Friday, March 30, 2012

Balance in the Hellenic World and Book Sale Extended

Spring is upon us here in Athens! The bushes and trees are sending out new leaves. Flowers are starting to bloom. The long dreary, wet winter is fading into last year’s memories. That means that April and Pascha are almost here! With their coming is the last lecture of the program for the Friends Association of the Institute on Wednesday evening, April 4th at 7:30 PM. The lecture will continue our examination of aspects of Christian art and its meanings. Dr. Gerasimos Pagoulatos (Hellenic Open University and the Hellenic-American Educational Foundation) will discuss the issue of historicism and a-historicism in the Hellenic world in his lecture entitled, “Seeking Balance in the Hellenic World: The Convergence of Historicism and a-historicism as Seen in the Iconographic Evidence of Christ’s Nativity Baptism.” Using the images of Christ’s Nativity and Baptism, Pagoulatos will how these two trends developed and finally merged in the Byzantine world. This development still has importance for the contemporary Hellenic world and beyond.

News Flash! The Book Sale Deadline Extended!!!
Given the upswing in bids and counter-bids this week on our archaeological books seeking a new home, we’ve extended the e-auction until Thursday, April 5th. All you have to do now is go to and make your bid. Don’t say we didn’t warn you many times about this sterling opportunity!!!

David Rupp

Friday, March 23, 2012

Middle Ground in Christian Art of the Medieval Near East, Don’t Risk Missing Out! and Greek Monuments Are Gaining Voices

Glenn Peers, David Rupp, Metaxia Tsipopoulou
The final lecture of the Institute’s Winter/Spring Program will occur on Wednesday, March 28th at 7:30 PM. We are pleased to welcome back to the lectern Professor Glenn A. Peers (Department of Art and Art History, University of Texas at Austin). He publishes on the theoretical aspects of Byzantine art, on frames and framing in Byzantine art as well as on theological and hagiographical problems. One of his current research interests is Christian-Muslim interaction in the Middle East. His lecture, “Finding Middle Ground in the Christian Art of the Medieval Near East”, will delve into the complexities of art in this region during this seminal period. We will be treated to another excellent lecture I am certain!

Don’t Risk Missing Out!
The 31st of March is fast approaching and you are in grave danger of missing out! Why risk the unending embarrassment of not buying the book (or three) that your archaeological library lacks before the sale ends? It is so simple; it is so easy. All you have to do is go to and make your bid. Why resist further?

“Monuments have no voice. They must have yours” Campaign Gains Voices
Each week the news from the Hellenic Parliament gets worse on the proposed plans and the bills that are voted on which deal with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s obligations and abilities to fulfill its sacred stewardship mission for Greece’s cultural heritage in all its forms. As I reported on last week The Association of Greek Archaeologists has started a campaign, “Monuments have no voice. They must have yours” to combat these IMF-caused cuts and to galvanize worldwide support to convince the Papademos Government that this is the wrong path to follow if it is seeking truly sustainable economic development and growth. If cultural heritage, especially archaeological sites and museums, is one of the prime attractors that drives Greek tourism, then to gut the Hellenic Archaeological Service is economically counterproductive to say the least. Their Facebook page has become a rallying point for expressing concern and for giving active support:

You can get many of the details of what is happening here in Greece as well as what is in the pipeline from this source. As you will see there is active support from our colleagues in the UK and the United States. So far, Canadian archaeologists, epigraphers, philologists, historians and art historians who do research in Greece and interact with the Hellenic Archaeological Service are silent. Why??? Why haven’t my colleagues in Canada written to the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr. Pavlos Geroulanos, to express their professional opinion on the current developments in this central feature of Greek society? What is happening here and now is a radical change in the paradigm for the protection, the preservation and the study of Greece’s expansive cultural heritage. As they say here, «Ξυπνα, Ρε!!!»

