Day of Archaeology 2017: Animated Archaeology

With one year of survey, three years of excavation, and one study season completed in the past few years, this summer has seen the final year of study for the Palace and Landscape at Palaikastro (PALAP) team. From excavation to conservation, we have been hard at work reconstructing the history of our site here on the island of Crete.

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Over three millennia ago, Palaikastro was a thriving Minoan settlement situated on the east coast of the island. The town was rediscovered by archaeologists more than a century ago, but new campaigns have continued to reveal more of this fascinating site, and the five year PALAP excavation project has uncovered several multi-occupation buildings.

For the past two seasons, our study has focused on reconstructing the history of the site through the excavated material.

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In the lab, this has included the careful washing and conserving of objects, the photographing and drawing of selected material, and the organization and cataloguing of all conserved artifacts.

 

Digital tools such as GIS, combined with the study of conserved artifacts and notes from the field, enable us to better understand these objects and contextualize their histories within Minoan life.

Combining artifact analysis with excavation records, digital data allows us to reconstruct a comprehensive picture of ancient life at Palaikastro.

Whether we’re digging in the field, finding pottery joins in the lab, or writing final reports, archaeology is both challenging and immensely rewarding. But no matter what, we always find time for some fun!

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Digging the ROM with the AIA Toronto and Palaikastro team members!

ROM Big WeekendsEvery third Saturday of October, the Archaeological Institute of America and other archaeological organizations in North America and abroad, join in celebrating National Archaeology Day. This year, the event fell on October 17th, and in Toronto, it was celebrated together with the Royal Ontario Museum, as part of the Big Weekend series: Digging the ROM, Amazing Archaeology. What better day for a Palaikastro reunion than on a weekend filled with fun archaeological activities?

Palaikastro team members at FNL ROM with an Indiana Jones impersonator
Palaikastro team members at FNL ROM with an Indiana Jones impersonator

The three-day event started on Friday night, with an archaeologically themed Friday Night Live (FNL) event at the museum, and continued into the weekend with Roman legion re-enactors, excavation stories and Q&A sessions with graduate students and ROM archaeologists.

Bones!

The Toronto AIA Chapter together with a large group of enthusiastic volunteers, among them several Palaikastro team members, set up three tables with fun activities in the Eaton Gallery of Rome, on the ROM’s 3rd level. The archaeological hands-on activities included a table where visitors could learn about bones in the body and participate in an osteological investigation. Here, visitors also had the opportunity of taking apart, and putting back together plastic skeleton models of the human body.

Volunteers at the osteology table
Volunteers at the osteology table

Site interpretation table A second table aimed at teaching the importance of context, site and artefact interpretation, by asking visitors to try and match objects that they thought might belong to a particular site. Participants could choose from three sites, and volunteers were on hand to explain the significance of thinking about these objects contextually, and bring awareness to site preservation and conservation.

Volunteers at the site interpretation table
Volunteers at the site interpretation table
Volunteers at the ceramic conservation and reconstruction table
Volunteers at the ceramic conservation and reconstruction table

Ceramic conservation and reconstruction Our third table consisted of ceramic reconstruction of broken ceramic vessels. Here, kids of all ages, with parents in tow, sifted through a large number of sherds to find the right ones to reconstruct their vessel of choice. From porcelain cups, to fish plates, and hand-made bowls, participants learned about the importance of ceramic conservation and the realities of archaeological recovery, especially when there was only one part missing from completing the piece!

Overall, the weekend was a great success! A big thank you to Meg Morden and Prof. SeungJung Kim who helped organize the event, to the many volunteers for their enthusiasm and to Palaikastro team members for sharing their summer field experiences with curious visitors!

Palaikastro team members and Roman legion re-enactors in the Eaton Gallery at the ROM
Palaikastro team members and Roman legion re-enactors in the Eaton Gallery at the ROM

We look forward to next year!


