Friday, August 30, 2013

Aerial Excavation

Over the last week I spent some time on my very first archaeological excavation.  You'd think doing volunteer work for the CIG would be all about going out in the field regularly, always getting my hands dirty.  Unfortunately since I’m their IT/Communications specialist, all of my work is done at home or at the CIG library.  However when I was given the opportunity to head out on the dig at Kastro Kallithea, if only for a week, I jumped at the chance.

For the most part my role on the dig was that of labourer, working on backfilling a site, but I did have a unique opportunity to do something dealing with my interest in photography.  The project was doing aerial photography of several features, and fortunately I came to the site as this photography work was in full swing.  While I’ve photographed many different objects using many different methods, this is a form of photography I'd never experienced.  Dr. Margriet Haagsma, the leader of this excavation asked me if I'd be interested in helping her photograph several features of the site using an aerial photography rig she discovered on the internet.  I can’t tell you how thrilled I was at the chance to learn about this form of photography.

I’ve learned that there are several companies in Greece that can shoot aerial photographs professionally, however many of them are very expensive, and did not fit the budget for this particular dig. Dr. Haagsma did some research and came across the website that sold an inexpensive balloon photography kit that allows anybody to become an aerial photographer for about one hundred dollars.  The intended purpose of their kits is to allow anybody to map their own environment, without relying on government or corporations.  For Dr Haagsma it was perfect for her research, and well within her budget.

There was a little bit of custom work done to the original plans provided in the kit, most notably an extra line was added for more control. The rig is very simple, and other than a plastic bottle (used for the body of the rig), the helium, and the extra string for the guideline, all is provided with the kit. The kit does not come with a digital camera, however most standard cameras work perfectly well. The project used a Nikon Coolpix P330, 12.2 Megapixels.

Early in the morning it looked as though the weather gods were smiling upon us with a fairly still day. After filling the balloon, we were ready to go.  It is a little challenging to control the balloon when the wind picks up even a little, but for the most part it was very smooth.  You have to set the camera to shoot continually (in our case: one photo every 30 seconds) and you don't really know if your shots are successful until you bring the camera back down.  However the results were fantastic, and after an hour or so at each site we shot many great pictures perfect for Dr. Haagsma 's needs.

You could improve this rig with a bigger camera set up, and with a long distance remote, however if your camera gear becomes too heavy and it would require more (or bigger) balloons to get any altitude.  You would also run the risk of damaging an expensive camera should the balloon(s) fail.  I think that the best bet is either to use an inexpensive camera that you wouldn’t miss if there was a mishap, or consider purchasing a very sturdy camera designed for rough and tumble play (such as a go pro camera).  With the advancements in inexpensive digital cameras, using anything more high tech really isn't necessary at all.

On a side note, I'd like to thank Dr Haagsma and her whole team for making me feel welcome, showing me a real dig experience, and even teaching me a thing or two about the history of Kastro Kallithea.  Although I'm sore from a great deal of digging and lifting, it was truly an experience I will not forget.

Chris Stewart

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Fred Winter Collection

Assos, interior view of stretch of wall in No 06, with smaller corbel gate lower left, larger upper centre. (Professor Fred Winter 1966)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Excavations at ‘Kastro Kallithea’; a report on the 2013 season

The 2013 season of the Kastro Kallithea Archaeological Project, a synergasia of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and the Canadian Institute in Greece, and carried out by the 15th EPKA at Larissa and the University of Alberta, began with our traditional dinner at Taverna Zorbas in Athens on the evening of May 25th. From the Canadian side, only staff and volunteers were present, as the field school students would join us two weeks later. The next day, we travelled by train and van to Narthaki, a village 8 km from our site which would be our headquarters for the next seven weeks.

Excavating an excavation: uncovering Building 10 during the first week
This year’s goals were to continue the excavations of ‘Building 1’, the stoa in the agora, and to finish the excavations of ‘Building 10’, a domestic structure in the residential quarter on the eastern part of the site. Kastro Kallithea, a walled Hellenistic town, occupies the top of a high, prominent hill at an altitude of 600 m. Our project faces quite a few logistical challenges due to this elevation and the site’s remote location. A bulldozed road stops at 50m from the west gate from where we have to climb to the top of the hill and then hike to the excavation sites for another 10 minutes, carrying all equipment with us. And back!

The Greek team, consisting of six young Greek archaeologists supervised by Sophia Karapanou of the 15th EPKA (Director) and Vasso Noula, the municipal archaeologist of Pharsala, worked in the stoa. They were joined in their efforts by four members of the Canadian team in clipping the formidable pournaria and removing 0.20 m of soil exposing the architectural remains of the building. The stoa must have been an imposing building, measuring 50 m in length and 10 in width with a central row of columns made from badly preserved porous stone in the Doric order. The building had a courtyard on its southern side which awaits further excavation.

