Thursday, July 19, 2012

Flotation :)

Over the past six weeks each one of us has partaken in numerous different jobs and tasks to do with the project, whether it be shoveling, sweeping, pick-axing, huddling together to form shade for photo-takers, helping with conservation, data entry, pottery washing, taking flotation samples or bone identification, we have all tried something new. Not only have we all immersed ourselves in various activities, we have also met numerous new people in all areas of expertise that play a part in the findings and excavation of this site. One activity I learned about and was taught how to do this year was flotation. The excavation's paleobotanist Evi came and explained to us the importance of flotation and the collection of light and heavy residue. When doing a flotation sample usually you start with approximately 10 liters of soil that was ultimately taken form an area in the trench that could potentially provide further insight into the living conditions and habits of the people being studied. We poured the soil into the flotation "contraption" and as the soil disintegrates, what you are left with  is the light residue-- which contains the substances in the soil that float to the surface (like charcoal), and the heavy residue-- like small rocks and pebbles as well as heavier pieces of charcoal. From these two residues we are able to look at what types of seeds were being cooked and consumed (from the charcoal) as well as any other material including small faunal remains, like fish and bird, that were otherwise not detected without flotation :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Photographic Evidence III

The last photoblog of the season. When time and place shall serve I'll post some photos from past seasons. For now, here's what we've been up to in our last week.

MM: contortionist

KS - trench Yoga

Mitrou comes to call


G drawing

V making shade

MB and Loc.9

Bones and pots

Flotation samples


Looking northwest to the tower

View from the south

MB and KS lecture on bones

Attentive students


Our bones

Odd bones


NW B2c

SB sweeping

MC cleaning

RBB pleased with something

TVD's gonna getcha


Canadian Ambassador's turtle

JB taking a well deserved dip

MB - chuffed.

KS's delicious thingies.

BEB pontificating at the Ambassador's pad

The Gazi crowd

MM as a dying poet

Antikythera sculpture

Devoured by the sea

Beardy... some things cannot be destroyed.

The mechanism.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Behind the Scenes of EBAP: Conservation

In order for the excavation to be successful, artifacts have to be preserved and analyzed. I had the amazing opportunity to work with our conservator Vicky and learn how to mend ceramics, store significant finds, and remove very tough concretions. One of the main skills of a conservator is to be able to join together broken pottery sherds. Piecing together pottery is one of my favourite activities that I've experienced here, but it can be very difficult. Reconstructing a ceramic vessel is like doing a puzzle without the picture and (in most cases) you're missing the majority of the pieces. After a few days of practice I found a few tricks that made the process easier. The most obvious joins are fresh, which is inevitable during the process of excavation. These are easy to tell apart because the break edges don't have any concretions on them. Shape of the break edge, curvature of the sherd, and area of the vessel (such as a rim or a base) also are ways to tell if sherds join. Any decoration such as painted bands or a motif can show if two sherds are close together or on the same area of a vessel even if they don't join. The main way to tell if sherds will join is to be patient and try fitting them together even if I didn't initially think they would. When two sherds join they "key in" and fit together perfectly so it is obvious when they do. It's very rewarding finding joins, and it is so interesting seeing how the vessel comes together. When I start I have a vague idea of how the shape of the deep bowl or stirrup jar should be but every time I finish a vessel I'm surprised with how the sherds ended up fitting together. Once the joins have been found the next step is to prep pottery sherds to be glued, and to learn how to break down glued joins with a solvent in case of a mistake. The break edges are prepped with a very diluted adhesive. Once they are dry it is time to apply the adhesive and let it set (which usually involves being a human vice). After the sherds are all glued the extra glue is taken off with a small amount of ethanol. It is extremely important to have all of the joins laid out and to start from the rim or the base. If even one piece is "locked out" and cannot fit where it should either the one join or the whole vessel has to be broken down with a solvent, which means I would have to start over again. The tools used to reconstruct pottery range from scalpels to paint brushes.Scalpels are used along with ethanol to take off concretions that could be inhibiting a join from fitting together properly or from absorbing the adhesive. Concretions can also be covering decorations that could help with finding joins. Paint brushed are invaluable as they are used to apply adhesive to joins, clean off surfaces, and prep break edges. Conservation does not only focus on pottery, but all artifacts we discover. Vicky has to be able to identify materials and know how to protect them. There are many aspects of conservation that I would love to learn more about.

