In the first few days of any field season, it’s always a little strange to relinquish all our other roles in life—as students, parents, programmers, professors, retirees, geologists, historians, linguists, philosophers—and turn into full-time archaeologists. But so far this year the transition has been remarkably seamless. Things began on the right foot: no delayed flights, no lost luggage, and a peaceful drive from Athens to Arcadia.
Many familiar sights and faces greeted those of us returning to Mount Lykaion: herds of goats in the road, commanding views across the mountains, the village plateia and Kyria Eleni, owner of the little shop there. But some things are different, and they bode well for the season’s success. Our IT manager, Michael Tseng, set up a wireless internet connection on the very first day; the modern setup is a remarkable achievement considering our remote location.
We have a new cook, Sam McBride, a new house manager, Nancy Mueller, and, for the first time, a field operations manager, Tom Keating. Adventures with electricity and plumbing have already made it clear what a tremendous boon it will be to have such capable hands in charge of the project’s nuts and bolts. We’re also here three weeks earlier in the year, since in August, when our season usually ends, the modern Lykaian games will be held at the site. It’s a much more temperate time of year; the mountain slopes are greener, and there are wildflowers everywhere.
Our first day was taken up by unpacking and touring the site, which consists of two separate sanctuaries. The Lower Sanctuary is where the Lykaian games were (and continue to be) held; it contains a hippodrome and stadium, steps, which may have functioned as seats, a stoa of considerable length, a large building which probably was used for administrative purposes, a fountain house, and a bath house. The Upper Sanctuary, 200 m further up and 400 m away, sits at the mountaintop itself.
Mt. Lykaion has two peaks, the taller north peak, and the south peak, which has the ash altar to Zeus and the temenos at the top. At an elevation of more than 4500 feet, we were all probably glad it wasn’t any taller by the time we’d climbed to the top, and the view is still spectacular. From the altar is visible, not only the Lower Sanctuary, but Cretea, the region of Mount Lykaion which, as readers of Callimachus’ Hymn to Zeus know, one tradition claims to be the birthplace of the king of gods. We can also see the white tent that covers the temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, the snow-capped Mount Taygetus, and, on a very clear day, all the way to Kalamata in the south, Zakynthos in the northwest, and the Ionian Sea.
But by now even vistas such as these are becoming familiar; we’re each settling into our respective routines and getting ready for a busy six weeks of archaeology.
The 2009 weblog of the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project is compiled by Maya Gupta, member of the excavation staff at Mt. Lykaion. Maya, returning for her third season with the project, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (C ’08) and a Ph.D. student at Yale University.