Friday, July 19, 2013

‘Open House’ at the Eleon Excavations

Sunset at ancient Eleon
Since 2007 our Greek-Canadian research project has been coming to the village of Arma in eastern Boeotia, first as part of our regional survey and then as the location of our excavation of ancient Eleon. Last year we established an apotheke in Arma which allows us to store equipment and some finds near our site, and provides very useful work space for our ceramic specialists. Our excavations have now concluded for 2013 and we are very grateful for all the help we have received from the town of Arma, from the 9th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in Thebes, and from the Canadian Institute in Greece.

The 2013 team
As many people know, meals are a very important aspect of any excavation, and this year, for the first time, we began taking our lunch in the village of Arma, prepared for us by Stavroula Dimitriou. This was one of the best decisions we have made: Stavroula is an EXCELLENT cook, and it was convenient and economical for all of our team. We will greatly miss lunches on her balcony and garden. I will especially miss the lentil soup!

Visitors at the 'open house'
We have come to know the great hospitality and kindness of the town of Arma, from everyone we work with each day. Toward the end of our work this year, the people from the village kindly invited us to make a presentation on our research. Many people seemed not to know what we were doing every day, starting at 6:30 am. We often encourage people to come up and see for themselves during our work days, but we learned that many people worried they would be disturbing us. We very much welcomed the invitation to inform people of our research project and to show some of our results thus far. However, rather than give a standard illustrated talk in a lecture hall or classroom, we decided to invite the village up to the site itself, for an ‘open house’. Working with Stavroula and the local historical and cultural council, the Μορφωτικός Σύλλογος Άρματος, our plan was to serve some light refreshments, display some of our archaeological illustrations, and to show interested people around the excavation area. We set Thursday July 11, 2013 at 7:30 pm as the meeting time. We expected about 50 people.

Bryan Burns guides the guests
On the evening of the event, at 7 pm we were incredibly surprised when dozens of tractors, cars, and people on foot started up the gentle ascent to the site. By 7:45 the count was over 200 people from Arma, Eleonas, Tanagra, Schimatari and even Thebes! Young, old, and in-between! We happily welcomed our colleagues from the ASCSA excavation at Mitrou. And, most especially, we were very happy that our collaborators from the 9th Ephorate, Alexandra Charami and Olga Kyriatzi, were able to attend and addressed the visitors. My colleague, Dr. Bryan Burns (Wellesley College), gave a great tour of the three main excavation areas of the site in Greek (with no prepared text) and then had to do it all over again, a second time, because there were so many people who couldn’t hear the first time. You can see a video of the event and hear Bryan at this link:

Our students and volunteers enthusiastically mingled with the crowd and discussed our project. Several children in the village seemed to learn quickly that archaeological remains are important and deserved to be cared for properly. One little girl even brought a small sherd from the ground to the attention of our ceramics experts.

Dancing the night away!
After the ‘open house’ the Μορφωτικός Σύλλογος Άρματος hosted us for dinner in the town hall, and then put on a very fun display of Greek dancing. Many of our students were able to learn from trained experts in a wide variety of traditional Greek dancing! The evening ended at a local café with a few more celebratory drinks and more dancing, Greek and Canadian style!

Brendan Burke
University of Victoria

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