KENCHREAI - 2012
Type of Operation
Kenchreai. J. Rife (ASCSA/ Vanderbilt) reports on studies arising from the ASCSA’s Kenchreai excavations (1962-1969) and Kenchreai Cemetery Project (2002-2006).
Study of the standing architecture at the base of the north mole of the ancient harbour (Figs. 1-2) focused on the Upper Terrace, a flat area cut into the bedrock which overlooks the Brick Building from the north. A new actual-state plan was made of this area, extended down into the Brick Building. The sequence of walls here reveals two construction phases, the first Early-Middle Roman (ca first to third centuries AD) and the second Late Roman-Early Byzantine (ca fifth to seventh centuries AD).
On the Upper Terrace, Phase 1 is represented by a row of three rectangular chambers (ca 8 x 5.2m) with a floor at the level of the exposed bedrock. The walls, of evenly set mortar, rubble and tile/brick, are founded in shallow rock-cut footing trenches. The chambers faced a straight, open-air passageway (ca 3.15m wide) sloping slightly eastward: immediately to the north of them lay the road which connected the north mole with the Koutsongila Ridge and delimited on the northwest the extent of building in this area. The form of the chambers in Phase 1 and their arrangement relative to traffic routes supports their identification as tabernae. Determination of their exact chronology and function awaits further study.
Phase 2 is represented by an irregular cluster of three or four large rooms erected over the collapsed and unevenly filled tabernae, the road-grid, and the north wall of the Brick Building. These rooms represent free-standing buildings in closely proximity and roughly aligned with the buildings of Phase 1. They have relatively thick walls in irregular mortar and mortar masonry containing numerous elements in secondary use (e.g. recycled ashlars). One elongated, rectangular two-roomed building was evidently a Late Antique burial complex focused on a monumental tomb - the more spacious room to the south may have been an antechamber to the narrower room to the north which contained a built grave of the finest construction, with massive cover slabs. The funerary character of all buildings on the Upper Terrace is supported by the dense concentration of fifth- to sixth-century lamps found in the vicinity in 1966.
Four ashlar fragments in gray oolitic limestone were scattered over the area in secondary contexts. These display mason’s marks in large letters that can be dated paleographically to the Late Archaic period (sixth century). Two additional stones from this group have been identified in the structures of the Brick Building to the south. Very close comparanda for all six stones are found in the numerous blocks with masons’ marks discovered by N. Verdelis when excavating the diolkos. These blocks attest to the presence of monumental architecture at the north end of the harbor in the 6th century.
At the south mole, structures west and south of the nave of the Early Christian basilica were cleaned. Two phases are seen in the architecture around the baptistery and the buildings near the narthex - Roman-Early Byzantine (ca sixth to seventh centuries) and Middle Byzantine (11th-13th centuries).
In the course of architectural study of the north and south moles, marble remains collected during the 1960s excavations were studied. Those at the north mole came from the Brick Building and those at the south most likely came from the Early Christian basilica and the Fountain Court complex identified as the Sanctuary of Isis. The most prevalent marbles used for revetment and interior decor (76-77%) were yellowish to greyish whites identified chiefly as Proconnesian and Pentelic but probably also including Hymettian, Thasian, and white Docimium. A variety of colored marbles were present at lower frequency: cipollino, rosso antico, breccia di sciro, portasanta, bigio antico, verde antico, breccia corallina, pavonazetto, africano, porfido rosso, fior di pesco, and Egyptian alabaster. Evidently, both the Brick Building and the so-called Iseion were sheathed in panels of mostly white marbles with highlights in polychrome, chiefly in reds and greens and less commonly in variegated, brecciated marbles. The rich diversity of exotic marble at Kenchreai compares with the lavish buildings at the Isthmian sanctuary. Most stones originated from Greece or Asia Minor, with none from Italy, Gaul, or central North Africa. The well-known Roman-era quarries in Attica, Euboea, Thessaly, Laconia, the Sporades and Dodecanese, the Propontis, Bithynia, Phrygia, and western Asia Minor are all represented. This geographical pattern echoes that of the imported ceramics and artistic styles at the port, which are predominantly eastern.
A survey of the uninventoried finds stored at the Isthmia Museum from the 1960s excavations at the harbour revealed numerous fragments of bone, painted plaster, glass, and pottery especially of Byzantine or post-Byzantine date.
Date of creation