August 2009


One final note: I have really appreciated your comments, both here as well as on facebook. So keep those cards and letter coming in!

More later…

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As I write this it is now 10:15 in the evening, and I am ensconced in a room at the Hotel Erika in Alexandroupolis. After a hectic morning of writing up my field notes and packing, we managed to get on the 1 pm ferry back to the mainland. I am traveling this time with Michael, Susan, and Yong. In the morning, all 3 of them will take an early bird flight to Athens. From there, Michael and Susan will fly back to Atlanta, while Yong will fly back to NYC. I, on the other hand, will fly from Athens mid-morning, then catch an evening flight to Frankfurt (to which I had flown from ATL on July 9). Then on Saturday I will fly home. I’ve been gone a good long time and have a definite hankering for sweet tea and Chick Fil’A.

I thought I would write a bit more today about life at the excavation. It is just a couple of steps up from camping, with running water, electricity, and real beds. To say that living in the Xenia Hostel is like being at Montreat with an ocean and no rain might resonate with some of my Presbyterian friends (Montreat being the Presbyterian equivalent of Mecca). Here is a partial view of the Xenia; even the stone construction reminds me of Montreat.

Hostel Xenia, Paleopolis, Samothrace

Hostel Xenia, Paleopolis, Samothrace

We have the mountain views as at Montreat:

View from east side of front verandah, Hostel Xenia

View from east side of front verandah, Hostel Xenia

But then there is the Aegean Sea at our front door:

View from front verandah, Hostel Xenia

View from front verandah, Hostel Xenia

Here is a picture of my room, which I am fortunate to have to myself. I also have a half bath.

My room at the Hostel Xenia

My room at the Hostel Xenia

This is certainly modest, with no place to store clothes save the second bed or my suitcase. Nevertheless, it is sufficient.

Although in years past there have been caretakers who have cooked our meals, this year we have been sharing in the cooking of all breakfast and lunch, and most dinners. And for those who do not cook, there is always meal set-up and dish-washing. Here is a picture of Abi working in the kitchen.

Kitchen of the Hostel Xenia

Kitchen of the Hostel Xenia

One thing that I will miss the most has been dining al fresco. I have not eaten a meal inside in 2 weeks. Here is our table set for breakfast on our back porch:

Dining al fresco at Hostel Xenia

Dining al fresco at Hostel Xenia

One thing I won’t miss, however, is having to watch carefully as I make the twice daily trek between the hostel and the museum so as to not step in the goat droppings. I was going to take a picture of that last night, but I had no more battery power. I’ll bet you’re glad of that.

PS: Update on the battery situation. As I was packing up this morning, I discovered TWELVE (12) more dead batteries to add to the recycling bag.

I will write again next week when I return to the States. Until then…

The last two days I have been out in the Sanctuary all day taking gigapans. There is a lot to cover, and so I had to get out early both mornings. Yesterday was also my last full day on the island, so there was a lot of anxiety about finishing everything that must be done on site. Thus I skipped posting yesterday.

Yesterday I got into the Sanctuary at around 8 am. There were a lot of clouds in the sky, the sun was still relatively low on the horizon, and a LOT of wind. But I needed to use up every hour of daylight that I could muster.

I first took a shot to repeat one that I had taken the day before. Because the gigapan uses a projection (like if you had to map the surface of an orange to a piece of paper), I had cut off a corner of the foundation that I was trying to capture, but I did not know it until I was back in the afternoon and stitched the pictures together. Hence the retake. Fortunately I was able to get all of the visible corners in this shot, although I don’t particularly care for the light. I’ll give you a link to both shots sometime in the next couple of weeks when I am back home and can upload more quickly.

I then took two gigapans of an interesting structure called the Milesian Dedication. I wanted to get another shot from another point of view, but some of the Sanctuary custodians showed up to “clean up” the site. This clean up is necessary so that Matthew and Jake can shoot the foundation and other stones with their Total Station in order to develop a 3D model of the site. The next 2 pictures give you an idea about the decision making.

Figuring out site clean-up

Figuring out site clean-up

Left to right: Susan, Hugh, Matthew, Bonna, walking along the foundation of the Milesian Dedication.

