Home > Thisvi-Kastorion Archaeological Project > Islands in the Corinthian Gulf: Some Archaeological Data

Islands in the Corinthian Gulf: Some Archaeological Data

Over the last few days, I’ve taken a break from my normal routine to key in data collected by the Ohio Boeotia Expedition from the island of Kouveli in the Gulf of Domvrena on the northern coast of the Corinthian Gulf near the site of Thisvi. The results of the work by the OBE on the islands in the Gulf of Domvrena have appeared in scattered publications with the most substantial publications appearing in a volume of the DXAE and Byzantine Studies (here and here)

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This continues my work to move the data collected over the course of the Ohio Boeotia Expedition to digital form.  As with the earlier data, I keyed the data into an Access database that will, hopefully, eventually, feed into the transect data from the survey of the island of Kouveli stored in a GIS.  Right now, however, all I have is the finds data.

Despite the lack of a spatial component, I think that I can make some modest observations about the character of the data collected from this survey.  In Gregory’s 1986 publication, he reports that he surveyed 138,000 m2 with a sample area of 207 m2.  This produced 494 artifacts (and an overall density of 2.39 m2 or an imposing 23,864 artifacts per ha).  That is impressive artifact density despite the relatively small sample.  Of these 494 articles, we have records from at some 320 of artifacts that were at least read in a preliminary way and the majority of these artifacts (60%) were assigned a chronology — albeit in small handful of cases this chronology was as broad as “Ancient”.  As Gregory noted in publication, the vast majority of artifacts date to the Late Roman to Byzantine period.  The assemblage was predominantly coarse and utility wares, particularly combed, spirally grooved, and wheel ridged body sherds which likely derived from storage or transport vessels.  There was also a significant number of cooking posts and a light scatter of fineware including a piece of (LRC) Phocaean Ware from 10 and other, perhaps regionally produced, red glazed sherds in table ware forms like plates.  It’s striking to note that over 54% of the identified sherds were body sherds rather than more traditional feature sherds like rims, handles, and bases.

Also interesting is the quantity of later material on this rather rough and rugged island.  The Byzantine period is substantially represented and some of the relatively “late” late Roman artifacts – datable to the 7th century AD for example – suggests evidence for continuity of use between the Late Antiquity and Byzantium.  While a closer analysis of the material from the island is necessary to determine function, it would appear that Byzantine finewares are more recognizable in the assemblage,particularly brown and green glazed ware, chaffing dishes and bowls, and at least one piece of Constantinopolitan white slip. (It would be romantic to see this sherd as the ragged fringe of the prosperous ties between Boeotia and the Capital in the Middle Byzantine period).

Even later still, it appear there was some Ottoman period activity on this island as “Turkish” period glazed wares appear in the assemblage.  It will be very useful to correlate this material with recent studies of Ottoman period activities on the nearby mainland.  The presence of table ware on the island suggests that activity on the island was more than simply episodic exploitation and might suggest more sustained habitation.  Even into the modern period small quantities of table ware appear alongside other evidence of modern activities like shell-casings. 

Most striking of all, perhaps, is that dearth of clearly identified earlier material especially compared the seemingly vigorous landscapes of the nearby mainland.  Unlike the hinterlands of Thisvi or, further east, Thespiae, there is apparently no evidence for Classical and Hellenistic period activity on the island and very little evidence for activities from the Roman period.  Even a relatively rugged island, then, seems to show signs of the Late Roman economic and demographic boom in Greece.

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