to previous investigators.

The eastern Corinthia, or the territory lying east of ancient Corinth, offers a unique opportunity to investigate the changing relationships among urban, "sub-urban," and rural entities from prehistory to the present. Prior to EKAS's work, a number of settlements, industrial and exploitative areas, and other sites were already known outside Corinth's urban zone in the eastern Corinthia. The area was heavily traveled in antiquity, providing Corinth life-sustaining access to land and sea connections at the heart of mainland Greece. The fertile coastal plain of the eastern Corinthia was a major source of agricultural commodities for Corinth and, just as important, for a time provided high-quality architectural building stone that was employed not just at Corinth and Isthmia, but was also exported for temple construction at the sanctuaries of Epidauros and Delphi. (10) The principal quarries can still be seen today at Examilia and Kenchreai, and smaller ones abound. (11)

The long-term human history of the eastern Corinthia reflects the interplay of local, regional, and supraregional interactions. (12) A principal aim of EKAS has been to explore the way these relationships developed and changed at diverse spatial and temporal scales. In the prehistoric and protohistoric periods, the eastern Corinthia was not dominated by Corinth itself, and the questions surrounding the Corinthia tend to emphasize regional contrasts within the entire northeastern Peloponnese. Why were Korakou and Gonia seemingly not abandoned during the Middle Helladic period, in contrast to Tsoungiza and Zygouries? Why was there apparently no Mycenaean palace center in the Corinthia? It seemed likely that intensive survey might clarify these and other poorly documented patterns, such as an apparent change from nucleated to dispersed settlement at the end of the Mycenaean period. (13)

The sub-urban and rural eastern Corinthia becomes less distinct archaeologically once Corinth came to dominate the region, and our questions center more on agency in the hinterland. Was the trajectory of Corinth's eastern hinterland inextricably tied to that of the Corinthian state? Or were residents in the hinterland able to pursue independent relations within the region and with the outside world? Thus, a primary focus of EKAS has been the changing relationship between the urban center at Corinth and its hinterland in historical times. More broadly, we hoped that the survey data would contextualize known sites through the discovery and study of new sites and off-site material, reveal intraregional variability in human activity upon the diverse coastal, lowland, and upland landscapes of the eastern Corinthia over time, and illuminate the interactions of the people of the eastern Corinthia with other parts of the Aegean area and beyond.
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Author:Tartaron, Thomas F.; Gregory, Timothy E.; Pullen, Daniel J.; Noller, Jay S.; Rothaus, Richard M.; Ri
Date:Oct 1, 2006
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