Friday, November 3, 2017

Boiotia Antiqua

A recent development in Greek archaeology are regional archaeological conferences on recent fieldwork organized by the regional universities and ephorates. These occur from every year to every two or three years. Macedonia and Thrace, Thessaly and Crete are the largest of such conferences.

This past Sunday, October 29th, in Thebes the Ephorate of Antiquities of Boiotia of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport organized its first such conference. As the conference title indicates, «Παλαιές ανασκαφές, Νέες Προοπτικές. Το έργο της Εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας και των Ξένων Αρχαιολογικών Σχολών στη Βοιωτία πριν τον Β΄ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο και η πρόσφατη επαναδραστηριοποίηση τους στην περιοχή» the focus was on presenting overviews of the older excavations conducted by the foreign archaeological schools/institutes and the Archaeological Society of Athens as well their recent ones. Dr. Alexandra Charami, the Director of the Ephorate and Dr. Kyriaki Kalliga, her assistant, planned this most interesting initiative. The Institute knows them both well as Charami is our synergatis at ancient Eleon and Kalliga is her representative to the project.

Since the later 19th century the German Archaeological Institute, the French School of Archaeology, the American School of Classical Studies, and the British School, along with the Archaeological Society, all have conducted various excavations and other investigations. Not being a specialist of Boiotian archaeology, much of this research I was not aware of before Sunday. I had the honor of presenting an overview of what research Canadians had undertaken since the 1960s.

While our Institute is a relative newcomer to the Boiotian scene, in terms of fieldwork starting in 1980, Canadian interest in ancient Boiotia started in the 1960s. Paul Roesch, Albert Schachter, John Fossey (all from McGill University), and Robert Buck (University of Alberta) using the ancient sources and the epigraphical record studied Boiotian history, political institutions, religious cults, prosopography, leaders and generals. John Fossey along with Richard Hope Simpson (Queens University) and Duane Roller (then Wilfrid Laurier University) engaged with topographical studies and non-systematic Bronze Age site identifications.

Our first permit for a fieldwork project (1980 – 1983) was given to John Fossey for the intensive survey and test excavation at ancient Khorsiai or modern Khostia in southwestern Boiotia. Duane Roller in 1985 conducted a topographical and architectural survey at ancient Tanagra in southeastern Boiotia. After a hiatus of over 20 years Canadian archaeologists returned to Boiotia with the creation of the Eastern Boeotia Archaeological Project (or EBAP). Their first phase consisted of an intensive survey of a research zone to the east of Thebes between 2007 and 2010, with an emphasis on the presumed site of ancient Eleon. This was done as a synergasia with Dr. Vassilis Arvantinos. Since 2011 they have been excavating with Dr. Charami at ancient Eleon with significant results. Many people in the audience had not realized how involved Canadian philologists and archaeologists over the past 50 years have been in revealing ancient Boiotia. As always one sees colleagues and meets other archaeologists.

In attending the conference I was able to visit again the new Thebes Archaeological Museum. Its extensive and comprehensive collections ranging from the Paleolithic through early modern periods are displayed in an excellent fashion make it a must visit, by all means! It is also less than 90 minutes from central Athens by car! Afterwards one can explore on foot the excavated remains of the Mycenaean Palace of Kadmos scattered around the modern town of Thebes.

We look forward to the next Boiotian archaeological conference!

David Rupp

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