 

Students share their thoughts on PALAP 2015 (part three)

Early morning view of the PALAP excavation site, July 2015
Early morning view of the PALAP excavation site, July 2015

In this last installment of our three part series, we asked two more students to share with us what it was like to work at Palaikastro over the summer. To read more about our first and second posts, follow the links below.

Part 1 – Q&A – Students share their thoughts on PALAP 2015

Part 2 – Q&A – Students share their thoughts on PALAP 2015


Jack during PALAP 2015

Our fifth student is Jack F. Jack is starting his MA degree at the University of Bristol this year, but he has been with the project since 2013. This is what he has to say about the experience.

What was the most rewarding part of your time at Palaikastro this summer?

After being present at the two prior seasons as well, I think personally it was seeing it out until the end, witnessing the evolution of the project from start to finish. From this I got to see the methodological process, how the site grew, and was able each year to deploy the new skills I had learnt. More so I got to be introduced to so many great people, who I hope will remain lifelong friends.

What was the most challenging part?

While I am not a morning person, the 5:00AM starts only come in second, as the sunrises were spectacular. So I have to say with a bit of cliché cheese, saying goodbye to the site, the project, the town, and the team……. especially as I arrived back in soggy, cold, England.

What will you take away from this experience?

Aside from sofas around the earth I can sleep on, some great memories, and lacklustre Cretan dance skills, I have taken all the positive experiences as a sign that I would like to continue in Minoan archaeology for my foreseeable academic future. If it was not for the project I may be stuck digging in England, the horror.


Paula during PALAP 2015

Our sixth and last student, Paula G., is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto and has been with the project since 2012. This is what she had to say about this year’s season.

1) What was the most rewarding part of your time at Palaikastro this summer?

For me, the most rewarding part was the opportunity to see the progression of the project from the initial proposal, survey and final year of excavation. Because you never know what you will find, and what questions will be answered, it’s a unique opportunity to be a part of this amazing process of discovery.

2) What was the most challenging part?

Waking up at 5 am every morning is always the most difficult part for me every season. However, it has its upsides in that I get to experience some of the most beautiful sunrises driving down to site every day for six weeks.

3) What will you take away from this experience?

New skills, new friends, new adventures. Every year produces new challenges and opportunities, and having the ability to learn from these, get to know and interact with people you’d normally would not have a chance to meet otherwise is an amazing experience. I think it definitely enriched my academic and university experience and it made me aware that there’s so much more to archaeology than what you’d learn in a classroom.


Thank you again to all our students for sharing with us their experience!

Students share their thoughts on the 2015 PALAP season (part two)

Students working during the 2015 PALAP season
Students working during the 2015 PALAP season

In this second, follow-up post to our three part series, we introduce you to two more students who participated in the 2015 PALAP season, who will share their thoughts on how working on Crete for the excavation enriched their academic experience. You can read more about our first post, by clicking here.


Roisin excavating during PALAP 2015

Our third student, Roisin T., became involved in the PALAP project as part of the University of Toronto’s Research Excursion Program (or 399 course) aimed at providing undergraduate students with practical, hands on, outside classroom experience. Roisin was one of five students from the University of Toronto participating in this year’s excavation with the support of this program. This is what Roisin had to say about her summer experience:

1. What was the most rewarding part of working at Palaikastro this summer?

While many aspects of working with the community at PK were extremely rewarding, the experience that stands out the most was the ability to work with and learn from peers and friends in an active and engaging environment. Few places in your university career do you get the chance to not only be part of small and focused learning environment but also one in which practical and exciting skills are learned every day. The willingness of trench leaders and peers to answer questions and explain details was an indispensable gift and truly made this experience rewarding.

2.  What was the most challenging aspect?

Working on an archaeological dig is certainly not easy, it consists of hard work and long hours. I found the most challenging aspect of this dig finding the ability not to get discouraged at how tiring and long the days were. While it was a struggle on both muscles and mind, it was also extremely rewarding to finish and know you had accomplished new goals.