David Rupp

Friday, March 16, 2012

Monuments have no voice - They must have yours, Book Sale Deadline Approaching, Free Offprints, Re-Constructing Ancient Landscapes

On Wednesday, the Association of Greek Archaeologists which represents the 950 Greek archaeologists who work for the Hellenic Archaeological Service of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism held a press conference (see: to publicize the launch of their campaign, “Monuments have no voice, They must have yours”. This is an attempt to rally widespread support to oppose the proposed reduction in their numbers in the Service and in the Ministry as a whole by 30-50%. This is more “house cleaning” of the Greek government that is required by the recently signed Second Memorandum with the infamous Troika/IMF. The threat to the government’s sacrosanct obligation to protect and to preserve the country’s cultural heritage for posterity is very real if these cuts indeed go through. The crisis in the Service and in Greek archaeology, in general, is more collateral damage from the hyper-austerity that has been imposed on the country over the past two years. Last week there was a conference organized by another independent group here, the Union of Archaeologists of Greece. My paper at “Archaeological Research and the Management of Archaeological Materials” discussed the implications and the opportunities of such a “new reality” for the Hellenic Archaeological Service and for Greek archaeology.

The Association of Greek Archaeologists is seeking the active support of individuals and organizations throughout the world to demand that this rich and varied cultural heritage is not sacrificed on the altar of expediency. You can find out more about their campaign from their Facebook page with attractive posters that you can download and share. Don’t be silent!! Speak up immediately for Greece’s monuments!!!

The end of the CIG Book Sale is approaching
Don’t be the last one at the archaeological site to have made a bid for a book or three that are missing from your archaeological library and available now from CIG! The books that are for sale can be scrutinized at: The instructions for making your bid are simple and time is running out. You have until Saturday, March 31st!

Free Offprints Available
In the process of cataloguing and organizing our Library’s ‘Offprint Collection” we have identified over 150 duplicates. These are available now, without charge, on a first come, first take basis. Come and give these treasures of scholarship a new home in your library.

Book of the Blog
The use of digital technologies to visualize aspects of the past has been the subject, directly or indirectly, of many of the volumes reviewed for this feature of the Blog (see, for example, Even the case studies focusing on the construction and interpretation of ancient landscapes have only summarized how this is done and what types of data sets are required to start this arduous process. Often a clear conceptual/theoretical framework for this research is either inadequately articulated or is missing altogether.

The pioneering work of Sofia Pescarin and her mentor/supervisor Maurizio Forte, first at the Supercomputer Centre at the University of Bologna, then at the Virtual Heritage Lab at CNR-ITABC in Rome, and now at the University of California – Merced, have resulted in a holistic approach to such efforts in Virtual Archaeology. In Pescarin’s Reconstructing Ancient Landscapes (Archaeolingua, Series Minor 28, Budapest, 2009) she details how one can “reconstruct” virtual ecosystems that are reproductions of past realities based on five conceptualizations of the “landscape”. They are, “archaeological landscapes” or the present landscape with the distribution of data sets relating to past settlement and exploitation; “mapscape” or the interpretive landscape which we imagine exists; “pastscape” or what could have been there at some point in the past; “mindscape” or how we think that past populations perceived the landscape; and “webscape” or the networks and relations in the “digital pipeline” for sharing the results of this research. With this as the foundation she describes systematically how one can proceed. At each stage there are ample references to similar efforts in GIS-oriented and virtual reality-oriented projects focusing on the past. The latter is mostly driven by computer scientists, architects interested in landscapes and the computer-game industry. The former is the realm of archaeologists, geographers, ecologists and historians.

In Chapters 3 (“Archaeological Landscape Reconstruction: Mapping the Space’) and 4 (“Potential Landscape Reconstruction”) she takes the reader through the numerous steps required, from Data Acquisition to Data Post-processing to landscape reconstruction and visualization. The technical details are explained and the means to do this are outlined with both equivalent commercial and open source tools indicated. There are numerous color illustrations and ample tables and charts. The illustrative examples are mostly drawn from research in the Roman and Medieval worlds of the Italian peninsula. The means available to disseminate the results via the internet are explored in Chapter 7. The links that she provides here are a treasure-trove of what is out there. Appendix A features five case studies with differing approaches to the construction of the past landscapes, archaeological sites, building complexes and cities.

