Home > Korinthian Matters, Survey Archaeology > Some New Work on Historic Corinthian Lithics

Some New Work on Historic Corinthian Lithics

The most recent volume of Hesperia also has a nice article by my favorite stone tool expert, P. Nick Kardulias.  Nick is a long-time colleague from Ohio State Excavations at Isthmia (and the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey) and is publishing our lithics from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project.   His article, “Flaked Stone from Isthmia” emphasizes (in particular) flaked stone from post-prehistoric contexts at Isthmia.  He also includes a brief discussion of lithics found in the Kromna excavations and associated with some other areas in the Eastern Corinthia surveyed by the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey.  Nick makes the useful and interesting point that lithic technologies persisted into the historic period (following on his and others important work along similar lines in the Southern Argolid and in the study of doukani (or threshing floor) blades on Cyprus).

Nick’s arguments for the use of lithics into the historical period is important for survey archaeologists.  EKAS found hundreds (if not thousands) of chert and obsidian objects over the course of its intensive survey in the general vicinity of Isthmia.  He makes some off hand observations regarding the cautious tendency for survey archaeologists to assign lithic artifacts prehistoric dates (pp. 333-336) especially when they appear in multiperiod sites.  The result of this caution is that we may be underestimating the number of lithic artifact datable to the historic period.  There is reason to think that the large assemblage of material from EKAS (which I think Nick is studying) may provide some evidence for the use of lithics in historical periods.  Of the 222 units which produced obsidian or chert objects, only 95 of them (43%!) produced clearly datable perhistoric pottery.  While the problems with recovering and identifying prehistoric pottery in a survey context are well known and my hasty analysis is a simply count of units (rather than a more useful analysis of their spatial distribution across the site (i.e. it may be plausible to argue for the prehistoric date of lithics found in units adjacent to those with prehistoric pottery), it nevertheless suggests that a careful study of the distribution of lithic artifacts across the survey area might lead to some suggestive observations.  (I’ll try to do a spatial analysis of this data sometime over the weekend…)

June 2009 141
Nick Kardulias looking at one big lithic in Lakka Skoutara

One of the more interesting things about the historic use of lithics is that obsidian (and maybe chert) blades could be reused long after their original production.  This is interesting because Kardulias argues that the initial energy needed to produce lithic blades and other tools was not excessive nor did it require a particularly high level of expertise.  Moreover there were good chert sources throughout the Isthmia plain most notably on Acrocorinth.  This is all to ask why would people re-use lithics in the historic period (other than shear convenience or some accident of survival) if they are relatively easy to acquire and manufacture?   

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