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Day ‘Tripping’ Up to Site by Alisha Karim and Iliana Pappas

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We quickly understood why the village is called “beautiful view”! Pictured: Alisha Karim (L) and Karl Racine (R) at Kastro Kallithea.

During our first week of field school, we took a field trip up to Kastro Kallithea to see the site for ourselves. For most of us, the biggest challenges were the scorching sun and the vicious pounari thorns that cover the hilltop, but for some of us, the difficulties were a little longer lasting. On the way down from site, Alisha tripped, fell, and sprained her ankle. We made sure the damage wasn’t too serious (and the doctors let her keep the X-rays!), but the past few weeks have involved copious amounts of ibuprofen and icepacks. Walking up the hill to the Kastro Kallithea site certainly proved to be a challenge for many of us, so it’s hard to imagine doing it every day like the original occupants would have had to do.

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Alisha’s ankle X-Ray (no breaks!)

Being anthropology students, we began thinking about how the walk up the hill might have impacted the lives of people and animals living on site. Although the people of Kastro Kallithea were probably used to going up and down the hill, it would still put a lot of strain on the body, especially if they had their animals grazing at the base of the hill – they would have had to climb up and down to move them. If there was any trade done in the area, which is highly plausible, they would be going up and down the hill frequently and most likely with fairly heavy loads. Studying bones can tell us a lot about the lifestyle that the inhabitants of Kastro Kallithea would have led; we can see what they ate, where they spent most of their lives, and even what sorts of activities they did on a daily basis. Climbing up the hill once gave us an insider view of what the inhabitants of Kastro Kallithea probably did every day.

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Iliana Pappas (L) and Alisha Karim (R) learning about bones.

 

 

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Bridging Cultural Gaps in Narthaki, Greece. By Karl Racine, Veronika Jorz and Jonathan Wilson

 

Leaving the confines of our homes seemed at first to be a somewhat intimidating experience since some of us had never been away from home for more than a day or two on our own. Our trip consisted of visiting and residing in Athens for a couple of days to get acclimatized to the European life and eventually we would set out for a duration of three weeks to live and work at the Kastro Kallithea Archaeological Project in the village of Narthaki in Thessaly as part of the archaeological field school. This small rural village seemed at first very unusual for us to live in since many of us had no previous experience with the local language and we obviously stood out from the rest of the surrounding population. The looks that were given to us by the locals in the village were at first somewhat concerning since it was a small game of “spot the tourist” but after a short consultation with the many teacher’s assistants and Dr. Margriet Haagsma herself, we were given some knowledge on the language as well as the proper cultural etiquette.

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Breakfast on a rainy day

The villagers asserted a lot of importance on the level of politeness one should give the children the adults and the elderly. Unlike our North American ways of living, individuals within the village kept it very polite, said hello to each other and began small talk conversations, something we were clearly not used to. Some of us caught on very quickly while others took some more time to get used to but in the end, we were able to represent Canada as a country of quick adaptation and as respectful of other countries as much as possible since we were in effect the guests residing there.

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Jonathan and Karl making friends with Babis Papadopoulos

Another important thing that was noteworthy was the level of traditional customs that the villagers asserted. By North American standards of freedom to do what one wishes to do with their body, it took some adjustment to successfully abide by those rules. Men were not necessarily allowed to show their boxer linings while women needed to cover up a little more. The elderly generation of the village constantly put their best shirts and suits on to impress the younger generation as well as give an example. While we were split into gender groups where the women would live in the gymnasium and the men in the soccer shed, it was not considered appropriate to enter either or if you were of the opposite sex. You could only remain in the vicinity and stay around for a couple of minutes without causing too much disturbance.

In fact, the experience proved gratifying to the most of us since it gave us an understanding that Narthaki relied on a sense of tradition in order to properly function and help each individual out rather than rely on individualistic North American customs. Each villager knew they could count on each other at any time for help if need be. Hopefully this experience gave each and every participant in the field school the ability to interact with their surroundings rather than keep the interaction to the minimum because it sure helped us three to understand the importance of a community!

 

Kastro Kallithea 2015 Field School Blog nr. 7: Waste not, want not: reuse at Building 10 by Chelsee Newman and Kristen Millions

During our short time at Narthaki working on the Kastro Kallithea archaeological project, it has come to our attention that the Greek people have a particular penchant for two of the “three Rs”: reuse and recycle. In our study of building 10 we have seen the reflection of a culture that places value on materials and gives them new life after their primary use has expired.

