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)
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.
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.
Posted 15th September 2015 by Chrysanthe 0
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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.
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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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
Posted 30th August 2015 by Chrysanthe 0
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Posted 16th August 2015 by Chrysanthe 0