The volume demonstrates clearly that the construction of ancient landscapes is not for the technically-challenged or the impatient archaeologist. It is not, however, beyond the scope and expertise of a well-organized cadre of researchers with a long-term vision for their collaborative investigations. In doing these constructions one is surely stimulated constantly to ask perceptive and complex questions that could drive future research. Our Library has a solid collection of books and volumes that can serve as the foundation for the formulation of such ancient landscape construction research.

David Rupp

Friday, March 9, 2012

Curved Blades, the Archives of the ASCSA and Surface Area Excavation

Time appears to be moving quickly this year as it is already well into March! That means the next lecture in the Institute’s Winter/Spring Program is this coming Wednesday, March 14th at 7:30 pm. Our speaker, Catherine Parnell, is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Archaeology at University College Dublin. The title of her lecture is, “Barbarian Cleavers or Greek Swords? Portrayals and Perceptions of Curved Swords in Ancient Greece.”

Parnell’s lecture is concerned with curved blades in the ancient Greek world. In modern studies these are commonly known as kopis or machaira. The curved sword was frequently portrayed as an effective instrument of war, and the curved knife as a popular household tool. Despite the frequent representations of this morphological shape, however, these blades have not been the subject of much in-depth analysis and the archaeological evidence has not been linked with the literary or iconographic evidence. This lack of in-depth examination has resulted in mistaken ideas, such as, for example, the idea that these curved swords were Persian in origin. Using the available iconographical and literary evidence she will provide our audience with a cutting edge analysis of this neglected aspect of ancient Greece. Please join us and sharpen your knowledge of cleavers and curved swords!

Lecture of the Association of Friends of the Historical Archive of the Hellenic Archaeological Service
The next lecture sponsored by Association of Friends of the Historical Archive of the Hellenic Archaeological Service is on Monday, March 12th at 6:30 pm at the Historical Archive building on Psaromilingou 22 on the edge of Kerameikos and Psyrri. Dr. Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, the Doreen Canaday Spitzer Archivist at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, will give a lecture in Greek entitled, «Η Αμερικάνικη Σχολή Κλασικών Σπουδών στην περίοδο 1945-1953. Η αρχή μιας νέας εποχής». She will explore what hidden and unexpected treasures can reside in archaeological archives.

Book of the Blog
For those of us who normally excavate in central and southern Greece or in Cyprus we are accustomed to doing this at sites with a limited range of sediment characteristics. As this generally happens in the warmer months of the year these sediments typically are desiccated and hard. Further, the excavation strategies and methodologies used are relatively uniform, following a grid system of trenches with baulks left for stratigraphic references. The baulks are removed only when one seeks to reveal complete architectural components. The generally different climatic and sediment conditions in northern Greece, combined with the different architectural traditions of earlier cultures that utilize more wood, mean that archaeologists often use different approaches for data recovery.

Unless an archaeologist works in different parts of the world excavating the remains of cultures at different stages of sociopolitical development she tends to forget that a “one size fits all” approach to fieldwork doesn’t work. One must always be ready and able to adopt, adapt and improvise in order to deal successfully with the challenges that a site or a region may present. The conditions under which one has to work also influence what can be done and how.

The time constraints and budgetary demands of the “directed archaeological research” of cultural resource management (CRM) in dealing with large development projects in the moist, sandy loams and glacial alluvia of northern Europe are many. The nature of the archaeological remains from a series of cultures that built various types of wooden structures, dug ditches, made berms and excavated wells across a given landscape have propelled CRM work toward certain research designs and recovery methodologies. These revolve around what is called “surface-area” or “large area” excavation where broad expanses of the upper soil horizon or “plough zone” are mechanically stripped off using bulldozers or grade-alls to reveal the upper boundaries of decayed architectural and archaeological features. At the European Archaeological Association Congress held in Zadar in 2007 there was a session focusing on issues and outcomes related to this approach. G. Blancquaert, F. Malrain, H. Stäuble, and J. Vanmoerkerke have edited the nine papers that were given in, Understanding the Past: A Matter of Surface Area (BAR International Series 2194, Oxford, 2011).

