Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Welcome Sarah! Amphipolimania surges ever onward

This past weekend Sarah Rolko arrived in Athens to spend three months at the Institute as the Schaus Intern from Wilfrid Laurier University. Sarah is the fourth WLU undergraduate intern to hold this position. A second year Classical Archaeology major she has excelled in her academic work. This summer Sarah participated on the Brock University Archaeological Practicum digging for six weeks at the Minoan town at Gournia in eastern Crete. Her professional goal is an advanced degree in Museum Studies so that she can become a museum curator.

While here Sarah will undertake the inventorying of the Library’s collection and the continuing digitization of the Institute’s Archives. You’ll have a chance to meet her at the CIG events this fall and lectures at other venues. So please welcome warmly Sarah to the Athenian archaeological community!

Amphipolimania is alive and kicking

In the past two weeks there has been a relative lull in the official reporting of the “finds” from the excavation of the tomb within the tumulus at the locality of Kasta at Amphipolis. This is due to the fact, the public is told, that the third chamber’s structural integrity is uncertain and so internal support must be erected and various unspecified conservation measures are undertaken. In addition, the sediment of the tumulus over the chambers is being removed by large scale mechanical means. In the meantime, the clearing of the second chamber continued, revealing the full height of the Karyatids. Images of them with emphasis of various details are omnipresent in the media.  Fragments of their missing arms supposedly were found below them. This discovery along with blocking walls with holes in them and sediment filling the chambers suggests looting at some point in antiquity.

This lack of new significant information has not stopped the “Amphipolimania”, however, in the newspapers, on TV and in the various social media. Various hashtags relating to the topic are “trending” for sure on Twitter. In fact, the manner of the excavation of the tumulus, who might have been buried there, is it really a burial monument, the date of the construction, the purpose(s) of the government’s direct intervention into the excavation and the media coverage, and the monument’s potential meaning(s) for the identity of the Greek nation are all heated discussions that have taken on lives of their own, regardless of any “hard facts” or “solid evidence” produced by the excavation itself. This is like a Greek “dramedy” TV serial that has been kept alive desperately for a few more seasons long after the original plot lines had reached their logical conclusions. The excavation itself, who might be buried there and the personalities involved have become the butt of numerous political cartoons, limericks, mandinades , satires and social media “discussions”.  There are even advertisements on TV using the tomb and who might be buried in it as grist for the sales pitch. And finally, there are conspiracy theories circulating about what has been found but “hidden” from the public for various ulterior motives.

The monument is increasingly seen in some sectors of Greek society as a metaphor for what is being argued as the end of the economic crisis that has afflicted the country since 2009. In this context the monument at Amphipolis is presented as the symbol of hope for a regeneration of Greece. Related to this is the persistent belief among many Greeks that Alexander the Great has some direct relationship to this monument.

Many archaeological colleagues continue to make comments in TV and newspaper interviews as well as in the social media on both the possible date of the tumulus and who might have been buried there. Given how little we really know about what has been found so far (except for limited number of images of the architectural details and the sculpture) it can only be pure speculation on the question of the date of construction.  As no sherds, metal vessels, coins or other artifacts have been referred to, let alone any reference to floor deposits in the chambers, one can only resort at the moment to stylistic arguments from known architectural monuments and preserved works of sculpture. Plausible archaeological arguments are best constructed from multiple lines of evidence which corroborate each other in a “best fit” manner.  So these expert comments are often like doctors, psychologists or psychiatrists diagnosing from afar on TV or in the newspapers the illness or mental state of someone in the news from pictures and/or anecdotal accounts about the individual and what s/he has done or suffered. The professionalism and motives of such a practice are open for debate.

In my previous blog I lamented on the lack of direct public discussion on the purposes of archaeological research in the modern Greek nation as well as on crafting a coherent national long-term strategy for the preservation and the stewardship of Greece’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. The intense focus on the excavation of one exceptional monument is not conducive to a thoughtful examination of the cultural heritage management policies for a non-renewable cultural resource. I spoke too soon about the silence relating to the larger questions. In one Saturday newspaper four archaeologists were asked about their views on the stewardship of the country’s cultural heritage. A Greek archaeologist teaching in England was interviewed in another newspaper on his opinions concerning the possible meanings of the project. On this past Saturday night two archaeologists from the Union of Greek Archaeologists and a professor in the University of Athens archaeology section addressed the implications of this excavation as a model of archaeological research as well as its impact on the future of Greek archaeology and how the public perceives what archaeologists do. From all of this, however, there is no broad consensus. Given the severe cuts to the budget of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport, the calls for the privatization of cultural heritage management continue to mount: http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite4_1_24/09/2014_543162.

