Farming on the Fringe: Diachronic Changes in Land-Use Patterns and Agricultural Strategies in Ancient Nemea


  • Christian F. Cloke



Nemea Valley Archaeological Project, land-use patterns, farming


Between 1984 and 1990, the Nemea Valley Archaeological Project (hereafter NVAP), systematically surveyed the Nemea, Asopos, and Longopotamos Valleys, around Nemea, Phlious, and Kleonai in the northeastern Peloponnesos (Figure 1). This survey, covering an area of roughly 80 square kilometers, was for its time cutting-edge, both in its intensive approach to surveying the totality of the walkable landscape, and its use of computers for recording and mapping finds. The fieldwalking and record-keeping methods employed, which treated individual artifacts as the basic units of analysis, have produced a robust dataset for evaluating settlement patterns, agricultural land-use, and other past human activities within their ecological, economic, social, and historical contexts. This chapter examines the NVAP survey territory and considers the contributions of intensive pedestrian survey to the crafting of a medium- to long-term history of the Greek countryside from the Archaic to Late Roman periods. Through detailed analyses of survey finds’ physical properties and spatial distribution, I assess past settlement patterns and agricultural methods, consider the dynamics of regional production and consumption of ceramics and other goods, and elucidate a range of activities carried out at rural sites.


Abadie-Reynal, C. 2007. La céramique romaine d’Argos: fin du IIe siècle avant J-C ­fin du IVe siècle après J-C, Etudes péloponnésiennes. Athènes: Ecole française d’Athènes.

Alcock, S.E. 1991. Urban Survey and the Polis of Phlius. Hesperia 60 (4): 421–463.

Alcock, S.E., A.M. Berlin, A.B. Harrison, S. Heath, N. Spencer, and D.L. Stone. 2005. Pylos Regional Archaeological Project, Part VII: Historical Messenia, Geometric through Late Roman. Hesperia 74 (2): 147–209.

Alcock, S.E., J.F. Cherry, and J.L. Davis. 1994. Intensive Survey, Agricultural Practice and the Classical Landscape of Greece, in I. Morris (ed.) Classical Greece: Ancient Histories and Modern Archaeologies: 137–170. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Allison, P.M. 2004. Pompeian Households: An Analysis of the Material Culture. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA.

Athanassopoulos, E. 1993. Intensive Survey and Medieval Rural Settlement: The Case of Nemea. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Anthropology Department, University of Pennsylvania.

Athanassopoulos, E. 2010. Landscape Archaeology and the Medieval countryside: Settlement and Abandonment in the Nemea Region. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 14: 255–270.

Athanassopoulos, E. 2016. Nemea Valley Archaeological Project Volume II: Landscape Archaeology and the Medieval Countryside. Princeton: American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Atherden, M., J. Hall, and J.C. Wright. 1993. A Pollen Diagram from the Northeast Peloponnese, Greece: Implications for Vegetation History and Archaeology. The Holocene 3 (4): 351–356.

Ault, B.A. 1999. Koprones and Oil Presses at Halieis: Interactions of Town and Country and the Integration of Domestic and Regional Economies. Hesperia 68 (4): 549–573.

Ault, B.A. 2005. The Houses: The Organization and Use of Domestic Space (The Excavations at Ancient Halieis 2). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Aupert, P. 1980. Objets de la Vie quotidienne à Argos en 585 ap. J.-C., in Etudes Argiennes (BCH Supplement 6): 395–457. Paris: Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenique.

Avraméa, A. 1997. Le Péloponnèse du IVe au VIIIe siècle: changements et persistances, Publications de la Sorbonne (Série Byzantina Sorbonensia). Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne.

Banaji, J. 2001. Agrarian Change in Late Antiquity: Gold, Labour, and Aristocratic Dominance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Barker, G., C. Mee, W. Cavanagh, R. Schon, S.M. Thompson, J. Bintliff, P. Howard, and A. Snodgrass. 2000. Responses to ‘The Hidden Landscape of Prehistoric Greece’. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 13 (1): 100–123.

Binford, L.R. 1981. Behavioral Archaeology and the ‘Pompeii Premise’. Journal of Anthropological Research 37: 195–208.