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Drawing of an Unguentarium

The uguentaria, for example, are pieces that the authors, Chelsee and Kristen, worked with on numerous occasions. Uguentaria were used in Thessalian antiquity as vessels for storing perfume, and had very thin necks, large bodies, and thin bases. In Building 10, third-five were found in Unit D alone. Though these vessels are identified in the archaeological record as perfume bottles, analyses from Building 10 suggested that they may have been used as spice holders as well. Thus, we see evidence that something that may have lost its primary use could be reimagined into something with equal use-ability.

Building 10 itself was even reused and given new life after its first building phase had run its course. A second building phase is evidenced in the wall structure that was built over top of an existing basin in the courtyard area. Perhaps the inhabitants realized that the amount of pre-existing space wasn’t necessary and they closed off the southern quadrant of the home. A Hopper-Rubber mill grinding stone was found, and it’s thought to have been converted into a saddle quern. This is not only suggestive of a smaller household (with not as much grain needing to be produced) but also another example of item rejuvenation in Greek antiquity.

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From a North American perspective, we’re entrenched in a life of materialism with an attitude of “why have old when you can have brand new?” Our attitude is so different from that of the Greek people, both in antiquity and modernity, and it’s fascinating to be privy to such a different cultural perspective.

Kastro Kallithea 2015 Field School Blog nr. 6: Footsteps into the Past by Torri Hanson, Jessica Patras and Lindsay Chisholm

Learning at the University of Alberta is an amazing experience! The classes are interesting and the professors are knowledgeable but neither can truly compare to the understanding and experience a student can acquire while at field school. It is one thing to have a professor lecture about ancient civilizations and artefacts. However, it is an unfathomable difference to be able to see those settlements in person and touch pieces of history with your hands.

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On our tour of the excavated site, Kastro Kallithea, we learned that the name of the site in Greek translated to “beautiful view” and that statement could not be truer. The site rests on the top of a mountain from which we could see Mount Olympus and the Pagasitic Gulf on the horizon. Although a local prickly bush (called punari) has completely taken over it was almost overwhelming to be able to walk through the actual streets and avenues of the once inhabited settlement.

Kastro Kallithea was not the only site we have the privilege of seeing while here. As students of the field school we were taken on weekly excursions to other locations around Thessaly. This allowed us to compare and contrast Kastro Kallithea with other regional sites and to experience the abundant culture around us.

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Our first excursion was spent in the current city of Farsala, which was built over the ancient city of Pharsalos. The idea of newer settlements being reoccupied is a familiar cultural phenomenon in the area. It is seen on a small scale within a house to the rebuilding of an entire structure such as the wall fortification at the Acropolis of Pharsalos.

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The second excursion day was spent at the archaeological site of Dimini! Here we toured a Neolithic settlement as well as an amazing Tholos Tomb that was constructed during the Mycenaean time. Being able to see something previously learned about in textbooks was eye opening. It was stunning and awe inspiring to stand in something so ancient and sacred.

But the excursions aren’t just learning about ancient civilizations, they’re also about enjoying the local flavours and having fun!

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Kastro Kallithea Field School 2015 Blog nr 5: Kaitlyn Skinner and Morgan Kostiuk’s blog

In this field school we are learning how the post-excavation process of a site unfolds. When artefacts are discovered during a dig, they are put in bags with find numbers to reference back to later, and it is our job to analyze those finds to make sense of what was going on during antiquity at Kallithea.

We are learning how to interpret the small pieces that make up the big picture and how to put that into context. For example, one fragment of pottery can help us deduce what type of vessel it came from, and then we might gain some insight into what the room it was found in was used for. One minuscule seed has to be floated and picked out of residue with tweezers and a magnifying glass so that we can guess what a diet or environment may have consisted of. Even after careful analysis with hands in the dirt, pottery-covered fingers, permanently crossed eyes after staring into the eyes of faces on coins, we still may never know what was going on for sure. Such is the life of archaeology – that is one thing we know for sure. We always have to assume that there is more information to chase, and more dirt to sort through. All kinds of variables can confuse the data that we have – like animals, natural disaster, roots, and even the excavation process itself.

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Morgan: I am an anthropology major, and archaeology is a huge part of that. Now that I have seen the finds, I’m motivated to pursue archaeology further and experience where the finds actually come from, before they get put in a bag. If I wasn’t interested in faunal remains before, I am now – because I got to dissect a whole sheep head here.

 

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Kaitlyn: I am a history major, and had next to zero archaeology experience before coming here. Learning about everything that goes into a post-excavation process has been so inspiring for me because I see that there are so many more options than to just dig. There is a place here for a little ‘ol history major.

