May 29, 2011: The Quest for the Archaeological Record (An Archaizing Fairytale-Epic)
Once upon a time zone, in a land far, far, away, there lived fourteen triglyphs. Like any good protagonists, they rose early and descended to begin the day with a hearty breakfast. Once in the great hall of the Park Hotel’s breakfast room, their wise advisors informed them of their quest. Well-armed with sunscreen and no-flash cameras, they set forth to do battle against the forces of evil, first the UltraViolet and then the Anti-Flash, which manifests itself through its fervent initiates, the Guardians of the Museum, and launches sneak attacks on unsuspecting students of classics throughout Greece. The Hill of the Ninety-Nine Steps, a previous conquest of our heroic protagonists, rose high to the left as the triglyphs navigated successfully across the treacherous flower-vaulted streets of Nafplion to the hallowed hall of knowledge and ancient treasure, the Nafplion Archaeological Museum.
The Ticket-Collector, a fierce guardian who strikes fear in the hearts of all visiting tourists and demands a toll from all who pass, was pacified by eloquent speech and the powerful Seal of Dartmouth. Our triglyphs were now given their first task: to interpret the ancient artifacts of the hallowed Museum. Some continued their earlier mission of studying ancient religious idols, having previously journeyed to the Museum of Mycenae to see the LHIIIB artifacts from the thirteenth century Before the Common Era. Some, however, were drawn in by the allure of the Dendra panoply, a suit of bronze armor created ca. 1400 B.C.E. The owner of this bronze armor is not known and its function remains a mystery. The triglyphs, intent on dispelling the cloud of mystery that surrounds these artifacts, set hard to work on deciphering ancient clues such as the use of boar’s tusks in the helmet (an ancient status symbol signifying the owner had been in a boar hunt) and the large amount of bronze that was incorporated into this armor (a sign of wealth and power in the 15th century). Disheartened by the constant barrier of the evil Glare of Light on Museum Cases, the triglyphs were given courage by a sighting of the great sage, Dr. Jeffrey Hurwit, whose brilliant insights on the Parthenon sculpture have helped many a classics student in their quest to interpret the frieze. The triglyphs stood shoulder to shoulder to defeat the monstrous Glare and attained their clear-cut images!
Having succeeded in the first part of their quest, our heroes proceeded to the well-known site of Lerna, an ancient settlement site that contains pre-historical and Bronze Age remains. The wisdom of the ages was passed onto the triglyphs through the eloquent words of their constant leader, Dr. Jerry Rutter, who guided the triglyphs on their quest and instructed them in the ways of the wise Archaeologists, those who use their great powers to divine, unearth, and bring the past to light. One of the archaeologists to excavate at Lerna was the brilliant Dr. John Casky, whose brave efforts at conservation still survive today. During the course of their quest, our intrepid heroes (re)discovered ancient mudbrick! This elusive material was quite a common early building material but rarely survives from the Early Helladic Period, having succumbed to the constant barrage of every archaeologist’s ancient enemies, Rain, Sun, and Wind, along with their modern allies, the powerful Bulldozer and its sidekick the Frontloader. The triglyphs also explored the House of the Tiles, so named for its surviving roof tiles, which had been buried for centuries under a mysterious tumulus (or mound) after being destroyed by unknown forces. When the triglyphs went to leave the site of Lerna, they ran into a fearsome monster, the Hydra! However, upon closer examination, it was only the shed skin of a (large) snake descendant, as the real Hydra was slain on the spot by Heracles – not the Romanized Hercules – thousands of years before.
The triglyphs boarded their bus-chariot once more and the brave-hearted charioteer Kristos drove them onwards to the great city-state of Argos, where there lay another hallowed hall of knowledge and ancient treasure. Here, the triglyphs gazed in awe at Argos C209, which was the Argolid version of Athens 804, a contemporary Geometric, monumental, decorated krater found at the National Museum in Athens, the object of a previous quest. Unlike the death-centered imagery found on Athens 804, this textile-inspired artifact had scenes of horse taming and animal figures. Also found within the museum was another ancient set of armor and the second task: analyzing early hoplite armor found at the site of Argos along with a set of obols (iron spits used as money) and fire-dogs! The triglyphs were again set the task of photographing the armor and again valiantly battled against the malicious Anti-Flash and the Glare, taking heart from their knowledge of classics and successful previous quests. The Argos armor, from ca. 700 B.C.E., included a cuirass and helmet of bronze that were among the earliest of the famed hoplite armor that would guard Greek warriors for four centuries.
Having acquired more knowledge and completed their second task, the triglyphs moved onwards and upwards to the fortified acropolis of Argos, also known in legend and popular belief as the Larissa. Here, the triglyphs enjoyed a feast to celebrate their completion of the first tasks set before them and to refuel before the grueling task yet to come. No one was denied their fair portion. The sun was shining favorably on the triglyphs until they began their assault on the fortification walls, which angered the weather gods and brought rain down upon the triglyphs’ heads from an ominous blockade of clouds above. Not to be dissuaded from their ultimate quest, the triglyphs went in search of early archaeological remains that had been buried under the later walls of the Argives. Armed with their training and good spirits and rain gear, the triglyphs explored the ruined Kastro and completed their mission! Among the discoveries of our heroes were many essential pieces of evidence to declare the Mycenaeans and later Greeks had, indeed, occupied and fortified this spot. They located a water source (including well and cistern), characteristic Mycenaean Cyclopean masonry, an ancient inscription with a later addition, and even a peak roof tile from an Archaic temple! Having completed their quest, the triglyphs descended the hill, leaving the fortifications to guard the ancient remains from future barbarian hordes. The rest of the afternoon and evening were filled with merriment and celebration, including various feasts in the great city of Nafplion (and no one was denied their fair portion). Their quest was complete!
And everyone lived happily ever after, secure in their knowledge and their curiosity sated, until the triglyphs’ daily quest was renewed… but that’s another story.
May you always be curious and have great adventures,
Day 64 Photos (Matt, dropping science)