Bintliff, J.L. 2012. The Complete Archaeology of Greece: From Hunter-gatherers to the 20th Century A.D. 1st ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Bintliff, J.L., E. Farinetti, P. Howard, K. Sarri, and K. Sbonias. 2002. Classical Farms, Hidden Prehistoric Landscapes and Greek Rural Survey: A Response and an Update. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 15 (2): 259–265.

Bintliff, J. L., E. Farinetti and A. Snodgrass, Eds. (Forthcoming). The Greek City State on a Small Scale. Hyettos in Boeotia and its Territory. Cambridge, McDonald Institute, Cambridge University.

Bintliff, J. L., P. Howard, A.M. Snodgrass, and O.T.P.K. Dickinson. 2007. Testing the Hinterland: The Work of the Boeotia Survey (1989–1991) in the Southern Approaches to the City of Thespiai (McDonald Institute Monographs). Cambridge: McDonald Institute of Archeological Research.

Bintliff, J.L., and A.M. Snodgrass. 1988. Off-Site Pottery Distributions: A Regional and Interregional Perspective. Current Anthropology 29 (3): 506–513.

Burford, A. 1993. Land and Labor in the Greek world, Ancient Society and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Caraher, W.R., D. Nakassis, and D.K. Pettegrew. 2006. Siteless Survey and Intensive Data Collection in an Artifact-rich Environment: Case Studies from the Eastern Corinthia, Greece. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 19 (1): 7–43.

Casselmann, C. 2010. Spuren des Menschen: Erkennen von Strukturen archäologischer Fundstreuungen (Landschaftsarchäologische Untersuchungen im Becken von Phlious Bd. 1). PhD dissertation, Universität Heidelberg, Bonn.

Casselmann, C., M. Fuchs, D. Ittameier, J. Maran, and G.A. Wagner. 2004. Interdisziplinäre landschaftsarchäologische Forschungen im Becken von Phlious, 1998–2002. Archäologischer Anzeiger 2004 (1): 1–57.

Cherry, J.F., J.L. Davis, A. Demitrack, E. Mantzourani, T.F. Strasser, and L.E. Talalay. 1988. Archaeological Survey in an Artifact-Rich Landscape: A Middle Neolithic Example from Nemea, Greece. American Journal of Archaeology 92 (2): 159–176.

DeBoer, W.R. 1983. The Archaeological Record as Preserved Death Assemblage, in J.A. Moore and A.S. Keene (eds) Archaeological Hammers and Theories: 19–36. New York: Academic Press.

De Haas, T.C.A. 2012. Beyond Dots on the Map: Intensive Survey Data and the Interpretation of Small Sites and Off-site Distributions, in P.A.J. Attema and G. Schörner (eds) Comparative Issues in the Archaeology of the Roman Rural Landscape: Site Classification Between Survey, Excavation and Historical Categories: 55–79. Portsmouth: Journal of Roman Archaeology.

Dunnell, R.C., and W.S. Dancey. 1983. The Siteless Survey: A Regional Scale Data Collection Strategy. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 6: 267–287.

Dunnell, R.C., and J.F. Simek. 1995. Artifact Size and Plowzone Processes. Journal of Field Archaeology 22: 305–319.

Ebert, J.I. 1992. Distributional Archaeology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Fentress, E. 2000. What are we Counting For? In R. Francovich and H. Patterson (eds) Extracting Meaning from Ploughsoil Assemblages (The Archaeology of the Mediterranean Landscape 5): 44–52. Oxford: Oxbow.

Finley, M.I. 1973. Problèmes de la terre en Grèce ancienne. Paris: Mouton.

Forbes, H. 2012. Lost Souls: Ethnographic Observations on Manuring Practices in a Mediterranean Community, in R. Jones (ed.) Manure Matters: Historical, Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives: 159–172. Farnham Surrey: Ashgate.

Foxhall, L. 1990. The Dependent Tenant: Land Leasing and Labour in Italy and Greece. The Journal of Roman Studies 80: 97–114.