3. What will you take away from this experience?

While there are many things I will take away from this experience, the most important is the joy I found in discovering. Discovering new knowledge, new friends, and of course amazing artifacts. Thanks for having me on the team!


Our fourth student, Vasiliki A., has been with the project since 2012. Together with our conservator, Efi, Vasiliki is in charge of organizing, washing, and conserving ceramics and other materials, but also teaching new students proper apothiki techniques. Here’s what Vasiliki has to say about the 2015 season, from the perspective of a conservation student (who really, really, really loves pottery)!

Vasiliki during PALAP 2015

1. What was the most rewarding part of your time at Palaikastro this summer?

Great cooperation during pottery washing. We managed to wash all the pottery units (zembils) from this season in 6 weeks!

2. What was the most challenging aspect?

Again, the fact that we managed to wash all of the pottery during this last season of PK 2015 (perhaps except for one unit), all the “small finds” and all the lithics. Great job everyone!

3. What will you take away from this experience?

New friends, great experiences, knowledge, archaeology, dirt and beautiful memories.


Thank you to both Vasiliki and Roisin for sharing their thoughts on the 2015 PALAP project. Stay tuned for part three of our Q&A next week!


 

Students share their thoughts on the 2015 PALAP season

PALAP Students Excavating
Some of our students excavating during the 2015 PALAP season

A few weeks before the end of the 2015 PALAP season, we asked all of the students who participated whether they would be willing to share their thoughts on the excavation, what they learned, and how their involvement has enriched their undergraduate or graduate experience.

In this three part blog post, we will introduce you to some of the students that participated this year, and share with you the answers we received to the following questions:

1. What was the most rewarding part of your time at Palaikastro this summer?
2. What was the most challenging part?
3. What will you take away from this experience?

We were curious to hear from returning students about how this season differed from previous excavations or PALAP seasons, and from new students, why they chose to participate in an archaeological excavation. While the answers were varied, it is clear that everyone had a summer to remember, full of new cultural and academic experiences!


Kaitlyn and other members of the PALAP team

The first answer is from a returning PALAP member, Kaitlyn S. Kaitlyn participated in the 2014 season, as part of the University of Toronto’s Research Excursion Program aimed at providing Arts and Science undergraduate students with practical and experiential activity out of the classroom. Kaitlyn returned this year for the full six week season, and this is what she has to say about the experience:

1. What was the most rewarding part of your time at Palaikastro this summer?

The most rewarding part about Palaikastro this year was the ability to build upon the skills I learnt during my first time on site last summer. I really enjoyed that I was able to better engage with the site and the material since it was familiar to me.

2. What was the most challenging part?

I think the most challenging part this year was in the beginning, getting back into the routine with a bigger team.

3. What will you take away from this experience?

This year I am taking away a better appreciation for site, as well as a better understanding of how an archaeological project works. I think that this year was a good learning experience because we had to close the site to prepare for the study season. Unlike last year, I was able to see the project in a final stage, and start to see everything come together from the beginning of the season. In addition to this, I can’t forget about the relationships and awesome experiences from off site adventures; from visits to surrounding archaeological sites to exploring the island and Cretan culture with team members!


Rachel working during the 2015 PALAP season

Our second student, Rachel D., has also excavated at Palaikastro in 2014 for a few weeks, but returned for the full six week season this year. Rachel is currently a PhD student at the University of Toronto and this is what she thought of the 2015 season:

1. What was the most rewarding part of your time at PK this summer?

Introducing others to the joys of archaeology and the world of the Minoans, and watching as they discover the amazing legacy of these ancient people.

2. What was the most challenging part?

Fatigue… After weeks of early-morning wake-ups, long days, and lots of hard work, you definitely start to feel the exhaustion building up. So it’s a physical and mental challenge to stay as well-rested as possible and keep up your endurance.

