Week 10 Map
We started our day with a bright and early 7 AM breakfast and 7:30 estimated departure time. Breakfast was something new: pre-laid tables with bread, a croissant, a banana, an egg, fruit juice, coffee, and a ham and cheese sandwich! This was great, because it was more variety than we’re used to, but not so great, because it seriously inhibited the group’s ability to steal lunch from the breakfast buffet. Fortunately, we are seasoned warriors in the wilds of Greece, and scrounged up lunch from several rest stops.
Fact: I told a professor that I was going to Greece, and she told me that we might have fun but we wouldn’t be able to find anything to eat because of the economy. I don’t think she was joking. Fortunately, she has been proven wrong: we have had no trouble finding food to eat. We’ve just had trouble paying for it. We’re all very excited to get back to the US, where five dollars is five dollars instead of 7.5 dollars.
We came close to achieving our 7:30 departure time—a very rare feat—and began our Odyssey-by-bus towards our first destination: Sesklo. We stopped a few times on the way, and had some bus trouble. Fortunately, none of us speak modern Greek, so we couldn’t ask our driver what the problem was.
Our driver now is Spiros—the very same Monos Spiros with whom we began our travels. In the past 9 weeks, we’ve had Spiros, Yanis, and Christos. Each has been wonderful in his own way. Spiros has a supernatural knowledge of all Greek roads, and takes turns that no mortal man of today could handle. Yanis turned up the radio so we could sing along at full volume to our favorite song (“Born This Weird”) and let us watch Tangled. Christos introduced us to his family, and his grandmother tried to adopt us (we think. Again, language barrier). It’s fitting to end the trip how we began it, with Spiros of the 20-Point turn on the edge of a cliff. Talk about ring composition!
Around 10:00, we reached our first stop. Sesklo is divided into two sites, which are—very originally—named Sesklo A and Sesklo B. Sesklo A is earlier, although both are Neolithic. The site was occupied from 7,000 to 3,200 BCE, which means we’re playing with buildings that make the Parthenon look like a ’15 (we officially feel old now). Sesklo is important for a few reasons:
1) It’s the only real Neolithic site we’re going to! That’s only a reason why it’s important to us.
2) It was excavated by the big Greek name in prehistoric Aegean archaeology: Christos Tsountas (pronounced Sountas). He’s Greece’s answer to Britain’s Evans (responsible for Kommos) and Germany’s Schliemann (he found Troy and the Mycenaean shaft graves). This gave us a great opportunity to discuss the complex, complex politics of Greek excavation. The moral of the story: the less you say about it, the better shape you’ll be in. More on that later.
3) There are no Bronze Age ruins on top of the Neolithic ruins, which makes them much clearer to look at.
4) Some see the predecessors to the Megaron in the Megaron-esque structures here.
Fact: Archaeologists love to debate architectural lineage. Some of the issues at hand here: is the megaron-esque floorplan a later addition (were later walls added to make it look like a Megaron)? Why are there no porch columns? Fact #2: It’s mostly over our heads.
We frolicked merrily about the site, examining cuttings, looking at megarons and concentric walls known as “ring walls.”
At Sesklo B, Professor Rutter pointed out the contrast in buildings between the two sites. Sesklo A has massive buildings, like the two megarons, which show that whoever lived there had a higher status than whoever lived in the smaller buildings. The buildings at Sesklo B, however, are more similar in size. This illustrates a more egalitarian social structure.
From a languages major, here’s a guide to translating archaeology:
1) Equality in material culture is equality in society. If everyone has the same pot in their house, there is no big man on campus. Equal graves, or equal houses, suggest an egalitarian social structure.
2) Changes in material culture show internal or external influences. Different pottery? Probably the Dorian Invasion. A new style of burial? Albanian raiders. Isolate the change, and suggest your favorite story! It can be an invading force or—if you want to be really hardcore—“internal social pressure.”
3) If you’re not sure what’s going on, attribute it to religion. I’m sure that someone excavating Dartmouth in a few thousand years will think most of the students were initiates in the cult of Brady. They wore strange garments to show their devotion and worshiped every Sunday afternoon.
After we thoroughly examined Sesklo B, we returned to the bus and drove to Dimini. We saw a lovely combination of a Neolithic and Mycenaean settlement on one site. However, there’s a catch! The two do NOT overlap! Twice the fun with half the confusion: students, rejoice!
Dimini is significant because it’s the northern limit of Mycenaean culture. Finds, such as imports from Aigina and the Levant, as well as Linear B inscriptions, show that this site was part of the Mycenaean network. No one’s found this sort of material further North.
