Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Goodbye Greece

Buffy, the professor and I are in the Athens Airport one more time drinking cappucino and waiting for a plane. Thanks for following the Odyssey. I will add one more picture here when we get back to Barton Creek Elementary and Buffy joins the bluejays.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ancient Corinth

I am staying in Ancient Corinth. It is a small village, which is only about 1 hour by train from Athens. There is an important archaeological site here and a small village with several restaurants. I thought it might be fun to post some before and after pictures. When I was here before I was amazed at the traffic that went through the plateia (or central square). There were often busses and big vehicles going both ways and even sometimes cars parked along the side. It seemed crazy to me. In the time since I was here last they have closed off the plateia for traffic and now it is only for walking. I really like the way it looks now and it seems to be very good for the restaurants. They are all busy in the evenings and people are walking all around. If you want to see pictures of the original post about the plateia go here: http://jfriesen.edublogs.org/2006/06/27/the-plateia/ We are here because the Professor has some work to do with other specialists. One of the people he is meeting with is Sandra Garvie Lok who is an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta and works with the scientific evaluation of material remains. Here is a picture of her doing some work while waiting for a meeting.

Ancient Greece

We have been in Greece for a few days and I have a few things to show you. Yesterday we went to a new museum. It is called the Acropolis museum. The Acropolis is a hill right in the middle of Athens. The image of Athens below is from Google Earth. You can explore there to see what it looks like. One of the main structures at the top is the Parthenon. This is a very famous building that was originally built by Greeks. The proportions of the structure are amazing. The columns were made specifically so that they could hold up the weight of the ceiling, but not look as massive as they really are. The Parthenon has a long history. When it was built, ancient artists carved beautiful scenes into the big blocks at the top of the building. Over the centuries there were various things that destroyed parts of the Parthenon. For a while it was a church and there was a fire and it was also blown up. Early in the 1800’s a British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (the Turkish Empire was in control of this area at the time) saw how valuable the carved blocks would be. He removed about half of them and brought them back to England and they are now in the British Museum. At the time some people thought he was doing a good thing and others thought that it was like looting, or taking something that did not belong to him. Over the years there has been a lot of controversy about what is now called the Elgin Marbles (or the Parthenon Marbles). Greece believes that the marbles should be returned to their original place, but the British Museum argues that they are taking good care of them and that they were put in the British Museum legally. Now Greece has created this new museum, which is really fantastic in order to display many of the finds and they have created a place in the museum specifically for the Parthenon Marbles. They have on display all of the Marbles that were left and copies in plaster of the ones that are missing. What I liked most about the museum is that when they built it they did archaeology under the museum and they built the museum around the dig. You can walk on glass over the dig and look down to see what they found. Inside the museum we could not take pictures, but there were lots of statues and of course the Marbles. The thing about the statues was that many of them had color left on them and so it was possible to see how they were painted!

cal archaeology shows us about how people built in ancient times. This is a picture of Hephaistos temple, which is one of the few that are in really good condition. You will notice that both ends of the building have a triangle at the top. This is called a pediment. Pediments often have beautiful statues that show scenes with Gods and men. Here is an example from the a model of the Parthenon. The image is from Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:West_Pediment_Parthenon_B-3.jpg

Forgotten Shot

I was going to include this shot in my last blog post and since it was taken at Pompeii I don't want to mix it up with my Greece pictures. This is a friend of ours named James. (Some people know him as Dr. Walters). He is posing just like an ancient person might. He is standing in a tavern. There are a lot of them in Pompeii. I think that we saw more of them than we did mills!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Goodbye Italy

Now I have some sad news for you. Dill has decided to stay in Sperlanga. It is a beautiful beach area with that interesting Villa built into a cave. He must have really liked it.

We can’t go on without a mascot, so I was happy to find this Buffalo. The Professor has named it Buffy. In southern Italy people raise water buffalo for the mozzarella cheese that they can make from their milk. In many places you will find ads for buffalo mozzerella. This picture shows Buffy on an altar. It is a
small one built right into the corner of a street. Besides the big temples where there were priests that did special sacrifices to gods there were also smaller alters like this one that were for more ordinary people to use for smaller sacrifices. We took this picture when we went to visit Pompeii for one last time. The day before this most of the group also visited a place called Herculaneum. It is smaller than Pompeii, but also was effected by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. They are doing lots of preservation work at Herculaneum and there is a lot of really fascinating stuff to see there.

In Pompeii I saw a few more things that I want to share with you before we go on to Greece.
Flour Mills-This is a picture of a flour mill. We saw places that had several really large ones and also smaller ones. People would bring their wheat and pour it into the top. Then a wooden rod would be put into the slot on the side and the top part would grind around the lower part and the wheat would turn to flour. Most of these places also had ovens, so you could tell that people came for their flour and also the baked bread to these places.

More evidence of people-This is a picture of one of the bodies that was found here. They did not actually find the body because it would have burned up, but they found places where people had been and they were able to fill the space in with plaster and then it was like a mold that showed the people. The ones that were left there had died of asphyxiation because they could not breath and then when the ashes fell they were buried right there. You can actually see the skull and teeth of this person.

A Puzzle-I sa
w this piece of a column and wondered why it was slanted. Did people use slanted columns for something. I asked the professor and he figured it out. Can you? It is sort of a geometry problem. If you need a clue click here. Tomorrow I will post the answer.