Friday, July 13, 2012

End of project musings, by Matt B, age 6

     The end of the season has arrived. As we pack up our tools and our new collection of ancient doodads gets shipped off to its new home in Thebes, the pace of our lives in Dilesi has slowed exponentially. The last few days have been, for many of us, an endless stream of data entry and note copying as we attempt to tackle the mountains of information we have amassed since the beginning of June. Time always moves quickly here, but it was amazing how long I spent sitting in a room full of laptops and fans filling out endless tables without even noticing the days going by. As far as learning work skills, this segment of the project was perhaps one of the most important. These unglamorous and tedious tasks make up a great deal of the work actually performed in archaeology, and I can now say that I have documented over five thousand bones into a (gorgeous) spreadsheet. I would say this is a marketable skill. If I can offer one piece of advice for those attempting to make such a table, I would recommend making backups often, otherwise you might end up seething with anger all through ouzo hour and dinner after Mr Macbook decides to do some whimsical editing/reorganizing of your finished document without provocation. 
     A good portion of our crew is heading home today, and everyone seems eager to return to what I understand is remarkably cool summer weather back home. As much as we've all enjoyed our weeks in Dilesi, the humidity, heat, early mornings, and extremely loud cicadas have begun to take their toll on myself and my hardworking companions and we're all ready for some rest. Some of us are taking advantage of one of the greatest perks of working in Greece and plan to spend some time on the islands before leaving. I, for one, am looking forward to sleeping in in the Cyclades and not awakening with my hand cramped and enflamed from the dreaded affliction we call "shovel arm." This is quite similar to "trowel wrist," but not quite as bad as "karotzi shin." I should mention, however, that the pain of shovel arm was totally worth it, and Nikos and I have developed a really fantastic repertoire of spade tricks. 
   In closing, I would like to thank Brendan, Brian, Steffi, and all of my new friends for a great summer and the best 3 credits I've ever taken. And if you're ever in Boeotia, stop by the Gusto Grill in Dilesi for some fantastic souvlaki. Don't mind the mosquitoes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

To My Beloved SEA2C/Eleon Uncensored

As EBAP rushes frenetically to its final days of the season, I thought only a badly written sonnet (a slightly plagiarized one) could properly express the depth of my feelings towards my beloved trench.

Sonnet 130...And My love for Southeast A2C

My trench’s eyes are nothing like the sun,
Whose fickle rays burn cold in fiery gaze.
But trenches have not eyes, nor breasts of dun;
Which only adds to my 6am malaise.

Her sweet breath doth singe the hairs on my head,
And other hairs, of which I need not speak;
Though her wasps and sand don’t make a fine bed,
Before morning breaks, her embrace I seek.

I pick and scrape, and try my trench to please,
Yet betimes naught but roof-tile does she yield.
                But with mood as soft as ochre skin she sees
Fit to give bounty unasked from her field.

So still I think my love for trench so pure:
 I’ll awake at 5—my trench I’ll miss for sure.

I, not just my literary persona, will indeed miss my trench very much.  The last few days of excavation have been productive ones, and our diminished crew has made a heroic effort to close up all of our loose ends.  Much to our delight, we have had some excellent finds right at the end of the season.  If only I could tell you about them! Instead I’ve decided to post a series of provocative pictures.  Subscribe online for only $5.99 a month (send all orders to and see our raw and wild uncensored dig photos. (Please don’t though. I could get in a lot of trouble).

RBB has something zesty in his hand... But what?

Now he's showing it to BEB... It must be really good.

I love.... something sherd-like.

I wanted to show you everything, but RBB has a machete.
You stay classy Dilesi.
Nikos out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Closing Up Shop

Well it has been an awesome five and a half weeks here at EBAP we're all very tired and hot, hot, hot! We've ended most of our efforts in the trenches this week, save for the few brave souls left in exile at what our Game of Thrones obsessed team has simply dubbed "The Wall." This week the rest of us are experiencing the other aspects of archaeology that don't involve a kazma or karotzi.  There are pottery records to be filled out, sherds to be photographed and data to be entered into the computers, it's not always exciting, but it's an interesting experience and can still be lots of fun.

Data entry takes patience.  It can be very relaxing and cool, unlike other jobs during the day.  It requires you to type up the written reports from each separate locus and lot in each trench. A locus represents a feature of a trench such as a structure or a change in soil consistency (usually it's latter) whereas a lot is simply the order that excavation takes place within the trench.  Each locus and lot have there own pottery sherds that need to be examined, processed and recorded, the finished record is sent to the data entry person who enters it into the computer.  There are many, many, many sheets that need to be entered.  People working data entry also enter other finds from the site, as well as flotation finds and bone records.

Pottery processing is carried out in the back garden of our accommodation and is when each bag of pottery is dumped out, sorted and recorded.  For the past two days I've been working with Emily, sorting pottery from her trench into three separate categories base on the quality of the clay, coarse ware, medium ware, and fine ware.  Coarse ware is usually the easiest to spot, it has lots of intusions, larger grains and is very rough. It is usually used to make large pots or cookware. Medium ware is average quality pottery and usually thicker than fine ware.  Fine ware is usually the nice stuff: smooth, sleek, the iPad of ancient Greek pottery... usually... mostly, it's all really subjective. After the sorting the pieces are weighed and counted, and any paint or diagnostic feature that could reveal the sherd's date is recorded and given to the data entry people to enter. Then the processing of the next bag begins.

