This summer I was able to travel to Greece to participate in the Iklaina Archaeological Project excavation headed by Dr. Michael Cosmopoulos with the University of Missouri-St Louis. We were excavating at the site Iklaina in Pilos which is approximately four hours SW of Athens. This is a relatively new site, only being excavated for the last four years. The site is considered a Mycenaean settlement with Early and Middle Helladic finds. This was my first experience in the field and it was fabulous to apply the techniques that I had spent four years learning. Not only was able to participate in the physical excavation of the site, I was able to assist with washing and sorting pottery and operated the Floatation station where soil sample are processed for smaller artifacts (e.g. pottery sherds, beading, etc.) and also for paleoethnobotanical samples (e.g. pollen, seeds, etc.). However, I was most interested in the identification, sorting and analysis of faunal remains that I was able to complete in the lab under the supervision of Dr Deborah Ruscillo. I also attended classes in which we learned, in greater detail, about the techniques we were using (e.g. drawing, elevation, floatation, ceramic analysis, etc.) from experts in those fields.
I was also fortunate enough to be part of a program that insisted on allowing us to view major archaeological sites located around us on day trips to the Palace of Nestor, Mycenae and Olympia. Apart from this I spent a week in Athens seeing such sites as the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Agora, the Temple of Hephaestus and the New Acropolis Museum. However, it was touring the Acropolis that had the most profound effect on me. To be able to stand at the base of the Acropolis, walk up and stand in awe beneath the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike and Erechtheion moved me in a way that is difficult to explain. We spend years learning about these buildings, seeing their pictures on a daily basis, yet one cannot possibly describe the beauty and emotion that one witnesses standing reverently beside one of these great sites. I found that my appreciation for each and every detail has grown exponentially since then.
Greece is honestly one of the most gorgeous countries in the world. There is so much history, culture and art that surrounds you it can be overwhelming at times. I am glad that I was able to see the great metropolis of Athens and a small country town like Pilos; they are each amazing in their own way, yet completely different in the ways that the people live. It was an experience that I will never forget and I will cherish the memories made not only by the beauty of my surroundings, but also by the amazing people that touched my life while I was there.