Friday, July 27, 2018

Digging Petras 2018: It's complicated!

Three weeks ago when in introducing Cole Furr, an MA student in Art History at the University of Toronto, to his trench at the Petras cemetery excavation [see:], seeing the jumble of stones, with sherds and bones protruding from bottom and the scarps, I told him, “It’s complicated”. Both his trench and the rest of those being excavated this year have proven to be “complicated”. Had the excavation stopped 3-4 years ago the picture of the cemetery would have been straightforward and the interpretative narrative “clear”. Little did we know then how things would change so radically and so quickly.

The unexpected depth of the archaeological layers on the southern and the western sides of the cemetery have revealed each year since 2016 earlier phases and earlier structures than those identified previously at higher levels. This means that we are excavating below the floors of these buildings and finding walls and deposits from different phases of the Early Minoan period. Along with these remains are many secondary and some primary burials. Our three osteoarchaeologists from the University of Thessaloniki are having a difficult time keeping up with these discoveries. At the mid-point of the season I have excavated already in three different areas in order to document these patches of earlier remains. I’m sure that more areas are in my archaeological future! If you are on Instagram you can review the season from my account [grubbyminoan] using the hashtag: #petras_excavations_2018.

An ongoing excavation in Crete is a magnet for archaeological visitors, including those with Canadian Institute connections, of course. So far we have had a visit by Dr. Jenny Moody, who is one of the senior co-researchers on the Institute’s Sphakia Survey Project in southwestern Crete. After the tour we discussed obtaining samples from the Petras excavations for dendrochronological dating. Then came Prof. Carl Knappett (University of Toronto) and his graduate students who are having a study season at Palaikastro, to the east of Siteia. Prof. Dimitri Nakassis (once University of Toronto, now University of Colorado at Boulder and the Co-Director of the Institute’s Western Argolid Regional Project) accompanied them. It was good to chat about the WARP study season. Next Prof. Angus Smith (Brock University and President of the CIG Board of Directors) came with three of his students. After their tour we reviewed the progress being made on the fundraising efforts for the Institute’s new building. Prof. Tristan Carter (McMaster University) will give one of the summer Saturday evening lectures at the INSTAP East Crete Study Center in Pachia Ammos on his latest Palaeolithic period discoveries at Stelida on Naxos [SNAP], an excavation project under the aegis of the Institute.

This year we have continued the longstanding program of guided tours of the Petras excavations. On three Thursday mornings visitors were welcomed to the site. They came from Siteia mostly, but there also were Greeks and foreigners who summer in the area. Such public outreach efforts are also an annual feature of most of the Institute’s fieldwork projects I am pleased to report.

All in all it has been a complicated, challenging and stimulating field season at Petras. Is it ever any different there? My retirement from the directorship of the Institute so far has given me little free time to pursue to my various research projects. I hope that will start finally in September!

Kalo kalokairi from the Institute’s guest blogger in Siteia

David Rupp
Professor Emeritus, Brock University

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