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2015 Fellow Dig Blog at Ancient Methone Archaeological Project (Greece)

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

Chrysanthe Pantages is entering her fourth year at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is completing her BA in Classical Civilization.  After participating in the American School of Classical Studies at Athens Summer Session II, she will be returning to Ancient Methone as a conservation intern for her second field season there.  In addition to Classics (with an emphasis on Greek civilization) her research interests lie in archaeology and archaeological objects conservation.

Excavation: Ancient Methone Archaeological Project (Greece)

Directors: Sarah Morris (UCLA), John Papadopoulos (UCLA), Manthos Bessios, Athena Athanassiadou, and Kostas Noulas (Ephorate of Pieria, Ministry of Culture, Greece)

Ancient Methone enjoyed strategic placement on the coast of the Thermaic Gulf from 4000 BCE until its destruction at the hands of Phillip II of Macedon in 354 BCE. Through a combination of geophysical and geomorphological analysis, excavation, and LIDAR survey, the Ancient Methone Archaeological Project aims at both defining the palaeoshoreline of this port city and contextualizing it within the larger Haliakmon Delta.  Field school students will participate in excavation, receive training in geomorphological and geophysical survey, and learn how to identify, categorize, and process archaeological finds.

14 September 2015

        It must be winter in Pieria – after a last gasp of hot weather, September brought cool breezes and constantly threatening rainclouds. Furthermore, the wonderful ladies’ society of Nea Agathoupoli wished us a kalo xeimona – a happy winter – when they insisted we eat the magnificent feast they had concocted to celebrate our collaborative efforts in restoring their train station and working at Ancient Methone.
        Week 6 was the final week at Ancient Methone, so Wednesday marked our final site visit of the season. It was clear excavations were winding down to a close, partially because four of the six trenches had been backfilled already and partially because of the winter storms threatening a downpour every two hours. I unfortunately had to leave Wednesday evening to catch my flight Thursday morning from Thessaloniki. Nevertheless, I am glad I had the opportunity to visit site one last time… at least for 2015. In Pieria, the Neolithic period is well represented, as is the Hellenistic period and later. Something that was driven home during our final visit, though, is that Ancient Methone helps fill the chronological gap left by most of the other sites in this region. By the end of this field season alone, there was represented everything from the Late Classical period back through the Late Helladic. Trench 2 includes the pit that was likely constructed for storage purposes prior to the destruction of Ancient Methone by Phillip II. It cuts through several centuries of the site’s history but is seemingly filled with the remains of a single event, namely the calamity of 354 BC. We take a step back through the Archaic period into some Early Iron Age in Trenches 3 through 6.  Trench 5 features a cluster of burnt pottery fragments, which may explain some inexplicably charred sherds in the middle of otherwise undamaged assemblages I reconstructed.  In addition to a myriad of other exciting elements such as this, Trench 5 also features a wall that tantalizes us before vanishing from our field of vision to the southwest. This wall is just one element of our current excavations that may require expanding our trenches in the next field season. In other wall-related news, Trench 4 too has a wall, but not the one seen spanning its neighbors (3 and 6) to the west. Rather, these two walls are separated by a narrow gap. The latest theory from this trench is that this gap may represent a path between buildings. It is from this “path” that an impressive array of ceramics originate, several examples of which found their way to the conservation table. Finally, the final part of the Mycenaean period is represented both through our own excavations, particularly in Trench 1, and ancient incursions into lower layer, as is the case with Pit 46 in Trench 2.
Shown above are two examples of the protective measures taken to help promote the survival of our trenches until next summer. To the east is the backfilled Trench 4 while to the west is the much deeper Trench 3 with a plastic top. As the plan next year is to continue digging, much of what was visible on this last site visit was preparations for the interim.  Shallower areas that will still be in progress in the 2016 field season were already backfilled, while some of the deeper areas had been covered with timber beams topped by a metal mesh and sealed with plastic.  There will also be protective structures built over notable industrial features like those in Trench 1. 

