What Happened to Week Three?

Time is flying by. Last week’s major accomplishment was the removal of a LOT of earth and stone moving. The aim is to remove obstructive material so that we can see and excavate buildings and levels we know to be there. Sometimes we rely on our students for the heavy lifting, but on big projects, we also get help from our Greek collaborators who bring in special lifting equipment. We are very grateful to the Ephorate of Boeotian Antiquities and to the town of Arma which provided the lifting expertise and equipment.

Week Two: Eleon, Thebes, Athens

Soon this blog will be updated by our students. This entry will provide an update on our excavations at Eleon, report on a great celebration for the Thebes Museum, and a note the conference in Athens where results of our work was presented.


The second week of excavations went very well. More progress is made to uncover the important remains of the Blue Stone Structure. The complex is quite large, extending toward the north and east. We revealed a heavy packing layer of rubble fill that was most likely part of the earthen mound erected over the structure. For greater visibility and to understand better the architecture we unfortunately had to remove a tree onsite as well. Our very helpful and enthusiastic neighbor, Mr. Panagiotis, happily cut it down and was glad to have the valuable firewood.

Thebes Museum

New Thebes Museum Opening 7 June 2016

On Tuesday, a few senior staff members attended an opening celebration of the New Thebes Museum. The president of Greece was in attendance along with several other very distinguished guests. Our colleagues, and the Thebes Museum Director, Dr. Alexandra Charami hosted the event and kindly acknowledged our successful collaboration at ancient Eleon in her speech. Below shows EBAP team members attending the Thebes Museum opening and viewing jewelry mould from ancient Eleon, among other finds, now on display.

On Saturday, Bryan Burns and Brendan Burke attended the 40th Anniversary Conference of the Canadian Institute in Greece. This two day event was well-organized and highlighted the wide range of work by Canadian scholars working in Greece. Excavations at ancient Eleon were featured in two talks, one focused on the Bronze Age remains and another on the Archaic and Classical material. After the conference, speakers and guests were invited to a great dinner under the Athenian Acropolis.


2016 EBAP Group in Dilesi


Week One 2016

Our first week of work for the 2016 season concluded yesterday. Returnees and new-comers to the project are all settling in very well to our daily routines. We depart from Dilesi as the sun is rising over Euboea. Our caravan is made up of four cars and one van. The routes to the site vary but take about 20-25 minutes. Nearly all of us listen to the local, eclectic radio station (FM95, N-R-G). Some bring breakfast with them for the commute.


On site we number at least 20 people and the first hour or so is spent getting the tools out and equipment set up. Applying sunscreen is also a must. Trench supervisors are mapping out their day’s work, making tags and labeling buckets for the daily finds. Currently we are concentrating our work in two trenches with about five to six students in each. Our architect arrived late last week and came directly from the airport to the site, after a transatlantic (Toronto-Athens) flight! Her dedication and enthusiasm is an inspiration to us all.

In the apotheke – our processing and storage area – our team works to conserve finds and study the various deposits of ceramics. We also have our drawing and digital Eleon teams located there as well. Photographic Evidence Part II

Our on-site workday ends around 1:15 when we break for lunch in the village. This is prepared for us by our incredibly helpful partner, Stavroula and her family. The food is always delicious and traditionally Greek. Most pile back into the cars and we return to Dilesi for a few hours of rest and relaxation. Some swim, others nap.

Work resumes at 5 pm for sherd washing and processing and other necessary parts of excavation life. We work until about 7 pm, have a light refreshment before dinner at 8 at a nearby seaside taverna. Most of the team is in bed by 9:30, ready for the next day.19279-_mg_8764

