Friday, June 26, 2015

Vive la différence!!!

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting two of our 2015 fieldwork projects. On Tuesday the 16th and Wednesday the 17th, Gerry Schaus (President of the Institute’s Board of Directors), Jonathan Tomlinson (the Institute's Assistant Director) and his wife, Amelie Tyler, joined me.  On Wednesday the merry band was accompanied also by my wife, Metaxia Tsipopoulou.

Our first visit was to the survey crews of the Western Argolid Regional Project (WARP). We met up with Dimitri Nakassis (University of Toronto) and a gaggle of their surveyors at a church on the southern border of their 2015 research zone of 10,000 stremmata. Last year was their first year in the field when they surveyed a 10,000 stremmata zone immediately to the NW.  Despite the hot weather the crews had covered the surrounding hilly landscape to collect sherds, roof tile fragments, chipped stone material and other artifacts from specific fields in this intensive “site-less” survey.  In many places the density of vegetation made it challenging to see the ground surface to say the least!

We then proceeded to Argos to visit their workspace and apotheke. There Scott Gallimore (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Sarah James (University of Colorado at Boulder), Dimitri’s co-directors and fellow researchers showed us the material that they had collected over the past two years. Classical and Hellenistic period ceramics dominated the collections. While there is limited evidence for earlier material, so far the Imperial Roman and Ottoman periods are better represented. As they move closer to Argos this pattern may change.

Afterwards at their base “camp” at Myloi on the NW end of the Gulf of Argos we saw CIG Board member Alexis Young (Wilfrid Laurier University) who had joined the project for a few weeks to help out in the processing of the finds. Then over a tasty, fishy lunch on the shore we discussed the results to date and their plans for the future. I for one was happy that I was not out there in the field with them with temperatures in the mid-30s C with a strong wind, having retired my worn Cypriot survey boots back in 1994.

On Wednesday the excavation on the akropolis at ancient Eleon in eastern Boiotia was our destination.  The Eastern Boeotia Archaeological Project (EBAP) is a synergasia between co-directors Dr. Alexandra Harami of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Boiotia, and Brendan Burke (University of Victoria) and Bryan Burns (Wellesley College). This field season is the last year of their present five-year permit.  The principal focus of the work this summer is to determine the northern extent of the so-called “Blue Stone Structure” discovered last year in the Southeast Sector. The use of bluish limestone slabs in its construct is the origin of the appellation. The finds of this enigmatic building (?) continue to suggest a date in Late Helladic I for its construction and eventual covering by a low tumulus. This area does not seem to have been disturbed by later buildings in the LH IIIB and C periods.

In the Northwest Sector the team was excavating the fill of a large Ottoman period pit which was suffering from the erosional effects of the winter rains.  Other excavators were attempting to delineate the history of the sequence of Archaic period and later gates in the defensive walls immediately to the south of the ”Blue Stone Structure” as well as the nature of the entranceway in the Mycenaean period.  Further to the south against the eastern face of a section of the curving defensive wall they continued to dig down to find the lowest courses of the foundations which rest on bedrock. The wall now appears to have been erected in the 6th century BC.

We then were given a tour of their work space in the village of Arma immediately below the akropolis. The pottery is being read, joins found, vessels conserved and drawn. The quality and range of shapes of the Late Helladic ceramic material is impressive with clear connections with Lefkandi on Euboia to the east as well as to other regions of the Mycenaean world and even eastern Crete according to Metaxia! An old friend Susan Lupack (editor of Hesperia and a co-director of the EBAP survey was there studying the Archaic and Classical votive material found around the gates and the ramp. Gerry had to be pried away from this material so we could return to Athens!

In less than 18 hours we were able to see the current work and the finds of a survey and an excavation in the field under the aegis of the Institute and with permits from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Education and Religion. Each data recovery technique has its important place in our endless quest for more information to assist us in answering various research questions and in crafting narratives to describe how ancient cultures operated and interacted with other societies. Vive la différence!!!

David Rupp

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