        In the apotheke, Week 6 meant that it was time to ensure our finds would survive the long winter without us. After helping complete some last-minute projects the trench supervisors kept sneaking to us, Vanessa reconstituted the silica gel so I could then use it tend to the metals.

Preparing metals storage with the dried silica gel. As we are unable to control the climate within the apotheke, we use silica with iron-based indicating dye to maintain desiccated microclimates: when the finds are dry, the gel looks reddish-orange, but as the ambient humidity rises it turns green, indicating that we need to change it out.Each object went in its own bag with its own tag, which were then grouped by type (iron, lead, bronze) and category (treated, needs treatment, needs photography, etc).  We then stored each of these groupings with a packet of silica gel within a larger bag (usually by year), which was then placed within a plastic sealable container.  We also put indicating strips within each container for good measure so the humidity could be easily checked without opening the containers and upsetting these microclimates.  This is all to ensure that our materials will remain stable and ready to be studied upon our return next dig season and in the seasons that will follow.

Posted 15th September 2015 by Chrysanthe 0

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6 September 2015

Mixing the components…
… for making a silica casting of a ceramic mold. This process was rather sticky and oily, so the surface of the ceramic had to be consolidated in much the same way as join edges are consolidated prior to adhering.
Detail of soil from a vessel.  Because it was found with  most fragments in or close to the original place, I had the  chance to perform a micro-excavation. The patterning in the  dirt (coupled with this unusual texture) indicates that it  may have contained organic material.This week was the week of working with new materials, examples of which are above.  As Week 5 is the last complete week for excavating and processing, the pace has definitely quickened.

I finally completed the lead pieces after several more immersions in the EDTA and further mechanical removal of accretions.  The goal was not to reveal the shiny metal – exposed lead is too reactive – but rather clean these pieces enough to leave a relatively stable surface.  I thus concluded these projects with a healthy coating of corrosion inhibitor to protect our hands from the lead and the lead from the environment.

But to continue in a related vein to last week’s post, one of the smaller projects for this week was to determine whether or not some of the materials we had uncovered were amber. In order to do this, we used the Raspail test.  Vanessa ran this experiment, not least because it involved using concentrated sulfuric acid. The first step was something I could help with, though, which was to acquire a control against which we could compare our other results.  So I took a stroll out of the apotheke and up to the top of the pine-bestrewn tumulus that nestles against our dig house to collect some sap.

Control sample.In the Raspail test, applying one drop of sugary solution and one drop of sulfuric acid causes samples with tree resin to turn pinkish red. When we applied the chemicals to the pine resin samples, we could see the resin go from golden yellow and orange to brown to a steadily reddening raspberry. Control sample: success.
A resin-containing sample after applying the chemicals. What we realized, though, is that the Raspail test is not quite so clear with archaeological materials (it is designed for detecting the presence of more modern resin).  So while we tried this same test with samples taken from a small number of artefacts, residues, chips from beads, the results were less vivid.  Nevertheless, we were still able to determine in which cases materials were in fact amber and in which we would need to perform further experimentation.

As our usual conservation work progresses, Ancient Methone (and thus our dig house) continues to host numerous collaborators and visiting experts.  These past couple of weeks we have had the pleasure of welcoming students from the University of Thessaloniki, who came to Ancient Methone to work with the materials here from past excavations.  While we have a team member who is focusing primarily on animal remains, these students are examining human remains.  Skeletons unearthed at Ancient Methone can be in poor condition, potentially because the high levels of calcium carbonate (like the limestone-based bedrock in which the graves are often cut) raise the alkalinity of the soil. This leads to a loss of collagen, making the bones brittle. As I am unaccustomed to working with skeletal material, I have been interrogating the students from Thessaloniki as well as my fellow team members as to the procedure for processing bones.