This fascination with the tumulus is certainly indicative of a deep interest in the history of their country by many Greeks. The problem is that the general public does not understand what are the purposes of archaeological investigations as well as the methodologies employed to recover data toward these goals beyond the fixation on the uncovering of spectacular “museum quality” finds in “National Geographic moments” and the “star” agents of the past. The textbooks used in Greek schools to teach students about the past and its study certainly do not present the roles that archaeological research plays in constructing historical narratives of the country.  This may be one of the reasons the excavation of the tumulus has rekindled a romantic pre-20th-century view of antiquities and how they might be used in public discourse.

It seems obvious that archaeologists working in Greece – Greek and foreign – need to make a greater effort to educate the public on all levels and at every opportunity on what are the goals and methods of archaeological research and how the findings of this research can be used to elucidate aspects of the past, as well as the inherent limitations of this knowledge.  Unfortunately, too many people just want “the unchanging truth” about the past strung out in Twitterable sound-bytes, not in the ambiguities and the fluidities of archaeological evidence. This popular tendency to seek out the ephemeral and the fantastic about the past must be responded to in a proactive and positive manner by archaeologists and historians alike in the public discourse concerning cultural heritage issues.

David Rupp

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Fred Winter Collection

Standing columns from the Temple of Zeus at Euromos. (Professor Fred Winter, 1988)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Canadian Content Galore in Athens and beyond! More Change at CIG


Canadian Content I:  Greek Premiere of the Canadian Film “The Grand Seduction

This evening, the 19th, at 20:00 at the Danaos I Cinema (Λ. Κηφισίας 109 - ΜΕΤΡΟ Πανόρμου) is the Greek Premiere of the 2013 Canadian film “The Grand Seduction”. This is the latest work of director Don McKellar whose earlier efforts (Last Night, Red Violin, The Adjuster, Existenz, and Blindness) have received much acclaim over the years. This delightful, widely-praised “dramedy” (http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-grand-seduction-2014) written by Ken Scott and Michael Dowse is set in fictional “Tickle Head” Newfoundland and stars Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch. It had its world premiere last September at the Toronto International Film Festival. McKellar will be at the screening to discuss the film and to answer questions afterwards.

This premiere is part of the 20thNychtes Premieras” Athens International Film Festival (www.aiff.gr) that runs from September 17th through the 28th. The cost of a ticket is just 6 Euro! The Canadian Embassy in Athens has helped to bring the film and its director to Athens.  Metaxia and I hope to see you there tonight!

Canadian Content II:  Historical Novel Presentation by the Canadian Author W. Ruth Kozak

On Wednesday, September 24th the Vancouver based author and travel writer, and frequent visitor to Greece, W. Ruth Kozak (www.ruthkozak.com) will present her newly-published historical novel at 18:30 at the Athens Centre (48 Archimidous Street) in Mets. The work is entitled Shadow of the Lion: Blood on the Moon (volume 1 of 2) and it is published by MEDIAARIA CDM of Bristol, UK. The book is available through Amazon.com.  The e-volume version will be out in 2015 and the second part (The Fields of Hades) will be published in 2016.

As the first part is set in the after-shocks following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC this novel presentation is perfectly timed to enhance the “Amphipolimania” that has engulfed Greece. Go and meet the engaging author and learn who she thinks is buried in the Tymbos at Kasta near Amphilpolis! She will be in Athens and Greece until October 8th.

Canadian Content III:  Margaret Atwood at the Megaro Mousikis

How can it be that two Canadian authors are featured on the same evening in Athens? Well, when it rains it pours, so to speak, eh! Also on Wednesday evening, the 24th at 19:00 in the Dimitris Mitropoulos Hall of the Megaro Mousikis will be a conversation between the Booker Prize winning Canadian novelist, poet, literary critic and environmental activist Margaret Atwood (http://margaretatwood.ca/) and the well-respected Greek journalist Thanasis Lalas. They will examine the theme “Dystopias and the Greek influence on them.”  The discussion will be in English with simultaneous Greek translation.  This is part of the Megaron Plus series (http://www.megaron.gr/default.asp?pid=5&la=1&evID=2146) .  The Canada Council for the Arts and the Canadian Embassy are co-supporters of the event. While entrance is free, you will have to go to the Megaron Mouskis beforehand, starting at 17:30, to pick up an entrance pass. It should be noted that the seating is limited.