Much of the interest in the surface area excavation strategy is the result of large scale development and infrastructure projects such as gas pipelines, limited access highway right of ways, high speed railroad right of ways, coal mining, harbor expansion and large scale building projects. To conduct archaeological research on such a scale with tight time and financial parameters have led to experimental approaches to the mechanization of the plough zone stripping, the mechanization of the sieving of the archaeological sediments for artifactual and ecofactual materials and digital recording and measurement techniques.

What has been discovered by using these innovations in surface area excavations in a number of regions of France, Flanders in Belgium, Moravia in the Czech Republic and Saxony in Germany in the context of preventative archaeology is truly amazing! Although CRM interventions typically have a sharp and limited geographical focus, they are, nevertheless, like transects that dissect the landscape revealing often unexpected finds in non-intuitive locations.

Jan Vanmoerkerke’s historical overview of the development of this strategy over the past century is most informative as it demonstrates that the location and preservation of a country’s cultural patrimony that are threatened by various kinds of developments is not a recent phenomenon. Many of the other contributions provide insights into the origins, the underlying philosophy and goals as well as manner of organization of cultural heritage management in their particular country. Greece needs to reflect seriously at this moment on its cultural heritage management policies in light of the ongoing and ever deepening economic crisis. The austerity measures that the Greek state is adopting under duress are aimed at reducing the size and cost of the government. The Hellenic Archaeological Service is a prime example of what this means in real terms.

While this volume is not for every Greek archaeologist out there, it nonetheless provides a number of stimulating ideas on how one might conduct fieldwork differently with positive results. It indicates clearly that the cultural heritage management practices of other European countries can inform the decision making in Greece on ways to better protect and preserve its rich cultural patrimony.

David Rupp

Friday, March 2, 2012

Two Years on Facebook

Two years have passed since I launched a page on facebook for the Canadian Institute in Greece. If you’re not already one of our many followers, then please take a look at the page, here:

The page was intended to provide a very immediate way of updating people on our activities. Indeed, through the page, all our followers can be invited to events at the Institute. I usually create a facebook-specific announcement (‘event’) on the page about 7-10 days prior to the event itself, as a reminder. The responses to the invitations to this ‘event’ provide us with a good idea of how large an audience to expect at the Institute.

Following each event – usually the next morning – I upload photos from it, from the reception that followed, and from the dinner in the speaker's honour. My impression is that this visual cataloguing of the Institute’s activities is particularly appreciated – both by individuals who do not (yet) know the Institute at first hand, as well as by those who do but who are not currently in Athens.

In addition, a link to every post made on this blog is automatically posted on the facebook page. Usually a day or two after the blog post itself.

Over the past two years we have accumulated 756 followers (‘likes’) and counting. Of these, 60% are female and 36% male. Which I suppose means that there are about thirty individuals undecided!

The top ten countries represented are Greece (233), Canada (178), the U.S.A. (109), the U.K. (54), Australia (23), Norway (20), Germany (15), Italy (13), the Netherlands (11), and France (10). Given Canada’s French connection, it is perhaps surprising that France does not rank higher. (That the facebook page is in English may be a contributing factor.) It is also notable that we have a much larger number of followers from Norway than might have been expected.

The list of top ten cities from which our followers hail is rather less surprising: Athens (183), Toronto (34), Thessaloniki (17), Montreal (16), Edmonton (14), London (UK; 14), Waterloo (13), Sydney (12), Vancouver (9), and Oslo (9).

Please join us on facebook and propel your country/city up the rankings! More importantly, it’s the best (and easiest) way keep up-to-date on our activities. Let’s see if we can reach 1,000 ‘likes’ within the next twelve months.

Best wishes,
Jonathan Tomlinson
Assistant Director