Technology and Archaeology

by Ashley Hopper
For the first time this year, we had the opportunity to use a drone to take aerial photography of our site. They did have the drone last year, however, they never got the chance to take high quality photos of the site due to some rather unfortunate mishaps. Jordan Tynes, a professor from Wellesley College visited us for a week to help teach us about the technology and take photos of the site. Kaylie Cox, a fellow student and aerial protégé, was Jordan’s assistant and took over for him when he had to leave. She is quite the expert on drone technology already.
Flying the drone is a two-person operation and requires careful coordination so the drone won’t crash. A Go-Pro camera is attached to the bottom of the drone, while photos are taken using the time-lapse setting with two photos being taken every second. While one person is controlling the drone, the other watches the timer so the battery won’t run out. The battery only lasts for eight minutes of active flying, making it very important for the co-pilot to give regular updates on how much time has passed. The highest that we have seen the drone fly over the site is 125 feet but Kaylie would not recommend going over 100 feet due to the drone’s sensitivity to wind. With such thoughtful consideration of the elements, there have not been any crashes yet!
This technology is important for archaeological sites and excavations because it can document changes from the air that might not be as noticeable from the ground. It gives us a bigger picture of how things are progressing on site and provides a different perspective for our photography. It also gives us a direct overhead view of the site compared to our photography taken from the ground, as it is not always easy to take photos from the ground due to awkward angles or positioning.

The only downside to the technology is that it can only be used in certain weather conditions. We had to learn this the hard way one day when we rushed to clean up our trench but it turned out that the wind was too strong for the drone to fly. It will be very interesting to see how drone photography on archaeological sites progresses in the coming years!

Advanced Excavation Techniques: The Future Digger

by Vaughn Gaston

Advanced Excavation Techniques: The Future Digger

(A Non-Intentionally Alliterative, Complimentary, Semi-Collaborative Continuation of Mr. Jones’ Previous Blog Entry)
            Throughout the history of archaeology, evolved methods have allowed for increases in information acquisition and advancements in archaeological accuracy. We have total stations, digital databases, and chemically literate conservators. However, the lowly laborer attains no newfound skill, performing techniques that just might be as old as archaeology itself. Thankfully, that is all about to change.

            Please be cautious in attempting any of the following presented techniques, as many of them require considerable balance, excellent physical coordination, and perhaps a couple of extra handfuls at nut break. Additionally, anyone with a history of cardiac illness, weak lung capacity, or lack of mental fortitude should refrain from the following, or consult a specialist before attempting to engage in any of the activities listed below.

The Flying Sherd:

 The name is self-explanatory. An accurate sherd toss into a pottery bucket can save the time and energy one requires to constantly walk back and forth. Plastic buckets are recommended, not metal, in order to reduce impact, and possible sherd damage. Also, this technique should not be used with faunal material, as it is often far more fragile. Lastly, if one is especially concerned with the well-being of airborne material; the “alley-oop” method may be initiated.

The Reverse-Through-The-Legs Dustpan and/or Shovel Disposal:

Once again, the title of this technique is description enough. It is a technique found most useful in tight, awkward spaces, in which zembili placement options are adequate at best.

The Schliemann Shuffle or The Heinrich Hop:

It depends on the region: in Beotia it is referred to as The Schliemann Shuffle, and in Attica, The Heinrich Hop. To perform this technique, simply make a lateral two-step hop to move positions while digging with a pick. The technique is conducted in order to maximize picking efficiency, covering more ground without having to reach, therefore preventing possible muscular injuries.

The Foot-Flick and Catch:

The brilliance of this technique is due to its simplicity. By catching the shaft of ones’ hand-tool with the laces of the shoe, the fall is cushioned, the floor of the trench avoids being marked, and energy is not wasted by bending down to slowly place a tool. Furthermore, the opposite technique may be applied by sliding one’s foot under the shaft of a grounded hand-tool and lifting/flicking the foot; raising the tool in a quick but controlled motion. This technique not only maximizes labor efficiency in terms of speed, but also saves ones’ lumbar region from a possible chronic injury. Plus, it looks cool.

Shirts, Shorts, and Sherds:

Although this next technique is more indirectly related to excavating than the previous listed, a freshly washed, crisp garment can make a 5:00AM rise almost pleasant. However, it can be difficult to find time for doing laundry within the busy schedule of an archaeologist. And of course, properly cleaned archaeological materials are essential to any successful dig. So, this technique is quite straightforward: sherd washing and laundry at the same time.


