Friday, May 8, 2015

The CIG Annual Open Meeting; Hominids in the Cyclades; Welcome Christina; Where did the BM get its Greek Antiquities?

The lovely month of May brings many wonderful things, and one of them is the Annual Open Meeting of the Institute. On Wednesday, May 13th at 7:00 PM at the Italian Archaeological School of Athens I will review the many activities and accomplishments of the Institute since last May and provide an overview of the results of the archaeological fieldwork and study conducted in the summer of 2014 by projects carried out under the Institute’s aegis with permits from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport.

Each year a noted Canadian researcher is invited to give a lecture on some aspect of her/his current work. This year Professor Tristan Carter (Department of Anthropology, MacMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario) will speak on the topic, “The Stélida Naxos Archaeological Project: Early Humans in the Aegean”. Prof. Carter is a well-known prehistorian who specializes in the chipped stone industries of the Aegean basin and Anatolia. He is the director of the project.

Until relatively recently the Cycladic islands were not believed to have been colonised by humans until farmer arrived in the Late Neolithic, some 7000 years ago. This long-held view is now being reconfigured through the discovery by Greek archaeologists of a well-dated Mesolithic (late hunter-gatherer) village on Kythnos, and claimed Mesolithic – Middle Palaeolithic activities at Stélida on Naxos.

Carter’s lecture details the most recent work at Stélida, a two-year survey conducted under the aegis of the Institute dedicated to mapping this chert source and its prehistoric stone tool workshops. He will detail how the quarry was clearly being exploited from the Lower Palaeolithic (likely by Homo heidelbergensis), followed by major stone working in the Middle Palaeolithic (Neanderthals), and then through the earlier Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic (Homo sapiens sapiens), i.e. a history of intermittent usage that spans from at least 300,000 to 9,000 years ago. The discovery of such early material on Naxos has potentially major significance for how researchers view the earliest peopling of Europe. With recent sea-level reconstructions suggesting a landbridge between Anatolia and the southern Greek mainland, Stélida may provide evidence that the Aegean represented a thoroughfare for early human migrations, rather than the barrier it was long considered to be.

Welcome Christina!

One of the harbingers of summer at the Institute (besides Jonathan wearing shorts to work) is the arrival of the undergraduate intern from York University. This weekend Christina Ioannides came to Athens for three months. She is a fourth year Hellenic Studies major with concentration on Greek texts and poems spanning from the 5th century BC through contemporary Greece. Christina is fascinated by how the tales of the ancient Greek heroes and gods have been kept alive through the use of oral tradition for thousands of years. On this her first visit to Greece she will have an excellent opportunity to hone her modern Greek language skills and expand her vocabulary. You can read more about Christina on our website and welcome her warmly at the Annual Open Meeting on the 13th.

While at the Institute, Christina will undertake the usual mixture of work. That is cataloguing new acquisitions in the Library, categorizing and organizing Greek documents in the Archive and scanning documents and images in the Archive.

Where did the Greek antiquities in the BM come from?

The Elgin marbles which now reside in the British Museum in London are well-known. But these sculptures are not the only Greek antiquities held by the Museum. The question is often raised, “How did the British Museum acquire these items?” A partial answer to this question will be presented in the lecture of Dr. Yannis Galanakis (Lecturer in Greek Prehistory, Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge) on Monday, May 11th at 18:30. His lecture is entitled, “Charles Merlin: a British Consul in Athens and the Sourcing of Greek antiquities for the British Museum (1865-1892)”.

Based on unpublished archival material, Galanakis’ lecture offers a brief biographical account of Charles Louis William Merlin, who served on Her Britannic Majesty’s consular service in Greece for almost 50 years (1839-1887). Merlin was one of the British Museum’s most productive antiquities agents in Athens. His extensive correspondence (1864-1892) with the London institution, offers the opportunity to reconstruct his role in the sourcing of ancient objects directly from the Greek capital to the United Kingdom. The study of this material provides significant new insights into the value and types of objects sourced and the structure of Merlin’s transactions as well as the organization of the antiquities trade in Greece at the time. The correspondence highlights the different attitudes towards the collection and sale of antiquities in 19th-century Greece and the reasons for which Merlin was involved in this – financially and politically – risky activity.

After the lecture you will know the rest of the story about the British Museum’s acquisition methods in the later 19th century. This lecture at the Historical Archive at Psaromylingou 22, on the cusp of the Kerameikos and Psyrri Districts, is sponsored by the Syllogos Filon tou Istorikou Archaeiou tis Archaiologikis Yperasias as part of its 2014-2015 Lecture Series.

David Rupp

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