This summer is the last before I graduate as a Greek and Roman Studies Major before applying to Law School, and I can’t think of a better way to have spent it than here in Greece working on the ancient Eleon site. Initially a little nervous about going to the field school on account of my terrible inability to cope with very hot climates, as well as not knowing anyone else going amongst a group of students (graduate, and otherwise) who are already very close friends, I am so happy I decided to go, because it has been an absolutely amazing experience.
Though I study Greek and Roman culture at university, I have never done practical work in the field before. This dig has been very good at teaching me hands on archaeological skills that I couldn’t learn in a classroom. The field school thus far has been very rewarding to me both personally and professionally as a student. Working mainly in trenches at the site, with occasional time spent working at the Apothiki and offices in our apartment building, I am getting a thorough look at the different necessary processes of hosting an archaeological dig. With conservators, pottery experts, anthropologists and a variety of other academics on site, there is so much to be learned across a variety of backgrounds, which makes the field school very attractive for people looking to gain interdisciplinary experience. It is important, in my opinion, to vary working on different aspects of the dig, because it helps one’s understanding of the material being excavated. Understanding how the excavated material is dealt with across different related processes is important because it results in more careful excavation and a better consolidated recording process. For example, at the site, I was initially shown simply how to recognize bone and pottery from rocks and dirt in the trenches, but not until I worked on pottery sorting and entering the notes of the pottery specialists into the database did I fully understand the specific nuance qualities of different kinds of pottery that need to be taken into account in order to identify the significance of the sherds excavated. Further to that, I didn’t realize just how important every sherd of pottery excavated is until I saw the conservators mend a vessel out of hundreds of tiny pieces.
Though I have learned about Greek pottery in courses back at UVic, not until I worked with the pottery in person did I feel that I truly had the ability to recognize and categorize the material myself. This experience has shown me the true importance of applying learned information in more than just a textual format. I can say without a doubt that I won’t forget how to perform the practical skills I am learning here, whereas I would very likely have forgotten how to do them after a while if I had merely looked at a slide or a textbook which told me how to do it for the purpose of being tested for a grade. Here, knowing how to identify and sort pottery, how to properly handle excavation is crucial to continuing a successful dig, and having my learning be motivated by a goal other than receiving a grade is both very refreshing, and makes the information sink in so much more than it otherwise would.
On a personal level, the EBAP field school has also presented me with many rewarding experiences. It has taught me how to deal with interpersonal difficulties in a way that doesn’t impact my working ability, and has given me the opportunity to make great new friends who I hope to keep in touch with long after our time here in Greece is over. It is fantastic that I have had the chance to meet friends here who are in different positions in their lives than I am, because without our common interest in archaeology here at Eleon, I likely would not ever have had a chance to get to know them. It has been so nice to spend time with classics professionals, graduate students and professors in a more casual environment that doesn’t feel so segregated by hierarchy the way university settings often do. By not feeling intimidated by my academic superiors, it is much easier to ask questions that help my education and to see how wonderful they are as people. Also on a personal note, I have to mention, being the animal lover that I am, that a huge bonus to being here in Dilesi this summer are the adorable stray puppies that live around our apartments. I have named our batch Leto, Apollo, Artemis and Zeus, because the female hangs out with the twin puppies, and this one male dog keeps trying to pull a typical Zeus move on Leto (if you know what I mean). In addition to exponentially augmenting my archaeological technical skills, I have become far too fascinated by the politics of stray dog life here at EBAP. As far as the human cultural climate of Greece, I have fallen in love with Greece and its people and I greatly respect their kind nature and strong work ethic.
Overall, to any aspiring field students, I would highly recommend applying to this project. It is truly very interesting work across a variety of archeology-related fields, it takes you to a beautiful and historically rich part of the world, brings you in touch with brilliant individuals eager to impart their knowledge unto you, it offers a unique opportunity to get university credit in a hands-on way that is (in my humble opinion) far more effective at teaching than an average classroom setting, and it also allows you to see cute puppies and the most magnificent sunrises you can imagine. What more could you want from a dig? 10/10 would recommend.