Institute for Mediterranean Studies

Geological and geophysical investigations in the Roman cemetery at Kenchreai (Korinthia), Greece

The Kenchreai Cemetery Project (KCP) comprisesaninterdisciplinaryarchaeological research team that is exploring a major cemetery of Roman date in southern Greece. The cemetery is located on the Koutsongila Ridge just north of the ancient harbour of Kenchreai, the prosperous eastern port ofCorinth.Surfaceremainsthathavebeenvisibleforcenturiesorexposedbylootinginclude chamber tombs, cistgravesandarchitecture.In2004KCPconductedgeologicalandgeophysicalinvestigations to reconstruct thenaturalandsettledlandscapewhereancient residentsburiedtheirdead.Geological study of the ridge and its vicinity has determined that the tombs are situated within a geologic unit particularlywellsuitedforrock-cutconstruction, andthat tombswereintentionallycutinto thebedrock sothat thevaultedroofscorrespondedwithaparticularlyresistantcalcareoushorizon(caliche),which provided a stable ceiling for the subterranean chambers.Moreover, severalmetres of coastline have erodedinto the Saronic Gulf since antiquity.A systematic geophysical survey using electromagnetic, magnetic, ground-penetrating radar and gravity techniques was also carried out tomap uncovered remainsandtocorrelatevisiblewithsubsurfacefeatures.Severalanomalieswereidentifiedthatmight represent previously unknown large structures and burial sites in the central and southern areas of the ridge. In addition, experimental tests using GPR and micro-gravitometry demonstrated the efficacyof thesemethodsfor surveyingrock-cut tombs.The combinedresultsofgeologicalandgeophysical investigation provide valuable information concerning local resource exploitation, structural distribution, and environmental change. These investigations model an innovative approach to the study ofmortuary landscapes.

  • Apostolos Sarris
  • Nikos Papadopoulos