In the past two years, five dissertations have been successfully completed on material from the Corinth Excavations (Phillip Sapirstein, Archaic roof tiles; Theodora Kopestonsky, Classical and Roman shrines; Sarah Lepinski, Roman wall painting; Amelia Brown, Late Antiquity; and Harriet White, Byzantine glaze analyses). At the other end of the spectrum, second year Associate Mark Hammond is beginning a study on newly-excavated Roman pottery. He created his dissertation topic after spending several weeks as an area supervisor in the training excavations in the spring of 2009. Mark reports on the work he has ahead of him:
The topic of the transition of the Roman Empire into the late Roman/early Byzantine Empire has always been of great interest to me. Along with the obvious religious changes that mark this period, I have found that the accompanying social and economic changes can be just as fascinating. But while previous scholarship has focused more so on the monuments and ‘grand arts’ that signaled these changes, the ‘minor arts’ that represented everyday life has, for the most part, been largely under-represented and is now only recently beginning to receive its due measure. Study of ceramic materials collected in stratigraphically excavated investigations can say much about the social and economic changes a society underwent over time, and this is just as true for the later Roman Empire. Corinth, in its role as a provincial capital, offers an ideal venue for such an investigation. Moreover, while sitting literally on the maritime cross-road of the eastern and western empire, trends noted in Corinth can have much significance in considering the changing relationships between the East and West at a time when the Empire was changing rapidly.
Mark Hammond working in the Hill House library
This year, as an associate fellow of the American School coming from the University of Missouri-Columbia, I am set with the task of critically examining the pottery lots from a variety of contexts from within Corinth, with the main focus being on those from the Panayia Field excavations. My interest is to identify and quantify a sample of evidence that is representative not only chronologically, but also contextually as well. By examining a number of different contexts, such as villas, baths, tombs and wells, it is my hope that I can arrive at a truly diverse cross-section of Roman Corinthian society as represented by the ceramic material.
Ultimately, I would like to produce a diachronic study of the patterns of trade and local production/consumption in Corinth, widening to a more regional view by means of comparative study, as they evolved from the 2nd through 7th c. (e.g. What kind of products were coming into Corinth? From where? How did the sources change over time? Did Corinth rely on its own resources more, or less, at certain times?) I also hope to address, where possible, how entire assemblages compare over time and context. (e.g. Do we find the same imports/local products in the countryside that we do in urban settings? Can the same vessels be found in varying contexts, or was there more selectivity? What about assemblages in similar contexts, but in different periods?) In the end I hope to use the ceramic data for more than just dates, that is, to illuminate the everyday lives of a people who lived at a time when things were starting to get very interesting…