Monday, September 1, 2014

Good News: We’re Back! Significant Developments on Naxos


Kalo Mina!

As of today the Institute is open again for business with its normal hours of Monday through Friday from 09:00 to 13:00. Extended library hours will begin in October. We look forward to seeing you at CIG, using our Library and other resources. We add to the holdings on a regular basis throughout the year.

Prof. Carter introduced to the audience
The Director in Motion
With summer winding down, last week was an opportune time to visit the SNAP team on Naxos. My arrival was timed by chance to enable us to attend a public lecture in Chora given by Prof. Tristan (Stringy) Carter (McMaster University) last Monday night. Besides the Stelida-Naxos Archaeological Project’s crew and my wife and daughter, the local representative of the KA’ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Ms. Eirine Legaki, was in attendance. There were over forty locals and foreigners in the audience. They were treated to an excellent overview of the project and its research aims, its methods of research, the results from the 2013 and 2014 field seasons and the possible implications for our understanding of the exploitation of the natural and physical resources of the island and the Aegean basin from most likely 250,000 BP to 9000 BC. The artifacts collected this year suggest strongly that the area around Stelida was utilized for chert quarrying (as the high has two major outcroppings of very high quality chert), artifact production and other activities in the Lower, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic periods and on a larger scale in the earlier Mesolithic period. Besides Homo sapiens sapiens, the chert knappers would have been Homo neanderthalensis or Homo heidelbergensis and probably some form of Homo erectus. Recent studies of ancient sea levels in the Aegean basin over the past 300,000+ years indicate that that this area was often dry land with some scattered large lakes. Such a landscape would make the basin a corridor between Anatolia and the Balkan Peninsula and not a watery barrier. The mountain peak at Stelida and the much more imposing one of Zas on Naxos would have been in the center of this natural passageway. Important finds, bold interpretation, eh!

Homo erectus at Stelida?
The simulating lecture sparked many questions and opinions. This public outreach is an important feature of CIG projects throughout Greece. Without the full support of the ministry and its archaeologists as well as the local residents this research could not be conducted.

View of the western side of Stelida toward a rock shelter
On Wednesday Stringy showed my daughter Liza and me the western side of Stelida where they had surveyed this year. A path and the lack of a steep slope allowed the CIG Director to make it up to one of the two rock shelters that they have identified. Last year we climbed up the steep eastern side of the hill without the aid of a path! Everywhere we looked on the slope there were thick screes of worked chert and debitage from the Middle Paleolithic period mostly. The fact that they found artifacts made from emery obtained from elsewhere on the island indicates that the chert knappers were well versed in the resources that were available.

Chert artifacts and debitage on the surface
We finished out our visit by joining the team for a tasty dinner at their regular taverna on the port at Chora. While the crew and the co-researchers were exhausted from a demanding month of fieldwork and the processing and study of the chipped stone tools, they also were very proud of the fact that they were changing our understanding of the peopling of the Aegean basin. This field season was about to end but the next phase of the research which they hope to start next year promises to be even more thought provoking.

Tristan Carter in front of the rock shelter
I am very pleased to announce that Prof. Carter will give the Invited Lecture at the 2015 Annual Open Meeting of the Institute in May. In the meantime you can visit the SNAP website at: https://stelida.mcmaster.ca to learn more about their work. Stringy will provide the final guest blog of the “summer of 2014” later this month.

Cordially,
David Rupp
Director

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Fred Winter Collection


Two virtually complete Ionic bases and capitals with parts of shafts from the Kavalla Museum. (Professor Fred Winter, 1987)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Argilos 2014 : une autre campagne de fouille riche en découvertes!



Une trouvaille inusitée
Grâce à l’aide d’une équipe extraordinaire d’étudiants stagiaires, d’archéologues, de dessinateurs, d’architectes, de topographes et d’ouvriers expérimentés, nous avons poursuivi notre fouille du grand portique mis au jour en 2013. Aux cinq pièces trouvées l’année dernière, nous en avons ajouté cinq nouvelles, mais sans avoir trouvé la limite orientale du bâtiment! Il fait donc, pour le moment, plus de 50 mètres de long. Nous savons qu’il comporte au moins deux phases, la plus ancienne remontant au début du Vème siècle avant notre ère, mais nous n’avons pas écarté la possibilité qu’il puisse avoir été érigé au VIème siècle, car la technique de construction et le type de pierres employées dans le mur de fond paraissent correspondre aux bâtiments archaïques des autres secteurs du site.

