Friday, December 8, 2017

The formative years of contemporary Greek prehistoric archaeology

Modern textbooks and handbooks focusing on the art, architecture and archaeology of Greece are full of references to the results and finds from excavations conducted at a number of prehistoric sites in the two decades between the end of the Greek Civil War and the Junta. For a number of reasons projects organized by the foreign archaeological schools and institutes were in the forefront of this research on the Bronze Age and Neolithic period. Excavations by two of them, in particular, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) and the British School at Athens (BSA), were among the most significant for the development of Greek “prehistoric archaeology”. These, with few exceptions, were led by individuals from the famous ”Interwar Generation”, who have become the “greats” that we speak of today in reverence.

On Monday, December 11th Dr. Rania Balli, (archaeologist, Ph.D. University of Athens) will give an illustrated lecture entitled «Η δράση της Αμερικανικής και της Βρετανικής Σχολής την εικοσαετία 1947-1967».

Dr. Balli will argue that this was a very crucial period in Greek archaeology, for many reasons, just after the end of WWII to the dictatorship of the colonels. Her lecture is based on the very rich archival material stored in the libraries of the ASCSA and of the BSA which is useful for revisiting the excavations, and also for the personal testimonies of the important archaeologists from that period. The life and work of major American and British archaeologists who worked in Greece during this period will be traced, as well as their contributions to the evolution of the prehistoric archaeology in Greece.

The American archaeologists who were active in prehistoric archaeology were Carl Blegen (Palace of Nestor at Pylos) and John Caskey (Lerna in the Argolid and Ayia Eirini on Kea). The work of the British archaeologists is represented by the most important excavators of the two decades, i.e. Alan Wace (Μycenae), Sinclair Hood (Εmborio on Chios and Knossos on Crete), William Taylour (Aghios Stephanos in Laconia), Hugh Sackett and Mervyn Popham (Palaikastro, Crete), George Huxley and Nicolas Coldstream (on Kythera) and Colin Renfrew (on Saliagos).

Through the correspondence of these important archaeologists of the period and other archival material light will be shed on their work, their contributions to the evolution of prehistoric archaeology in Greece and, in general, their participation in the many sociopolitical issues that affected postwar Greece.

The lecture in Greek will be at 7:00 pm in the Library of the Canadian Institute in Greece. The public is welcome to learn more about the “personalities” who shaped Greek prehistoric archaeology 50 to 70 years ago.

David Rupp

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