Sarah James on Hellenistic Pottery at Corinth

Visitors to this site may be aware that we maintain a running list of Corinthian archaeology and history dissertations completed over the last decade.  The American School Excavations in Ancient Corinth website also regularly features young scholars who are either working on dissertations related to the urban center or have recently finished theses.  From these pages, one can get a good sense of the kind of historical and archaeological research that is occurring in town and countryside.

I noticed recently this new piece on Sarah James and her recently completed dissertation, The Hellenistic pottery from the Panayia Field, Corinth: Studies in Chronology and Context (Austin 2010: University of Texas at Austin).  In the piece, James speaks about her dissertation and current plans for publication.  Here is a snippet:

“Six Hellenistic deposits from the recent excavations in the Panayia Field form the core of my dissertation. These deposits include cisterns, a well and a floor deposit, and range in date from ca. 275 BC to the early 1st c. BC.  I thoroughly studied each deposit, quantifying and analyzing its fine ware, and when the results were combined I was able to create a new independent absolute chronology of Corinthian Hellenistic fine wares…”

For the rest of the piece, read on here

I have not yet read James’ dissertation, but I did see her present a paper on the subject a year ago in Austin at the Corinth in Contrast conference.  In that discussion, based on her dissertation, she presented a range of evidence from the Panayia Field excavations and elsewhere in Corinth that indicates the to shift our chronologies for Hellenistic pottery.  In that talk, James also reevaluated the so-called interim period between the destruction of Corinth in 146 BC and its refoundation a century later. 

Since ancient buildings are assigned dates based on the pottery and coins found in their foundation trenches or in association with floors, a shift in chronology can have a major impact on our understanding of urban and rural space.  And so we should expect the publication of the dissertation in various forms to change the way we understand Hellenistic Corinth and the interim period (146-44 BC).  You can get a sense of the nature of the study from the dissertation abstract published in WorldCat.

“The new chronology of Corinthian fine ware presented in this dissertation is based on pottery from the recently discovered Hellenistic deposits (dated from the 3rd to 1st c. B.C.) in the Panayia Field. This new Panayia Field chronology was created by first quantifying the pottery in each deposit and then seriating the deposits in order to plot the initial production and use-life of individual ceramic shapes. The results substantially revise the previous chronology of Corinthian Hellenistic pottery published in Corinth VII.3, which has long been acknowledged as problematic by scholars of the period. One key aspect in which the Panayia Field chronology differs from its predecessor is in the recognition that pottery production resumed in Corinth after the sack of the city in 146 B.C. The evidence for a post-146 B.C. or interim period ceramic industry and its products are discussed in detail. Using the new Panayia Field chronology, the South Stoa and numerous previously excavated deposits at Corinth are re-assessed. Arguably, the most important Hellenistic structure in Corinth, the South Stoa, now appears to have been begun in the 290s rather than the 330s B.C. Attempts are also made to address the cultural and economic history of Hellenistic Corinth for the first time. For instance, the adoption of certain shapes into the local ceramic assemblage illustrates the influence of the Hellenistic koine on Corinthian culture. At the local level, the continued production of ceramic kraters in the late 3rd to early 2nd c. B.C. and their findspots seem to suggest that metal vessels were more commonly used in public spaces. In terms of trade, the data on imported fine ware and amphoras from more than 60 deposits clearly demonstrate the flow of goods through the city and Corinth’s role in the trade networks of the Hellenistic period. This analysis reveals a strong connection to Athens during the Macedonian occupation, increasing contact with Italy and the Aegean beginning in the late 3rd c. B.C. and the continuity of Corinth’s economic contacts into the interim period. This research therefore also contributes significantly to our understanding of this important commercial city’s external contacts during the Hellenistic period.”

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