Beginning of Week 7

July 30th, 2008
This week has started off really well.  We have excavated most of the
dromos, finding several interesting painted sherds.  They generally
have a cream-colored background with red, yellow, and black geometric
designs.  In the chamber, we excavated over 3 feet in two days.
Everything that we excavated was “fill,” dirt that had fallen into the
chamber when the roof fell in long ago.  In this soil, there has been
no pottery, so we are hoping to find it when we get to the floor of
the chamber.
We are continuing to work longer hours, because we are not allowed to
dig after August 2nd.  That means that everything has to be finished
on the site by Saturday.  Our whole team plans to work very hard to
make that happen.
This week we are saying goodbye to the students from Brock University
and Bryn Mawr College.  We celebrated on Sunday with our annual
“Christmas in July” party.  On this evening, we had a potluck and
everyone brought something to share.  We had sushi, lasagna, salad,
appetizers, drinks, and special desserts!  We also played “Secret
Santa,” when everyone gives one other person a gift.  My secret Santa
gave me a set of Walkie-Talkies, so that I do not have to yell when I
need something on the site.
Last night we had another important dinner, when we thank our workmen
for all their hard work and time.  We went to a restaurant in the
village called Koutsomodi (“Koot-so-MO-dee”).  The workmen brought
their families, and we enjoyed lots of traditional Greek dishes.  We also danced traditional Greek dances around and around the restaurant!

Tomb Update

July 27th, 2008

We have been busy all week, digging for about 9 hours each day.  We
are making good progress, and we are hoping that we will be able
to finish by the end of next week.  Of course, this depends on how
many burials are in the tomb.  Laura is supervising work in the
dromos, and she has already found some pottery sherds. She has
excavated at least 2 meters in 4 days.  Jessica and Katie are
supervising the students and the workmen in the chamber.  They are
removing soil from the collapsed chamber, and have taken out about a
meter and a half so far.  We are beginning to water sieve, so that we will find any tiny seeds, bones, or parts of ancient plants.

Our spirits and energy are generally high, and I will keep updating the blog as often as possible about our finds!

Exciting news!

July 23rd, 2008

The exciting news from Monday is that we found a tomb!  

Although there had been some talk that the pit the students were digging was a tomb, there did not seem to be much chance that it really was.  Then, on Monday, we got a call that Angus had found the entranceway to the tomb!  We all rushed to the site to do our different jobs.  Katie, Laura, and Jessica are supervising all the workman and students as they dig.  I have been working on site, as well, taking the measurements and mapping our progress.
Right now, it seems like the tomb is very large.  The entrance way is probably about 7 meters long, and the chamber appears to be about 5 meters in diameter.  

We are just beginning excavation —  I’ll write often as we keep digging!

Week 5

July 23rd, 2008

This week has been another busy one at Ayia Sotira.  We are still
working in the Museum on pottery, mapping, and data entry.  New
projects began this week, too.  Phil came to help us with our drawings
of the tombs.  He is an archaeologist and an architect.  Also, Mary
and I have been driving and hiking around the area looking for other
Bronze Age sites.  These sites were discovered during the Nemea Valley
Archaeological Project (NVAP), which Jim and Mary worked on in the
1970s and 1980s.  We are using the maps that they created then to try
and find some of these sites again.

Also, 2 students from Bryn Mawr came from Athens.  They had been
working at another museum there for a month, and then came to join us
for 2 weeks.  They have been working part of the time in the Museum,
and part of the time up at the site with the field school students.
The field school students are continuing with their work at the site.
One group has dug to the bottom of its trench, and so is taking
photographs and drawing. The other group continues to dig deeper.

We have been doing many fun things in the afternoons, as well.  On
Wednesday, we drove over to Mycenae and visited Petsas House, an
excavation run by the University of California, Berkeley.  On
Thursday, some of the students from the Petsas House excavation joined
us at the Sophos Hotel for dinner.  Yesterday, we went to another
local winery in Nemea.  There an oenologist (“oy-NOL-o-gist”), someone
who studies wine-making, showed us how the use of different kinds of
oak barrels affects the taste of the wine.  Today, the field school is
visiting Lerna and the city center of Argos.  Tomorrow, we have
arranged a soccer game in the evening.   As you can see, we are all
very busy!

Week 4

July 11th, 2008

It is hard to believe that we have been here about a month! This week the team has been divided into two groups — some of us are working in the Nemea Museum, and others have been up at the site.The Museum group is working on different jobs. Birgit has been drawing the pottery. She very carefully tries to draw the shape, size, and decoration of each pot, so that a person could really understand the pottery, even if he or she could not see it in person. Jessica, who has been trained in studying skeletons, is looking at some of the bones that we found in the previous seasons. Laura, Stella, and Ann-Sophie are working with Jim and Mary on organizing, cataloguing, and studying the finds from previous years. I’ve been finishing up the maps of the site from this season and teaching the students how to use the Total Station.

The field school students are working on site, practicing how to dig. On the final day of excavation we found what looked to be a natural pit, which is full of pottery. Angus thinks that this pit may have been formed by an earthquake. Then, water caused pottery to fall into it. It is still possible that the pit may also have been made by people, and so the students are continuing to dig. The students are working in teams of 3 people at the site in the mornings and then working in the Museum washing pottery in the afternoons. The students are also taking field trips to archaeological sites in the area. Last weekend, they visited the Temple of Nemean Zeus and the citadel at Mycenae. Tomorrow they will go to Tiryns and Epidauros.

