“Ancient Corinth, Feneos, Tenea: Recent Discoveries”
Konstantinos Kissas-Director of LZ’ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities
This lecture is in Greek. However, notes in English on the lecture are provided below.
Excavations conducted by the Archaeological Service between 1958 and 1964 revealed a building complex belonging to a 2nd century B.C. Sanctuary of Asclepius. The south room has a mosaic floor with an altar and an inscribed pedestal with statues of Asclepius and Hygeia. The sanctuary was destroyed towards the end of the 1st beginning of the 2nd century AD.
The earliest archaeological remains from Feneos date to the Middle Helladic period with Protonotariou-Deilaki’s 1964 discovery of an apsidal building with hearth and postholes for roof supports.
In 1976 and 1977 and, again, in 2007 the Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in Corinthia excavated and cleaned the site. In 2011 the University of Graz –through the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Greece- began a five year excavation project in collaboration with the 37th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities.
A round tower, 10.5 m in diameter and preserved 2.8 m high, was discovered by a team of Austrian archaeologists at the south edge of the valley of Feneos and was most probably used for the control of the ancient road that led from Orchomenos to Feneos. Its original height must have reached 20m. Sherds from a trial trench excavated at the northwest side of the tower date it to the last quarter of 4th century BC.
A mid-2nd century BC stone paved road was found northwest of the Hellenistic Asclepieion on the outside of and adjacent to the Sanctuary’s perivolos. There are traces of an earlier road.
The fortification wall with four semi-circular towers stretches along the acropolis’ north side. The fortification extends to the east possibly also enclosing the ancient city on the east foot of the Acropolis. The construction of the wall and the towers is a combination of polygonal and trapezoidal stone bricks dating most probably to the last quarter of the 4th century BC.
A Middle Helladic settlement was found on a flat terrace at the middle of the north side of the Acropolis. Sherds from a trial trench also show that a sanctuary of the historic period was most possibly situated in the same area.
All evidence points to Ancient Feneos playing important military, artistic and trading roles in the area. Feneos had its own coin depicting Hermes standing and holding a khrykeio on one hand and the hero Arkas on the other. The head of the local nymph Maia, who had given birth to Hermes on Mount Kyllini, is also often portrayed on coins from Feneos.
Rescue excavations conducted by the LZ’ Ephorate in connection with construction work for the widening of the Athens-Corinth national road have produced important prehistoric, Classical and Roman discoveries.
A LH IIA tholos tomb with rich grave goods was discovered during excavations in 2007. Accompanying it to the east is a Mycenaean settlement with buildings of the LH IIIB period and at least one of the transition from the MH III to the LH I period. They have rectangular rooms, stone foundations, mud brick walls and floors made of pressed earth, clay or plaster. Large pits inside the houses were used for placing culinary and storing vessels. There is a clay processing workshop, a water supply network and a system for storing drinking water. Middle Helladic shaft graves were discovered approximately 100m west of the 13th century settlement site.
Traces of an Early Geometric apsidal building were discovered among the Mycenaean buildings. Inside is a stone circular platform and next door was a small kiln, perhaps a silver manufacturing workshop like one found in Argos. Nearby were shaft graves of the Proto-Geometric and Early Geometric period; they enclosed a partially preserved ellipsoid or apsidal Middle Geometric building or enclosure with many ritual pottery vessels. Shaft, cist graves and sarcophagi of the Middle Geometric period were found along both sides of an ancient stream that comes down from Acrocorinth. A Late Geometric paved road runs north-south near the tholos tomb.
From the early Archaic Period are several altars and places of worship, perhaps respecting the Geometric cemeteries or Mycenaean buildings. A 6th century altar named “Altar of the Double Stele” was discovered near the eastern Mycenaean building, where libations took place from the 7th century BC. The late 7th through 6th c. “Altar of the Twin Snakes” was discovered near the Geometric ceremonial building with an in situ vertical stele on the altar with two parallel snakes in relief. An apsidal building, possibly a small sanctuary of the late 7th century BC, was excavated inside a Mycenaean building. A stepped base of a grave marker consisting of seven rectangular porous stones based on a layer of clay and pebbles was found north of the Heliotomylos hill. This site produced high quality pottery of the 7th and 6th centuries BC. It is quite possible that underneath the base lies an archaic cemetery that belonged to an important family from Corinth. A 130m long East to West segment of the Archaic fortification wall of the city-state of Corinth was uncovered, the earliest part dates to of the late 8th – early 7th century BC and is preserved as a terrace foundation of rubble in mud mortar. Over it is the better preserved stretch of the 6th century BC fortification wall. It is preserved between 1 and 3.60m height. The wall runs parallel with the early archaic wall and is built in a pseudo-isodomic arrangement. According to the evidence the construction of the wall started between 580 and 540 BC. The stones of the wall most certainly come from the nearby 7th-6th centuries quarry and was possibly also used during the 9th – 8th centuries BC.