Découverte d'une momie!
Malheureusement, faute de temps, nous n’avons pas pu atteindre partout les sols d’occupation récents de ces nouvelles boutiques, mais là où nous y sommes parvenus, des découvertes intéressantes et parfois inusitées ont été faites : petites bases d’autel en marbre, baignoire complète (avec canard in situ…!), et restes de momie égyptienne… ! Blagues à part, tous les participants ont fait un travail exceptionnel et très méticuleux, pour s’assurer de la collecte des données nécessaires à notre compréhension de la fonction de ces boutiques.

Nos recherches ne se sont pas limitées à ce seul portique. À l’extrémité Ouest du secteur, des équipes dynamiques ont entrepris la fouille de deux autres gros bâtiments, alors que d’autres s’affairaient à établir les liens stratigraphiques et architecturaux entre les pièces situées sur la terrasse arrière du portique et les boutiques en contrebas.

Ailleurs, sur l’acropole, nous avons poursuivi l’exploration des abords d’une tour de guet. Une large avenue menant à une place s’ouvrant vers l’Est sur un bâtiment malheureusement peu conservé y a été dégagée.

Argiloscoptère 2
Les lecteurs de ce blog se souviendront que nous avions innové l’année dernière avec l’utilisation d’un drone pour les photos aériennes. Cette année nous avons mis en service notre «Argiloscoptère 2», un aéronef plus performant. Il nous est désormais possible de commander le drone et l’appareil photo à partir d’une tablette numérique, ce qui donne des résultats spectaculaires.

Étudiants et ouvriers au travail
Bien entendu, Argilos est également une école de fouille et la formation en archéologie y occupe donc une place importante. Les étudiants de cette année, provenant d’universités nord-américaines et européennes, ont appris les rudiments de la fouille et de l’enregistrement des données, la description et le catalogage d’objets, ainsi que le dessin de vases et de relevés stratigraphiques.


Soirée Tacos
Comme par les années passées, les weekends étaient consacrés à la visite de sites archéologiques de la région, ainsi qu’un séjour de trois jours dans l’île voisine de Thasos. Et après de longues journées de travail, quoi de mieux qu’un bon repas! Nos trois cuisiniers ont encore une fois été à la hauteur, rivalisant d’ingéniosités dans le choix, la qualité et la présentation des plats!

Équipe 2014
Un gros merci donc à tous ces participants, mais aussi au personnel du musée d’Amphipolis, aux citoyens des municipalités d’Asprovalta, où nous logeons, de Nea Kerdylia et d’Amphipolis, toujours prêts à nous aider.

Jacques Perreault
Université de Montréal

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Fred Winter Collection


Details of a cut rock face at the Pendeli quarries. (Professor Fred Winter, 1988)

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Western Argolid Regional Project 2014 Field Season


The summer of 2014 was the first field season of the Western Argolid Regional Project, or WARP, an archaeological survey co-directed by myself (Dimitri Nakassis, University of Toronto), Scott Gallimore (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Sarah James (University of Colorado Boulder). For six weeks, our team of thirty-one students and staff explored the valley of the Inachos river in the area of the modern village of Lyrkeia, in an attempt to document human activity in the region from prehistory to the modern day through a systematic survey of materials visible on the surface, mainly fragments of pottery and tile, but also stone tools and standing architecture.

Looking west across our survey area towards the mountains the divide the Argolid from Arcadia
Our project was interested not only in answering fundamental questions about the nature of settlement and other activities in the area, but also in addressing issues of connectivity and of power and resistance. By connectivity, we mean how particular micro-regions were connected to each other in various periods. We know that a major ancient road, called the Klimax by Pausanias, passed by the fortified city of Orneai in our survey area on its way to Arcadia. Many scholars have suggested that roads and military movements were closely connected to each other, and indeed our valley was important strategically. But what about the more quotidian traffic through the Greek countryside? Does this parallel, or cut across, the political and military movements that we know from our historical records? Power and resistance are more familiar concepts, but broadly speaking we want to understand the way that the western Argolid experienced power relations in various periods. For instance, the Argolid is full of fortifications and our region is no different: the valley is dotted with them. Do these represent outposts of central powers (for instance, the city of Argos), or do they represent some local response?

