Arrival in Greece: June 1-5, 2009

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.

Goats in the road

Goats and sheep welcome our van

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.

Ano Karyes, one of the villages where we live during the field season

Ano Karyes, one of the villages where we live during the field season

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.

Tour of the Lower Sanctuary

Tour of the Lower Sanctuary

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.

Touring the Lower Sanctuary - Photo: Dan Diffendale

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.

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Week 4: July 16-22, 2007

George Davis presenting his geological research in the Dining Palace.
George Davis gives a presentation of the results of his geological survey during the 2007 summer in the Dining Palace. The presentation features a number of new color and computer generated geological maps of the area of the southern peak of Mt. Lykaion that represent the results of three summers’ activity of Dr. Davis at Mt. Lykaion. He has been researching the structural nature of the southern peak of the mountain with specific interest in the location of the geological faults in the area.
Agios Elias festival
Agios Elias festival

We celebrate the Agios Elias festival on Friday July 20 by joining the villagers who have prepared boiled (old) goat for lunch at the Lykaia Fountain on the east slope of Mt. Lykaion. The church of Agios Elias is close to the temenos near the southern peak of the mountain and there is a church service there in the morning before the luncheon. This is a very festive occasion and we enjoy the lunch and the company. Villagers and their relatives come from different parts of Greece to attend this gathering. We are delighted to be invited to this festival and to take part in the festivities.

Work continues and is expanded in the temenos under the supervision of Alexis Belis and Josh Gieske.
Work continues in the trenches at the ash altar and temenos as well as the trenches in the lower sanctuary.

Work continues in the area of the ‘xenona’ under the supervision of Christina Gieske and Maya Gupta.

The pottery is washed in the courtyard in front of the Cultural Center of the village under the supervision of Dr. Leslie Hammond and the washed pottery dries in the screens. We are finding a good deal of interesting pottery this year and we are excited by the quality of the material. Several ceramic specialists have come through to visit the excavation and have confirmed that we have been finding a good deal of early pottery in the fill of the ash altar, including early Bronze Age material. This is very interesting for us as it pushes back the date of the earliest material from the altar (as reported by Kourouniotes) from the 8th century B.C. to much earlier.

Pottery washing and drying in the courtyard in front of the Cultural Center, Leslie Hammond in charge (standing far right). Left to right seated, Rachel Moskowitz, Sarah Linn and Diane Amoroso O’Connor.

Yanis Pikoulas of the University of Thessaly and his team of three students are with us over the weekend. They have as their principle mission the identification of a historical site near the Alpheios river.

Saturday morning we have visits from Jack Davis, the new Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and his wife Shari Stocker together with Mary Sturgeon and niece Kelly. On Sunday morning we have a visit from Jim Wright, Mary Dabney and son Niko from Nemea.

Our Sunday excursion (for those interested) is to Olympia (again) where we know that the guards are no longer on strike. This provides us with a chance to visit the Museum and the Archaeological Site. We also have the opportunity for a late lunch and a beach visit on the Ionian Sea.
Yanis Pikoulas and students at the altar

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Week 3: July 9 – 15

45 am packing up the four vans with the equipment for the day.  The trip from Ano Karyes to the lower sanctuary takes about 10 minutes by car and to the upper site takes about 20 minutes.
Typical morning scene at 6:45 am packing up the four vans with the equipment for the day. The trip from Ano Karyes to the lower sanctuary takes about 10 minutes by car and to the upper site takes about 20 minutes.
Our colleague from the Tripolis Ephoreia, Vassilis Papadopoulos, arrives and opens the two trenches that will be supervised by the Greek Archaeological Service, one in the area above the seats in the lower sanctuary and the other in the area of the temenos near the altar. Several workmen from the Greek Archaeological Service are added to the work force.

Workman Thanassis Christeas cleaning the area in front of the “xenon” wall.
Workman Thanassis Christeas cleaning the area in front of the “xenon” wall.
Mark Davison presents an update on his work on the subject of the Archaeological Park proposal. He and Danae Whipp have been gathering data again this summer relating to the use of the area of Mt. Lykaion in the planning of the larger park. We are expecting the visit of our colleague Professor Costas Cassios from the National Polytechnic University who is instrumental in our planning process.

Pam Jordan presenting her Masters thesis work.
Pam Jordan presenting her Masters thesis work.
Pam Jordan gives a presentation on the subject of her Master’s thesis at the University of Pennsylvania considering the possible planning theory of the site of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion.