Clean up conference

Clean up conference

Left to right: Bonna, Matthew, Hugh

In the late morning I headed up the hill on the south side of the sanctuary to catch the right light in order to take pictures at (more or less) high noon of two interesting sites, the southern necropolis and the niche where Nike, the Winged Victory of Samothrace once stood (she’s now in the Louvre, if you have every been there). After I succeeded in getting those shots I headed back to the hostel for lunch. Then it was off for a quick trip into the port town of Kamariotissa (forget the pronunciation, just call it K-town like I do) to purchase yet more batteries as well as some souvenirs. Then back into the Sanctuary for some final shots, one of the dining rooms (which did not turn out) and another one of the Milesian Dedication from another side. In addition I provided technical support to Susan who was taking video of Abi and Hugh, dressed in their bed sheet togas. We filmed them walking down the sacred way, from the Propylon, out of the Hieron, in the Hieron and pouring libations, and a couple of others. They were really good sports about it, and this morning we also filmed them reclining on benches to eat grapes and drink wine. When we get back to the States we will turn these videos over to Kyle, an incoming computer science student, who will use them to create animated figures in our reconstructed model.

I thought you might be interested in what the gigapanners look like. Here is Michael taking a gigapan in the heart of the Sanctuary:

Michael shooting a gigapan across the heart of the Sanctuary, toward Hieron

Michael shooting a gigapan across the heart of the Sanctuary, toward Hieron

Here I am, ready to trek up the eastern hill to get a gigapan of the Southern Necropolis, equipment bag slung over my shoulder, tripod with gigapan under my arm, and my water bottle in hand:

off to gigapan the Southern Necropolis

off to gigapan the Southern Necropolis

I wanted to leave you with one last picture. Yesterday, when I was done with my last picture, I added the dead batteries to the growing pile on my table. Although I had a set of rechargeable batteries, they took forever (like overnight) to recharge in the so=called Quick Charge unit, and they were only good for one large shot. So I was constantly running out to buy alkaline batteries. Here is my pile of dead soldiers:

Batteries! (and other necessary paraphernalia)

Batteries! (and other necessary paraphernalia)

Although I realize that it is a finite, and thus countable, number of batteries, I am too embarrassed to count them. Fortunately there are battery recycling places all over the island, so someone can take them in to K-town and send them away.

You might want to note in the picture some other important tools: my white ball cap, my water bottle (I have used the same 1.5 liter bottle all 2 weeks), my pencil and field notebook, and the pink thing. That is a piece of the self-wicking material which I wear as a head band when it is really hot – it keeps my face cool and dry. Oh, and let’s not forget the battery charger (one that Michael brought with him) plugged into my extension cord, into which is also plugged the power supply for my MacBook.

Well, I am going to post this, finish writing up my field notes, and pack, so that I can board the 1 pm ferry back to Alexandroupolis. More later…

What’s a nice biostatistician like you, Vicki, doing on a remote Greek island anyway? Well, this came about because my friend and colleague Bonna approached me about a statistical question regarding the architecture of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. Since the Sanctuary was the home of a secret cult, and the pain of revealing the secrets was death, we know very little about it. So how can we use the physical evidence to learn more about the Sanctuary, the cult, as well as classical and Hellenistic Greece? In general, Bonna wants to know if there are architectural characteristics about the buildings here that we can ascertain from the measurements of the remaining blocks from which we can make inferences. The particular questions are can we infer the quantum measurement (ie the unit of measurement of distance, such as our modern foot or meter) used in design and construction of these buildings and can we differentiate quanta between buildings (for instance the Hieron and the Dedication of Phillip II and Alexander IV) and/or between building styles (for instance, Ionic vs Doric). From this we might be able to learn more about the architect.

Although both the Romans and the Egyptians had fairly standardized units of measurement, the Greeks did not. More commonly they would have some indicator in the market square for each village that would provide a standard for a foot length, such as seen below:

Relief from Ashmolean museum, Oxford

Relief from Ashmolean museum, Oxford

This is a relief that was found in west Asia minor (modern Turkey) or one of the off-shore islands (modern Greece) in the 1600’s, and now is housed in the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford. Note the foot.