When dealing with bones, I learned that there can be a sizable stack of documents to fill out, recording such information as:          What bones are extant          The condition of these extant remains          The measurements Then you get into the grittier details: what parts of the humerus remain? The scapula? Are there teeth present? What do the age and sex indicators (like the pelvis and the mastoid process) say about the individual in question? While I do not examine the bones myself, I am enjoying learning about osteology and its ramifications in an archaeological context. Up until now, I have never “met” the people in whose possession once were the numerous, cooking pots, straight pins, coins, and skyphoi that currently reside on the conservation table.  It is helpful, therefore, to be reminded that the grave, grave goods, and the interred remains are interconnected entities.  As it is impossible for one person to analyze all the numerous types of material we uncover, I appreciate this opportunity to reconnect my own work not only past and present field work but also with the individuals whose labor lead to these artefacts being present in the first place.

Posted 6th September 2015 by Chrysanthe 0

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30 August 2015

My projects have become slightly trickier in conservation because I am working with softer materials, namely lead objects and ceramics with applied paint. Even though some mechanical cleaning can be accomplished in both cases, these two media each present their own challenges because of how yielding the surface can be.  Lead is problematic because of its toxicity.  For ceramics, the worry is that the paint will either be dissolved or scraped off. So while the lead objects needed some light swabbing in a damp environment coupled with ongoing chemical treatment, the figurine fragments with applied pigment required dry, mechanical cleaning. We also had our second site visit on Friday, so a brief rundown of what is new in the trenches. I want to go slightly out of order this time, though, because of the projects coming through conservation this week.   The North End

From right to left: Trench 4 (with one of the supervisors in front), Trench 3, and the newest addition, Trench 6.Let us start in the north. We walked down the slope of the hill to the north to visit Trenches 3 and 4 and meet the newest addition to the West Hill, Trench 6. Trench 3 is now shored up, and pushing depths of 2.9 m on the north end.  When I was doing section drawings, the topmost layer of a sizable cluster of finds was visible in this deepest end. These finds have since been removed and ferried to the apotheke.  If it is decided that we need to conserve or reconstruct it, this project will be quite a shift from the small-scale pottery assemblages I have gotten used to (many of which come from next door in Trench 4) and may very well require two pairs of hands.  But it is the features visible in Trench 3 that require clarifying, and thus necessitated the opening of the newest trench. Trench 6 is still just a shallow dip at the moment, slightly wider and a little shorter than its neighbor to the east. The hope is that comparing these three trenches - 6, 3, and 4 - will help elucidate what is being uncovered in each.  Trenches 5 and 1 When we last saw Trench 5, it was in later Archaic levels.  Now, however, it seems to be pushing into the first half of the Archaic period and perhaps as far back as the Early Iron Age. Trench 5 is showing links with earlier levels from Trench 1 in terms of joins across pottery, something I witnessed first hand when a grouping of particularly thin, finely painted sherds came my way. Some were marked “Trench 1 2014”, others were “Surface Finds”, but a few also represented three units from this year’s excavations in Trench 5. Trench 1 is coming down on what could be bedrock in some areas and other areas of redeposited bedrock, which should indicate grave fill. There has been some expansion of the area to the southeast, and sondage in northeast corner abutting the earlier ephoria excavations to clarify some of the surfaces that have arisen there.  