3. What will you take away from this experience?

New skills in the field, new knowledge of the Minoans, new friendships around the world, and new Greek dance steps!


Thank you Kaitlyn and Rachel for sharing your experiences with us and stay tuned for part two of this blog series!

To dance is to live …

Over the last three years working at Palaikastro, one of our favourite past time activities has been dancing, or rather, learning how to dance, and practicing the local Cretan dances. This skill has come in handy on many occasions during our excavation season, especially during the biggest Greek Orthodox celebration of August 15th, which marks the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Panagia). On this day, the entire village, visitors, and guests gather in the central square (plateia) for food, drink, traditional Cretan music and dance performances. Following the performance, members of the audience have the chance to join in, and indeed are very much encouraged to participate in dancing one (or all!) of the five popular dances: Σιγανός (Siganos), Πεντοζάλης (Pentozalis), Μαλεβιζιώτης (Malaviziotis), Χανιώτης (Chaniotis) and Σούστα (Sousta).

Dance practice, learning the Μαλεβιζιώτης
Dance practice, learning the Μαλεβιζιώτης

Thankfully, we’ve had an incredibly dedicated teacher, Kostis Voutirakis, who taught us every step of the way. As a member of the Palaikastro dance troupe, Kostis has many years of experience and patiently practiced with us every second week for an hour, until we all mastered the steps necessary for each of the five dances.

Dance practice, learning the Σούστα
Dance practice, learning the Σούστα
Dance practice, learning the Σιγανός
Dance practice, learning the Σιγανός

While we all have our favourites (Μαλεβιζιώτης!), we count it as an incredible opportunity to be able to immerse ourselves in the local traditions and culture of the island we’ve come to love through work, good food and of course, dance!

Thank you Kostis and του χρόνου!

The Palaikastro Dance Troupe performing at the Karydi Glendi
The Palaikastro Dance Troupe performing at the Karydi Glendi

To see more of Kostis Voutirakis, including members of the PALAP team dancing the Σιγανός and Πεντοζάλης at the Karydi Glendi, click here and here.

Until next year, PK!

It’s a bittersweet time for the PK15 team… As the month of August comes to a close, so too does the PALAP 2015 dig season. While we are all excited for the luxury of sleeping past 5:30am, it’s hard to say goodbye after such an amazing summer! Six weeks of field work, pottery washing, flotation, conservation, and all-round “archaeology-ing” have come to an end, and as post-excavation work wraps up, PALAP team members head home for a well-deserved rest before the start of the academic year.

The end of this season also marks the last field season of the current PALAP project. The project began back in 2012, with a survey and exploration of the proposed site. Excavations then began in 2013 and carried on for three seasons, revealing a portion of a sprawling Minoan settlement at the base of Petsophas. The transformation from June 2012 to August 2015 is truly an incredible one!

June 2012 (left) - August 2015 (right)
June 2012 (left) – August 2015 (right)
Site - August 2015
The PALAP excavation site on the last day of the 2015 season.

Over those three years, an unbelievable amount of dirt was moved, walls were carefully uncovered, and finds were meticulously catalogued. With three years’ worth of material ready to be analyzed, next summer’s study season will be an opportunity for the team to investigate the finds and further understand this intriguing site. As so often happens in archaeology, the more we search for answers, the more new questions arise and the Minoan people continue to surprise us with the sometimes extraordinary, sometimes mundane, yet always fascinating remains they left behind.

Many thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make PK15 a successful, enjoyable, and fruitful excavation season! Each and every one of our 40+ team members was integral to the project’s success. Special thanks to the village of Palaikastro and its incredible community; the PALAP Project would not be the same without the support of this special place and its people. Ευχαριστώ πολύ!

Until next year, PK!

PK Games 2015

On the heels of the excitement of the PK 5K Fun Run, the PK Games 2015 continued last week as members of the PALAP team took to the pitch, challenging one another to friendly matches of cricket and football.