Richard Anderson assessing Building 10
The Canadian team consisted of staff (Margriet Haagsma, Director; Laura Surtees, Field Director), a GIS specialist (Myles Chykerda) , the apothiki administrators (Tracene Harvey, Amber Latimer), trench supervisors (Tristan Ellenberger, Lana Radloff, Neil Thomson), a University of Alberta R.S. Smith research assistant (Karey Rodgirs), volunteers and field school students. They were joined in the last weeks by Richard Anderson who, together with Myles, produced a fantastic 3D plan of Building 10.

Bailing water after a thundershower
We started our season with excavating last year’s excavation, liberating the site of its protective cover of backfill and plastic, by hand. Zembili after zembili of dirt mixed in with large numbers of decaying and malodorous caterpillars made work during the first two days rather unpleasant. But soon we could begin with the actual work, tackling our last unexcavated units and baulks.

Part of the 2013 team with field school students, volunteers and supervisors
During last year’s excavation we were surprised by Building 10’s very large and well preserved storage area (Units K and L). No fewer than 10 large pithoi were discovered in situ, affecting the planned progress of the excavation (we originally planned to finish last year). This year we discovered at least four more pithos holes in this area bringing the number originally present to at least 14. The pithoi, which were neatly arranged in three rows running East-West, have different sizes. Two of the associated pithos rims bear inscriptions indicating ancient numbers. Could these have been indications of volume for dry storage? The bottom parts of three of the pithoi were already extensively repaired in antiquity, which must mean that they could not have held liquids. Pithos 10, which we uncovered last year, was completely burnt including its contents, and we had our hopes up that this would be the case with the other pithoi as well. But these hopes were soon quashed when we emptied them, one by one. We nevertheless collected extensive soil samples which will be analysed later this year.

Flying the balloon
Further results of the season include at least three more pithoi and one more hearth found in room 4 of Building 10, one more stone with a breast-like protrusion (in Unit B, see previous reports), various terracotta figurines, and numerous pieces of well datable pottery. After the last cleaning of the excavation, the team took aerial photographs of Building 10, the stoa and the acropolis. Chris Stewart will report on this exciting endeavour in a separate blog next week.

Last cleaning of Building 10
The enormous storage capacity of the house indicates that its inhabitants must have owned considerable economic resources, possibly in the form of land as well as animals. But we have to be cautious; the house has two architectural phases and we still need to carefully assess the stratigraphy and the associated finds to discover which part of the house was in use at what stage. The next two seasons of the Kallithea project will be study seasons. During that period we hope that we will be able to write a first draft of the volume 1 of the final publication.

Survivors after the last day of cleaning
During the season the team was treated to a party with food, music and dance thrown by Pharsala’s Deputy Mayor Stavros Poularakis, for which we would like to thank him very much. The team was also invited to the opening of: Το Κάστρο της Καλλιθέας, ματιές σε μια αρχαία πόλη, a permanent exhibition on our collaborative project in the cultural centre at Pharsala, on which we have reported in an earlier blog. We would like to thank the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport as well as the Canadian Institute in Greece for facilitating our research. Thanks should also go to Aris Karachalios, the mayor of Pharsala and the Greek Orthodox parish of Narthaki for their support and allowing us to use their facilities in the village. In addition, we are greatly indebted to the inhabitants of both Kallithea and Narthaki for allowing their villages to be invaded annually by a team of Canadians. Their gracious hospitality, kind-heartedness and warm enthusiasm should serve as example to us all.

Margriet Haagsma
University of Alberta

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Fred Winter Collection

Assos, Main Gate passage, E wall of court and part of E tower from SW. (Professor Fred Winter 1966)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Excavations at Ancient Eleon, 2013

Our season of excavation at Eleon ended on Saturday, July 13th this year. Throughout 2013 our team of about 30 volunteers, graduate students and undergraduates worked in three different locations: ceramic analysis, drawing, and flotation (to uncover plant remains) were done in our apotheke in Arma. At Dilesi, object conservation, faunal analysis, and pot washing were done. On-site at ancient Eleon in Arma, where Bryan Burns and I, as co-directors, coordinated fieldwork every day. Five trench supervisors worked with student volunteers for six weeks of excavation to further uncover the Bronze Age (Mycenaean) and Archaic/Classical phases to the settlement.

The ramp under excavation
A more detailed report will follow very soon and will be posted on our excavation website: What follows here is a short summary of our 2013 results. We had three primary areas of excavation in 2013: the Northwest, where we uncovered several whole vessels in their primary context and a very clear destruction level; the Southwest, where we have well-preserved stratigraphic levels from the LH IIIB to LH IIIC middle phases; and the Southeast, an area we refer to as the ‘ramp’.

