Learning in Greece
This is a project blog communicating with students about my trip.
Janice Friesen
Information Technologist (IT)
Austin, TX

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By Janice Friesen    July 17, 2007 -- 11:01 AM

NEWS BULLETIN-We just returned to Corinth from a trip to Sparta.  On the way we saw that there was a big fire on Acrocorinth (the big mountain behind Corinth).  There were planes and helicopters flying back and forth from the sea bringing water to pour on the fire and put it out.  More on this breaking story tomorrow… along with pictures and info about Sparta.

Sorry that I cannot include any pictures in this post right now.  I will add pictures soon, but I do not have what I need to transfer the pictures from the camera to my computer with me.  I am at the Internet Café again.  I think that the power where I am staying went out because of the fire, so there is no Internet again.

Yesterday we went to visit a new archaeological dig called Kenchrea.  For the past 5 years the director of the dig, Joe Reif, has been working in this area “cleaning” and documenting some really interesting burial sites right along the coast at Isthmea.  Cleaning is different than digging.  The archaeologists are not exploring new places, but uncovering partially buried things that were excavated earlier.  Sometimes this is at a site that was dug by archaeologists, but in Kenchrea it is in a place that was dug by robbers. 

Since there are so many sites in Greece where there are valuable things right under the ground there are people who keep track of where things might be and dig them up before the archaeologists ever get there.  They can then sell these items for large prices on the black market for antiquities.  These people do not care at all to learn what happened in a site and are not careful about what they disturb.  They are only interested in money and finding valuable objects.

In the last 5 years Joe has been going into tombs like the ones in the pictures that robbers had already found and taken the valuable items and cleaning them out and carefully documenting what is found.  He has specialists coming to study the wall painting, the bones and the other materials that are found. Mostly they were not finding items worth a lot of money, but were learning a great deal about the burial practices in ancient times.  This year Joe has permission from the Greek government to dig and so he has a crew of about 65 students from different colleges around the US who are digging at 5-7 spots around the site where Joe thought there might be interesting things to find.  He will be able to continue digging for three years.  The dig season usually lasts 6 weeks or so and during that time everyone works VERY hard and lots of notes are taken and pottery shards, coins, and anything else that is found catalogued.  During the rest of the year the finds are analyzed and plans are made for where to continue digging the next year.

The most exciting find this year was a mosaic floor.  It was in an unlikely place and they didn’t find it right away.  It is very exciting.  They also found lots of bones since this was a burial area. There were also many other very interesting finds like walls that might be houses and wheel ruts that show where a road was.  There were also many more burials and tombs. It is looking to Joe and the other archaeologists working here that this was a place where important people were buried along with their servants and there might have also been some villas there.  There is a lot more to learn. 

 As I looked at the site and all of the students working I reflected on the huge amount of work that it took to find these things. The students work from 7:30 am to 1 pm every day digging and hauling away the dirt to clear out a few feet of area.  They are sweaty, hot and dirty.  Some of them were even digging inside tombs and underground.  It seemed uncomfortable and scarey to me, but they are excited about it.

Check back to this post for the pictures which I will probably add tomorrow!

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By small Janice Friesen      July 17, 2007 -- 10:51 PM
Sister Susie,

You ask some great questions!!  I am going to have to do some research to find out all of the answers.  This research will be personal research where I will ask people here.  I know that the dig season is not determined only by weather.  Most of the people who dig are students and professors and so they dig during the summer when there is no school.  Some digs start as early as in May and I think they are mostly done (at least the ones I know about here) by the end of July.

The other reason is that digging is only a part of the process.  Documenting and studying what is found is a very important part of what Archaeologists do.  If they dug for three months there would be too many finds and they would not have time to analyze them before the next season. 

I think there is also something about the Greek government giving permits to dig.  They only give so many permits each year and they designate the dates when the digging can be done.

More later after I talk to the people in the know!


By small Janice Friesen      July 17, 2007 -- 10:48 PM

Thanks so much for the link to the news.  It is so strange that when you are near something like that the only thing you know about it is the gossip from other people and also what you see.  I plan to put more pictures of the fire into the blog later today.

Thanks for your comment!


By Diana Kenney      July 17, 2007 -- 08:33 PM
Hi Janice,

Just stumbled upon your blog this a.m.! How exciting for you...I was in Greece for a month about 20 years ago...best times of my life. Here's the news link to the fire you saw http://www.pr-inside.com/tourists-evacuated-from-medieval-castle-r174658.htm

Happy traveling! You lucky girl!

By Sister Susie      July 17, 2007 -- 07:08 PM
Why is the dig season only 6 weeks? Is it too hot or wet to do it at other times of the year? Does it just take so many people that only the summer's are available for the student workers? How do students find out about these opportunities? Do they get invited or can anyone apply? Maybe you should include a link or information for any students that might want to start planning to help out next year.