The cricket game was played by two well-matched and competitive teams, Team Europe and Team North America, each led by two equally competitive captains, John Gait and Carl Knappett, respectively. While the setting sun and the arrival of pizza dinner made for a less than official ending to the game, we think that the score was 50-50, but point allocations were not without debate… In any case, the important thing was that everyone involved, the players and the patriotic fans alike, enjoyed a fun night out on the beach with many North American team members learning about this very British sport. To add to the fun, the game was a great way to celebrate a big birthday on the day. Χρόνια πολλά, Carl!

Team Europe Captain, John Gait, gives pre-game instructions to members of both Team Europe and Team North America
Team Europe Captain, John Gait, gives pre-game instructions to members of both Team Europe and Team North America
Tim Cunningham bowls as birthday boy Carl Knappett hits for Team North America.
Tim Cunningham bowls as birthday boy Carl Knappett hits for Team North America.

On the following Sunday, the PK 5-a-side football tournament ran into a bit of a challenge when the pitch was claimed by the local youth team, but that didn’t stop us! We relocated to the basketball court and played a modified game of footy instead. It may not have been the most conventional venue, but we managed to squeeze in three games for three rotating 5-a-side teams. A special shout-out to the winners of the tournament, the Zembil Devils, who demonstrated their skills on and off the pitch with their creative cheers: “Zembil Devils are the best, they incinerate the rest!”

“The Zembil Devils,” winners of the PK Football Tournament

As the PK Games 2015 come to a close, we hope that this will be the start of a long-lived tradition. The Games allowed us all to come together in a spirit of fun and share in the camaraderie of an archaeological project. Moreover, they helped us to integrate further with the community, and we are particularly grateful for the assistance of Palaikastro locals who helped us with football pitch logistics, joined football and cricket teams, and cheered us on with such enthusiasm (the “bravos!” continued in the trenches for many days after).

Congratulations to all of our PK athletes! Now begins the training for the PK Games 2016…

PK 5K Fun Run

During the week, our team works long hours in and out of the field, digging in the trenches, processing finds, cataloguing objects, and studying and interpreting the materials we excavate. It’s a busy and demanding schedule, so it’s important that we find time to unwind and have some fun together. This year, one way that the PK15 team is doing just that is by participating in the first-ever PK Games! Consisting of a fun run, cricket match, and football/soccer match, the Games are a relaxed way to come together as a team and enjoy the Cretan summer beyond the field.

Last Sunday, August 2, the Games kicked off with the inaugural PK 5K Fun Run! Members of the PALAP team conquered the heat and strong East Crete winds as they took on a 2.5km loop around the Palaikastro dig house. Participants were encouraged to run or walk one or two loops, in a relay team or individually. For some added fun, creative costumes were highly recommended. And creative they were! Where else can you see a cheerleader, Greek gods, a snorkeller, and the Minoan Snake Goddess all in one place? We bet that you’ll be hard-pressed to find another start line as creative as this one.

Congratulations to all Fun Run participants!
Congratulations to all Fun Run participants!

The fun run was an awesome bonding experience for the team and a great way to celebrate the halfway point of the season. Huge thanks and congratulations to all who came out and participated with such great spirit! That includes our many enthusiastic cheerleaders – your support kept us all going!

Check out the photos from the run here, and be sure to stay tuned for more news on the next event of the PK Games 2015.

Day of Archaeology 2015: #Iarchaeologybecause

Last Friday, July 24th, the PALAP Project participated in The Day of Archaeology, a week-long celebration of pottery, post-holes, and the past which unites us all. Check out our blog post on the official Day of Archaeology website to read about how we celebrated with our own ‪#‎Iarchaeologybecause‬ initiative, and explore other ‪#‎dayofarch‬ activities from around the world.

Then join #PK15 in celebrating the day, and tell us why you “archaeology”!

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