Foxhall, L. 1990. 1997. Ancient Farmsteads, Other Agricultural Sites and Equipment, in C. Mee, H.A. Forbes and M.P. Atherton (eds) A Rough and Rocky Place. The Landscape and Settlement History of the Methana Peninsula, Greece: 257–268. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Foxhall, L. 1990.2001. Colouring in the Countryside. Response to D.K. Pettegrew, Chasing the Classical Farmstead: Assessing the Formation and Signature of Rural Settlements in Greek Landscape Archaeology. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 14 (2): 216–222.

Foxhall, L. 1990. 2004. Small Rural Farmstead Sites in Ancient Greece: A Material Cultural Analysis, in F. Kolb (ed.) Chora und Polis (Schriften des Historischen Kollegs, Kolloquien 54): 249–270. Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag.

Foxhall, L. 1990. 2007. Olive Cultivation in Ancient Greece: Seeking the Ancient Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Frink, D.S. 1984. Artifact Behavior in the Plowzone. Journal of Field Archaeology 11: 357–366.

Gaffney, V.L., and M. Tingle. 1989. The Maddle Farm Project: An Integrated Survey of Prehistoric and Roman Landscapes on the Berkshire downs. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.

Galaty, M.L., S. Muçaj, S.R. Stocker, M.E. Timpson, and J.L. Davis. 2004. Excavation of a Hellenistic Farmhouse in the Vicinity of Apollonia, in P. Cabanes and J.-L. Lamboley (eds) L’Illyrie méridionale et l’Epire dans l’antiquité. IV, Actes du IVe colloque international de Grenoble, 10–12 Octobre 2002: 299–305. Paris: De Boccard.

Gill, D., L. Foxhall, and H. Bowden. 1997. Classical and Hellenistic Methana, in C. Mee and H. Forbes (eds) A Rough and Rocky Place. The Landscape and Settlement History of the Methana Peninsula, Greece: 62–76. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Given, M. 2004. Mapping and Manuring: Can we Compare Sherd Density Figures? In S.E. Alcock and J.F. Cherry (eds) Side-by-Side Survey: Comparative Regional Studies in the Mediterranean World: 13–21. Oxford: Oxbow.

Graham, A.J. 1978. The Vari House: An Addendum. The Annual of the British School at Athens 73: 99–101.

Halstead, P. (2018). The Sh** that you find on the surface: Manuring and field survey in the Mediterranean countryside. An Age of Experiment: Classical Archaeology Transformed (1976–2014). L. Nevett and J. Whitley. Cambridge, McDonald Institute: 151–160.

Hammond, M.D. 2015. Late Roman Ceramics from the Panayia Field, Corinth (late 4th to 7th c.): The Long-Distance, Regional and Local Wares in their Economic, Social and Historical Contexts. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Missouri, Columbia.

Hasaki, E. 2002. Ceramic Kilns in Ancient Greece: Technology and Organization of Ceramic Workshops. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of Cincinnati.

Hayden, B., and A. Cannon. 1983. Where the Garbage Goes: Refuse Disposal in the Maya Highlands. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 2: 117–163.

Hjohlman, J., A. Penttinen, and B. Wells. 2005. Pyrgouthi: A Rural Site in the Berbati Valley from the Early Iron Age to Late Antiquity. Excavations by the Swedish Institute at Athens, 1995 and 1997 (Acta Instituti Atheniensis Regni Sueciae, Series 4o, v. 52). Stockholm: Paul Åströms Förlag.

Hodges, R., and W. Bowden. 1998. The Sixth Century: Production, Distribution, and Demand. Leiden: Brill.

Jameson, M.H., C.N. Runnels, T.H. Van Andel, and M.H. Munn. 1994. A Greek Countryside: The Southern Argolid from Prehistory to the Present Day. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Jashemski, W. 1979. The Gardens of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Villas Destroyed by Vesuvius. New Rochelle: Caratzas Brothers.

Jones, J.E. 1975. Another Country House in Attica. Archaeology 28 (1): 6–15.

Jones, J.E., A.J. Graham, and L.H. Sackett. 1973. An Attic Country House below the Cave of Pan at Vari. Annual of the British School at Athens 68: 355–452.

Jones, J.E., L.H. Sackett, and A.J. Graham. 1962. The Dema House in Attica. The Annual of the British School at Athens 57: 75–114.

