UAlberta Classics

Home » 2015 » June

Monthly Archives: June 2015


The Kastro Kallithea Field School Blog Nr 2: What’s in Store for Kastro Kallithea? By Nicole Kolkman and Rachel DeGraaf

Excavations at Kastro Kallithea have ceased and many artifacts require processing using a variety of techniques in order to obtain a holistic understanding of the site. Specialists are needed for the interdisciplinary study of subsistence modes, in particular, transhumance.  Future studies may seek to answer the question: Was transhumance a subsistence mode for the residents of Kastro Kallithea or the surrounding area? Here are a few ways of approaching the question:


Ethnographic Parallels

Though ethnographic parallels cannot prove that transhumance was the primary mode of subsistence, they are useful tools in illustrating how transhumance may have been carried out in the past.  Transhumance is still practiced in northern Greece and local shepherds reveal that they herd their sheep to the Othrys Mountains in summer.  It is important to remember, however, that just because transhumance is practiced now does not mean it was practiced during the period in question.  Not only are social and cultural conditions different, but environmental conditions also fluctuate.

Sheep grazing in Narthaki

Stable Isotope Analysis

In the analysis of subsistence patterns at Kastro Kallithea, stable isotope analysis of the faunal remains, especially teeth, can aid in the study of animal movement.  Differences in Oxygen and Strontium stable isotopes values may point to differences in the environment in which animals were herded during their lifetime, in which temperature, elevation, and geological masses are important variables. This is useful in the study of transhumance because a repetitive and recurring change in location is often marked in the skeletal remains of grazing animals. This future research is multidisciplinary, providing experience for students from all programs.


Washing bones

Cleaning faunal remains before further processing.

Surface Survey

Surface survey can also be useful in determining pastoral practices.  For example, in Athens, there is evidence of “dung collectors” who sold urban refuse as fertilizer to farmers of the surrounding area.  Broken domestic pottery was often tossed in with human waste and ended up in the farmers’ fields.  This pottery then formed a “halo” around the urban habitation that makes itself apparent in surface survey.  This mixed farming subsistence mode is not indicative of transhumance because herds could have grazed on crop stubble and would not have needed to travel long distances.  Rather, transhumance is associated with animal husbandry as a specialization and a “halo” of domestic pottery would be less apparent in surrounding rural areas.

Although excavations have ended at Kastro Kallithea, there are many opportunities for students of all disciplines to pursue varying academic questions.


Geographical surroundings of Kastro Kallithea






The Kastro Kallithea 2015 Field School Blog No. 1: Lauren Harding and Emilie Heaton on Roof tiles

Why do we study roof tiles?

We study roof tiles because they show one element of how ancient houses were constructed and roofed, and they are a highly transportable artefact that can be easily carried back to the Apothiki for further study of their fabric and shape. Additionally, after the initial analysis of the roof tiles, we select those that have been stamped by the workshops in Antiquity and begin comparative studies of the stamps to ones found in nearby sites, like New Halos and Phthiotic Thebes.  From this, we can learn how and where the roof tiles were manufactured, and the economic connections that potentially formed between the Hellenistic cities of Thessaly.

Pic 1

What happens to the roof tiles in the Apothiki (project space for Kastro Kallithea)?

At Kastro Kallithea 65,000 roof tiles were found, weighing 7300 Kg.  Due to this staggering number, it is not humanly possible to transport all of the roof tiles from the site to the Apothiki, and only roof tiles that have been stamped or are initially interpreted as pottery sherds are brought down for study. Below is a picture of the unfortunate roof tile fragments that after a brief jaunt as sherds, are discovered for what they truly are, and are to be taken back to site.

The roof tiles that are stamped are given a special find number upon arrival at the Apothiki. The roof tiles are not cleaned thoroughly, as they are very delicate and may crumble under strenuous washing. Once cleaned, the roof tiles are labelled, and then handed off to be drawn. Drawing roof tiles is a time-consuming process, involving patience and precision for the asymmetrical planes of the artefacts.   In the picture above and to the right a student is hard at work drafting a roof tile with an abstract circular shape.

Pic 2


How were roof tiles used in the antiquity, and how are they used today?

Roof tiles were used in a similar manner to how they are utilized today. Below you can see an image of modern roof tiles working in the flesh, keeping the houses of Narthaki dry and insulated from the natural elements of Thessalian planes. This image gives us a taste of how roof tiles might have looked in use at Kastro Kallithea.

Pic 3

The Kastro Kallithea Study Season 2015. An Impression by Matt Gabert and Karey Rodgirs