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


Numerous research components were included under the EKAS umbrella (Table 2). They are described briefly here as an introduction to the detailed treatments of methods and results below. EKAS created a precise terminology to define specific methodological concepts, giving rise to a number of terms and associated acronyms (Table 3). These terms and acronyms are used throughout the discussion that follows.

Geomorphological Survey

Geomorphology was fundamental to nearly every aspect of our work. At a basic level, we defined the archaeological survey universe as geomorphological space, emphasizing the notion that artifacts behave as sediments. Their movements and the condition in which they are found are strongly influenced by postdepositional processes (cultural and natural) that are best studied using geomorphological techniques. Well in advance of the archaeological survey, teams of geologists mapped soils, sediments, faults, and other features at scales ranging from coarse (drainage basins) to fine (localized geomorphic units). This information formed a basis for the long-term environmental context of the eastern Corinthia, and supplied many derived characteristics such as coastline change, availability of fresh water, distribution of arable soils, and stability/instability of archaeological landscapes. Geomorphologists were intimately involved in the daily survey effort: archaeological survey units were placed by teams of archaeologists and geomorphologists to respect geomorphic boundaries, and geomorphology interns accompanied survey teams to provide guidance and observations on fine-scale processes affecting the surface archaeological record.

Geographic Information System

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are now a regular feature of archaeological projects, (14) but until recently GIS had been used in survey archaeology mainly to analyze retroactively data that had already been collected. (15) Before the survey commenced, we developed a multifunctional GIS that has been integrated into every phase of our research. (16) Topographic (contours, landforms), environmental (vegetation), geomorphological (geology, hydrology, tectonics), and cultural (sites, burials, roads, land use) data sets were created and continuously updated during the course of the project. Aerial photographs, satellite imagery, and topographic, geological, and geomorphological maps served as the principal data sets for locating and georeferencing the environmental and cultural data obtained through survey. Archaeological and geological teams navigated and mapped survey units using georeferenced aerial photographs and topographic maps generated by the GIS, on which locational and contextual information was printed (Fig. 2). Relational databases, using Access and FileMaker Pro, were developed for the environmental and archaeological data, and these were linked to paper field forms and to the GIS.


At the end of each field day, survey teams digitized their archaeological and geomorphic units into the GIS, and entered all data generated by survey, artifact processing, and geomorphic analysis in the appropriate database. These databases were linked in the GIS to the spatial information, making it possible to generate detailed reports and images on a daily basis. Once incorporated in the GIS, this information was used to analyze and interpret patterns of artifact distributions across the survey area.

GIS was also used to develop spatial probability models for settlement patterns in targeted periods of the past, notably for the coasts and harbors survey (see below).

Systematic Archaeological Survey

Systematic archaeological survey operated in three modes: intensive (offsite) mode, extensive mode, and LOCA (on-site) mode, reflecting different scales of investigation of a culturally and physically diverse landscape. The discovery phase of the survey was performed mainly in intensive survey tracts called Discovery Units (DUs). In these units, walkers at 10-m intervals inspected 2-m swaths of the surface, counting artifacts and picking up a representative sample according to the "chronotype" collection system (explained below). Artifact processing teams followed behind to perform in-field analysis of the finds. Extensive mode survey included nonsystematic advance scouting and systematic, nonintensive investigation of areas falling outside the intensive survey transects. The small size of the extensive survey teams (typically two or three people) allowed them to range widely over the survey area. LOCA (on-site) mode survey involved intensive field investigation of anomalous concentrations encountered during the discovery phase of survey. Many were investigated by means of a grid of 10 x 10 m sampling squares, but we adopted a flexible approach to accommodate the diverse nature of the anomalies. The specific methods and activities of each of these survey modes are described in detail below, with several examples.

Experimental Survey

EKAS designed and carried out a series of experiments to reflexively evaluate procedures and to calibrate results against survey conditions. Methods were evaluated for their efficacy, with shortcomings exposed and sources of bias identified; the results could then be fed back into the process as adjustments to field procedures. In calibrating the results, we sought to identify the effects of variability in local field conditions, making it possible to adjust quantitative and qualitative results, and providing a meaningful basis for comparison among projects with disparate methods, aims, and local conditions. (17)

Modern Survey

EKAS aimed to extend equal treatment to the Modern period, defined as extending from the formation of the modern Greek state in 1827 until the present. Survey archaeologists have shown interest in modern Greece to the extent that it serves the purposes of ethnoarchaeology, (18) but the archaeological investigation of this chronological period is a relatively new phenomenon without a methodological tradition. (19) In order to augment the typical emphasis on "traditional" and recently abandoned settlements, seasonal structures, (20) and agricultural and industrial land use, (21) EKAS integrated the Modern period into standard data collection practices implemented in part by the regular survey teams. (22) Modern features were recorded on survey forms and modern artifacts were counted and gathered; this information was then incorporated into the project's GIS and databases. For these purposes, the Modern period was divided into two historically defined phases: Recent Modern (1827-1960) and Present Modern (1960-present), the latter reflecting the postwar transition from a largely agrarian society to an affluent, modern, urban one. A ceramic typology for Recent Modern was established on the basis of stratified samples from the Corinth Excavations, (23) and efforts are under way to provide a similar typology for Present Modern.