Karambinis, M. 2018. Urban Networks in the Roman Province of Achaia (Peloponnese, Central Greece, Epirus and Thessaly). Journal of Greek Archaeology 3: 269-339.

Kehoe, D.P. 1997. Investment, Profit, and Tenancy: The Jurists and the Roman Agrarian Economy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Kosso, C. 2003. The Archaeology of Public Policy in Late Roman Greece (British Archaeological Reports International Series). Oxford: Archaeopress.

Kritzas, C.B. 1972. Αρχαιότητες και μνημεία Αργολιδοκορινθίας. Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον 27 (2): 192–219.

Lapadula, E., and J.C. Carter. 2012.The Late Roman Farmhouse at San Biagio (The Chora of Metaponto 4). Austin: University of Texas Press.

Lord, L.E. 1939. Watchtowers and Fortresses in Argolis. American Journal of Archaeology 43 (1): 78–84.

Marchand, J.C. 2002. Well-built Kleonai: A History of the Peloponnesian City Based on a Survey of the Visible Remains and a Study of the Literary and Epigraphic Sources. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.

Marchand, J.C. 2009a. All Roads Lead to Nemea. Physical Evidence for Ancient Roads in the Territory of Kleonai in the Northeastern Peloponnesos. Archäologischer Anzeiger 2: 1–49.

Marchand, J.C. 2009b. Kleonai, the Corinth-Argos Road, and the “Axis of History.” Hesperia 78 (1): 107–163.

Mattingly, D.J. 1996. First Fruit? The Olive in the Roman World, in G. Shipley and J. B. Salmon (eds) Human Landscapes in Classical Antiquity: Environment and Culture: 13–253. London: Routledge.

McHugh, M. 2017. The Ancient Greek Farmstead. Oxford: Oxbow.

Osborne, R. 2001. Counting the Cost, Comments on David K. Pettegrew, ‘Chasing the Classical Farmstead: Assessing the Formation and Signature of Rural Settlements in Greek Landscape Archaeology.’ Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 14 (2): 212–216.

Pansiot, F.P., and H. Rebour. 1961. Improvement in Olive Cultivation. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Peña, J.T. 2007. Roman Pottery in the Archaeological Record. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pettegrew, D.K. 2001. Chasing the Classical Farmstead: Assessing the Formation and Signature of Rural Settlement in Greek Landscape Archaeology. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 14 (2): 189–209.

Price, S., and L. Nixon. 2005. Ancient Greek Agricultural Terraces: Evidence from Texts and Archaeological Survey. American Journal of Archaeology 109 (4): 665–694.

Romano, D.G. 2003. City Planning, Centuriation, and Land Division in Roman Corinth: Colonia Laus Iulia Corinthiensis & Colonia Iulia Flavia Augusta Corinthiensis, in C.K. Williams II and N. Bookidis (eds) Corinth, the Centenary: 1896–1996 (Corinth 20): 279–301. Princeton: American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Rothaus, R.M. 1994. Urban Space, Agricultural Space and Villas in Late Roman Corinth, in P.N. Doukellis and L.G. Mendoni (eds) Structures rurales et Sociétés antiques: actes du colloque de Corfou, 14–16 mai 1992: 391–396. Paris: Diffusé par Les Belles Lettres.

Sarris, P. 2006. Economy and Society in the Age of Justinian. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schiffer, M.B. 1983. Toward the Identification of Formation Processes. American Antiquity 48 (4): 675–706.

Schiffer, M.B. 1985. Is there a ‘Pompeii Premise’ in Archaeology? Journal of Anthropological Research 41: 18–41.

Schiffer, M.B. 1987. Formation Processes of the Archaeological Record. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Schiffer, M.B. 1988. The Structure of Archaeological Theory. American Antiquity 53 (3): 461–485.

Setton, K.M. 1953. On the Importance of Land Tenure and Agrarian Taxation in the Byzantine Empire, from the Fourth Century to the Fourth Crusade. The American Journal of Philology 74 (3): 225–259.

Skibo, J.M. 1987. Fluvial Sherd Abrasion and the Interpretation of Surface Remains on Southwestern Bajadas. North American Archaeologist 8 (2): 125–141.