Canadian Content IV:  New exploration of the Antikythera shipwreck site using Canadian technology

In 1900 sponge divers from Kalymnos discovered in the deep water off the coast of Antikythera the now famous 1st-century BC shipwreck which had the “Antikythera Mechanism” on it along with many marble and bronze statues probably intended for Rome. The wreck has been revisited since then several times. A new project by marine archaeologists from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities is about to begin with the assistance of a marine archaeologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States (http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite4_1_16/09/2014_542935).

The key component of the planned exploration will be the use of what is called the “Exosuit”. This is a cast-aluminum rotary joint atmospheric diving system (ADS) designed and built by Nuytco Research Ltd. in North Vancouver, BC for diving and working longer up to 350 m below sea level (http://www.sea-technology.com/features/2013/1213/1.php).

The Institute knows Antikythera well as it was surveyed by Canadian team from Trent University in cooperation with the 26th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Further, a team from McMaster University worked as well with our Greek colleagues in the Underwater Ephorate on the Underwater Survey of Kalamianos Harbor on the Saronic Gulf.

The CIG Blog has moved!

As of this iteration, the famous CIG Blog will only be posted on our revamped and enlarged CIG website (where you are now).  The old residence, www.cig-icg.blogspot.gr, will be retained as the Archive of the all of the invaluable blogs posted between January, 2011 and early September, 2014. Moving forward to serve our members and supporters!

David Rupp

The Blog has Moved!

Significant progress was made in the past year to improve and to extend the Institute’s electronic footprint. The next step is to consolidate all of our communications on one platform. Thus, as of this blog all future blogs will be found at the CIG website (www.cig-icg.gr) under the heading “Blog”, no less!

We will retain the address cig-icg.blogspot.gr as the Archive of the CIG Blog which started in January, 2011 through today’s “final” blog. The link on this blog will take you to the CIG website.

In the new location I look forward to continue sharing with our readers and supporters news relating to the Institute, announcements of lectures/events at CIG and in Athens, comments on archaeological topics relating to Greece, guest blogs from our fieldwork projects and images from the Frederick Winter B/W Negative Collection.

David Rupp

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Fred Winter Collection

View of the isthmus at Knidos and both harbours. (Professor Fred Winter, 1988)

Friday, September 12, 2014

“Amphipolimania” strikes Greece and the future paths of archaeology and heritage management in Greece

Map of northern Greece
For the last six weeks Greece has been increasingly enraptured with the excavation of the huge burial mound at a locality called Kasta near Amphipolis in Macedonia. The circumference of the tumulus covering what appears to be a barrel-vaulted, multi-room tomb measures almost 500 m! It is encircled by a tall ashlar retaining wall built with marble from nearby Thasos. The late Demetrios Lazarides first recognized the importance of the site. The present excavation started a year and a half ago under the direction of Katerina Peristeri, the proistemeni of the KH’ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities at Serres. Work resumed this summer. It is likely that the “Lion of Amphipolis” once stood on top of the tumulus covering the tomb.

View of Argilos
This region is well-known to CIG as Prof. Jacques Perreault and Dr. Zisis Bonias have been digging the Archaic and Classical site of ancient Argilos on the coast to the southwest of Amphipolis for many years. While the city was destroyed in 357 BC by Phillip II the construction of the impressive rural mansion on the acropolis is roughly contemporary with that of the tumulus. Since 1992 the Argilos excavation has stored and studied their finds in the Archaeological Museum of Amphipolis.