Reagan Ruedig working on the drawing of the Xenon wall.
Reagan Ruedig working on the drawing of the Xenon wall.

The topographical and Survey work continues under the direction of Andrew Insua.

Mark Davison and Danae Whipp contemplating the landscape.
Mark Davison and Danae Whipp contemplating the landscape.

The long weekend for the students include Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday. Many students take the bus to Nauplion while others go to Athens and some to nearby islands. I stay in Ano Karyes together with a number of others and spend much of Saturday on a shopping expedition to Tripolis.

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Week 2: July 2 – 8

Digital terrain model of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion

We begin this week by laying out the trenches for the excavation that will begin during the next days. During the course of the winter, expropriation of land has been initiated so that we are able to dig trenches in several different aspects of the site this summer.

Christina Gieske and Maya Gupta working in the ‘xenon.’ Anastasia Panagiotopoulou observing.

At the highest part of the site near the southern peak of the mountain, we have planned for one trench to be dug in the ash altar (literally at the summit), two in the temenos, as well as several trenches in the lower sanctuary, one in the “xenon,” two in the neighborhood of the seats or steps, one in the walnut grove and one in the terrace bordering the hippodrome.

We will be using our students and staff as the principal work force for the excavations to be supplemented by several Greek workmen. Since our project is a ‘synergasia’ our collaborators are the representatives of the Greek Archaeological Service from the Tripolis Ephoreia. We have a meeting on Tuesday with the Ephor, Dr. Michaelis Petropoulos and others to make the final arrangements for this collaboration. There will be several trenches opened at the site from the Greek Archaeological Service and a number of representatives from the Service to supervise these trenches.

Dr. Apostolos Sarris and his team continue their remote sensing work around the site and on their last evening in Ano Karyes. Dr. Sarris gives a before dinner presentation in the village plateia on the subject of preliminary results of the remote sensing survey that he and his team of six have undertaken.

Sarah Ward and Emily Graff beginning work in the terrace near the hippodrome. The workman Giannis Markolephas observes.

Field trip outside the Stadium at Olympia
Our architectural team consists of five architectural students under the supervision of Pam Jordan. They include Reagan Ruedig, Bridget Schmelzer, Rebecca Hughes and Margaret Jankowsky. Their task is to continue to create the actual-state drawings of the above ground architecture at the site, this year focusing on finishing the drawing begun last year of the stone seats and beginning work on the east façade of the ‘xenon.’

Work beginning at the altar. Susan Mentzer, Ethne Barnes, Art Rohn, Arvey Bassa and Dan Diffendale.

The topographical survey team is directed by Andrew Insua who is responsible for work to be carried out both at the excavations at the southern peak of the mountain as well as work in the area of the buildings to the south of the hippodrome. He is assisted by Arvey Bassa, Dan Diffendale, Hayden Cadwalader, Diane Amoroso O’Connor, Katherine McBride and Rachel Moskowitz. When not supporting the trenches with topographical points and elevations the topographical team survey blocks at the site for the topographical map.

Alexis Belis and Josh Gieske beginning work in the temenos

Our geological team consists of Dr. George Davis and Randy Goossen who concentrate their survey in and around the southern peak of Mt. Lykaion.

Our trenches begin across the site. Dr. Art Rohn and Dr. Ethne Barnes begin the work at the ash altar of the site. This trench is literally at the southern peak of the mountain at 1382 m. asl and the site of one of the most famous altars of Zeus in the Greek world. The views are absolutely spectacular from this location, but the wind can be fierce even in the summer. Susan Mentzer and Brit Starkovich also work at the altar assisting with the excavation of the trench. Alexis Belis and Josh Gieske begin work in the area of the temenos near the base of the altar, some 20 m. lower in elevation. In the lower sanctuary Christina Gieske together with Maya Gupta begin excavations in the ‘xenon.’ Jared Benton together with Sarah Linn begin work in an area in front of the stone seats. Alissa Stoimenoff and Clivia Zois begin work in the walnut grove in an area below the seats. Sarah Ward and Emily Graff commence work in the area of the terrace adjacent to and to the west of the hippodrome. Dr. Susan Petrakis assists me with the oversight of the trenches in the lower sanctuary.

Museum work is begun with Dr. Mary Voyatzis co-ordinating the activities. Dr. Leslie Hammond serves as the registrar of the finds.