Chemical baths for processing lead. The artefacts are shown sitting in EDTA to remove carbonates, after which they are briefly rinsed in tap water followed by deionized water. It was from much earlier levels of this Trench (though not quite as early as those that join with Trench 5) that I got my first lead objects.  There are two main corrosion products for lead: carbonates, which appear grey or white, and oxides that are more reddish in color. Now, the tricky thing with treating lead is finding the balance between mechanical and chemical cleaning.  Applying too much pressure while removing accretions, even with just a bamboo skewer, can scratch the metal’s surface.  Of course, lead is also toxic. I had to constantly keep damp both the surface on which I was working and the lead itself (with a 1:1 solution of water and ethanol) so that the lead residue stayed on my tools and not in my lungs. The chemical compound EDTA is also used to bathe lead as it helps remove the carbonates.  Keep the lead in the solution for too long, though, and the EDTA will sap out enough material from the lead to create lead oxides.  I am not quite finished with the lead project, so I will return to that and other metals I have been dealing with next week.  For now, onto the ceramics. Trench 2 The pit that has helped define Trench 2 since last season just keeps going. This is especially interesting firstly because it seems to have been filled rather rapidly. Back in the pottery shed and here in conservation, we regularly find joins from levels 60 to 80 cm apart.  What is peculiar is the high levels of bromides present, which would imply that the pit has either high marine content or high organic content. Unfortunately, this combination comes with particularly stubborn corrosion products, a challenge for Vanessa as she steadily reveals the insignias of Amyntas III, father of Phillip II of Macedon, on the bronze coins that keep coming in. For me, this pit presented a new challenge: treating artefacts with applied paint.  
A view of one of the figurine fragments taken through the OptiVISOR. The yellowish "staining" visible on some of the whiter areas may in fact be applied pigment. It is an unfortunately common phenomenon in the field for sherds to appear brightly painted when first unearthed, but then seemingly loose all color by the time they need to be analyzed.  Sometimes this is because the initial deposition dampness makes the color pop.  Other times, though, it is precisely because the sherds get wet that the pigment is lost.  What I am usually dealing with in conservation is glazes and pre-fired pigments. These surfaces can be faded, cracked, or friable, but they are usually fairly sturdy.  The fragments that came in from Pit 46, however, had paint applied after the clay was fired.  Even the negligible amount of water contained in a cotton swab was too much for this delicate surface.  Two of the fragments had gone through pottery washing before being identified. Thus some of the white pigment was already lost, with a little left in the recesses. The third, however, was caught in time.  Therefore I could mechanically remove whatever dirt remained from the underlying layer of paint with a scalpel. To my surprise, this lingering dirt (which did not survive on the other fragments) had prevented an unexpected layer of what could be yellow paint from totally disintegrating. This pit also seems to have disturbed a Mycenaean burial below: when water flotation revealed a tiny but unmistakable scrap of gold foil, we joked that all we had to do was find amber next and we were set… and then what appears to be a fragment of an amber bead showed up in the sieves the very next day.

