I have a soft spot for rubble fortifications. As a budding archaeologist working on the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey, the directors of that project encouraged me to publish a series of rubble fortification along Mt. Oneion -- the mountain ridge that forms to the southern border to the Isthmus. While modest in construction style (and perhaps even significance), their informal nature and close relationship with the local topography seemed (at least to my mind) to summarize the close relationship between human energy and the physical environment. Moreover, to discover a rubble fort was a challenge and required luck and diligence. They are typically built of the local stones -- field stones in fact -- so they blend in with their physical environments and in many cases are virtually invisible until you are on top of them. And, declaring a rubble feature to be something ancient required familiarity with the local countryside and the ability to discern the difference between animal pens, field walls, terraces, piles of cleared stones, and the myriad other features constructed of loose stones. Studying a rubble fort makes me feel like an archaeologist as it taxes my abilities to define, map, and interpret a feature in the landscape.
So, it was particularly gratifying to spend a few days documenting a rubble fortification on the Vayia peninsula in the Corinthia. Dimitri Nakassis and I originally stumbled upon the feature when exploring Vayia peninsula several years ago. David Pettegrew and I returned to this site this summer and tried to piece together the hodge-podge of walls standing some 250 m to the east of the Early Bronze Age structures already documented and published by the EKAS team. The Vayia rubble walls appear to encircle a narrow stretch of level ground on the spine of the Vayia ridge. While the wall has disappeared in places and in other areas is overgrown, it seems to run for about 85 m east to west and 20-25 m north to south (around 2000 sq. m).
The walls are very similar to those on Mt. Oneion. They consist of two faces of unworked stones and a cobble fill. In the few areas where both faces are still visible and standing, the walls are slightly over 1 m in width. Unlike the walls on Mt. Oneion which are relatively well preserved, the walls on Vayia often disappear into disorganized tumble, presumably disturbed by the centuries of goats and shepherds who continue even today to bring their flocks to the relatively "marginal" land of the peninsula to graze. The only obvious features associated with this series of rubble walls are a few well-defined, right-angle turns which may represent rooms or even the foundations for towers built against the wall in a casemate fashion. Similar towers occurred along the rubble walls at Koroni above Port Rafte in Attica (this was published by Eugene Vanderpool, James R. McCredie, Arthur Steinberg in Hesperia 31 (1962), 26-61).
The greatest challenge with any rubble wall in the countryside is assigning a date to the structure. Excavation, like those conducted by Vanderpool, McCredie, and Steinberg is the surest way to ascertain the date of any wall, but sometimes there is enough evidence visible on the surface to allow an educated guess. On Mt. Oneion, for example, the overwhelming majority of material present on the ridge top was Classical-Hellenistic making it difficult to imagine any other date for the wall there. The same appears to be true at Vayia. The assemblage of material present both on the surface of the ground and amidst the tumble of the rubble walls is almost identical to the material that we documented at Ano Vayia and Lychnari. The only difference appears to be that the assemblage at Vayia includes more highly diagnostic fine wares -- including Late Classical-Hellenistic black-glazed pottery. Painted tile, pithos and amphora sherds, and cooking pots made up the rest of the assemblage. Considering the proximity of the Early Bronze Age settlement, it was a surprising that we did not see any material clearly datable to an earlier period.
For more on our work in the Corinthian countryside see:
New Research on the Corinthian Countryside: Vayia Microregion
The Corinthian Countryside: The Site of Ano Vayia
The Corinthian Countryside: Distributional Data from the Site of Ano Vayia
The Corinthian Countryside: The Lychnari Tower
The Corinthian Countryside: The Passes of the Eastern Corinthia