Friday, August 1, 2014

It’s Closing Time! Kiln Thoughts; and this Blog will be Moving

Kalo Mina! The dog days of summer are upon us. That means it’s closing time at CIG. As of today, August 1st through the end of the month we will be taking our annual summer recess. Jonathan will be heading to the United States for his first visit across the pond. My family and I will be in Crete, Athens and Naxos. The Institute will resume formal business on Monday, September 1st at 9:00 am.

Halasmenos: Nektarios cutting the plants with the Kha Gorge in the background
Kiln Thoughts
For the past week I’ve been studying the stoking pit and fire mouth of an updraft pottery kiln that was discovered in 2012 in the center of the Late Minoan IIIC settlement at Halasmenos in the Isthmus of Ierapetra in eastern Crete. This is an excavation of my wife, Dr. Metaxia Tsipopoulou. My contribution to the Winter Memorial volume dealt with the planning and the innovative elements of this short lived settlement that was inhabited ca. 1160/1140 BC. This year I supervised a workman cleaning the site of the wild sage and thyme plants.

Halasmenos: everything’s waiting for the researcher to resume work
While I was sitting in the stoking pit staring at the fire mouth in the hot July sun looking for details of its manner of construction and its methods of use, fond memories came back of another kiln that I had excavated decades ago. As an energetic, youngish professor in the Department of Classics at Brock University I had the idea to dig a historic site in the Niagara Peninsula so that my undergraduate archaeology students who were unable to go on our Archaeological Practicum in Cyprus in the summers could learn field techniques and procedures. The site that I chose was a red earthenware pottery kiln and workshop (and later the foundations of an adjacent house) located in bush near the edge of the Niagara Escarpment above Jordan, Ontario. The pottery was operated by an individual named Benjamin J. Lent in the mid- to late-1830s. As I liked to say too, too many times, this pottery had fallen between the floorboards of history since there were no records preserved to document it or its potter. We learned the potter’s name from the limited number of vessels he stamped with his name on. My co-researchers and I were able to trace him to his family’s roots to a family of stoneware potters in southern New York state, his potting work in New Jersey (he married the daughter of a potter) and then in upstate New York as a stoneware potter. He had a very pre-post-modern life in that he moved around practicing his craft, he left his first wife and children for a new life in Ontario, then married a local girl from the Niagara Peninsula and finally they all disappeared from all administrative records in both countries.

Halasmenos: view from the site towards Pachias Ammos and the Mirabello Gulf
The pottery excavation produced over 60,000 sherds in the course of a decade of on and off digging with my students and volunteers on weekends and holidays. The kiln Lent constructed was a sophisticated one. He even made vessels decorated in the manner of stoneware vessels as well as novelty items such as coin banks. On my webpage there is a general article about the excavation on its more important discoveries. A number of my students participated in the research and the writing of sections of the report that I submitted to the Province of Ontario. You can read it in the Special Collections of the Brock University Library!

Screen Shot of the Blog on the CIG Website
The CIG Blog will be moving in September!
Since January, 2011 the CIG blog has resided at this address. With the updating and upgrading of the CIG website ( in late May we have had the capability of having the blog as an integral part of the website. So, starting in early September the CIG Blogs will reside at our website. For August the guest blogs will be accessible here. We will retain this address as an archive of the past blogs. So there will be yet another reason for you to check our CIG website each week!

Kales Diakopes and see you in September……………………………
David Rupp

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Fred Winter Collection

View of the interior drum of the Pantheon at Rome with sunlight shining in. (Professor Fred Winter, 1988)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Life in the trenches

Taking elevations, old and new style
The month in Siteia at the Petras excavations ( went fast. Digging from 7 am to 3 pm followed by an hour+ of notebook work helps to create the blur. After a few days the rhythms and demands of an excavation structured one’s life at the site. Looking over the walls that defined the room in a house tomb that I was excavating I could see my colleagues engaged in the same structured activities. The ringing sounds of the trowels, picks and shovels were mixed with urgent calls: “Photo Book! David, do you have it again?”; “Where’s the Catalogue?”; “Eleni, is this a human bone?”; “Rebecca, could you DGPS an ME?”; “Who took the soil bags?”; “Metaxia, come and see this!” and, best of all, “Break time!”

View of the cemetery during photography session
I was back for another tour of duty on my wife’s (Dr. Metaxia Tsipopoulou) excavation of an extensive Minoan Prepalatial and Protopalatial house tomb cemetery at Kefala-Petras associated with the Minoan settlement and palace at Petras, just to the east of Siteia in eastern Crete [see last year’s blog]. The crew was bigger this year augmented by a field school from Brandeis University (USA) led by Professor Andrew Koh. His assistant, Tanya McCullough, had dug with me in 1993 at my excavation of the Middle Chalcolithic site of Prastio - Ayios Savvas tis Koronis Monasteri in the Paphos District of Cyprus. We, and my son Romanos, were the “Canadian Content” on the project. Besides us Cannucks , we were a truly international undertaking with archaeologists from Greece (of course), the US, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, and Slovakia. With ten local workers the hard work was made easier.

A digger’s bags and supplies
Each new trench and parts of the previously identified house tombs produced interesting and different discoveries. There were crania and long bones everywhere. The narrative sequence of many sections of the cemetery had to be revised as a result. The one that I crafted last year for my Room 4 in House Tomb 3 was radically modified by the digging of the remainder of the room this year. While we strive for the appearance of “certainty” in archaeology, in reality we’re only presenting an interpretation that has a certain level of “probability” of explaining the past behaviors. Even then our narratives are relatively simple and incomplete. So each time we dig a new portion of a site, while the new data can confirm or amplify what we think we know, it can frequently change everything. Archaeological research is not for individuals who want firm, immutable “facts”.

A helicopter carrying sea water
To break the routine we had our annual “aerial” photos using the boom-mounted high resolution camera from the INSTAP East Crete Study Center in Pachia Ammos. One very windy day we watched a helicopter carry large buckets of sea water from the bay to attempt to put out a wildfire in the mountains to the south. Summer Session II of the American School was given a tour of the cemetery as we toiled in the trenches. The Minoan Seminar did an “in situ” visit to the excavation on the 12th with over 125 archaeologists, friends and locals in attendance from all over central and eastern Crete. That evening we watched a spectacular “super full moon” rise over Siteia Bay. The dig’s facebook page kept the project’s fans informed of people and progress of the excavation. The dig party on the final afternoon was enlivened by one of the workers playing his bouzouki and other workers dancing. It was a rewarding field season all in all!

View of the sieves
Now I must finish my notebook and the final report. Then I’m at Halasmenos (Monastiraki-Ierapetras) for a week to study the LM IIIC kiln there. That’s how my June and July 2014 will have been spent away from Athens. Jonathan has been holding down the fort during this period. America awaits him!

Kalo Kalokairi!
David Rupp

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Fred Winter Collection

Ionic capital from the Older Artemision at Ephesos. (Professor Fred Winter, 1988)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Fred Winter Collection

Eroded rock formation with rock-cut tombs at Midas City. (Professor Fred Winter, 1987)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014