Archaeologists working in Greece

“My prehistory looks like…”

After three years of excavation, the Palace and Landscape at Palaikastro (PALAP) Project on the Greek island of Crete is now in the middle of an important study season. So while the PALAP team wasn’t out in the trenches for this year’s Day of Archaeology, we were doing something just as important: analyzing, interpreting, and making sense of three years’ worth of archaeological material brought in from the field. From pottery analysis to bioarchaeological study, preserving finds with conservation to cataloguing objects, each and every step of the process is vital in gaining a full understanding of the four-thousand year old site of Palaikastro, and its Minoan inhabitants.

Last year, the Palaikastro team celebrated Day of Archaeology by sharing why we “archaeology.” This year we thought we would look a little more specifically at how some of us archaeology; we want to give a full picture of what a study season means for each of us and the many forms that the study of prehistory can take. There is so much that we can learn from a wide variety of sources. “My prehistory looks like…” is our way of showcasing these sources and sharing some of our study season experiences. Each PALAP team member is interested in a specific aspect of the archaeological process, and each aspect assists in assembling a comprehensive picture of the Minoan past. Check out how PALAP explores these ancient remains, and join us in celebrating prehistoric archaeology!

Day of Arch - Patricia and Angela

Patricia Tabascio and Angela Baer help to strew and study thousands of pottery sherds, looking for joins, and recording the details of each deposit.

Day of Arch - Paula

By analyzing the stratigraphy of Palaikastro through the pottery, Paula Gheorghiade makes sense of the complex layers and multiple time periods of the site.

Day of Arch - Efi and Sevastos

Day of Arch - Vasiliki

Day of Arch - Jack

Efi Anaplioti, Sevastos Giannikidis, Vasiliki Anevlavi and Jack Fuller ensure that archaeological material is preserved for the future by conserving hundreds of artifacts and ceramic vessels.

Day of Arch - Christos

Once the objects have been studied and conserved, Christos Tsoumplekas meticulously draws them to scale so that a visual record is also maintained.

Day of Arch - Rachel D

Rachel Dewan helps to research and catalogue many of the objects that will be included in the final publication of the site.

Day of Arch - Christine

In order to understand the spatial features of the site and its wider context, Christine Spencer uses GIS to map the architecture and finds.

Day of Arch - Alex

Dr. Alexandra Livarda directs PALAP’s environmental studies, investigating Palaikastro’s archaeobotanical remains.

Day of Arch - Rena

Rena Veropoulidou studies thousands of shells found during excavation in order to learn more about Palaikastro’s environment and the diets of its ancient inhabitants.

Day of Arch - Rachel K

Rachel Kulick’s geomorphological analysis investigates Palaikastro’s landscape through the science of soil analysis.

And these are only some of the members of the PALAP team! It takes countless hours of work by dozens of dedicated people to make sense of it all, but when the puzzle pieces fit together (or the pottery sherds!), that’s when the real archaeological magic happens…

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and our blog, and tell us what your prehistory looks like!

Excavating the Athenian Agora: Then and Now

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens has been continuously excavating the Ancient Athenian Agora since 1931.

The Agora of Athens was the center of the ancient city: a large, open square where the citizens could assemble for a wide variety of purposes. On any given day the space might be used as a market, or for an election, a dramatic performance, a religious procession, military drill, or athletic competition. Here administrative, political, judicial, commercial, social, cultural, and religious activities all found a place together in the heart of Athens, and the square was surrounded by the public buildings necessary to run the Athenian government.

These buildings, along with monuments and small objects, illustrate the important role it played in all aspects of public life. The council chamber, magistrates’ offices, mint, and archives have all been uncovered, while the lawcourts are represented by the recovery of bronze ballots and a water-clock used to time speeches. The use of the area as a marketplace is indicated by the numerous shops where potters, cobblers, bronzeworkers, and sculptors made and sold their wares.

In 1931 excavations looked like this:



image-5 image-4 image-3


Today in 2016, a few meters away, excavations look like this:

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Read more on the Agora Website.


Excavating the Birthplace of Zeus

Mt. Lykaion has long been known as the the birthplace of Zeus. Today it is the site of a collaborative excavation between the the Arcadian Ephoreia of Antiquities, and the University of Arizona under the auspices of American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA). We interviewed one of the directors of the project, Dr. David Gilman Romano, about his hopes for the excavations. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Mt. Lykaoin looking out into Megalopolis

Romano: “We’re excavating the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion in the Arcadian Mountains. It’s composed of an upper area, which is the altar and the temenos at the southern peak of the mountain, and the lower area which is the athletic complex: hippodrome, stadium, baths, stoa, administrative buildings, seats, and several fountain houses. Mt. Lykaion was known as the birthplace of Zeus in ancient literature; Callimachus and Pausanias give us that information.”

On the left of the sanctuary of the Mistress is Mount Lycaeus. Some Arcadians call it Olympus, and others Sacred Peak. On it, they say, Zeus was reared –Pausanias 8.38.2 English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A.

Dr. David Romano and Dr. Mary Voyatzis look at the project

“This is our second five-year period of excavations. We know a lot more than we did ten years ago when we started excavating.”

Mt. Lykaoin

“We’re interested in learning more about a number of different things we discovered. For instance we have discovered pottery going back to the Neolithic Period in the area of the altar. We’d like to know more about that. It’s very early material. Who was coming here in the Neolithic period? What were they doing? Did they use the mountaintop as an altar or for a different purpose”

There is on Mount Lycaeus a sanctuary of Pan, and a grove of trees around it, with a race-course in front of which is a running-track. Of old they used to hold here the Lycaean games. Here there are also bases of statues, with now no statues on them. On one of the bases an elegiac inscription declares that the statue was a portrait of Astyanax, and that Astyanax was of the race of Arceas. –Pausanias 8.38.5 English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A.

A Greek student works on excavations

“Another question [we have] has to do with the cult of Zeus. How old is the cult of Zeus? We have burnt animal femurs from sacrifices that we have Carbon-14 dated to the sixteenth century BC, as well as continuity of cult through to the Hellenistic period. The cult was very likely alive and well in the sixteenth century. So we have wondered— does it go back further than that?”

“We’d like to know more about the Mycenaean shrine that we found on the altar. We found huge quantitites of Mycenaean pottery and we’d like to know more about the Mycenean cult.”

On the highest point of the mountain is a mound of earth, forming an altar of Zeus Lycaeus, and from it most of the Peloponnesus can be seen. Before the altar on the east stand two pillars, on which there were of old gilded eagles. On this altar they sacrifice in secret to Lycaean Zeus. I was reluctant to pry into the details of the sacrifice; let them be as they are and were from the beginning. – Pausanias 8.38.7 English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A.

“And another question has to do with when the athletic games were associated with the cult on Mt. Lykaion, because this had to be very old. We have more or less continuous activity in the area of the altar from the fifth millennium BC, and we’d like to know how and when athletics became a part of the religious cult.”