General view of the tumulus at Kasta; source: http://www.theamphipolistomb.com/hill
The discovery of the entrance to the tomb, at the end of a nearly 5 m wide road, guarded by two (now headless and wingless) sphinges, stimulated much speculation as to who is buried in this monumental tomb which dates to the last decades of the 4th century BCE. Alexander the Great is often stated (despite ancient accounts of his tomb being in Alexandria), followed by Roxanne and their son Alexander IV who were murdered at Amphipolis, Alexander’s mother Olympias, as well as a general or an admiral of Alexander. The national TV news programs now follow the discoveries each day, bringing in experts and non-experts alike to hypothesize freely on whose tomb this is. One channel even interviewed a few local illegal antiquities diggers for their insights, as the looting of Macedonian tombs is unfortunately widespread in the region. Some foreign archaeologists have been bold enough as well to venture into the quicksand of this coverage, including Hector Williams (University of British Columbia). When a Greek learns that you are an archaeologist s/he immediately asks if it is the tomb of Alexander the Great!

What had been found as of September 9th: source Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport
In order to provide accurate information and current images the Ministry of Culture and Sport posts press releases (in Greek only, to date) on its website (http://www.yppo.gr/2/g20.jsp) every few days. This is the source of the official images that one can view in the digital media now. Others of the exterior have been taken by enterprising photographers from afar and from helicopters.

With tourists flocking to see the covered-up entrance to the tomb, locals selling souvenirs and refreshments and news crews camped out, the area around the tumulus has become a circus. Since yesterday visitors are not allowed in the immediate vicinity of the tumulus and police forces are guarding the excavation on a 24-hour basis. Last night the TV coverage showed the curious visiting the area of the site at night. Even the Prime Minister visited the excavation in August before the digging had gone beyond the sphinges. In all of this media coverage and public interest the emphasis unfortunately has been on more and more “exciting new discoveries”, and little or nothing on the praxis of archaeological fieldwork, the in situ conservation needs and the overall goals of archaeological research. Further, this archaeological feeding frenzy is a distraction from the many unresolved issues related to the country’s long-awaited economic recovery. The tomb is being used by some politicians as a new component in the traditional construction of the nation’s identity by reference to aspects of its past, especially in relationship to ancient Macedonia. This has set off a debate in the media and more so in the social media about appropriateness of such use of antiquities in the national discourse. The Union of Greek Archaeologists has reacted sharply to the government’s handling of the media coverage and its direct intervention into the archaeological process.

Regrettably this overemphasis on the excavation of one ancient monument, unique and spectacular as it is (and which may well have been looted more than once), obscures the general state of archaeology in Greece today. On August 29th a new law was proclaimed by presidential decree which radically re-organizes and downsizes the Ministry and the Hellenic Archaeological Service as of October 1st. It is ironic that the outpouring of public support for this excavation by senior members of the government and others did not protect Ms. Peristeri from the incorporation of her Ephorate into the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities based in Kavala.

There is pressure to privatize the major archaeological museums and sites. This year, the longer site and museum hours, seven days a week, in effect from April 1st until the end of October only, was applied only to the 33 “most popular” ones. A two-tiered system has thus been created by this policy. A recently-commissioned study by McKinsey and Company (an international management consulting firm) on the cost of entrance to major Greek archaeological sites and museums compared to those in other European countries showed that the average ticket price here is much lower than elsewhere. The suggestion was made to raise the ticket prices significantly to make more money for the government. Is culture simply a “luxury commodity” for sale? The new unified annual property tax law (EN.F.I.A) that takes effect on September 15th has serious ramifications for the properties that are presently included in the “A Zones” which encompass known, registered archaeological sites, as these were previously untaxed since the owners could not use them or build on them.

The times are a-changing in the administration of archaeological heritage in Greece. It will be some time before we know the long-term effects of these changes and the re-organization. Given the importance placed on the promotion of cultural heritage by many sectors of the society here, the ramifications from these changes could be very significant. What appears lacking in all of this is a thorough public examination and debate of where archaeology in Greece should go in the medium- and long-term future and why? At this point there is no clear long-term strategy behind these changes except the reduction of the cost of the Hellenic Archaeological Service.

David Rupp

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Fred Winter Collection

Possibly a relief of the Three Labours of Herakles, from the Lateran collection in the Vatican Museum in Rome. (Professor Fred Winter, 1988)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Welcome back Lana!

It is with great pleasure that we announce the arrival of the 2014/2015 Homer and Dorothy Thompson Fellow, Lana Radloff. As many of this blog’s readers will know Lana has long relationships both with the Institute and with the Kastro Kallithea Archaeological Project. In 2010 Lana was at CIG for three months as the Graduate Intern from Brock University. Lana did her undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta and her MA at Brock University.

