Summer is here

We celebrated the summer solstice with two birthdays this week, as week four comes to a close. First we had a watermelon ouzo hour:

Followed by dinner for 30+ plus people, as we do they night. There was cake too!

On site, work is progressing very well. We have successfully removed some very large stones and continue to make progress understanding ancient Eleon.

The occupants of this beautifully located site in central Greece made some remarkable constructions with their technology. It causes us to wonder everyday. Here’s a photo of our team listening to an excavator explain their discoveries this week:

For us, the work is very exhausting. Lifting countless buckets (zembilia) of earth, pushing creaky wheelbarrows, and lifting huge rocks is tough and we have an excellent team.

While doing the heavy lifting we are also carefully documenting everything EVERYTHING that we do and that gets removed systematically. We also photograph everything, by hand and by air:

Back in Dilesi, we have a great ‘home’ team of conservators and registrars who make sure what we do is properly recorded, treated, and stored properly. We would literally be lost without them.

Week four

We just finished our midseason break, after three weeks digging. As usual, no one can believe the project is half over. It’s been great, but time truly flies.

Above is a photo of a few of us working on the first day of the break. Last week, we saw the weather reports which were ominous, for rain, so we hurried to the site on Friday and completed a lot of what needed to be done and covered special areas with our water proof tarps. The rain came and is still an issue. We will see tomorrow, Monday morning, how things stand. It’s a problem because we are only allowed six weeks per year for digging, regardless of weather delays.

Our work is going very well. We have four trench supervisors currently and another preparing to take her own trench. Each trench has about 3-5 student workers, digging and moving earth.

We continue to give trench tours so that everyone knows what’s going on.

Thankfully with the rain the weather is cooler -that’s one upside. If it’s really raining we will also take time for museum visits as well, which are important and useful.

We may even open a new area tomorrow, the square Giuliana is walking on in the photo above. Week four looks to be exciting and full of potential.

Graduation party

Every year, many of the students who volunteer to be on our project during June and July knowingly choose to miss their graduation ceremonies at their home institutions. We very much appreciate their dedication to the project and know that sometimes parents and family members are sad that they miss this important event.

To make up for it each year we host a small garden party for all team members to celebrate the graduates. This year we had seven people graduating with BA, BS, MA, and PhD degrees from Wellesley College (2), University of Victoria (2), Michigan State, Villanova, and UCLA.

We are vey proud of their accomplishments and their dedication to our project. Below are just a few photos from the party.

Typical day?

There really is no such thing as a typical day here at ancient Eleon. We are very well aware of the day of the week and the week number: we dig for six weeks so every day is Very Important. Today was week two, Wednesday. Things are going well.

Personally, I had to go to Athens to renew my passport. This took about three hours. Bryan was on site working and directing so things were in good hands. Neither of us likes to be away from site for long.

Slowly we are making progress. In the Northwest there were interesting finds related to craft production in the very latest Mycenaean levels. In the Southeast there were unexpected discoveries related to finds inside the BSS. And inside, gradual uncovery happened over a large block: we’ll see tomorrow.

And, most excitingly, we got a new microscope today for the lab. Our conservators will make great use of this new equipment. Vicky Karas is shown below assembling it.

Fruits and nuts

Our relatively late dinners (8 pm, v early by Greek standards) and early start time (in cars by 6 am) don’t allow for extensive breakfasts before work for most of us. So, by 9 am, we are happy to see our Arma partners bring us our daily bread (and cheese, lunch meat, fruit and nuts).

We have mayonnaise and mustard on hand too. We break around 9:15, sitting on a dirty tarp on the ground. Everyone is hot, tired, and dirty and no one cares. The food tastes great.

Sometimes announcements are made, sometimes just dumb life stories are shared. On some days, we are all so hot, so tired, that no one speaks, and that’s okay too.

After about 25 minutes, its back to work! We take a second shorter but similar break around 11 too.

Week one 2018

We had a great first week. We have resumed work in the Blue Stone Structure, an early Mycenaean enclosure dating to about 1700 BCE. Work here is very complicated and delicate.

We also returned to finish some work in the Northwest area, with domestic structures dating to about 1100 BCE.

And, in the Southwest, we had a very small team focused on some site consolidation and preservation. The stratigraphy (levels of building and use) here is fairly complex so we had our most experienced team member directing the work here.

Saturday in Boeotia

Saturdays on the dig are very nice. The site is generally quiet, free from visitors (whom we love, of course), and peaceful. We work from 6:30 to 12, which is, in our minds, a half day. We’ll have our usual healthy breakfast snack but lunch and dinner is on everyone’s own. Sunday is a full holiday.

Yesterday our friend Sotiris visited the site, with his large backhoe. He has helped us remove very large collections of rocks in the past and this has proved very helpful as we try to present a coherent understanding of the site. Yesterday was no different. We are very grateful for his interest and help. With some areas prepared, we are ready to start digging full-on.

Start time and schedule

Today we are getting on to our normal schedule, which means departure from Dilesi at 6 am.

We can enjoy the sunrise over the island of Euboea and watch the moon as it sets.

We will work until first break, around 9. We usually have ham and cheese sandwiches, lots of fresh fruit (cherries yesterday were incredible), and mixed nuts.

After break we may take trench tours to see how the work is progressing in the different areas. Students will start giving these informal, short presentations soon. Then we break again at 11 or so. At 1 we’ll clean up the areas where work was happening for drone photography. Tools are stored away and then we all go to lunch in the village around 1:30. That’s our morning!

Full speed ahead

In record time, our site is cleaned and prepared for new excavations. Our partners in Thebes have been very helpful with advice and necessary permissions, as has the Canadian Institute in Greece.

We will start with two trench supervisors, directing five or six student volunteers each. Students come from the US and Canada. Our architect roams between the two areas of study. The two co-directors (Burke and Burns) provide advice and support in various ways

Work in the apothiki in Arma focuses on the study of the finds, including ceramic fragments as seen in the photo above. Dr Trevor Van Damme is assisting UPenn graduate student Janelle Sadarananda with her dissertation research.

First day cleaning

Our team had a very good first day on-site for 2018. We have a great team of about 30 students and scholars working very hard to understand ancient Eleon.

Today involved removal of large tarps, originally intended as lake liner material but used to protect the site over the winter. The tarps held up excellently and will allow us to start real excavation quicker than any previous year. They prevented excessive weed growth and any damage from rain or snow. They also seems to have provided an attractive home to some very large snakes.

Our team was very cool about these interesting guests. We have requested that the snakes move on.

Tomorrow, after some well deserved rest, our excavations will begin in earnest. We have a great team and look forward to exciting results this summer.