The ramp
The earliest architecture in the area of the ramp was first built with elaborate Cyclopean style masonry during the Mycenaean age, ca 1200 BC. At some point later Greeks returned to Eleon and renovated the remains of the prehistoric architecture in their own style. From at least the Archaic period (6th c. BC) onwards this area served as a monumental ramped approach to the upper settlement, as evidenced by multiple pebbly white surfaces and at least two in situ threshold blocks. It seems that the gate area was reworked multiple times attesting to a long period of use. There were indications for heavy traffic on this ramp: crushed miniature cups, known as skyphoi and kotyliskoi. Several, located closer to the walls, were found intact. We also found a large number of Archaic/Classical female figurines, suggesting some cult activity in the area.

View over the southwest area
In the Northwest and Southwest we uncovered more of the Mycenaean settlement and have been able to isolate specific destruction levels which are significant for understanding the changing fortunes of Eleon before and after the great palace at Thebes was destroyed. The ceramic sequence continues to indicate a robust and long-lived LH IIIC (post-palatial) occupation at Eleon. This period of Greek history is relatively poorly understood and is traditionally associated with decline, what was formerly known as a ‘dark age’. At Eleon, however, our architecture, ceramics, and other finds of the LH IIIC period indicate that the settlement thrived during this time, after sites like Thebes, Mycenae and Pylos were destroyed. From 2013 our work shows that Eleon is a particularly rich LH IIIC site which continued to have significance into the Archaic and Classical periods.

Southwest trench
As we indicated in our blog on our Open House, we have very much enjoyed getting to know the people of Arma more this year, with more evening visits in addition to our daily commute each morning at 6 am. The Open House event with the village was a perfect conclusion to a great six weeks of work. We were able to present many of our results this year to the local community. It is, however, also important to us that we take some time to highlight our ‘home base’, in Dilesi, where our work continues every afternoon. Since 2007 we have been hosted by this community and have sincere thanks to many people who have helped us each summer.

Dilesi is located along the eastern Boeotian ‘Riviera’ (as we like to call it), the small stretch of coast along the southern Euboian Gulf between Attika and Chalkis. It is about an hour by car from Athens, and we look across the gulf to the important sites of Lefkandi and Eretria. Dilesi is the modern name of ancient Delion, or Delium, the location of a famous battle between the Athenians and Boeotians in 424 BC. The Athenians established a garrison in the town for a short time, but were ultimately routed by the Boeotians who reclaimed the city and its temple to Apollo. The precise location of the Greek sanctuary and settlement are not known, but excavations have revealed remains of the Roman period occupation, including a ceramic kiln, shops, and a bathing complex.

Washing sherds
We have been very fortunate to live right along the sea every year of the EBAP survey and excavation, in the summer apartments owned by Mrs. Ino Mamoni and her family. The property’s enclosed patio and garden provide a vital workspace. This is where we wash and sort daily pottery so that the next day’s excavation can be directed in some ways by the preliminary reading of the previous day’s pottery. In the garden we have occasional seminars led by our staff members and we welcome visiting scholars interested in our results. The garden is where everyone comes to appreciate the material we’ve recovered each day, and it’s the site of many small discoveries: letters inscribed on a tile fragment, the joining pieces of a vessel, a bird or shell or human, among the painted sherds!

The Mamoni garden
Beginning in 2007, Mrs Mamoni was a constant help to us, always greeting us with a joyful smile and treats upon our arrival each summer. She would bring us fruit picked from her garden trees or cool drinks at the perfect time during our working hours. She was also ever watchful of our living and work space, providing a safe and secure environment. She loved cats, including a recent adoption she called ‘Xanthi’. In previous years she adopted local dogs, treating them with rare kindness and providing them with food and water. One of our favorite dogs she called ‘Kanella’ (cinnamon), to whom she once memorably said, ‘ela Kanella, exoume douleia!’ as they walked down the street together on a late-night errand to help her tenants (us!). Most sadly, Mrs. Mamoni passed away this summer and we are very sorry for this loss to her family. We miss her greatly. We have grown to know and care a great deal about the Mamoni family and hope to continue living and working at the family’s place in Dilesi in the coming years.

In 2013 our team of volunteers and students was the largest we have ever had and we had to find additional housing in Dilesi, in several apartments in the town and in one rented summer home in the nearby neighborhood of Argileza. Our various landlords have been extremely helpful to us, providing us with a sense of security and ‘home’ while we do our research.

