One advantage of walking through the Greek countryside is that it forces me to confront a world for which my suburban upbringing and relatively formal education did not prepare me. The countryside of the southeastern Corinthia remains largely agricultural and has preserved evidence for centuries of cultivation as well as the abrupt modernization of the Greek state in the middle years of the 20th century. The traces of earlier practices have left their marks on almost every terraced hillside, abandoned seasonal shelter, and isolated valley.
Our hike from Lychnari Bay to Frangolimano revealed so many of the common features of the Corinthian countryside, that it seems worthwhile to record some of them here. First, the wall followed the course of a built path. Cut into the steep, inland side of the coastal ridge, the path created an easy decent from the Vayia river valley to the bay at Frangolimano. The path itself was less than 2 meters wide and marked by a slightly raised lip on its down slope side.
As it wove its way across the pine covered slopes, evidence for its continued use appear in the numerous trees with long scars in their bark for resin collecting. Many of the trees along the path had relatively recent aluminum resin collectors attached showing that the path, while overgrown in spots, still served a function.
A cluster of old oil drums stood near the intersection of the path and one of the few roads in the area. These drums served as collection points for the resin collectors. Further along the path and out of the range of wheeled vehicles stood the predecessor to these drums. A roughly made mortar and stone basin build against an exposed section of bedrock served as a temporary collection point for resin collection.
The path opened onto a high valley just to the south of the Vayia River. While today a bulldozed dirt road provides access to the valley, the remains in the valley show that it was cultivated before the arrival of the bulldozer. Today olive trees cover the carefully terraces slopes, but it seems probable that these terraces originally supported cereals as olive trees do not necessarily need such elaborately constructed terraces to prosper.
At least two seasonal long-houses of the kind documented throughout Greece and the Balkans are in advanced states of collapse in the valley. They were built of stone with mud mortar. Elsewhere in the Corinthia we have studied the historical and archaeological context for these houses.
They probably served as seasonal habitation during the cultivation of the valley -- particularly during the harvest and threshing of grain. We did not observe any of the large threshing floors (aloni) in the valley, but they almost certainly existed as in the Corinthia most threshing seemed to take place in the fields. While the houses are collapsing today, it is clear that at some point concrete and cinder blocks were brought to the valley to reinforce the houses or perhaps even replace them. In the process, the farmer removed some of the tiles from the collapsing field house and stacked them neatly in a textbook example of provisional discard. Something seems to have interrupted the process of building a new field house. The bags of concrete brought to the valley had gotten wet and dried into bag-shaped concrete bricks.
The result is a countryside that is still in use, but in some ways abandoned. The previous patterns of life characterized by seasonal settlements and narrow paths have given way to bulldozed roads and cement farm sheds. The older ways of life, however, continue to leave their mark as any walk through the Corinthian countryside will show.
More Corinthian Countryside:
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
The Corinthian Countryside: Classical Vayia
The Corinthian Countryside: History and Archaeology