Archaeology Adventures in Athens

Hello again, loyal (and new!) followers. I realized that for some reason I have been accruing more and more followers over the weeks, and decided that it was quite possibly time for an update and perhaps an updated introduction.

First, introductions.

My name is Nadhira and I am currently a third year in the Classical Archaeology PhD program at Michigan. It has truly been the wildest, trying-est, most fulfilling past two years of my life, and I look forward to all of the new opportunities for growth in the next five. I am a self-proclaimed sherd nerd – although I have loved every minute (well, maybe not every minute) of the past three dig seasons I have participated in at the Athenian Agora and the Olynthos Project, I recently discovered my love of ceramic production in the Late Classical period of Greece, and am following my heart down a twisty rabbit hole full of black glaze pottery, petrographic analysis, stamped and incised decoration, and capacity calculations (which the side of me that has hated math for 24 years isn’t exactly excited about). I’m also (relatedly?) interested in drinking practices, both public and private, in ancient Greece, and how they, like ceramic production, vary between regions.

Maybe the highlight of my research this summer has been finding little remnants of fingerprints on one of my pots that (seemingly) no one else had noticed before!

IMG_5156

Although I came into this project (which may or may not form the foundation of my future/quickly impending dissertation) with some pretty solid questions, I look forward to the many and varied questions that can and will arise when considering production techniques. Black glaze may not be the most interesting style, but when you look at dozens of pots in a week you start to notice some patterns, or start to ask questions about “why are there weird splotches of red?”

I only have one more week here in Athens before heading off up north to Olynthos, but I feel much more knowledgeable about what I have been working with, and have had some promising meetings with others who work on similar materials and ideas. When I go up to Olynthos I will be trying my hand more with macroscopic fabric analysis after just one week (!!) of coursework in petrography, but I hope (maybe) to be able to land a studentship at the Fitch Laboratory at the British School in Athens (heh, can’t keep me away from this place) in Fall 2019. But we’ll see. But it’s gotta happen. It’s kind of my job now. Yay, being a specialist!

(No, seriously, how did I get so many research interests in the subjects I hated through most of my schooling? Math and science? Really???)

For the remainder of my time in Athens, I have some goals:

  1. Finish up pottery analysis by Tuesday
  2. Go to the Blegen to read about the excavations at Pistiros (a super cool Greek EMPORION in 4TH CENTURY Thrace) (still peeved that the lib doesn’t have the Olynthos pubs but…w/e)
  3. Hike the Philopappos Hill and see the Philopappos Monument
  4. Visit the Piraeus Archaeological Museum
  5. Eat some gelato (it’s hot, gelato is cold…ya feel me?)

As for updates, there aren’t many…I passed my qualifying exams in May and then took a week-long intensive course on ceramic petrography at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I spent two weeks in Connecticut sitting on my butt and watching mostly movies but also Westworld (10/10 would recommend). Aaaand then I came to Greece!

And went to see all the things I’ve seen before!

And took pictures of them!

But from different angles (and with a better camera)!

IMG_4563

IMG_4712

IMG_4966

Advertisements

My Solo Trip to Sounion

It might not seem obvious to anyone (I hope), but I am a very anxious person. I overthink everything down to the last detail, take photos of Google maps just in case (even though I can still use the GPS without wifi), show up too early in fear of being late, and generally avoid eye contact with anyone who might accost me on the street in a foreign city that I actually know pretty well (even if I’m still learning the language).

It certainly doesn’t help that I’ve spent a week alone in said foreign city with little knowledge of the language (I know some key phrases, and lots of words for fruits and animals) and zero company save for my Airbnb host. But I’ve made my peace with it all, and have somehow managed to do one thing I was most anxious about doing all week: leaving Athens on my own.

It was really my Airbnb host’s idea – to go to Sounion. I remember when she first suggested it I kind of laughed and thought to myself “that’ll never happen” and “I’ve got a whole month to go, maybe I’ll find someone to go with me” but as the days passed, I felt like this was something I needed to do. The best things happen outside of your comfort zone, no?

So, as I do, I planned it all out. Did the research: What time does the bus leave and where does it leave from? How long will it take on the metro to get to the bus station? How much will it cost? What is there to do at the site? But, of course, no matter how much research you do, there are always bound to be surprises.

The first surprise came when I arrived at the bus station, KTEL Attikis, located on a moderately busy street in Omonia (a 2-ish minute walk from the Victoria metro station, if you don’t get lost like I did). I asked the Greek men at the counter where the bus to Sounion left from, and he directed me to another counter about 50 meters down the road. So I went there and checked the timetables, only to find out that the information about the bus times I got both from my Airbnb host AND the internet were incorrect. I had arrived at 11:45am in the hopes of leaving by noon, but there were no buses leaving at 12:00pm. Only 11:05am and 1:05pm.

Of course, I could have just given up and gone home. That’s what the introvert in me would have done. But I figured I was already there and I’d brought my lunch, so I might as well stick around. So I walked to the National Archaeological Museum and sat outside eating my sandwich until about 12:30pm, then walked back over to the bus station and waited till the bus was about to leave.

The second surprise came when I was already on the bus and we had left the station. As the man who collected the fare came around, I was prepared to pay the 5 or so euros I had seen on the internet as being the fare for the trip, but found out that instead it was 6 euros and 90 cents! One of the reasons I convinced myself to go was that it would only cost me approximately 10 euros roundtrip, but despite my disappointment I was already on the bus and had to make due (good thing I brought a few extra euros just in case).

The trip from Omonia to Cape Sounion in all was about 2 hours long. We took a beautiful coastal road (though it was mostly cloudy all day) and switched buses in Anavyssos. The bus dropped us off right at the site, which consisted of a taverna, a gift shop, and the oh-so-commanding temple of Poseidon. There might have been a small museum as well, but I could be mistaken.

DSC03680DSC03687-1DSC03688-1

I also saw some super cool settlement foundations that got the archaeology student gears in my head working, because – if you know anything about me at all – one of the reasons I chose the U of M and why I chose to work at Olynthos (in July) was so that I could learn more about ancient domestic space. However, I will leave my reactions to these particular archaeological ruins to a different post (I have a lot of feelings)!

I spent about an hour at the site, but of course you could spend anywhere from an afternoon to a whole day there if you wanted. I was trying to save money so I didn’t eat at the taverna, and couldn’t figure out how you got down to the beach from the site, but I’m sure I could convince people to visit the site with me again before I leave Attica in July…

tl;drHow do you get to Sounion? Take the metro to the KTEL Attikis station in Omonia, wait at the bus station until the time the bus leaves, pay 6,90 euros, after a two hour ride you’ll reach your destination! Can you do it in less than a day? Sure! I did it in an hour! There’s a nice taverna, a gift shop, and beaches down below the site. Was it worth the trip? As an archaeologist, I am biased, but I definitely think so! There are super cool ruins and a beautiful view! Plus, it’s nice a cool up there thanks to the cross winds from the sea (and some cloudy coverage).

In other news, my friends will be here this weekend and archaeological excavations start on Monday! Thanks for reading!