My day of Archaeology in the Prehistoric Lab of AUTH!

My third time joining the multi-vocal and colorful “Day of Archaeology”! Happy to be here!

My 28th of July is actually dedicated to my personal (opposite to a success) story named: “writing my PhD thesis”. A lot of you might feel sympathetic to my personal nightmare, because you have been there…You start eager to conquer knowledge and end up certain you know less than you thought you knew as an undergraduate student and your confidence in your adequacy as a researcher lost for good!

I am a PhD candidate at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, under the supervision of prof. Kostas Kotsakis. My thesis is about a group of bronze jewellery from an Early Iron Age Cemetery at Stavroupoli near Thessaloniki, Greece. Apart from the obvious archaeological work done for these artifacts (indexing, analyzing, sketching, photographing, interpreting) I wanted also to understand and highlight some technological features. For that, I turned to analytical techniques such as metallography and scanning electron microscopy. What I wanted to share with you is my experience working the thin section of one of this group of artifacts.

Photo 1: A thin section of a bronze fibula from Stavroupoli, in plain polarized light

The nature of the analytical work requires of you to be well equipped with patience, knowledge, meticulous observations and careful identifications. What you see in the photo is the thin section of a small bronze spectacle fibula and you can see the worked deformed grains showing bent twins and strain lines as a result of heavy hot and afterwards cold working. The microscope can work as a “camera obscura”. Beneath the surface of this thin section I can see the love of someone crafting a beautiful item and also the love of another one carrying it for a lifetime and beyond.

Photo 2: a sketch of the fibula from my inventory

 

What I want to underline is that I use analytical techniques, baring the merits of physical sciences for objectivity, regularity and general rules in order to understand or even better to empathize with the person who manufactured the object I am researching or/and also the ones who had been using it. We use specific methods forged within our disciplines, methods to alienate ourselves from the material we are researching and to become neutral observers, only to understand that at the end of the day we have to produce a narrative; we have to reinvent the stories behind the artifacts, so as to get to know the people behind them.

My day of Archaeology at the prehistoric lab of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki!

THe microscope working place at the AUTh prehistoric lab.

The microscope working place at the AUTh prehistoric lab.

It is the second time I am joining the “Day of Archaeology” and I am really content to feel part of this broader archaeological community.

My 29th of July was spent on two different archaeological fields, let’s say…

The first was the preparation of an action to be implemented for European Heritage Days at the end of September 2016 and has to do with the combination of digital social media and mobile phone technology to raise public awareness on antiquities which are hidden under the modern urban development. The action is aiming at re-introducing seven hidden archaeological sites of ancient Thessaloniki (my place of work, research and living) and turn them into places of memory, combining them with people’s everyday life. The action will be implemented through the use of mobile phones and tablets. Seven posters with QR codes will be designed to highlight each one of these places. The placing of posters in various spots of the city will be widely publicized through social media. The audience, using their mobile phones, will be able to connect with a data base and find information, texts and photos of these unknown and forgotten parts of the ancient city. An initial elaboration of this approach has been prepared in my MA thesis on Museology in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, completed this January with Kostas Kotsakis and Kostas Kasvikis as my tutors. The full action is under the umbrella of NEARCH project www.nearch.eu.

On the Day of Archaeology I worked in particular to review the material (mostly photos) to be used at the data base and also went through the evaluation sheet (prepared together with Kostas Kasvikis) for the action. I had also a skype meeting with the graphic designer and architect Kleopatra Alagialoglou, responsible for the lay out of the project, to decide a few technical details and to produce a timeschedule for our workflow.

After finishing with the reviewing and the managing of the action to come, it was time to do some work for my personal “archaeological demon”, my research for my PhD thesis. My thesis is about the bronze jewlery from an Early Iron Age Cemetery at Stavroupoli near Thessaloniki. After having indexed and reviewed the material and selected the samples for analyses I now have in hand the polished sections of my samples. I have to work on the metallographic microscope to define their structure and other technological features. Today I am taking pictures of the samples as can be seen in the photo uploaded.

A draft poster for the action we are planning!

A draft poster for the action we are planning!

Sometimes It is hard to devide your time and energy in different research fields but at the same time it can be really rewarding. My engagement with the public regarding archaeological heritage has provided a different way to think about my basic research and to re-evaluate my scientific and professional ethics. And that is something I wanted also to share with you for my Day of Archaeology!

The Talking Stones! The Day of Archaeology in the Prehistoric Lab of AUTh

A few years ago, at this time of the year, I used to participate on excavations or salvage with the Ephorate of Antiquities around Greece, or systematic field work with Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. For some time, after I started my PhD at AUTh, and after participating in European projects (first Archaeology in Contemporary Europe, now NEARCH (http://www.nearch.eu/), I have left –temporarily I hope-the field. On hot July days I do some research regarding archaeology and public outreach: how archaeology is perceived by people and how it influences their lives, if at all.

Having as a starting point the idea of Kostas Kotsakis to repeat 23 years after the same survey (which was conducted back in 1992) at the Toumba neighborhood of Thessaloniki very close to the AUTh University excavation,we prepared (himself, Kostas Kasvikis, and I) a questionnaire based upon the old one. The starting point for this survey was the relationship between archaeology and the public and more precisely the social role of archaeology and its connection to social reality.

The particular objective of the survey was to determine and understand the ways the community and common people of the neighborhood have towards general ideas such as cultural heritage, history and archaeology. Another goal was to understand how people’s ideas about public archaeology and public history change through time. The survey took place in May 2015 and it was done with the method of personal interviewing using a questionnaire which consists of different type of questions (multiple choice, yes or no choice, free answer etc) targeting at quantitative and qualitative features. We have compiled 107 questionnaires and we are processing them.

On 24 July Kostas Kasvikis (he also takes part in the NEARCH network) came to the lab, and we had a meeting overviewing the questionnaires and discussing the results of the survey. We have started to prepare our common paper for the EAA conference at Glasgow. We have drawn the key points of the paper and decided the major issues to be highlighted.

After that I was left alone with a few things to do on my PhD. My thesis is on the bronze jewelry from an Iron Age cemetery in Stavroupoli, a site northwest of Thessaloniki. At this point I have had official permits to cut samples from the bronze artifacts in order to prepare metallographic specimen for optical and electron microscopy. With these analytical methods I will probably identify alloys and recognize chemical and material properties as well as different technological features. I am now taking photographs of the samples cut from the artifact on the microscope before sending them to the lab to prepare metallographic sections.

In between I have done all the side work research in a lab always brings…from administrative issues, phonecalls, emails to coffee making!!!