This archaeological approach has been complemented by an investigation of the relevant written records--both historical and archival--as well as oral information from local inhabitants. For example, the Greek State Archive in New Corinth is expected to yield important information about patterns of subsistence, land use, and modernization in the eastern Corinthia in the Modern period. (24) The modern survey also considered the human aspect of the present cultural landscape, including contemporary indigenous perceptions of heritage, history, and national identity, and the threat and impact of modern development on the cultural landscape. (25) These issues were explored with local residents, as well as with representatives of the Greek Archaeological Service and administrators in local and state government.

Fourteen modern sites (LOCAs), ranging from cemeteries to suburban settlements, have been fully investigated. The example of Lakka Skoutara, a recently abandoned agricultural settlement (Fig. 1), shows how investigations of the Modern period were integrated. (26) The archaeological exploration of the settlement and its surroundings aimed at clarifying the relationship between isolated rural establishments and their surrounding landscapes in the Modern period. Nestled in a polje among steep hills and ravines, Lakka Skoutara consists of a number of scattered domestic structures, a recently refurbished church, agricultural features including threshing floors and terraced fields, and resin-producing pine forests. The investigation by EKAS included geomorphological analysis, intensive pedestrian survey, an architectural survey of the standing buildings, the search for archival records, and the collection of oral information from present-day landowners.

On the basis of archaeological evidence alone, Lakka Skoutara conforms to the conceptually rigid and static interpretation of an isolated, nucleated agricultural hamlet or village. But information obtained from former residents challenges this interpretation, revealing instead a highly dynamic and flexible rural settlement and landscape. We conclude that Lakka Skoutara was neither a concentration of scattered seasonal farmhouses, nor an isolated village or hamlet. Rather, for most of the 19th and 20th centuries it was something in between, a semipermanent settlement characterized by lengthy periods of habitation intimately linked with the inland town of Sophiko, and connected to the outside world through extensive road networks and exchange networks facilitated through the harbor town of Korphos. (27) The study of Lakka Skoutara holds broad implications for conceptual and methodological approaches to Greek rural settlement in the past, reinforcing current views that emphasize dynamism over static categories that give a false impression of an eternal, unchanging Greek rural village. (28)

Coasts and Harbors Survey

The coasts and harbors survey was constituted as an independent research endeavor under the EKAS umbrella to address the difficulties of identifying prehistoric and early historical harbor sites in the Corinthia. A harbor location model, embedded in a broader probability model for the types of settings favored by prehistoric inhabitants, succeeded in guiding us to several potential harbors and in some cases associated settlements, including a fortified Early Bronze Age settlement and a Mycenaean harbor town. These results have been published in detail elsewhere. (29)

Mortuary Survey

The mortuary survey was constituted in recognition that proper documentation of the mortuary landscape required specialized skills and data collection beyond that carried out by survey teams. This study sought to document and interpret the physical remains of burial as indices of variability in settlement, land use, and sociocultural identity. The mortuary landscape may illuminate or reflect historical contingencies and processes, including the dynamic interaction between Corinth and its hinterland in ancient and medieval times and the evolution of settlement and the emergence of a Hellenic identity in modern times.

The systematic incorporation of the mortuary survey into the research strategy and field methods of EKAS is unprecedented in Mediterranean landscape archaeology. Working in conjunction with the extensive and intensive survey teams, the mortuary survey team examined both previously known and newly discovered sites and recorded the essential material components of mortuary behavior. (30) Each site was then dated by associated finds or formal typology, comparable evidence for Corinthian burial was evaluated, and locational data were entered into the EKAS GIS. The mortuary survey also served an important conservational purpose by documenting numerous sites of ancient or Byzantine date that were endangered by looting, vandalism, dumping, agriculture, or construction.

This study revealed that the eastern Corinthia has been an abundant and complex mortuary landscape throughout history. (31) Survey directed by Joseph Rife documented 47 discrete burial areas, representing well over 1,000 single burial events dating from the Geometric through the Middle or Late Byzantine periods. Most are situated near areas of dense settlement and coastal or inland routes of traffic on the Isthmus. The survey of modern cemeteries, directed by Lita Tzortzopoulou-Gregory as part of the broader modern survey (see above), recorded 10 sites containing 837 graves. These sites, which have been in use since the late 19th or early 20th century, are located throughout the survey region.

Geophysical Survey

In 2002, a geophysical survey using magnetic and soil resistance methods was conducted at several locations of interest identified during surface survey. (32) The results were mixed, but at one location, Perdikaria (see Fig. 16, below), strong magnetic and soil resistance anomalies outline the plans of several large buildings in two principal orientations indicating distinct chronological phases, including a complex measuring 30 x 15 m with a number of internal rooms (Fig. 3). These architectural features correspond well to a dense scatter of artifacts and architectural fragments of Roman-Late Medieval date.


At another location, Kesimia (Fig. 16, below), two anomalies near a concentration of Classical material may represent kilns. The geophysical survey allowed us simultaneously to evaluate the capabilities of a new generation of geophysical instruments for landscape-scale questions, (33) and to test the reliability of our surface patterns. At the Kesimia location, we learned that a substantial surface concentration of architectural blocks and fragments has no corresponding subsurface foundations--at least not where we expected them to be. This result is a useful reminder of the complex transformational processes by which such material remains have been moved around the landscape.
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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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