The whole group also went on a wine tour yesterday afternoon. Many people grow grapes in this region, especially the St. George grape. We learned how they press the grapes with their feet, how they allow the wine to age in oak barrels, and how they create a distinctive flavor for their wines.




Week 3

July 5th, 2008
This has been a difficult week for us all at the excavation. We began the week with high hopes; the backhoe was coming to dig the test trenches on Monday, and we knew that it would be only a few days before we would see where the tombs were. On Monday, we had finished digging up the western side of the field, and had found no trace of a tomb. On Tuesday, the backhoe returned, and it worked on digging the eastern side of the field. There were some places that looked possible, but we learned by the end of the day that there were no tombs in the eastern field as well.

This is very sad for the team, especially since 7 students from Canada had arrived on Sunday. None of them had ever been on an excavation before, and they are very excited to learn about how to be archaeologists. They still will get to learn all the skills they need, but I know that they were really looking forward to working on digging a Mycenaean chamber tomb.

It is important to remember that even though we did not find tombs in the field, the team has still done something very important. Our digging has shown that there are no tombs there, which makes us think about some important questions: Why are there not tombs in the upper field? How did the Mycenaeans choose places to dig their tombs? These are the kinds of questions that we will be thinking about in the next few weeks.

Week 2

June 28th, 2008
Again it is very hot today – 102 in the shade and much hotter in the sun. The work this week has been difficult, though our Greek workmen have arrived to help out. I have been laying out test trenches on the field, most of them about a foot and a half in width. Some are about 10 meters long (around 30 feet), but the longest so far has been 43 (about 130 feet). Most of them have been dug to test the results of the magnetometer and ground penetrating radar, though all we have found so far are used shotgun shells, wire, bolts, and Byzantine (“BIZ-ant-eene”) pottery. The pottery from this time period in Greece is very easy to spot, since it is usually covered with a shiny yellow, brown, or green glaze. We are disappointed that we have not found tombs yet, even though it is really normal to have a slow start to the season. Last year we were remarkably lucky to find tombs within the first week of test trenching – our first year here, we dug test trenches for several weeks before finding a tomb.

If the technology works, below you will see a map of the field where we are working. You can see where the tombs that we dug before are located (in black) and the grid (in red) that divides up the upper field. Make a guess about which grid square you think will contain a tomb!

Some more students should be arriving in the next few days, just in time for the annual celebration of Canada Day (usually a fancy pancake and egg breakfast, the singing of the Canadian anthem, and some other Canada-themed events). The next few evening will be spent enjoying the finals of the European Cup (a soccer competition). People in Nemea are very excited about the soccer games – they watch them outdoors on big TVs at the local restaurants and cafes.


Week 1

June 22nd, 2008
I am here in Nemea, the sun is shining and the weather is warm. Every day it has been about 100 degrees.

We’ve been out at the site for the last week, working on laying in a grid in the field for the geologist. That means that we divide the area where we work into square that measure 10 meters by 10 meters. In total, we measure out 20 squares, so that means that we have gridded over 2000 square meters! I really enjoy working in our new field because it is covered in wild thyme, wildflowers, and pine trees.

Don, the geologist, has begun working with the magnetometer (“mag-neh-TOM-eter”) and ground penetrating radar. These are both instruments that geologists and archaeologists use to “map” underneath the earth. The magnetometer measures the differences in magnetic pull of anything under the ground, while the ground penetrating radar sends radio waves through the earth. Both of these can be used with computers to see if there is anything interesting or different happening underneath the ground.

Both weekends have been very busy. Last weekend, there was a religious holiday, and we got to see a procession through the streets of Nemea with priests in gold robes, a band from the local high school, children dressed in traditional costumes, and a religious painting. This Monday was a day off for everyone but us.

Yesterday and today the village of Ancient Nemea is celebrating the New Nemean Games. 2,500 years ago, Greeks from all over the country would come to Nemea and participate in athletic games (running, boxing, throwing, and wrestling) in honor of the god, Zeus. This was an athletic contest that was as important as the Olympics (another athletic game that took place in Olympia, Greece). The people of New Nemea have started to hold races in the stadium at Nemea again. Every four years, people from all over the world come and compete in the same stadium that the ancient Greeks also used. Yesterday, we all got to go and watch the races. There were races for men, women, girls, and boys. They were very exciting! All the runners and referees were dressed like ancient Greeks. There were even some people dressed like Greek warriors! The ancient Greeks also had poetry and playwriting contests as parts of their games. So, tonight we will go and hear some Greek poetry at the Sanctuary of Zeus. To learn more about the Sanctuary of Zeus, the stadium, and the Nemean games, you can look at and

Our team now consists of about 8 people. The directors (Angus, Mary, and Jim) are here, as well as the geologist (Don) and several students (Ann-Sophie, Jessica, Chris and me). More people will be arriving in the next few days. The full team does not come until July.



June 18th, 2008

We arrived here in Nemea on Saturday, and are just getting started with the excavation.  The team now only has 8 people,  but more are going to be coming soon.  We have been organizing things in the museum, buying tools and supplies, and working on preparing the field for the geologist. 

I will write more soon about our work with the geologist!


May 8th, 2008

Welcome to the 2008 Ayia Sotira Blog! Keep checking back — starting soon, I’ll be updating the site about the excavation’s progress. For info about last year’s season