This coming year Lana will be continuing her research on her dissertation topic relating to the relationship between harbors and urban planning in the Greek world during the 4th century B.C.E. She is a Ph.D. candidate at in the Department of Classics at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The venerable Prof. Steve Dyson is her adviser.

While at the Institute this academic year Lana will help me to update and to expand the CIG Portal to the Past. In addition, she will work on cataloguing the research materials of the late Prof. Frederick E. Winter in our Archive.

We can look forward in the early winter to an Institute Lecture on her dissertation research. As she is also an underwater archaeologist and GIS specialist the Friends’ of CIG will be treated this fall to a lecture on the Burgaz Harbor Project which Lana works on in Turkey, run by my colleague at Brock University, Prof. Liz Greene, and a Turkish co-researcher.

In the meantime, at CIG events and at lectures elsewhere in Athens welcome warmly Lana back to the fold!

David Rupp

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

Good News: We’re Back! Significant Developments on Naxos

Kalo Mina!

As of today the Institute is open again for business with its normal hours of Monday through Friday from 09:00 to 13:00. Extended library hours will begin in October. We look forward to seeing you at CIG, using our Library and other resources. We add to the holdings on a regular basis throughout the year.

Prof. Carter introduced to the audience
The Director in Motion
With summer winding down, last week was an opportune time to visit the SNAP team on Naxos. My arrival was timed by chance to enable us to attend a public lecture in Chora given by Prof. Tristan (Stringy) Carter (McMaster University) last Monday night. Besides the Stelida-Naxos Archaeological Project’s crew and my wife and daughter, the local representative of the KA’ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Ms. Eirine Legaki, was in attendance. There were over forty locals and foreigners in the audience. They were treated to an excellent overview of the project and its research aims, its methods of research, the results from the 2013 and 2014 field seasons and the possible implications for our understanding of the exploitation of the natural and physical resources of the island and the Aegean basin from most likely 250,000 BP to 9000 BC. The artifacts collected this year suggest strongly that the area around Stelida was utilized for chert quarrying (as the high has two major outcroppings of very high quality chert), artifact production and other activities in the Lower, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic periods and on a larger scale in the earlier Mesolithic period. Besides Homo sapiens sapiens, the chert knappers would have been Homo neanderthalensis or Homo heidelbergensis and probably some form of Homo erectus. Recent studies of ancient sea levels in the Aegean basin over the past 300,000+ years indicate that that this area was often dry land with some scattered large lakes. Such a landscape would make the basin a corridor between Anatolia and the Balkan Peninsula and not a watery barrier. The mountain peak at Stelida and the much more imposing one of Zas on Naxos would have been in the center of this natural passageway. Important finds, bold interpretation, eh!

Homo erectus at Stelida?
The simulating lecture sparked many questions and opinions. This public outreach is an important feature of CIG projects throughout Greece. Without the full support of the ministry and its archaeologists as well as the local residents this research could not be conducted.

View of the western side of Stelida toward a rock shelter
On Wednesday Stringy showed my daughter Liza and me the western side of Stelida where they had surveyed this year. A path and the lack of a steep slope allowed the CIG Director to make it up to one of the two rock shelters that they have identified. Last year we climbed up the steep eastern side of the hill without the aid of a path! Everywhere we looked on the slope there were thick screes of worked chert and debitage from the Middle Paleolithic period mostly. The fact that they found artifacts made from emery obtained from elsewhere on the island indicates that the chert knappers were well versed in the resources that were available.

Chert artifacts and debitage on the surface
We finished out our visit by joining the team for a tasty dinner at their regular taverna on the port at Chora. While the crew and the co-researchers were exhausted from a demanding month of fieldwork and the processing and study of the chipped stone tools, they also were very proud of the fact that they were changing our understanding of the peopling of the Aegean basin. This field season was about to end but the next phase of the research which they hope to start next year promises to be even more thought provoking.

Tristan Carter in front of the rock shelter
I am very pleased to announce that Prof. Carter will give the Invited Lecture at the 2015 Annual Open Meeting of the Institute in May. In the meantime you can visit the SNAP website at: https://stelida.mcmaster.ca to learn more about their work. Stringy will provide the final guest blog of the “summer of 2014” later this month.

David Rupp