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The site of Chersonesos, located near modern Sevastopol at the southwestern tip of the Crimean peninsula, was settled by Greek colonists from Heraclea Pontica, on the south coast of the Black Sea, as early as the 5th century BC.   The settlers first chose a site for their city near good deep-water harbors at the edge of a territory controlled by the indigenous Taurian people.   Both the urban center and its chora (agricultural territory) were divided by orthogonal grids within the first century of settlement.   Thus began the 2000-year history of this Greek-speaking community. Chersonesos survived threats from Scythians in its Greek incarnation, was reborn as a Roman provincial city, resisted later barbarian invasions, and went on to become a wealthy and prominent Byzantine center before suffering a severe destruction in the 13th century AD.   The city plays a substantial role in the history of Christianity in Ukraine and Russia: Orthodox tradition considers it the site of the martyrdom of St. Clement in 98 AD and of the baptism of the Kyivan Rus' prince Volodymyr in 988 or 989 AD.

After its gradual abandonment in the 14th century, Chersonesos was not subject to the sort of reoccupation and construction that has affected many ancient and Byzantine sites.   It was left alone while the city of Sevastopol was founded in 1783 by Catherine the Great around another, deeper harbor, and the entire area, as the headquarters of the Black Sea fleet, was closed to visitors during the Soviet period.   As a result, the archaeological record at Chersonesoshas two unique features.   The most striking is the chora of the Greek city, large tracts of which have been preserved almost unchanged since antiquity.   The stone walls that divided the settlers' plots, together with farmsteads and even vine-planting walls, are still visible in the countryside. The other unique feature of Chersonesos belongs to the end of its long life: the fiery destruction that overtook the city in the later part of the 13th century AD left objects where they lay and helped, ironically, to preserve a detailed picture of all aspects of life in a Late Byzantine city.

Joseph Carter, the Director of ICA, visited the site in 1992, when it was newly open to outsiders, and recognized its extraordinary potential.   By 1994, ICA had begun its current collaboration with the National Preserve of Tauric Chersonesos.   The focus of the joint research project was initially on the chora, where a series of rural sites have been excavated, but has since expanded to include work in the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine urban area.   ICA's goal is to bring an interdisciplinary, methodologically innovative, and responsible approach to investigations of the archaeological record, and its efforts at Chersonesos have encompassed not only research but conservation, site management, the digitization and preservation of archives, and the presentation of the site to the wider world. Our work at Chersonesos has been conducted with long-term outcomes in mind, both in terms of publication and in sustainable program of site management. For more information about ICA's involvement at Chersonesos,see the individual project descriptions and our bibliography.