Posted 30th August 2015 by Chrysanthe 0

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23 August 2015

Pottery projects in progress. Pictured also are some of the materials used in joining sherds: a jar of 5% B72 in Acetone (the consolidant), a tube of 45% B72:B48N (2:1) in Acetone to adhere fragments, water, acetone under a watch glass, bamboo skewers, brushes, the unofficial conservation table flag, etc. In the end, the three major groupings of fragments for this larger vessel did not join directly. There were still enough links across the thirty fragments, though, to give a good sense of the overall appearance.In between ceramic projects like the one pictured above, I had the opportunity to work on a fragmentary piece of blue-glazed faience.  This was my first time taking on a serious conservation project in a material besides pottery.  As such, I appreciated Vanessa Muros explaining to me what I needed to do but still letting me perform each step myself. 
A detail of the faience fragment taken with the Dino-Lite. I have heightened color saturation to highlight the difference between the yellow area on the top right corner and the light greenish-blue glaze. Also visible is the difference between the relatively smooth, shiny surface of the glaze and the granular interior. My first task with the faience as it is with all my conservation projects was to describe the fragment. Documentation is essential, and even a very basic description such as “it has a light greenish-blue glazed surface” (which we guessed resulted from using copper-based colorants, more on that later) or “the interior has a cream-colored, sugary appearance” (a telltale sign that this is faience, which is only heated enough to sinter but not vitrify like true glass) is key to determining what is going on with an object before, during, and after treatment.
Using the Dino-LiteSecond, I had to determine what treatments I was going to apply much in the same way as I do for pottery.  However, faience is much more friable a substance to work with than most of the ceramic types I have yet encountered, so I had to be more careful when cleaning and consolidating this tiny piece. The last step of the process was going to be joining the fragmented pieces together. When we discovered an odd yellow band on the top of the fragment, though we added some post-treatment work as Vanessa decided it would be a good time to introduce two new tools into my conservation repertoire: the Portable X-Ray Florescence (PXRF) machine and the Dino-Lite. The PXRF machine detects elemental composition; we used it to test the blue glaze, the unusual yellow area, and the unglazed interior.  We did this both so I could learn how to analyze elements but also because we wanted to know whether 1) the yellow band was actually a different glaze from the blue and 2) if the blue glaze was colored using bronze scrap material as is sometimes the case.  
Results from the PXRF machine. Here is the expanded overlay of the blue and yellow areas of glaze with the yellow represented by the red line. Note the similarities in composition.
As opposed to analysis of the interior, which displays much higher levels of iron and less copper than the glazed exterior.Both of these theories were ultimately incorrect. We could not have known this, though, until we had the opportunity to analyze the composition. What the PXRF was able to tell us was that the yellow area showed no considerable difference in composition from the blue (notably absent were the peaks of antimony and lead we expected to see associated with a yellow glaze). This means that it is more likely to be the result of peculiar surface degradation rather than an added colorant.  We also determined that the blue color had negligible amounts of tin. This surprised us because of our theory regarding the bronze: we had the copper, but the lack of tin seems to negate this idea.  This was not the first time even just this week that elemental analysis has altered how we interpret an artefact in the two minutes it takes to scan it.   Once I had analyzed the treated faience fragment, I was able to use the Dino-Lite to take photomicrographs of the different areas I was studying. With such a small artefact, the Dino-Lite allowed me capture minute details and illustrate features it would have been impossible to show otherwise.
Another photomicrograph of the faience, this time looking at the cross section and "sugary" interior.

Shortly thereafter, I was informed of an unexpected change of scene when the supervisor from Trench 3 asked if she could commandeer me for a day to do section drawings.  Trench 3 is the trial trench I discussed earlier that parallels Trench 4 on the northern end of the hill.  Last time I had seen it, it was 5 meters long, 1 meter wide, and over 1.8 meters deep north of the wall.  By the time I descended the ladder with my graph paper and measuring tape, this northernmost half was almost 2.5 meters deep and felt even narrower than before.  I still thoroughly enjoyed, though, the opportunity to come back and continue my work from last year as this was the trench in which I first learned how to draw stratigraphy.  Ordinarily, full on section drawings would be completed nearer the end of the season.  However, the clouds rolling over Olympus promised rain, so it was decided to document the visible stratigraphy before the incoming supports and looming thunderstorms damaged it too much.  As a storm ultimately did arrive (and rained out the first night of the Pontic Festival much to my chagrin), I am grateful that I had the opportunity to get thoroughly dirty again while re-contextualizing the finds I am processing in the apotheke with the progress being accomplished on site.

A view of Trench 3 from the south taken on our site tour. A week later, I came to do section drawings, and the trench had dropped close to another meter north of the wall.

As I said earlier, the Pontic Festival was rained out Friday night by that storm that threatened to collapse our trench. Nevertheless, come Saturday, festivities were in full swing and the music did not stop playing until after 4:30am. Unlike Nea Agathoupoli, the inhabitants of Makrygialos originate largely from the region of Pontus on the Black Sea. Thus the Pontic Festival is a huge celebration that draws musicians, dancers, and a small contingent of archaeologists to Makrygialos every year.  To make up for the lost night, it was decided to continue the festival on Sunday evening as well, though on a smaller scale. 

Sunday evening at the festival and the dancing had just started when I decided to turn in for the night.  Posted 23rd August 2015 by Chrysanthe 0

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16 August 2015

This work week started and ended on site. We began first thing Monday morning by blocklifting a small Archaic-era industrial feature from Trench 1.  By the end of the week, Trenches 1 and 2 were only a few centimeters above the highest possible levels for Mycenaean graves.