An ancient road was discovered at the west edge of the ancient quarry. The road, which runs north-south, is 3m wide with retaining walls on either side. The floor is made of hard pressed earth. Evidence shows that the road was used between the 7th century and 3rd century BC.
The remains of other ancient roads were found on both sides of the stream. These most possibly provided access to the cemeteries located there. Those on the east bank are Archaic to the Hellenistic, whereas the one on the west bank was in use until the late Roman period.
Extensive cemeteries of the classical period were discovered on either side of the ancient stream. On the east bank of the stream are mass burials in pits or secondary burials in larnakes. It is quite possible that the reason for this unorthodox burial custom was the need to quickly bury the dead during the Peloponnesian or the Corinthian war or during a plague that hit Corinth. The tombs that date to the mid-5th century BC are sarcophagi, shaft graves with tile or slab roofs and cist graves.
Part of the late Classical period wall running SE-NW was excavated approximately 580m west of the Mycenaean tholos.
Adjacent to and east of the late Geometric road, runs a paved road in use from the 5th century BC until the Roman period.
A rectangular building of uncertain use with pottery from the 2nd century BC was found at the point where the fortification wall turns at right angle from E-W to N-S
Newly excavated Roman cemeteries revealed that new inhabitants of Corinth practiced various burial customs (cremation and placing of the ashes in metal or clay vessels, burials in sarcophagi or shaft graves). The most impressive burial monuments are the chamber tombs with arched roofs and a road leading to their entrance. Colorful frescoes decorate the walls of many of these monuments. An exquisite example is the face of a dead woman painted on the cover of a sarcophagus, which dates to the 3rd century BC. Grave goods in these roman tombs consist of clay and glass vessels, lamps, coins, jewelry and personal items of the deceased.
Ancient Tenea is most probably situated in the area between the modern villages of Klenia, Chiliomodi and Athikia. The two valleys around Klenia and Chiliomodi and north of Athikia would have provided the inhabitants with large fertile areas for cultivation. It has been hypothesized that Tenea was located between Klenia and Chiliomodi near the “Vouno” hill.
Pottery found in the Cave of Klenia dates the earliest human presence in the area to the Neolithic period. Finds from the cave -mostly pottery- show that it was in use from the Neolithic until the Ottoman period, and even up to recent times. An important prehistoric site is located at “Agioi Asomatoi” between Klenia and Chiliomodi. Surface finds consist of obsidian blades and numerous prehistoric sherds.Tenea is rarely mentioned by ancient writers and most information we have for its history is drawn from Pausanias and Strabo. According to written sources, the inhabitants of Tenea came from Tenedos as prisoners of the Trojan War. Agamemnon gave them permission to settle in Tenea, where they founded a Sanctuary in honor of Apollo. It appears that Tenea functioned not as an independent city-state, but as a hamlet of Corinth.
Architecture and pottery from the prehistoric period and the 7th through the 4th century BC and Roman chamber tombs are located on the “Vouno” hill. A few hundred meters north of “Vouno” traces of a fortification wall were visible until the 1960s. It is quite possible that ancient Tenea was fortified. The location of Tenea close to the Kontoporeia, the road connecting Corinth with Mycenae and Argos, must have played an important part in the city’s development. This important road was reinforced with guard houses, two of which are still visible today. One of them, a round tower at Kastraki, most probably dates to the classical period.
The earliest archaeological finds from Tenea consist of two graves that date to the 9th and 8th centuries respectively: a sarcophagus made of porous limestone found in the village of Klenia and a shaft grave found at the edge of the village of Chiliomodi. Towards the end of the 8th century BC, Tenea must have experienced a demographic boom. According to Strabo, when Corinth founded a colony at Syracuse in 734/33 BC, most of the inhabitants came from Tenea. After this, Tenea was remarkably prosperous compared to other hamlets of Corinth, likely owing to its close trading relations with Syracuse. According to archaeological evidence, Tenea thrived during the archaic and classical periods, especially from the end of the 7th until the mid-5th centuries BC.
In 1846, a kouros was discovered in the area of Agios Nikolaos near the village of Athikia and has been on display in the Munich Glyptothek Museum since 1854. The statue was found in many pieces and dates to the second quarter of the 6th century BC. In May 2010, two kouroi were found in the possession of antiquities smugglers and were sent to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Several fragments belonging to the kouroi, as well as two sarcophagi, were unearthed during the excavations that followed in an extensive road side cemetery that dates from the 6th until the 4th centuries BC. Seventy seven tombs were excavated in total. The two kouroi have been dated to ca. 530 BC based on their typological characteristics and the associated finds from the excavation.
In August 2011, the kouroi were transported to the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth where they are being conserved. They will be displayed in the Museum’s east wing along with other finds from the Corinthia, including an archaic lion from Korakou.