Dimini has a propylon: a fancy gate as the entrance to the Mycenaean town. The propylon shows that this was a possible royal site. Whereas Peloponnesian Mycenaean sites show the presence of royalty through massive fortification walls (e.g. Tiryns, Mycenae), their northern cousins lacked the technology and materials to replicate Cyclopean masonry. So, they had to have other ways to show the site’s importance. A really, really big entrance is a good place to start.
This propylon brings us to today’s lesson: if you thought that Archaic Greeks were big on demonstrating links to the heroic past, you have not met the Greek ministry of culture.
When Jason and his Argonauts felt like finding the Golden Fleece, they left from somewhere called Yokos. There are multiple contenders for Yokos, including Dimini and Volos. Each excavator feels very, very, very strongly that his/her site is Yokos. Finding these mythical sites is a literal expression of Greece’s heritage. So, whose Yokos is Yokos matters—a lot. And the best way to deal with it, as an outsider, is to avoid taking a stance—in case you irritate someone important.
After some time admiring the Megarons (Megara?) in Dimini, we headed onwards to Volos. The Volos museum was very impressive. It has what Professor Rutter categorized as the “best Neolithic collection you’ll see here.” Since the area around Volos is full of Neolithic settlements, we really did see a lot of neat stuff. Highlights include, but are not limited to:
1) Models of buildings. These are very helpful for reconstructing Neolithic architecture.
2) Akrolithic Figures. Figures with a clay body and marble head. Pretty neat!
3) More women with interesting proportions. According to a plaque, the large hips, belly, and breasts emphasize fertility.
4) A Neolithic skull.
5) Standard Mycenaean burial routines: seals! Weapons! Pottery!
6) Hellenistic stelai from Demetrias. They have beautiful painted scenes, and are very important for art historians. Many inscriptions on the stelai refer to doctors. Our pre-med students felt at home.
Now it’s time for an afternoon of paper writing, beach visiting, and a visit to the Volta, which Spiros calls “the bride bazaar.” Our goal is to leave with the same number as we came with—no more, no less—so we’ll try to avoid picking up any husbands tonight.
Yasas for now,
Day 67 Photos (Anna Leah, artiste du jour)
And the Triglyphs go rolling (along the Neolithic site of Sesklo)
Jenna loves the Neolithic site of Sesklo for its egalitarian building sizes!
Fearless leader Emma takes notes at Sesklo while demonstrating her love for the San Francisco Giants and advertising for Diet Coke. Product placement for the win: education, baseball, soda, and a fantastic landscape too!
American Gothic, FSP-Style. Triglyphs Lizzie and Blake get creative with readily available props
Flora of Greece: Pretty Pink Flower!
Flora and Fauna join forces—Harmony, Archeology, and Biology!
Flora of Greece: Red Flower Buds Blooming
Fearless Metope Sarah Chalupa listens in on another geography lesson—Where exactly is Thessaly? More pressingly, where is Dimini?
This edifying reconstruction of Dimini helps us realize just how awesome Neolithic Settlements can be. Do you think we'll meet Fred Flintsone? Yabba-Daba-Doo!
Art Historians and Sherd Nerds “re-Joyce” at this early Mycenaean pot for it features early Squiggles!
Although we cannot speak for Joyce, Sarah L. is certainly pleased to learn about Mycenaean squiggle decorations
Down in the Tholos, the Triglyphs identify the building material as shist!
Alfonso inspects the stomeion (entry) for cuttings and other archeological clues, while his comrades admire the interior of the Tholos
Sarah L. and Prof. Rutter discuss the finer points of this Mycenaean propylon (gateway or entryway). Have we stumbled upon a royal complex? In any case, the elegant roofing a modern measure designed to protect the ruins from the rain and other elements.
Visual Similes: The Ping and the Skull or merely 2 “Seniors?”
Katelyn examines the Volos Museum's lonely core-formed glass vessel
Lo and Behold: an extensive collection of painted stelae (grave markers) from the Hellenistic period! Fortunately, the FSP has dispatched some of its most valiant photographic troops (Matt) to record this rare sighting.
It seems that Volos also appreciates the funerary fauna among us. Check out this clay Mycenaean menagerie
This exquisite terracotta chariot is one of Volos' most famous artifacts. While some detractors say the horses resemble camels without humps, I say the elongated horses are beautiful in their own way.
What's a Greek museum without the requisite hoards of Greek schoolchildren?
Flora of Greece: Pretty in Pink
Mystery Flora: Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?
Splashing around on the beach at Volos