Wrapping the feature on a plinth of soil. I had performed a mock-blocklift in the field conservation course I took last quarter, but this week marked my first chance to apply this experience on site. We were fortunate because the rest of the trench was already leveled down to where we were going to undercut the pedestal, so we sacrificed very little of the surrounding context removing the object.
Cutting through the now secured pedestal. After analyzing the situation and enlisting the help of the workmen and a student currently excavating in that trench, we began by using plastic wrap to isolate a hollow part of the feature filled with peculiar yellow material. We did this so we could preserve the material for later analysis of its composition.

Part of the goal of performing a block lift is to take out an area so excavation can continue on a large scale in the trench and on a smaller scale in a more controlled environment around the object itself.  This is also why we made sure to wrap, cushion, and wrap again both the feature itself and the pedestal on which it sat.

Transferal to the board... Then we started cutting. We had to separate the pedestal of dirt with as level a cut as possible and without disturbing the feature, so we went at it with trowels, with small saws, with spatulas – anything long and flat that we could use to ease this area of soil from the surrounding context. Whatever dirt was disturbed we saved for sieving.  We finally moved the now liberated pedestal onto a board, attached it to said board with self-adhering bandages for good measure, loaded it into the car, and then drove it back to the apotheke. Success!
... and off to the apotheke!But that was only Monday, and I had pottery waiting for me at the apotheke as soon as I got back. One of the most informative parts of this week’s pottery mending was working on multiple permutations of the same type of vessel.  Because they are all obviously incomplete, each set of fragments offers a distilled version of the forms they represent, a mixture of less distinctive body sherds and readily apparent diagnostic features (an out-turned rim, part of a horizontal handle, and the corner of a carinated profile).  Thus it is rather fun to realize that I am learning to recognize the different pottery types I encounter without constantly needing to refer back to a complete example.  After five days of wondering why there were so many skyphoi and Ionian cups, though, it was exciting to be able to return to the contexts from which they originated.
A view into Trench 1 from after the blocklift. By the end of the week, they had excavated several more centimeters, revealing an Early Iron Age surface on what could be displaced bedrock from a grave below. On Thursday, the last full work day before our long weekend, everyone revisited the field to participate in the site tour and debriefing. For the most part, all five trenches are in Classical and Archaic levels. What is interesting to me (having not seen much of this week’s progress first hand) is how different these contemporary levels can be.  In Trench 5, the farthest south of our project’s current work areas, the first passes are uncovering Classical and Archaic levels and have already unearthed an exciting new find that unfortunately seems to continue straight into the balk.  As noted earlier, the adjacent Trenches 1 and 2 are situated in the Early Iron Age and Archaic period respectively, with industrial structures in both and a pit (Trench 2) that has been under excavation since last season.  In both of these trenches, it seems likely that the features currently visible are either resting atop or intruding into the Mycenaean layer below. These trenches are both deep enough to necessitate using a step stool.  However, they are not as deep as the north end of Trench 3, where the excavators are in levels still contemporary to the other trenches but nearing two meters down and counting. This trench is particularly deep in part because it is narrow, only 1 by 5 meters. However, the depth is also due to the fact that the area north of the wall transecting Trench 3, while rich in pottery, is almost completely lacking in any other features.  Next to this, Trench 4 continues to be filled with pottery, particularly drinking ware, with numerous joins across contexts.  As I have been working primarily with Trench 4 materials this week, I suspect the moment will come when some of my earlier projects return to the conservation table with fresh fragments waiting to be added.

Once the work week was over and the holiday associated with the Dormition of the Theotokos began Friday afternoon, the few of us who stayed behind piled into the car to attend the panegyri in Nea Agathoupoli. I personally cannot wait for Makrigialos’ Pontic Festival and am already catching snatches of kemenche music in the afternoons.  Nevertheless, it was a lovely end our second week, enjoying an evening in the vibrant community that currently occupies the area around Ancient Methone.