Grace Erny (CU Boulder) records while her team walks a field
To answer these questions, we needed to understand more about human activity in this landscape. On a typical day, our survey teams drove from our base in the coastal town of Myloi to our survey area in the Inachos river valley, maps and GPS units in hand. Each team consisted of undergraduates with a graduate student team leader, all from universities in Canada and the US. This group collaborated in the field not only to document each survey unit effectively using a paper form, but also to come up with the most efficient approach to their daily work. As the teams worked, they annotated their paper maps and forms, and on their return from the field they handed them over to our GIS specialist. She digitized the units daily while the teams diligently keyed their data from the field and monitored the overall quality of their procedures in the field. Teams also cycled through our laboratory, helping Scott and Sarah to wash, photograph, and record the finds as they came in. By the end of the season, we had a brilliantly colored density map of this year's survey area as well as an impressive list of recommended improvements from our field teams.

Sam Walker (Trent University) digitizes survey units while others enter data
The first field season was a big success, largely thanks to the hard work and dedication of our students, who braved the spiders of the Argolid to help us understand its past. We worked in the field for 26 days, we walked some 2,500 fields, collected almost 30,000 artifacts, and covered an area of 5.5 square kilometers. We explored seven major sites, some known, some newly discovered, and documented many more previously unknown small sites. We also had a lot of fun, visited a lot of archaeological sites, spent time on the beaches of Myloi, and rescued a couple of puppies.

Sunset on the beach at Myloi
We did so much work, in fact, that we are only beginning to understand what we found and answer the research questions that brought us to the area. The discoveries from this year ran the gamut from the Early Bronze Age to the Venetian and Ottoman periods, with an awful lot of material dating to the Classical and Hellenistic periods. In the summer of 2015, we will continue our study of materials from 2014, and we plan to continue our exploration to the south along the Inachos river, bringing us closer to the city of Argos. Our 2015 season will, we hope, allow us to trace changes in settlement patterns and material culture as we move from the more mountainous river valley of modern Lyrkeia towards the upper end of the Argive plain and the territory of the city of Argos.

Looking south towards our 2015 survey area and Argos in the distance
For more information on WARP, please visit our project website and blog at westernargolid.org!

Dimitri Nakassis
University of Toronto

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Fred Winter Collection


Oinoanda Hill at middle distance with snowy Golgeli Dagi in the background. (Professor Fred Winter, 1987)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Excavations at Ancient Eleon 2014

Ancient Eleon excavations
On July 14, 2014 we concluded the third full season of excavation at the site of Ancient Eleon in eastern Boeotia. This project is a synergasia between the Canadian Institute in Greece and the 9th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities at Thebes. My colleagues and I are very grateful for the research funding we receive from an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences Humanities Research Council of Canada (#435-2012-0185), the Loeb Classical Library and the Institute for Aegean Prehistory. We also appreciate the dedicated efforts of the students who volunteer for our project. Not only do they provide the physical energy that uncovers a great deal of earth and moves many a stone to reveal the archaeological record, they bring a lively spirit of inquiry, humor, and an unrivaled appreciation for our work. We feel that this is the best kind of collaboration, in which we are all learning through active research.

Our team in 2014 was the largest we ever fielded and likely the largest will have for some time to come. At peak capacity we numbered just over 50 people, including site supervisors, returning volunteers, first-time students, and specialists in geography, human and animal bones, ceramics, conservation, and illustration. Although we were a very large group we had dinners all together at one of the many tavernas in Dilesi. We would also create a caravan of sorts as we commuted out to the site each morning with our two vans and 6 rental cars.

Team photo in Dilesi, June 2014
The season started off very well right at the beginning of June. All the students arrived on time with no major travel difficulties. They all settled in well with their new roommates (three to a room most often). We were dispersed in Dilesi between the Mamoni house, where we’ve been based since 2007 and which we call our second-home, and apartments nearby, some of which had incredible views (photo below).

View to Euboea
Our work also went very smoothly: The site of ancient Eleon in Arma held up very well over the winter. There was no visible erosion or baulk collapse, and all of the walls were well-maintained over the winter by our work to cover and partially backfill trenches. Tall grasses and spikey thistles were cleared away by all members of the project over the first two days. Old trenches were cleaned and new ones were laid out according to our site grid. We work in 5 by 5 meter units and by the end of the summer we had opened nearly 20 new units. During the season we store a lot of material under our site’s beautiful Holm oak.

Eleon’s Holm oak and equipment storage
Once we were fully set up, we were able to concentrate fully on the job at hand. The weather during the excavation season also was very cooperative – light rain during the first week and two days of heavy, hot winds, but other than that there was no major weather that impacted the work.

