Even Small Places Have Big Stories

Many experiences have come and gone since the beginning of my adventures abroad in 2011. To summarize shortly my work in the summer of 2012:

Hotel Philoxenia: A Theban Paradise
I couldn't help but return to Greece and work as an archaeologist with an incredibly talented group of undergraduate and graduate students from both American and Greek universities. Perhaps the most exciting part, however, was the welcome addition of several weathered Greek archaeologists and excavators to whom I owe the majority of my archaeological Greek language skills. Mostly, ‘e-may vro-mi-kee’ remained a common phrase on the site. With the direct translation as ‘I am dirty’, we thought this was the most descriptive phrase to elaborate the grime which accumulated on our bodies throughout the day. Given the scorching hot Greek sun and the 45 minute drive between us and the relief of any beach, our crew was left to suffer in the oppressive heat of approximately 40-42 Celsius every day.  Only until we arrived home at our hotel Philoxenia, meaning love for foreigners, could we jump in a giant cooled pool, have a cold beer, or sit in our air-conditioned rooms. Woe to us and our hardships. To the untrained eye, the hotel would seem like a luxury. And, well, it was.

Since Thebes is rich with ancient history, many past excavations have taken place. The Mycenaean age was approximately at its height from 1400-1250 BCE; therefore, the passage of time has buried its destroyed palaces and bronze artifacts many meters under the current ground level. Thus, excavations in Thebes have gone deep below the ground and visitors can find little hints of heritage everywhere in the city based on their location 10 meters below. 

Now, there’s one thing everyone must know about archaeology. There is no glory in the behavior portrayed by the likes of Indiana Jones. Archaeology is hard. And hot. And dirty. Each individual layer has to be mapped. Each significant artifact found has to be meticulously pin-pointed in its location. Everything requires analysis and mostly, time. That being said, archaeology is a very rewarding experience. My most awarding experience came from the opportunity to shadow Dr. Vassilis Aravantinos, Emeritus Head of the Ephorate and head of the excavation team on the Kadmeian Hill. This was perhaps the most exciting part of the experience because of the incredible discoveries developing from this excavation. To read more about the latest discoveries, follow this link: http://www.archaiologia.gr/en/blog/2013/07/23/archaeologists-hit-the-heart-of-the-theban-mycenaean-palace-2/.

Greek and American archaeologists
At the end of the summer, I realized something very important. I don’t really like archaeology. Let me re-phrase that. I love archaeology, but I don’t love doing archaeology. I realized that my enjoyment working on the site was the overall appreciation of the heritage itself and the ability to watch the ambitious and dedicated people working at my side and those living in Thebes finally recognizing the value of their heritage. This is why I love history and heritage: there is so much value found in uncovering and making a connection with the past. The thrilling experience when you realize you have revealed something that hasn't seen the light of day in thousands of years. When you find something that unites a population and gives the community value. Thebes is a small, relatively poor city. Shedding light on the value of heritage can help turn around a city and bring it to its past classical glory. And thus, when I received my acceptance letter to study world heritage in Germany, I knew that was exactly the direction I should lead my life next.  My task, my goal, is to help Greek sites like Thebes develop an appreciation and knowledge for their heritage and to use these values to alleviate poverty and develop sustainable tourism.

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