Today the Professor and I have been traveling from Italy to Greece. We will miss Italy. It really was a great place to visit. I am only on this trip for a few more days. I would really like to write more about what my readers are interested in. Write a comment to let me know what questions you have!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


It seems like so long ago when we visited Naples, but I think it was only three days ago. Naples is not far from Pompeii and so we took a train to get there. It is a crowded city and it has a reputation for being a place where you can get a purse stolen easily, so you have to be careful. Naples is also not known particularly as an archaeological site, so it was very interesting to see what we saw. Rabin Taylor and Joe Alceres took us around Naples. They have been working on a book about archaeological finds in Naples. Joe is an expert in Medieval times and Rabin does Greek and Roman Naples.

When I was young my family had a cabin near a river. We would go there on vacation and sometimes I would explore the area and take walks through the woods. One time I found a discarded stove and some other s
tuff and I was intrigued. Where did these things come from? I imagine that something similar might happen for a child in Naples. You see, the modern city was built on top of the ancient city and so there are layers and layers of different remains. When you walk in the streets in most places Naples looks like a busy city with narrow streets, but UNDER the city there is a lot of really interesting history that archaeologists are just beginning to find. In fact in one place the archaeologists had to buy apartment buildings in order to dig and then they even found things under buildings and so they bought basements and first floors from some buildings! Imagine a kid in Naples going to the basement and wondering about something there. Would you ask questions until you figured out what something was? Here is a question that the archaeologists have not answered yet. They found 5 little rooms underground and there were these structures in each room. They sort of look like couches, but they are slanted. What do you think they are? They had to dig out a lot of fill dirt in order to find these rooms. What happens is that when something is not being used and people want to build something new they cover it over with fill dirt and then build on top of it. Under these buildings they found water channels and areas that they could identify as businesses. They also found a theater! At first there were plans to knock down the modern buildings in this whole area and reveal the whole theater, but they realized that it is important to save evidence from all of the different layers of things that happened in history, so they are trying to work carefully and keep evidence from the different centuries that they find.

Another example is found under
this church. It looks like a big modern cathedral now, but it was built on top of an ancient temple. Some of the columns of the temple were reused in the cathedral. There are actually three different churches that you can access from this one church. When you go into it you are in the main cathedral. Then you come to the earlier church (which I do not have a picture of) and finally you can get to a baptismal area from the fourth century AD. It has a mosiac ceiling with biblical scenes shown. This is a picture of the wedding where Jesus turned the water into wine. Archaeologists have traced back even further and found evidence of this temple from the first century AD. Nearby they also found evidence of this market place. For hundreds of years people have been using the same foundations to construct new things on top of the old, so there are layers upon layers of information. In Naples there are over 600 miles of caves underground that were used for various things. We did not go into these caves, but I left Naples surprised with how much there was to discover. I am guessing that even most Napolean children have no idea of what is under their city!

People are still very religious in Naples. This is an example of a modern niche that we saw just along the street. People have these shrines outside their houses. I think this is one with burning martyrs.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On the Way to Pompeii

We left Rome with a rented bus two days ago and headed for Pompeii. On the way we stopped at Sperlonga. This is an archaeological site where the emperor Tiberius built a beautiful villa. It is built so that next to the house is the dining area that goes right into a cave. In his time there was a room called the Triclinium, which means three couches where people ate. There were three couches and people would lay on their sides while servants brought them food. This Triclinium was actually right next to the fish ponds so that the people could see the fresh fish that they were about to eat. Dr. Robinson who you saw in an earlier post was the expert explaining the site to us. She said that it was very popular for Romans to have villas on the beach and so there were villas all along the coast, but not too many with an amazing cave like this one.

We arrived in Pom
peii and settled in and the next day spent the whole day at the ancient site of Pompeii. Most people know the amazing story of Pompeii, but I will repeat it here. Pompeii is a village at the bottom of Mt. Vesuvius. In 62 AD there was a huge earthquake and then in 79 Mt. Vesuvius erupted. The people were just rebuilding from the earthquake when the erruption occurred. The eruption was so strong and so fast that it covered the village before people could leave or get their belongings. The lava was so hot that it burned up most everything, but in the places that things were (people, wood, household goods, etc…) there were holes that could be filled in with plaster and a mold could be made of what had been destroyed.

This was a HUGE find for archaeologists because there was so much left intact after the earthquake. You can see from this picture that it looks
like a pretty normal street. There is a whole city that you can walk through just like this and many of the houses are intact so that you can tell what a house was like in ancient times. Many wall paintings remained also. John Clark guided us around the site. He has written many books on Pompeii and was able to take us to a few of the locked houses and explain what we were seeing. It was amazing. One story he told us that was interesting is that in one house (the house of Meander) they found bones of people and from the evidence around them you could tell that they had been digging into the ash trying to get to valuable things. You can imagine that people did not have time to get their silver or anything else, so after the volcano had settled down owners and also looters went and dug to find treasure. Anyway, later in this house archaeologists discovered a hoard of silver and so they think that probably the people who owned the house had come back to get the silver and died of asphixiation (they could not get enough oxygen) while digging tunnels.

There was SO much to see in Pompeii. We had to hurry through to see all of the things that Dr
. Clark wanted to show us. There is still so much that we have not looked at and it would be worth going back. One book that Dr. Clark wrote, Roman Life 100 B.C. to A.D. 200 that is really interesting has a CD Rom in it that has a program where you can walk through one of the houses at Pompeii. You can go through the house as a person with different status and see that they were allowed to visit different areas. I highly recommend it!

Next: Naples