Our project, in summary, addresses two major periods in Greek archaeology. First, a prehistoric phase spanning the Mycenaean period (Late Bronze Age), ca. 1700-1050 BC, and a historical phase from the late Archaic to early Classical periods, ca. 600-400 BC. The prehistoric material is associated with a several large houses with impressive furnishings inside and tiled roofs. The ceramics from these houses date primarily to the Late Helladic III C phases and help document important economic changes at the site, with particular reference to Eleon’s relationship to the larger center of Thebes, which suffers a major destruction level right at the beginning of the LH IIIC period. The historical era material, from the Archaic and Classical periods, relates to the material we have uncovered in association with the large polygonal wall that dominates the eastern side of our site. We have uncovered the new remains of the wall that include a ramped entryway into the site. Beneath the ramp’s multiple surfaces we have recovered large amounts of miniature vessels (skyphoi and kotyliskoi), along with other distinguishable types of Boeotian ceramics. Associated with these fineware vessels are numerous terracotta figurines, many of them female (seated and standing), sometimes painted, that suggest a cult was located here or nearby. The episodic activity indicates that the active Mycenaean center was abandoned around 1050 BC and then not reoccupied in any substantial way until about 550 BC when we start to see the miniatures and figurines appear. What happens in the intervening 500 years is a mystery, but the lack of any significant Early Iron Age material suggests to us that, at least in the areas of the site where we have explored, the site had lain abandoned for quite some time.

Our work this summer was very beneficial in clarifying some major questions about the site. But like any research project, the more you learn, the more new questions arise. We are particularly intrigued by the context of the major construction project that is the polygonal wall. We were very happy to have Professors Ben Marsh and Janet Jones of Bucknell University working with us on looking for quarry sources of the polygonal wall blocks and to try to understand how the wall was constructed.

Curved polygonal wall on the left leading to the ramp area. July 2014
While our daily efforts in the field consume the major part of our research day, work does not stop once we leave the site. All of our pottery is washed on the day it was excavated, offering the students a chance to better understand what they have collected. The ceramics dry overnight and are collected on the next day and the processing of these sherds begins. The ceramics are sorted by fabric types and by whether they are decorated or undecorated, and whether they are a recognizable part of a vessel, such as a rim, handle, or spout. These ‘diagnostic’ sherds (decorated or made of specific vessel parts) are especially valuable for the subsequent statistical and chronological analysis. These ‘diagnostic’ sherds and a representative sample of the non-diagnostics are photographed with an exterior and interior view. This process allows us to make a record of the tens of thousands of sherds we uncover throughout the season, which is crucial for accurate assessment of the strata we are digging.

The commitment to process and analyze all finds within a few days of its excavation provides important data that is fed back into the project. We use the information we get from the washers, sorters, illustrators and ceramic analysts to adjust our research goals and methods. We are proud that we never have a backlog of pottery from year to year. Overseeing this entire system is our registrar Stephie Nikoloudis, who uses the database, index cards, and a watchful eye to manage dozens and dozens of new finds each day. These range from assemblages of pottery, soil samples, and collections of animal bone (which will all undergo their own process) to individual finds of stone, metal, and terracotta.

Giuliana Bianco and Stephie Nikoloudis
Like our ceramics, our architecture is also fully documented during each season. When the excavators uncover a wall or interesting feature, a short plan is made and our indefatigable draftsperson, Giuliana Bianco, schedules it in. Absolute elevations are taken with the total station and relative points are made with an old fashioned dumpy level. Giuliana’s drawings are done in pen, with the occasional use of white out for the rare correction, and then they are scanned and converted into digital format on Adobe Illustrator. In 2014 she made dozens of separate drawings which will likely all be fully digitized, print-ready by Christmas. A truly impressive feat.

Session on conservation with Vicky Karas 2014
Our excavation provides valuable experience for young scholars of Greek archaeology. A great core of returning volunteers and graduate students work as site supervisors gaining valuable skills in reading Greek soil and stratigraphy, identifying pottery, and also managing student volunteers who work in their trenches. Many of the students participate as part of an experiential learning opportunity at the University of Victoria and they earn 3 units of 400-level credit. This year we had 14 students in the course and many of their blog entries can be found on our blogsite here: http://ebapexcavation .blogspot.gr/. The students and all members of the project attend information meetings throughout the season. These sessions often take place before or after sherd-washing in the garden of the Mamoni house. It’s a very beautiful setting for students to learn about faunal analysis, conservation, drawing, paleobotany and collections management on an excavation. The photo above shows the rapt attention of many of our students, as our chief conservator Vicky Karas discusses treatment methods, and is a fitting way to end our blog entry for 2014.

Brendan Burke
University of Victoria