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Ancient Greece: Field Excavation School Discovers 2,600-Year-Old Harbor Town

A dig site in Greece
Early excavation of Trench C.

The College of Liberal Arts' Professor Paul Scotton, Chair of Comparative Literature and Classics, is currently leading the excavation of the land features of Lechaion Harbor of Ancient Corinth, Greece. This work is being conducted under a cooperative agreement between the American School of Classical Studies Athens and the Corinthian Ephorate of Antiquities.

The harbor was in use from at least ca. 500 BCE until ca. 600 CE when an earthquake leveled the site, and a subsequent tsunami buried large parts of it. With the exception of a large Christian basilica, which was excavated in the 1950s, the site has remained undisturbed since it was abandoned after the earthquake and tsunami.

That is, until last summer when Professor Scotton and a team of American and Greek scholars and students began excavations and a complete geophysical survey of the site. Roughly, one-third of the site was surveyed via ground penetrating radar, magnetometry, and other methods. The geophysical team has found that the area surveyed is rich in numerous buildings and streets, which would be expected in a harbor town.

A field school with students from CSULB, Case Western Reserve University, and Coe College provided hands-on experience in excavation methodologies over a six-week period. The students discovered significant finds, some of which have already led to a revised understanding of the chronology of Lechaion by finding ceramics that date to the 700s and 600s BCE, well before the date provided by historical records.

They also found a hoard of 73 coins that date to the destruction of the harbor and appear to have been in debris from that destruction. Also present are two large Roman civic basilicas, perhaps government buildings, with one below the other. The upper one has been dated to the end of the 1st century CE into the 2nd century CE, which means the lower can likely be dated to the early Roman colony, founded by Julius Caesar.

Professor Scotton presented the findings from the first season in January 2017 at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America held in Toronto.

During summer 2017 the scholars and students will return to continue the survey and excavation. The survey team will investigate the northern third of the site, which runs along the shoreline of the Gulf of Corinth. The excavations will continue in the three areas that were begun in 2016 but with additional trenches and additional staff and students to conduct the work. Over 16 students will participate in CSULB’s field school, 10 in Coe College, and six from Case Western Reserve.

Professor Paul Scotton with his group of students and colleagues
Dr. Scotton with students from the Summer 2016 Excavation Team

This project provides not only significant research opportunities for Professor Scotton and his colleagues but also unique experience for CSULB students in field archaeology and modern Greece.

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