Nearby to our home base in Dilesi are a number of tavernas, and as everyone who has been on an excavation knows, dinner time is one of the most important events each workday. It’s the only place the entire team is together in one place and serves as a meeting point for sharing updates on the project and making announcements. Our most-favored taverna is Babis’ Taverna. Young Babis runs the taverna while his parents are in the kitchen. The prepared meals here are unparalleled in Dilesi – students will often take home left over moussaka for breakfast! We do enjoy other tavernas in Dilesi as well, including Delion, which makes excellent seafood. Our students have come to discern the best souvlakia in town, with and without ‘sos’ (sauce). There are many to choose from so being in-the-know is helpful. We also enjoy several of the local cafes which provide broadcasts of major sporting events. I watched several Wimbledon matches with people on the team at Café Contigo. Others preferred Café Legend and the unusually named ‘Square: More than Coffee’. We have grown to appreciate Dilesi since first arriving in 2007. We’ve seen several changes over the years, and wish it well over the winter. We look forward to coming back again in 2014 to continue our work at ancient Eleon!

Brendan Burke
University of Victoria

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013

Argilos : Superbe campagne de fouille 2013 !

Grâce à une équipe dynamique, composée de près de 50 étudiants encadrés par des archéologues professionnels et avec le concours d’ouvriers énergiques, la campagne de cette année nous a permis de dégager des structures extrêmement intéressantes pour notre connaissance du développement urbain d’Argilos et de ses activités économiques.

Casse-tête de tuiles

Parmi ces découvertes, notons celle d’une grande stoa contenant au moins six magasins. La stoa est dans un état de conservation remarquable, et cinq de ces magasins ont pu être partiellement fouillés cette année. Tout indique que son état ancien doit dater du VIe siècle avant notre ère.

Quadcoptère. Le décollage!
Il est bien sûr difficile de prendre des photos d’un ensemble architectural aussi imposant, la stoa mesure, pour le moment, plus de 30 mètres de long, et nous avons donc fait l’acquisition d’un quadcoptère que nous avons bricolé un peu pour en faire un excellent appareil pour photos aériennes !

Quadcoptère. La prise de photos
Les résultats dans les autres secteurs de la ville sont tout aussi intéressants avec le parachèvement du dégagement d’une maison du Vème siècle av. n.è. sur l’acropole, de deux portions de rues ainsi que les vestiges de ce qui semble être une tour servant à la défense de l’acropole.

Quadcoptère. Atterrissage !
Bien sûr, Argilos est également une école de fouille internationale dont le mandat est aussi de familiariser les étudiants/stagiaires avec l’histoire de la Grèce du Nord et de découvrir plusieurs des sites archéologiques majeurs de la région. Des visites ont donc été organisées à Pella, Vergina, Thessalonique et Philippes, sans oublier un long week-end de trois jours sur la belle île de Thasos. Vous pouvez d’ailleurs prendre connaissance de toutes ces activités et des commentaires des étudiants sur notre page Facebook « Argilos Archaeological Dig »

Visite à Pella
Vous pourrez notamment y apprécier l’excellente prestation lyrique d’un des étudiants dans le théâtre de Philippes, la « guerre » entre les équipes de l’acropole et du versant sud-est , ainsi que l’ardeur de tous au travail !

Les résultats de cette campagne seront présentés dès cet automne dans le cadre d’un colloque sur les Grecs et les Thraces à Sofia, puis de nouveau l’hiver prochain au colloque annuel de l’Université de Thessalonique sur les fouilles en Macédoine et en Thrace.

Une partie de l'équipe 2013
Un gros merci à tous, et cette année plus particulièrement à la ville d’Amphipolis, dont le maire, ardent promoteur de l’histoire et de l’archéologie de la région, nous a prêté à quelques reprises, de l’équipement « lourd » de la municipalité.

Jacques Perreault
Université de Montréal

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Fred Winter Collection

Olympia, Heraion, Doric capitals, mostly quite early, lying in building or on ground. (Professor Fred Winter 1966)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Kalo Mina!

It is that time of year! As of today we are closed for the Institute’s annual August recess. On Tuesday, September 3rd we re-open at 9:00 am for the 2013/14 academic year.

View from Palaikastro, Crete
Don’t fret or have any fears, our loyal readers! Each Friday in August you will be treated to a guest blogger. Jacques Perreault (Universite de Montreal) will update you on the Canadian-Greek excavations at ancient Argilos in Macedonia. Brendan Burke (University of Victoria) has many new and interesting finds from the akropolis of Eleon in eastern Boeotia. Margriet Haagsma (University of Alberta) will share with you how they finished uncovering Building 10 at Kastro Kallithea in southern Thessalia. Our intrepid volunteer Chris Stewart, who spent a week at Kastro Kallithea, will tell you about the aerial photography that they did at the site using a balloon to support the camera. Our members have been very busy this summer, eh!

Old house at Monastiraki, Ierapetra
So, Jonathan is off to the UK, Naxos, Amorgos and Koufonisi for his well-deserved vacation. You can follow most of his moves on facebook, of course! We’re here in Crete (soon joined by my older son and his two children/my grandchildren from England). At the end of the month we head to Koufonisi and Naxos before returning to start the fall program.

Enjoy the hot Greek summer where ever you find it! See you in September…………….

Kalo Kalokairi!
David Rupp