The floatation team has been working hard to process the large amount of soil samples (that are ten litres each!) that have been collected from the trenches over the past two weeks.  Recording charcoal and seeds and what-not and giving their sheets to the data entry people to enter.

Now that there are so few digging in the trenches, pottery washing has become less and less time consuming.      Our clothes are covered in a bit of dirt and lots of sweat, rather than lots of dirt and lots of sweat.  Soon we'll be tarping over our work and packing up the books, tools and finds that we've been working with and digging up since the beginning of June.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Top 5: Tools in the Trenches

1. The Handpick 
Ah, the handiest pick of the bunch. Here Morgan models this light-weight miniature pick-axe which provides the common archaeologist with a more controlled, precise swing. This little tool is not just known for its cute looks and sensible size! It can often be seen in smaller, more delicate areas and can be helpful in cleaning and defining features or taking down a course.

2. Tiny Tools
 Gen is showing us (from left to right) Sticky Thingy, Tiny Trowel, and Pokey Thingy. And yes, those are the technical terms. These bad boys are used for the smaller work that the larger tools just can't do. For example picking tiny clumps of dirt off various types of vessels, for a non-scratching removal process. These tiny tools can be an archaeologist's best friends during an in-field "OH MY GOSH LOOK WHAT I FOUND" moment! 

3. The Big-Pick (and a water bottle) 
These professional male models are demonstrating two key aspects of archaeology: Hydration and one of the most important tools if you want to move a lot of dirt. The big-pick (aka 'Kazma') is a high demand item on the EBAP site and is one that can do a lot of damage to large areas of dirt. It's Vangilis's weapon of choice and if wielded correctly (which can take some practice) can be a highly  profitable tool in terms of digging and also as new fun way to get out some anger issues. 

4. The Triangle ( 'Trigonaki')  
As Haley is murderously showing us, the triangle can be a dangerous little tool if left carelessly in a trench. With its sharp edges and pointy ends it is the perfect tool for straightening edges and clearing extra dirt away. All in all it is a favourite tool of many archaeologists! So much so Gen bought some in Greece to bring back to Canada, as they are a hidden treasure in the field of archaeology.

5. Wheelbarrow (' Karotzi')
These babies will haul just about anything as long as you are willing to push! And they come in fun colours! Fill 'em up with dirt and you too can contribute to the giant dirt pile that has become a defining feature of the EBAP site. And though grimacing looks are given to every full wheelbarrow, every EBAPer would agree that muscle and character can be built with these handy tools.

They call me the Boneman

     Along with the ubiquitous pottery and other artifacts uncovered at the Eleon excavation, we also find ancient bone fragments. These remains may represent domestic animals like dogs, sheep and cows or they can originate from local wild fauna such as red deer and brown bear. While these animal remains may not be as beautiful as painted pottery or decorative bronze pieces, they can be valuable in giving us a glimpse into the lives of the ancient inhabitants of a site. They're also pretty neato. Since Kinsey and I are both anthropology majors (rather than Greek and Roman studies) with experience in zooarchaeology, we've been tasked with performing an analysis of the bones that we recover from the site.
     Our first task is to clean the bones. We do this during our customary pottery washing time, carefully scrubbing the sometimes delicate remains and laying them out to dry overnight on mesh screens (I should mention that these screens were hand made by a handful of us during the early days of the project and they are magnificent). After the day's bones have been cleaned, we lay out our previously dried specimens from earlier days for recording. A true faunal analysis makes use of a reference collection of real bones in order to identify assemblages, but we do the best we can with only our field guide of mammal remains and our massive intellects. We sort our bones according to their element (which bone of the body it is) and subsequently identify them either by species or by size class when it is ambiguous. Many fragments that come back form the field have been worn or broken to the point where they are unidentifiable, but some still bear tell-tale landmarks that held us to make a definitive ID. We record the element, portion of bone, and species of each identifiable fragment in a notebook to later be entered into the project's database. Each bag will also be weighed to give a further impression of the actual amount of bone that was recovered from each locus of the site.
So many bones...
     What can this field analysis tell us about Eleon? First, we can tell what types of animals were being consumed for food. This could let us infer the social standing of the individuals at the site by seeing if they eating more valued, prestigious animals like cows, or more common food like sheep. Perhaps we could find that higher class individuals were eating more cow in certain time periods and less in others, suggesting differences in levels of social inequality over time. The presence of other remains, such as those of horses, might imply wealth. The general age of animals at the time of their deaths could tell us things about which animals were being consumed for their meat and which animals were being allowed to grow to maturity and used for products such as milk or wool. The state of an animal's remains could tell us whether they were butchered or if they died of natural causes, whether they were cooked, or if they were scavenged by dogs and other animals after being discarded.
     The task of processing the sheer volume of bone that comes in each day has been a little daunting. Our experience at Uvic was based on each of us individually analyzing an assemblage of approximately 350 bone fragments over several weeks, and that number can easily come out of the trenches every day. We also had access to Uvic's fantastic zooarchaeological reference collection. It's a bit overwhelming, but I'm loving the experience of being one of the first people to examine these bones while we're still in the field. It also feels pretty good to have one of the directors call us over to identify a bone while we're in the trenches. We're getting better at it every day, too. At this point, I bet we could both identify a dirty, broken and chewed on goat tibia from fifty yards... by smell alone.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mr. Vangelis: Trench Superstar

