This week I work in the afternoon shift so I can take my time, wake up not too early and have a proper breakfast in my #dayofarch – morning.
And, more than anything, I can spend my morning at home working on my PhD thesis, dealing with a place faraway from where I live and work daily: the island of Crete. I study the settlement patterns (expression that we archaeologists use to indicate the way men occupy and exploit a certain area in a certain period) of Crete in Early Byzantine period (4th-9th century AD). Today I am recording in my GIS pieces of information about settlements in Western Crete, taken from some old excavation reports published on a Greek periodical that I scanned last time I was in Athens, in the library of the École Française, last February.
So, the morning has gone. It’s 12.30, I have a quick lunch with fresh vegetables from the nearby street market and then ride my bike to my working place, aka the Archaeological Museum of Turin, where I serve as museum assistant. Actually, my position is not specifically for archaeologists, but all of us assistants hired in the past 5 years are archaeologists. This means that in a “good day”, when enough non-archaeologist assistants are in service, we can devote our working hours to all the “archaeological stuff” the museum needs (planning guided tours on specific themes, inventoring the museum collections, preparing temporary exhibitions, etc). My #dayofarch is -of course!- one of those “good days”. Today I spend some time with our collection of Cypriot antiquities, whose exhibition is under renovation in this period. [If you are wondering why an archaeological museum in Northern Italy holds a collection of Cypriot antiquities, the answer is here.] By now, the exhibition has been disassembled, we are planning a new set-up, and this is the right moment to have a closer look at the objects and create a database of the collection, since it didn’t exist until now (apart from the hard copy records in the general museum inventory). This is my job today: describing, measuring, searching for bibliographical references for a group of small limestone archaic (and really fascinating, I have to say!) sculptures of worshipers and deities from ancient Cyprus (another Mediterranean island in my #dayofarch).
Later in the afternoon, I am in one of the very last rooms of our museum when a couple of visitors arrive. They look very tired (indeed, the Archaeological Museum is now part of the huge Polo Reale di Torino and we are the fourth and last museum of a group of four), the temperature inside and outside the museum is very high. They approach me smiling and saying that they never liked statues and asking me to point them to a single interesting object to be seen in the room.
I look around. We are in the room hosting the museum collection of ancient Greek and Roman statues and reliefs, gathered by the Savoia Royal family since the 16th century. I hesitate, then I decide to tell them the story of the Kairos. It’s a relief on a marble slab, once part of a sarcophagus, depicting Kairos, the ancient Greek concept of the “right moment”: a boy holding an eternally unbalanced scale, with wings on his back and at his feet, ready to fly away as only the perfect moment can do. This relief is so important because it’s one of the few preserved examples of a model that is only known from literary sources and that had been chosen for statues from famous ancient sculptors such as Lysippus and Polycletus.
I don’t know if my tired visitors are so keen on ancient art to appreciate this point, but I believe they liked such a modern concept as the “kairos” actually is. If they really left the museum satisfied as they seemed to me, and even changed their mind about “boring statues”, I can in turn be satisfied for my #dayofarch… because working on my thesis GIS and on the museum Cypriot database is of course important, but I really believe that our main target as archaeologists is to communicate a bit of that ‘importance’ to our public, and give them the tools to feel that those stone and clay objects in a museum showcase are, first of all, pieces from their past and can be part of their daily life.