Perhaps it's just me, but time just seems to disappear here. It doesn't help that the Greeks have a different perspective on time and move at a different pace than what I am used to. So I feel like a lot has happened in the past week, but I have failed to post updates because of the whole time-flying-away thing. Here's a brief(ish) recap of the last week.
Monday: Rome is known for having lots of stray cats. Similarly, Athens has stray dogs that like to accompany the Agora diggers to work and sometimes into the trenches. Monday morning, one of the dogs in the trench actually snatched my water bottle and started licking and chewing on it near the cap. He actually managed to unscrew the cap with his teeth and started drinking from it. Needless to say, the water bottle was thrown away, and I bought a new one. I might have been a little irritated if I wasnít slightly impressed.
Rest of the Week: I helped dig out backfill from a trench that was opened in 2008, and I started passes on an open bucket, which means that when I make about 3 cm. passes with my pick, depending on the area, I put any pottery, bones, metal, etc. in the designated container to be cleaned and possibly studied later. Friday afternoon, I was assigned to pottery washing, which is where the potsherds from the trenches are cleaned and laid out to dry for the supervisors to study at the end of the day. Pottery plays an important role in determining the time period of the layers that weíre digging in. My trench is one of the areas that was more recently purchased for the excavation and had the modern buildings torn down, so weíre digging in Byzantine and Turko-Venetian layers, which come much later than the Classical period.
Saturday, a group of us from the Agora took a ferry to the nearby island of Aegina, which has some beaches but also the Sanctuary of Aphaia. Although itís a small island, we still needed to rent scooters and ATVs in order to get to the temple on the other side of the island because walking would not have been a good idea. The drive was about 20 minutes, and even though I didnít get to pay much attention to the scenery on my way to the temple since I was trying to drive, I could tell there was some very beautiful countryside. Itís ridiculous how blue things can be here.
Sunday, I visited the National Archaeological Museum. It was difficult to get through everything because they just have so much to there! Once again I saw lots of artifacts from my textbooks, such as the famous Mycenaean Death Mask of Agamemnon, discovered by Heinrich Schliemann. However, my favorite part was the Cycladic art, specifically the figurines. They are so unique and have a very recognizable style, but after getting a close-up look at some of the figures, they reminded me of the statues on Easter Island a little bit. Seeing the Cycladic art here makes me excited to go to the Cycladic Art Museum, also in Athens. Perhaps Iíll have to do that this week or coming weekend.
There's so much to see and do here! I'm sure some people feel the same way about Richmond, VA, (especially since it is the capital of the Confederacy), but for some reason I've never gone out of my way to do or see something new every weekend while I'm there. Yesterday, a group went to Cape Sounion, which is at the southernmost tip of Attica, the same region in which Athens lies. We took a bus and saw several beaches along the way but found a more private and rocky area to swim in once we arrived. Sounion is best known for the Temples to Poseidon and Athena, but the remains of the Temple of Poseidon are definitely more impressive than the Sanctuary of Athena. Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, is definitely one of the more important deities to the Greeks considering they are almost surrounded by water, and they truly picked a wonderful location! Many tourists come to watch the sunset from the temple which sits at the top of a hill.
This morning, I took advantage of my museum pass from the Ministry of Culture which allows me to get in lots of museums... for free. So I walked to the Acropolis Museum and saw what all of the fuss was about. I'll agree; the museum is pretty cool and I'm not just talking about the air condition, which probably helps to pull in a few extra tourists. However, after working in almost 100 degrees this past week for several hours a day, heat doesn't seem to bother me as much. Seeing works in this museum that I've only previously seen in my textbooks was pretty cool. I feel like the Kritian Boy (Aside: please excuse the Wikipedia link, I swear I never use it in papers!) has been in every single one of my art history courses so far, so I was surprised when I recognized him from behind and realized that I was actually seeing it in person. I don't know what I was expecting, but the statue was smaller than I think I expected. The stone's smooth polish emphasizes the boy's youth and make his features appear delicate.
So much has been recovered from the Acropolis, and it's all wonderful to look at. However, after working in the Agora for a week, I found myself becoming easily frustrated with the museum placards that provide very limited information about the artifacts. The placards provide name, date, and a one to two sentence description, maybe, but I stood there finding these placards to be inadequate. I wanted to know more. Where exactly these items were found, what was found around them? I needed the context. I know I could have taken a closer look at some things, such as the Parthenon marbles, but I was getting a little museum-tired as I neared the third floor so I'll have to go back for a second round. Although, I did manage to notice the lovely view of the Acropolis from the third floor.
I have no idea how I actually got there, but after the Acropolis Museum, I wandered to the Roman Agora and Hadrian's Library. Hadrian's Library made me a little sad because I saw pieces of stone neatly laid on the ground next to each other, not necessarily coming from the same part of the structure, and for some reason it reminded me of an artifact graveyard. I thought it was sad that those items were clearly not receiving any further study or protection, but as I have learned from being at the Agora for only a week, there is honestly just too much stuff in Greece to give everything attention. Sometimes, there's not even enough left worth studying.
I arrived in Athens
Saturday morning and have been in a bit of a whirlwind since arriving. After
settling in a bit over the weekend, Dr. Camp, the director of the Agora
excavation and member of the Randolph-Macon faculty, met the diggers at the
gate of the Agora Monday morning for an orientation tour. We were introduced to
the conservation team and the sites that we'll be working on over the next 8
weeks. Although this is an American run excavation, there are several
internationals in our group and on the conservation team as well. I think it's fascinating,
coming from a small school and Classical Studies department, that there are
individuals from all over the place who are interested in the same things I am.
Statistically speaking, it's probably not that remarkable, but considering I
have never been in an atmosphere with this many other Classicists or
archaeologists before, many of whom are close in my age, I am delighted.
On Tuesday, we started to
get down 'n dirty, (literally: I was crouching low to the ground and there's
dirt everywhere!), and I imagine it won't stop until we finish in August. I am
definitely sore, and my legs hurt in places I didn't realize muscles existed. Luckily,
I came equipped with Advil. There are several different trenches that will be
excavated this summer, moving in two-week group rotations in which groups alternate
people and trenches.
Beginning promptly at 7:00 Tuesday morning,
our first step was to remove the flora, the plant growth that has accumulated
over the past year since the end of the last season. Contrary to popular
trends, green is BAD on an excavation site so I proceeded to remove anything
that was green or used to be green. This means lots of root picking, which
requires being low to the ground hence the crouching low that resulted in sore
muscles. Also, I am finding that sweeping is an important part of digging so
that you can keep your area clean as you dig. This afternoon, I finally moved
from sweeping-only to helping uncover a wall from last season, which provided a
pleasant break from the crouching. As I work alongside the other diggers, there
are bits of side conversation in which you finally learn peopleís backgrounds
and names after being introduced to them for the tenth time. These diggers are
a diverse group of people, ranging from undergraduate students to those who
have just finished their PhD or beyond. The ones who have completed their
Masterís or PhD mention their specialties, and I realize I have hardly begun to
get started! When thinking of my future, I have considered Graduate School, but
what is my focus going to be? There are more possibilities in the world of
Classics and antiquities than I realized, and I have to figure out which route
I am going to take. It is extremely exciting but intimidating as I realize that
I have no idea what I want to do. I only have a general area of interest, which
is a start, but a very rough start.
I have so much more that I could share, but this is
it for now. However, I have done a bit of site seeing so enjoy the pictures!