6. Concluding Remarks

6.1 The architecture of the East Field at Isthmia

The East Field at Isthmia, a seemingly enigmatic jumble of structural remains located between the ancient stadium, the theatre, and the Temple of Poseidon, and which probably cover a period from about the 1st to the 5th centuries AD, is now beginning to take shape for the first time since its discovery and excavation nearly 40 years ago. Our project has disentangled individual buildings from the maze of walls, and returned them to their relative chronological order. This represents an important development in the archaeology of Isthmia. From this new 'shape of space' for the East Field it is now possible to develop further and more sophisticated studies of this important area and to tie these developments into our synthetic understanding of the Panhellenic sanctuary at large.

The achievement of these goals required a fresh methodological approach to the extant structures that survive at Isthmia and to the records from previous excavations there. For the architecture we developed a methodology that privileged evidence on the stratigraphic relationships of wall segments over all other types of evidence, atomising the architecture to its smallest abstracted components (wall segments) then rejoining them into meaningful units of construction (Wall Construction Units). However, our method did not ignore the value of typologies such as construction styles or the choices of stone and mortar, nor did it eschew other kinds of evidence such as alignment, elevation, or symmetry. Rather, these were explicitly included later in the process, and used to generate the finer relative chronology (sub-phases), where the inference drawn from them could have the greatest positive impact. Indeed, it was the use of typologies as the first (and often only) level of analysis that has frustrated previous unpublished attempts to understand this site (see;; To reach the highest level of interpretation (phases), data from the original reports of these previous excavations will continue to be incorporated to pin absolute dates on the relative chronology and to identify the activities that occurred within the now defined architecture. Throughout the hierarchical process of this methodology, there is an intentional mirroring of both how fieldwork is conducted (work-flow) and how the information it gathers is used as evidence (data-flow) so that neither becomes an impediment to the ultimate goal of understanding the site being studied. This is an adaptive methodology, and one that we hope others might consider employing for other sites that retain various forms of legacy data, including previously excavated but unexamined standing architecture.


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