Work in Ancient Nemea, An Update!


We were busy this past summer working at the Sanctuary of Zeus in Ancient Nemea, providing some much-needed TLC to major and minor areas of the archaeological park. If you visited the site or the museum this summer, you may have seen our team working on top of the Early Christian Basilica which is one of the first buildings to greet you upon entering the archaeological site! In fact, our new multi-year project aims to clean and conserve that Basilica – both in an effort to protect it and in the hope of understanding previous work that had been carried out there. Our main goal is to conserve the walls of the basilica where the ancient mortar has disintegrated from exposure to the elements in order to stop the collapse of the upper walls constructed of large ashlar blocks removed from the Temple of Zeus. To that end, this summer we cleaned the west end of the 5th-century A.D. building, including the narthex. We cleared areas that had been excavated in the 1920s, 1960s, and in 1980 to reveal the building’s foundation walls, floor surfaces, and other architectural features, including previously unrecorded interior walls of the 4th-century B.C. Xenon building. All of the foundations were digitally recorded and the Xenon foundations were planned and drawn for the first time. We also recovered overlooked small finds from the previous excavations, like coins and painted terracottas. The trenches were backfilled, except where conservation of the wall surfaces is necessary. Conservation is currently under way and consists of cleaning and replacing the ancient mortar in the sub-foundations, especially on the west and south facades, with a modern formula that will strengthen the stones and their carrying capacity. The remainder of the building will be reinvestigated and the masonry conserved in the coming seasons.

In the museum, we continued our study of the ceramic material and associated finds from past seasons of excavation in the Sanctuary of Zeus for publication. We focused on supporting the on-site work in order to better understand the previous excavations in the basilica and its stratigraphy. The majority of these contexts were excavated by the late Professor Stephen G. Miller or Dr. Charles K. Williams, but had not been fully studied or published. We also digitized the museum card catalog of the registered finds stored.

The Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology at UC Berkeley continues to maintain the entire archaeological site at Nemea throughout the year with site cleaning and minor repairs, including the large-scale clearing of the stadium site for the Nemean Games in June. We paid for the replacement of all the flowers, bushes, and small trees around the museum and stadium entrances that were killed due to hard freezes over the winter. For site safety and improvement, we replaced the rusted iron covers of the wells in the sanctuary and installed an additional two over wells previously not covered. We also completely cleared vegetation from the southwest area of the sanctuary (where we excavated 2010-12) and began clearing overgrowth in the riverbed to the west of the Bath. We removed a substantial backfill dump from the east side of the sanctuary that blocked the pathway to the site’s east gate. This soil remained from Miller’s backfilling of the basilica prior to his retirement.

There were a lot of moving parts to our work this summer and we thank the guards and staff at the site for their assistance and attention. We also thank our undergraduate and graduate students for their hard efforts both in the field and in the museum, as well as our veteran workmen, conservator, and project staff. It really takes a lot of people to maintain a site – never mind conduct new excavations, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without everyone’s participation! Thanks, team! Stay tuned for more in 2023!

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