A New Study of Hellenistic Fine Wares at Corinth

Each of the 45 individual volumes that make up the Corinth Excavation Series published by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens marks a labor of love, sweat, and tears. There are specific studies that focus on an individual building, such as the Temple of Apollo, the Odeion, or a Roman villa, unearthed through over a century of excavation and study by archaeologists. There are more general studies of a particular phase of the site, such as Scranton’s study of Medieval architecture, or general areas of the ancient site such as the volumes on the North Cemetery. Then there are systematic studies of classes of objects like pottery, lamps, and statuary. The volumes are consistently large, heavy, and neat, containing copious detail and categorization that aim to establish archaeological knowledge about a building, district, or artifact group. The labor to produce a Corinth volume can last a lifetime, and even those scholars who write them quickly may wait years in the production process.

For these reasons, there is always cause for celebration when a new volume arrives. While in the Argolid this summer, I ran into Sarah James who seemed relieved that her years and years of study and restudy of Hellenistic fine wares at Corinth had at last made it through the publication pipeline of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.  Titled Hellenistic Pottery: The Fine Wares, the work is 360 full pages of Corinthian ceramic goodness, with numerous illustrations, figures, and plates. I haven’t picked it up yet, but I imagine it’s as heavy as any of the others in the series. James’ work has been groundbreaking both for defining a new chronology for Hellenistic pottery in Corinth and understanding the Hellenistic period in the city more broadly, including the so-called interim period between the sack by the Romans and the foundation as a colony in 44 BC. It’s also important as a presentation of both new material (from the Panayia Field excavations) and older material recontextualized. You can get a sense of the revolutionary argument from pottery in this book description from the publisher’s website (you can find TOC here):

Using deposits recently excavated from the Panayia Field, this volume substantially revises the absolute chronology of Corinthian Hellenistic pottery as established by G. Roger Edwards in Corinth VII.3 (1975). This new research, based on quantitative analysis of over 50 deposits, demonstrates that the date range for most fine-ware shapes should be lowered by 50-100 years. Contrary to previous assumptions, it is now possible to argue that local ceramic production continued in Corinth during the interim period between the destruction of the city in 146 B.C. and when it was refounded as a Roman colony in 44 B.C. This volume includes detailed shape studies and a comprehensive catalogue.

Last month, the ASCSA website posted a short interview with Sarah about the history and significance of the project that is well worth a read.

You can purchase a copy for only $150 — the cost perhaps of a typical archaeological monograph — through the publisher website, or you can pay a little less via Amazon.

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Categories: American School Excavations, Ancient Corinth, Ceramics, Hellenistic, Interim, Periods, Hellenistic, Sites, Panayia Field

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