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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.

Kristen 1

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.

Torri 1

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.

Torri 2

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.

Torri 3

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!

Torri 5

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.

Kaitlyn Morgan 1

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.


Kaitlyn Morgan 2    Kaitlyn Morgan 4   Kaitlyn Morgan 3


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.

Kaitlyn Morgan 5                     Kaitlyn Morgan 6

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

Alex Rashmani 1

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.

Alex Rashmani 4

Pictured above is the summarized written photo log.

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.

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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.

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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.

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