The Stratigraphy Sommelier:

Few archaeological laborer grunts are savvy with the information one can gain if they are able to recognize things like soil changes, various stratified layers, material inclusions, etcetera. So, this technique allows for even a mindless pawn to notice a subtle, significant event that may occur in his or her trench. To excel at this technique, one need only to lick every bit of earth, rock, fauna, flora, and ceramic available in the surrounding environment, constantly. Eventually, one will acquire the skill to distinguish different types of stone based on their texture against the tongue, or even, taste a date.
            Although it is safe to say that the field of archaeology will never be the same, the provided examples serve merely to scratch the surface of archaeological technique advancement. Lastly, It is important to note that many of these techniques may be combined in several ways with the groundbreaking tool technologies presented in Mr. Jones’ earlier blog entry.


Tools Required for Excavation: An Archaeologists Tool Kit

by Sydney Giesbrecht
Every good archaeologist has a set of essential tools used daily on site. While some are more important then others each plays an important role in excavation.


The Small Pick:

Required for more detailed work such as articulating large rocks or cleaning a bulk at the end of the day. A pick does less damage then most other tools because when breaking into the earth there is only on small point of contact rather than with a shovel where more extensive damage can be done due to its width.


The Trowel:A multipurpose tool.

Sometimes it feels as though there is nothing that a trowel cannot do. During my first few days on site the trowel felt awkward in my hand and I wasn’t quite sure of its full purpose. Now after 5 weeks on site it fits naturally in my hand, almost like an extension of my arm. A trowel to an archaeologist is like a scalpel to a surgeon. Since arriving on site not a day has gone by that I have not required my trowel. It can be used for a variety of things on site ranging from scraping a bulk to examining soil changes on a surface, or simply collecting dirt into a dustpan. It’s most important use in my experience is for checking for changes in soil on a surface. For example if you are working on a surface using picks and shovels you may not notice a change in soil density that clearly. If one area is denser or more clay like then another, a quick scrape on the surface with the edge of your trowel will help to clarify any changes.


Brush:Necessary for all cleaning styles

The brushes found on site range from paintbrushes to large brooms. Small straw brushes as shown in the image above are particularly useful for brushing off rocks and cleaning uneven surfaces. Paintbrushes can be used on site for more delicate work and gentle cleaning in order to not damage or displace the item being excavated. For example if you were to come across a mud brick that you wanted to articulate and photograph a paintbrush would to the least damage.  Larger brooms can often be used on harder surfaces at the end of the day to clean up, in a similar fashion to the way you would sweep the floor at home.


The Dust Pan:

While dustpans may seem insignificant in day-to-day life they are very important at an excavation site for soil removal. When working in smaller areas where a shovel is not an option, the dustpan is a lifesaver. Also very helpful at the end of the day to clean up any messes created during excavation. A clean trench is the best kind of trench.


The Water Bottle:Most important tool of all.

Without water nothing can be done on site. This may seem silly but dehydration is no joke here at EPAB.  With hot days and lots of physical activity you can become ill very quickly if you aren’t drinking lots of water. The average team member will drink 2-4 liters of water before lunch. If you aren’t hydrated you cant dig, and that’s no fun for anyone.

Shovel and Large Pick:
The shovel and the pick go together like peanut butter and jelly. When removing a layer or soil, or making a pass, the pick will be used along with the shovel. Similar to a small pick a large pick is used to loosen soil. Large picks play an important role in the removal of soil, particularly when opening a new trench and getting through the layer of top soil. The pick like make somewhere between a 5-10cm pass and a shovel will follow behind removing the soil being careful not to carve into the newly reveled layer below. This technique is used in order to prevent unnecessary damage to potential artifacts in the soil.


Wheelbarrow and Zambeili:
Two tools that are often unappreciated but play an important role on site. A Zambeli is a large rubber bucket placed in the trenches and is very important in removing soil. Soil it transferred from the trenches to the wheelbarrows via the zambeli and then transported to the dirt pile away from the trenches. In order to excavate a site you need to be clean and precise, so soil needs to be constantly moving. Wheelbarrows are often running non-stop all day long on site.


Bulk Scraper: The secret weapon.
This tool is how you get the straightest bulk walls on site. Archaeological sites are broken down into grid units and on our site each grid is a 5 X 5 meter square. Bulk walls for as you move down into the soil sort of like a small shaft. These bulk walls need to be straight and vertical in order to ensure that you are collecting everything that is within you grid unit. If your bulk slants you could miss an important artifact or feature within the soil. This tool shown above helps to create perfectly flat and vertical bulk walls.