Kephallonia and Ithaca from prehistory to late antiquity

Project Director: Prof. Catherine Morgan, OBE (BSA) 
Ceramic petrographer: Dr Areti Pentedeka (Fitch Laboratory, BSA) 
Collaborator: Mr Andreas Soteriou

 

Funding: British Academy, Institute for Aegean Prehistory

Throughout antiquity, the Ionian Islands were key stations on sea routes between the Peloponnese, central and north-western Greece and southern Italy. They lie on the eastern edge of intense Italian connections and on the western fringes of the "old Greek" polis world. In particular, consideration of Ithaca and Kephallonia both within this network and as close links of the Ionian chain reveals a distinctive western coastal pattern of settlement history and international relations. This western context is increasingly well understood, especially via the growing number of salvage excavations and surveys on these islands, as well as of surrounding areas, e.g. in the Nikopolis region. 
Habitation on both islands can be securely traced from the Neolithic onwards, continuing essentially unbroken into the Late Roman period. The main focus of the research is the island of Ithaca, for which an extensive study of settlement history from prehistory to early modern times was undertaken as a collaboration between the BSA (C. Morgan) and the ??? ???? (A. Soteriou). This combined the results of early 19th to 20th century excavations (in particular the British School’s excavations by S. Benton) and new material deriving from intensive survey of the northern part of the island, in particular the area of Stavros (The Stavros Valley Project). In the course of processing the vast amount of data concerning ancient Ithaca, major issues were identified concerning Ithaca’s role within the local island network, the impact of shifts between independence and integration into major empires (Romanisation), and trading connections. One category of material culture that can address such questions is pottery; for that reason, a programme of petrographic analysis is launched, aiming at defining local storage and cookware workshops on Ithaca and shedding light on exchange and trade connections with neighbouring areas from the Neolithic to Late Roman times. 
For Kephallonia, research interest focused on the Roman period, as newly excavated sites dating to late antiquity came into light. Following the Augustan establishment of Nikopolis, the island sustained a prosperous villa economy with extensive trade. Recent rescue excavation at Sami and Fiskardo on Kephallonia provides the island’s first Roman settlement and burial evidence excavated to modern standards. The two centres are separated in the north and south of Kephallonia, with different external connections and historical trajectories (Fiskardo is a newly expanded port under Rome; Sami an important Greek city sacked in 188BC and then refounded). A combination of petrographic analysis with archaeological study of ceramic assemblages will address the technological and other cultural choices made in the production, circulation, and use of coarse, cooking and storage wares, to assess changes in production and consumption. Understanding the impact of these changes on local manufacturing is best achieved via comparison of technological traditions in the centre (Nikopolis) and periphery (Kephallonia, Ithaca). Alongside research on local pottery production and trade connections during the Roman times, a pilot analytical project includes recently excavated material from the Final Neolithic Moussata, a special pit deposit, and the Early Bronze Age settlement of Sami of the island.