Friday, June 16, 2017

Visits to fieldwork projects conducting research under the aegis of CIG

As the focus of many archaeological schools and institutes in Greece is on their fieldwork activities it is fitting that we feature this research at every opportunity. The primary focus of the annual Open Meeting is to summarize the results of the previous summer’s research. Each summer Jonathan and I make every effort to visit the projects at work in order to see and to learn what this fieldwork is like in action. This month we have visited the excavations at ancient Eleon in eastern Boiotia and the field survey of the Western Argolid Regional Project to the northwest of Argos. I also made a visit to the excavations at Stelida on Naxos.

At ancient Eleon the crew of Brenden Burke (University of Victoria) and Bryan Burns (Wellesley College) are continuing to uncover the so-called “Blue Stone Structure” or BSS, first encountered in the 2014 field season. This is a large Early Mycenaean monument that was built over and around at least four built graves that date to the end of MH III/early LH I. The tops of the exterior walls of this rectangular structure (at least 17 m long) were capped by a distinct bluish limestone quarried in the area of Tangara to the southeast. The interior of the monument had a series of parallel interior walls to support a tumulus that was erected over it. This tumulus appears to have been considered important as the buildings constructed immediately to the northwest in the 12th century BCE did not encroach on it. Besides digging within the walls of the monument they are also attempting to determine at the southeastern exterior corner how tall this wall was. In the Northwest Sector they are excavating more of a very large LH IIIC building discovered in their first seasons of digging in order to find its northern limits. There’s still so much to uncover of this fascinating structure before the end of the season!
Despite an episode of rain while we were there, what we were shown by Brendan and Bryan during our visit reinforced for me the importance that Eleon must have had in the Middle and Late Bronze Age periods, even in the shadow of palatial Thebes. The finds that we saw at their lab also demonstrated both the high quality of the site’s material culture and the many connections that the settlement had within the region and beyond. This major project is a Greek / Canadian synergasia with Alexandra Harami (Ephorate of Boiotia).

Pedestrian field survey is an important data collection technique in archaeological research today. The Western Argolid Regional Project, or WARP is in its fourth and final field season exploring the Inachos river valley to the northwest of the ancient (and modern) city of Argos. This year they are investigating a series of hills that are situated around the edges of their research zone that early travellers and researchers have long known to have remains of some form of fortification. At the same time they are having a full study season analyzing the finds from the previous three field seasons.
Jonathan and I met up with Dimitri Nakassis (now University of Colorado at Boulder) at one of the sites near the chapel of Agios Demetrios. Scott Gallimore (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Sarah James (also at University of Colorado at Boulder) are co-directors with Dimitri. On a low knoll in the middle of a saddle are the remains of a small polygonal plan tower. Its lowest courses look late Classical/early Hellenistic in date with later building over the ruins. It sits next to a probable ancient road that connected Argos to Arcadia. The surveying that they are doing this year is more attuned to practices of a century ago in seeking sites with visible architecture but using modern technology to geo-locate and to accurately measure the remains and to document digitally what is visible. We await the publications that will come from the large team of researchers studying the data sets.

From the uplands of the northwestern Argolid and the rolling plains of eastern Boiotia, the setting at Stelida on Naxos is at the other end of the geographical spectrum. This prominent, pointy hill dominants the landscape on the northwestern edge of the island. Approaching the island from most directions one’s eye quickly fixes on this twin-peaked hill jutting out into the sea.

For the third year, the Stelida-Naxos Archaeological Project (SNAP) has been digging at this ancient chert quarry and tool production site. This is a Greek/Canadian synergasia with Demetrios Athansoulis (Ephorate of the Cylcades). The intensive site survey that Tristan “Stringy” Carter’s team (McMaster University) conducted in 2013 and 2014 produced evidence for use of this quarry from the Mesolithic back to the Lower Palaeolithic periods based on the tool typologies associated with each cultural epoch. In order to find suitable deposits for the archaeometric dating of the strata which contain stone tool and production debris they have a strategy of opening small test trenches around the hillsides and along the coast. These sondages have revealed that the erosional deposits on the mid-slope of the hill are as deep as 5 m in some places. Along with the large boulders and smaller stones that have washed down along with the sediment from higher up gives the impression that hill was much higher and steeper and that it must have had a different configuration than it has today.

Stringy showed me all of the trenches being dug this year and I had a chance to meet and talk with the crew members from Canada, Greece and the US. Despite the very challenging conditions (sun all day long, strong winds, often deep trenches and compact sediments) they were very enthusiastic and dedicated.
Most every archaeological fieldwork project generates large quantities of finds that have to be cleaned, analyzed, drawn and photographed. Afterwards they need to be stored in a secure location. SNAP is no exception, of course. After using the facilities of the Archaeological Museum in Chora they have been given by the Municipality of Naxos the use of a suitable work space and storage space along with the archaeological projects led by Colin Renfrew (Cambridge University) at Keros and Daskalio under the aegis of the British School at Athens.

Two of our current projects are in study season mode. In Thessaly Margriet Haagsma (University of Alberta at Edmonton) is studying the finds from their urban survey at Kastro Kallithea and the excavation of Building 10. The project at Ancient Argilos after a very successful 25th anniversary conference three weeks ago in Thessaloniki is taking a break from digging to study as well. Both are Greek / Canadian symergasies.

I have invited each project to submit, as esteemed guest bloggers, an overview of their field or study season for uploading during the Institute’s annual August recess.

My review of this year’s discoveries for next year’s annual Open Meeting should be worth the wait!

David Rupp

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