Kaitlyn: I am a history major, and had next to zero archaeology experience before coming here. Learning about everything that goes into a post-excavation process has been so inspiring for me because I see that there are so many more options than to just dig. There is a place here for a little ‘ol history major.

We both feel that we will now have an advantage in any workplace because we have had this amazing hands-on experience. Seeing and experiencing the culture while studying it in an apothiki puts everything into perspective that we’ve learned in university to date. Now, if only we had a time machine to go back and see what exactly was going on in building 10. A big magnifying glass will have to do.

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The Kastro Kallithea Field School Blog no. 4. The Necessity of Documentation Through Photography in an Archaeological Setting. By: Alexandria Garcia and Rashmani Chakrabarty.

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Pictured above is Alexandria Garcia photographing a lamp fragment.

Photography is a key aspect in the documentation process of classical archeological sites and personally, it was one of our favourite modules to learn at the Kastro Kallithea Field School. Archeology is about preserving the past, but unfortunately, it is a destructive practice. Despite our best attempts the handling of excavated artifacts increasingly damages them. Photography allows us to preserve these artifacts digitally, so that we can have an image to refer to when studying them. Furthermore, often artifacts are excavated in certain countries where they cannot be legally removed; this is the case for the Kastro Kallithea site. In these situations, photography becomes essential in the study of artifacts abroad.

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Pictured above is Gino Canlas demonstrating a technique in which to photograph artifacts from an areal viewpoint.

It is not enough to only photograph artifacts, as there are thousands of finds per site. Imagine trying to find one lamp nozzle image in the numerous images taken of each item. In short, a rather difficult and time consuming task. For this reason, we further document every image into two logs. There is a written log, where we summarize the total number of images taken for each profile of an artifact. Additionally, there is a digital log where every image is documented. As a student, we filled out the summarized log, while our instructor was responsible for the upkeep of the digital log. It is crucial to not only document images of artifacts on the camera in question but also ones that have been deleted. This is done to avoid confusion over a jump in the numbers on the camera’s memory card. Therefore, images whether deleted or kept are still accounted for within both the written and digital photo logs.

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Pictured above is Rashmani Chakrabarty using plasticine to arrange the artefact for capturing different profiles.

In addition to the many other methods of preservation, photography is essential in the preservation and studying of artifacts as well as an interesting and informative module. We had a great teacher, Gino Canlas, who taught us to think outside the box when photographing, as you can in the second picture.

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Pictured above is the summarized written photo log.

The Kastro Kallithea Field School Blog No. 3: Uncovering the Clues of Ancient Life, by Aysha Braun and Kassandra Kist

For outsiders, a common view of Classical archaeology is that scholars only study complete and beautiful artefacts and vessels such as the ones that are found in museums. Yet, the miniscule and not necessarily ‘pretty’ artefacts are also essential to understanding past lives. This year at the site of Kastro Kallithea, the team focused on processing of artefacts and ecofacts rather than actual excavation; this meant that the smallest details and clues were processed, recorded and analyzed. An example of this detailed work is the process of soil flotation and sorting which proved that we didn’t need to excavate to get our hands dirty.

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Soil samples are taken during excavation from floor levels and areas such as hearths and pithoi (storage containers) for examination through soil flotation. This allows the recovery of organics and small artefacts such as ceramics and plaster and ecofacts such as bone, shells, seeds and charcoal.

In the soil flotation process we separate the smallest of artefacts and ecofacts in order to obtain better insight into the kinds of organic matter that were associated with the life and lifestyle of the inhabitants of the ancient city of Kastro Kallithea. In this process we used a handmade flotation machine. It consisted of two major basins, in the largest we placed a water source (a hose) and a mesh screen (this we referred to as a reservoir as depicted above).

Our soil sample was initially placed in the reservoir and mixed in with water. The light organic material, such as carbonized seeds and roots became separated and drifted to the surface as a result of the difference in mass and was caught in the mesh screen of the second container. (Depicted below).

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Both flot and residu are left to dry after which they are sorted into the categories ‘faunal remains’, ‘plant remains’, ‘charcoal’, ‘ceramics’ and ‘stone’ using a magnifying glass, bamboo sticks and tweezers.

These clues can help us infer aspects of ancient life. For instance, seeds and bones may be indicative of what people were eating both through species and isotopic analysis. At Kastro Kallithea carbonized seeds recovered from pithoi are sent to a lab in Holland for species analysis, which may help us gain insight into people’s diet and food production. Charcoal can also be recovered in this process and large samples can reveal aspects of the natural environment and perhaps the function of a room. These are just a few examples of what can be learned from recovered items.

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Overall soil flotation is a fun way to get your hands dirty, learn about the site and uncover artefacts in the processing stage.