Jared Benton and Sarah Linn beginning work opposite the seats.
Mark Davison and Danae Whipp of the University of Oregon arrive to continue work on certain aspects of the development of the archaeological park that has been proposed by our project to protect a large area of Western Arkadia, Eastern Elis and Northern Messenia that includes numerous ancient cities and sanctuaries.

We have a Sunday excursion to Olympia where we find, unfortunately, that the Greek Archaeological Service Guards are on strike. It is disappointing that we cannot visit the site nor the Museums although we make the best of the situation by touring the sanctuary from the nearby road. Another group takes a Sunday excursion to Tegea and Mistra.
Pam Jordan beginning work on the drawing of the ‘xenon’

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Week 1: June 26 – July 1

Walk to BassaiOur season begins at the Athens International Airport on June 26 where most of our group meets for the drive to Mt. Lykaion. The students have come from all over the USA to assemble for our 2007 campaign. We have picked one of the hottest days of the summer when the temperatures in Athens are reported to be between 43-46 degrees Celsius. One report from the airport was actually 49 degrees C! The vehicles are rented (four vans and one car) and we drive 3.5 hours to Arcadia and to our villages of Ano Karyes and Xastanochoroi, our homes for the next six weeks. The winter population of each of the villages is in the low 20’s and we have 37 students and staff that are about to descend on these mountain communities. In fact within days our numbers will expand to 47 persons. The Patriotic Syllogos of Ano Karyes and its President Christos Koumoundouros has been working hard all year to provide the necessary housing and support systems for our large group and Christos is in the village to welcome us as we arrive. Housing for such a large group in such small communities is a huge challenge and since the success of the entire project depends on this we are greatly indebted to the Syllogos for their support and to the residents of these villages for welcoming us. There are no stores or services available locally so we must bring with us our food and supplies for the first few days and we will have almost daily trips to Megalopolis to replenish our stores. The cook for our meals this year is Tommy Dimaggio from Tucson and supplemented by Mrs. Vasso from Megalopolis.

Our next two days are spent as all day orientation sessions for the entire group that includes tours of the lower and upper sites as well as brief talks by our Directors and Assistant Directors having to do with our architectural, geological, topographical survey, excavation and museum aspects of the project. Procedures are explained and time is spent unpacking the equipment that has been stored over the winter in the Cultural Center of the village of Ano Karyes. We set up the first floor of the Cultural Center, courtesy of the Syllogos of the village, as our laboratory and study area as we have done each summer since 2004. After dinner on one of these first days Christos Koumoundouros presents Mary Voyatzis, George Davis and myself with Honorary Membership in the Association of thr “Lovers of Classical Athletics” which had been bestowed on us at their recent meeting near Athens of the “Literary Olympics Association” in May.

The architectural team, the topographical and survey team and the geological team are able to begin preliminary aspects of their work within the first days. We are joined by our Greek colleague, Anastasia Panagiotopoulou of the 5th Ephoreia in Sparta who is our project collaborator and Co-Director.

During the afternoon of June 28 Dr. Apostolos Sarris and his team of six arrive from the Laboratory of Geophysical – Satellite Remote Sensing & Archaeo-environment, Institute for Mediterranean Studies, Foundation for Research & Technology (F.O.R.T.H.) in Rethymnon, Crete. Dr. Sarris will be carrying out remote sensing; magnetometry, resistivity and ground penetrating radar, in and around the site for the next week or so. We are happy to have the visit of Dr. Anna Karapaniotou and a small group from the Tripolis Ephoreia during the course of this week.

Dr. Mary VoyatzisOur Sunday excursion is a hike to the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassai which is approximately 7 miles distant, a pleasant walk of 2 hours 45 minutes. The site of the Temple of Apollo, now enclosed by a canopy, is clearly visible to the west from the ash altar of Lykaion Zeus. There is time to visit the exhibits at the site both inside and outside. Dr. Mary Voyatzis and I give a brief presentation on the architecture of the temple and the history of the cult and Dr. George Davis speaks about the geology of the region and the specific nature of the blocks of the temple. Following is an excursion by vans to the beach on the Ionian Sea at Kalo Nero.

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Welcome to the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project

Dr. David RomanoWelcome to the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project in Arcadia, Greece running from June 1 – July 13, 2009, led by Dr. David Romano, Senior Researcher in the Mediterranean Section at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. We will have a large team in the field and we look forward to exciting developments this summer. Our website is

David Gilman Romano, Ph.D.

Co-Director and Field Director, Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project

Mediterranean Section

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

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