Slane, K.W. and G.D.R. Sanders. 2005. Corinth: Late Roman Horizons. Hesperia 74 (2): 243–297.

Small, A., B. Roe, J. Hayes, C. Simpson, G. Guzzetta, M. MacKinnon, and S. Monckton. 1994. A Pit Group of c. 80–70 B.C. from Gravina di Puglia. Papers of the British School at Rome 62: 197–260.

Snodgrass, A. 1994. Response: The Archaeological Aspect, in I. Morris (ed.) Classical Greece: Ancient Histories and Modern Archaeologies: 197–200. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spurr, M.S. 1986. Arable Cultivation in Roman Italy: c. 200 B.C. – c. A.D. 100 (Journal of Roman Studies Monographs 3). Warminster: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.

Stewart, D.R. 2013. Storing up Problems: Labour, Storage, and the Rural Peloponnese. Internet Archaeology 34:

Sutton Jr., R.F. 1991. Ceramic Evidence for Settlement and Land use in the Geometric and Hellenistic periods, in J.F. Cherry, J.L. Davis and E. Mantzourani, (eds) Landscape Archaeology as Long-term History: Northern Keos in the Cycladic Islands from Earliest Settlement until Modern Times: 245–263. Los Angeles: UCLA Institute of Archaeology.

Sutton, Susan B. 2001. A Temple Worth Seeing: Pausanias, Travelers, and the Narrative Landscape at Nemea, in S. E. Alcock, J. F. Cherry and J. Elsner (eds) Pausanias: Travel and Memory in Roman Greece: 175–189. New York: Oxford University Press.

Teall, J.L. 1971. The Byzantine Agricultural Tradition. Dumbarton Oaks Papers 25: 33–59.

Vroom, J. 2003. After Antiquity: Ceramics and Society in the Aegean from the 7th to 20th Century A.C. A Case Study from Boeotia, Central Greece (Archaeological Studies Leiden University 10). Leiden: Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University.

Whittaker, C.R. 1993a. Land, City, and Trade in the Roman Empire. Aldershot: Variorum.

Whittaker, C.R. 1993b. The Poor, in A. Giardina (ed.) The Romans: 272–299. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Whittaker, C.R. 1993c. Warlords and Landlords in the Later Roman Empire, in J. Rich and G. Shipley (eds) War and Society in the Roman World: 277–302. London: Routledge.

Wilkinson, T.J. 1982. The Definition of Ancient Manured Zones by Means of Extensive Sherd-sampling Techniques. Journal of Field Archaeology 9 (3): 323–333.

Wilkinson, T.J. 1989. Extensive Sherd Scatters and Land-Use Intensity: Some Recent Results. Journal of Field Archaeology 16 (1): 31–46

Wilkinson, T.J. 1990. Soil Development and Early Land use in the Jazira Region, Upper Mesopotamia. World Archaeology 2: 87–103.

Winther-Jacobsen, K. 2010. From Pots to People: A Ceramic Approach to the Archaeological Interpretation of Ploughsoil Assemblages in Late Roman Cyprus. Leuven: Peeters.

Wiseman, J. 1978. The Land of the Ancient Corinthians, Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology. Göteborg: Paul Åströms Förlag.

Wright, J.C., J.F. Cherry, J.L. Davis, and E. Mantzourani. 1987. Das Nemea Valley Archaeological Project: 1984–1985, in Kolloquium zur Ägäischen Vorgeschichte, Mannheim, 20.-22.2 1986, 98–112. Mannheim: Herausgegeben vom Vorstand des Deutschen Archäologen-Verbandes e.V. und vom Archäologischen Seminar der Universität Mannheim.

Wright, J.C., J.F. Cherry, J.L. Davis, E. Mantzourani, S.B. Sutton, and R.F. Sutton Jr. 1990. The Nemea Valley Archaeological Project a Preliminary Report. Hesperia 59 (4): 579–659.



How to Cite

Cloke, C. F. (2021). Farming on the Fringe: Diachronic Changes in Land-Use Patterns and Agricultural Strategies in Ancient Nemea. Journal of Greek Archaeology, 6, 1–25.



Method and Theory