One of the dance groups from Nea Agathoupoli. Even though we did not leave until very early Saturday morning, I got the sense that the enjoyment of delectable food,drink, and fast-paced dances would be continuing for several hours yet.

Posted 16th August 2015 by Chrysanthe 0

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9 August 2015

Looking east over the Thermaic Gulf first thing in the morning. It was a bit stormy this week, but on clear evenings, the lights of Thessaloniki are visible across the water.
Set up on the west hill...After six weeks traveling the length and breadth of Greece and a flight from Athens to Thessaloniki that took less time than did waiting at the airport gate, I am back in our home base of Makrigialos. This means I now have the pleasure again of starting off my days by watching sunrises over the Thermaic Gulf. More importantly, though, I am getting readjusted to the site of Ancient Methone for my second field season here.
... with a view to the Aliakmon river delta. One must imagine that in Classical times, this would have been mostly open sea. Even then, though, the powerful rivers that shape this landscape were already silting in the Gulf. It was lovely to return to site, to be reintroduced to the four main trenches from last year and the newest trench we just opened. We also had the opportunity to wander down to edge of the wetlands, approximating the edge of this city’s ancient harbor. Just to briefly contextualize Ancient Methone, if you stand on the west hill, Mount Olympus is to the south while almost due north is Pella. As we were reminded while traversing the west and east hills, this once-coastal city commanded a powerful and lucrative position for several thousand years.  Currently, we are uncovering Classical and Archaic era industrial structures.  In the process, production remains emerge ranging from pottery to worked bone, from glass to gold.  It is exciting to follow this physical evidence back to the apotheke (or dig house). There, under the supervision of our conservator, Vanessa Muros, I am delving into archaeological conservation work. Last summer as a field student I spent most of my time on site, surveying, taking points, and excavating among other activities. Although I was introduced to archaeological conservation during that first session, it was nowhere near to the level of exposure I am currently enjoying.
Testing the hardness and pH of the tap water for pottery washing. I conducted this test while working on a particularly delicate set of sherds to make sure we are not depositing dangerous salts in the clay while washing - all good!The first proper day in the lab was spent reviewing chemicals and walking through the procedure behind processing finds. A quick example: how to process a pot.  After pottery fragments are brought in and lightly washed, they go to be sorted and analyzed. When joins are found, my job begins. I have worked now on nine different pottery assemblages, ranging from two to thirty-two fragments each, and each representing a different ceramic vessel. For someone who loves puzzles, each group of fragments that I take on presents a new challenge and a new set of questions: is this flat area part of a foot or part of a rim? Does that inscription continue or is it an isolated letter? Where on earth is this well-worn sherd supposed to fit? But before I can begin reassembly, I need to do two things: establish context and stabilize the fragments.  I only begin reassembly after much documentation and, in some cases, ensuring that each individual fragment is numbered.  This is because numbering is essential for understanding context.  One piece that came in was in twelve fragments taken from five distinct layers.  What is more, fragments from the same layer of this particular group rarely all joined together.  Because each fragment is numbered, this distribution and thus the deposition context is preserved even after the vessel has been reassembled. I must also apply a consolidant to seal join edges prior to adhering fragments together. By taking this preemptive measure, potential failure of the joins is much less likely to further damage the sherds themselves. It is helpful to be reminded that even in doing something as simple as reassembling a little pot, there are always steps I can take through conservation to help promote the survival of the evidence we are uncovering. As I work, I am constantly reminded that we are helping maintain an active dialogue between what is uncovered on site and what is processed in the apotheke by promoting the continued stability of our finds. Tune in next week for more news from the site, from the dig house, and potentially some Panigyri. In the meantime, check out our new Ancient Methone Project website:

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