Mr. Vangelis has been with us since the first shovel of newly picked dirt this season (approx. 4 weeks ago) and we have all become very fond of our fatherly Greek, Nescafe- loving workman. I was with him for the first two weeks in the original wall trench where I learned how to pick and shovel and “rest for four minutes” on the especially hot days. This led to a few Greek lessons, a suspicion that Mr. V understands more English then he lets on, and some lasting words of wisdom.

A favourite bonding moment in Gen’s wall trench with Vangelis was hearing a big giggle after I had used the word “Excellent” to describe something. He put down his pick and threw his hands up in the air and yelled, “Εξαιρετική, Εξαιρετική” (officially one of the only Greek words that has stuck with me)! Even now in other trenches, whenever Gen or I find something exciting, even just a pretty piece of pottery, we are given an enthusiastic “Εξαιρετική!” with a big approving smile.

Beginnings of the wall trench

One day in the wall trench Vangelis and his son were working with us digging up some of our rubble boulders. We were shoveling awkwardly on the large rubble stones to get the dirt into the wheelbarrow and I got distracted thinking about the piece of pottery I had just put into the pail. Instead of throwing my next shovel full of dirt into the wheelbarrow I spun a full 180 and threw it at the pottery bucket. Vangelis laughed so hard he had to lean on his pick to stand up and had trouble explaining what had happened to his son because he couldn’t catch his breath from the laughing. I received an understanding pat on the back after he composed himself.

Finally, the most famous Vangelis moment happened after being told that it was break time (and me never remembering the Greek word for break) his response was a sassy “oh, like (insert- Vengili- dance- movement- here) Break-dance”. The next day Gen only had to say “χορεύω” (Dance) and Vengilis perked up and said,“ ah, Break! Break-dance!”  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Photographic Evidence Part II

The internet connection here is spotty, so we try to keep uploads and downloads brief. We should be spending most of our computer time doing data entry, but as this is my day off I thought I'd give you another dose of pictorial blogging. Enjoy!
LT after pot washing

The cistern at Mycenae

Yoghurt & Honey face mask

Also good for burns

Small Pick

Sweet sweet shade

100% sieving

Sheep convoy

Making way for the total station

Shade styles

MC Queen of Snacks




EA explains...

Schimatari museum

Inscriptions at Schimatari

The hats of Eleon

Early days on the wall trench

SB before the rubble.


View south.

Make do and mend.

Graffiti in Athens. Hambone, this one's for you.

SN washing pots in the garden.

Nafplion from our hotel room on a weekend away.

Across the water.

MMacD & SB at the Lion Gate, Mycenae.

NF, MMacD, and SB at Mycenae.

Grave Circle A? B? Z?

HB and a bit of NF.

MB & MMacD in uniform.

MMacD & RPA on the backside of Mycenae.

For serious...

The sun shade at Tiryns that everyone drooled over. 


Tiryns bloody great walls. 

Best gaol in Greece. Nafplion.

Nafplion at sunset. 


NF and a bit of Bellows watching the Greece - Germany game.

SB contemplating masks from Tiryns.

Officiants at the Nemean games. 


Some chap looking stylish.

Officiant taking tokens. 


More racing....

Announcer announcing.

Victor. Looked like a young Borat. 

Cafe table in Nafplion.

NF advertising for Metaxa.

EBAP enjoying the ice cold spring at Stymphalia. 

EBAP wishing we had a similar spring. 

Lake Stymphalos. 

The keyhole structure and fountain house at Stymphalos. 

Taking points at Eleon. 

MMacD picking. 

Too hot for gloves. 


MN - wall master.

TVD advertising for Zaros water. 

EM showing us how to do flotation.

Everyone doing flotation.