There is a lot of debate about the units used in Greek architecture. Although it is true that Vitruvius wrote about the proportions used, the architects still had to decide that a building had to be so many quanta long by so many quanta wide by so many quanta high.

About 100 years ago, Richard von Mises, a Polish scientist, developed a mathematical probability distribution function for circular data. This was used for determining that the nuclei of atoms were composed of integer numbers of protons and neutrons, determing an atomic weight (hence the term quanta). The von Mises distribution was later used by David Kendall to examine the question of the megalithic yard (another quantum measurement problem) as determined from the diameters of ancients stone circles in Great Britain. I have adapted this method now in order to generalize it to address the question of measurements of blocks from the buildings in the Sanctuary. My student, Margueritte, did some of the preliminary work on this method over the last year, using it for her MS thesis. During my time here I have taken her computer program and adapted it to confirm that we get the same estimates as Kendall for analyzing the British stone circle data. I am happy to report that, indeed, we do agree.

For my work here I am packing two computers (hence the large and heavy backpack). Here I am at work, smiling because the computer program is working:

The two-fisted computer user

The two-fisted computer user

In order to address Bonna’s question directly, however, I need data. Hence I am here mainly to ensure that I get that data. Specifically I need the length (side to side), height (to to bottom), and width (front to back) measurements of each and every block that can be determined. One thing that had surprised me when Margueritte analyzed the data that we had from last summer is that there were very few blocks from the Hieron relative to what I expected – only 40 blocks, and the Hieron is one big building. So last week we were able to start to send some of the students out into the site to measure more blocks. Maggie, who had measured blocks last summer, trained both Abi and Susan, an art history doctoral student from Emory, on the finer points of block measurement. Here is Abi taking a rest (note, it was really hot yesterday, and we had very little breeze)

Abi, taking a rest from block measuring

Abi, taking a rest from block measuring

and here is Susan:

Susan taking block measurements

Susan taking block measurements

Other than that, I have been working on some of the gigapans in order to improve the documentation of the state of the site. Also, the data can be used to address hypotheses about the occurrence of events in space. Alas, those hypotheses will have to wait until I can address the quantum hypotheses.

Well, the beginning of the time for best photography is rapidly approaching, so I am off to lather up with sunscreen, gather up my materials and go off to gigapan.

More later…

Yesterday was very lazy. After an excellent pancake breakfast cooked by Jake (pictured below)

Jake

Jake

Amy, Leah, Maggie, and Sarah packed up to catch the 3 pm ferry back to Alexandroupolis, from where they would catch a flight to Athens that evening. As for the rest of us, well, a few went hiking, Michael went to gigapan along the road up to Chora, and for the remainder, a significant amount of napping occurred. Here is Hugh, indulging in this pasttime:

Hugh napping on Sunday

Hugh napping on Sunday

Afterwards Bonna, Bailey, and I went to Therma to indulge in the hot springs. Photography is prohibited inside the bath house, but here is the outside of the building:

Bath house in Therma

Bath house in Therma

From Therma, a view of the top of Mt. Fengari appears (the craggy peak above the green mountains)

Mt. Fengari making an appearance above the hills at Therma

Mt. Fengari making an appearance above the hills at Therma

The only other major event was dinner at Delphinia, the fish restaurant that is about 2 blocks away.

That’s all for now. Gotta go and gigapan. More later…

Kali mera!

Although it is Saturday, we are working so that we can make as much use of the season as possible. Even the archaeologists who are here for the “full season” only stay from the last week of June through mid-August, about 8 weeks.

Yesterday saw the arrival of Matt and his wife Lydia. Matt recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a PhD in Classics, and Lydia is still a doctoral student there, trying to finish her work over the next year. Matt is working on building a 3D model of the site and a virtual reconstruction.

Tomorrow several of our team will also depart: Maggie, a doctoral student in the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU, Amy, a freshly minted PhD from Emory who has a faculty position at Towson University in Baltimore, Leah, an architecture student from Harvard, and Sarah, a rising sophomore in high school and friend of Abi’s.

To recognize this shift, we held a formal ouzo hour last night on the porch of the Xenia. In years past, Jim McCreadie, the site director, insisted on a formal ouzo hour every night except Saturday. He would dress in coat and tie, and everyone was expected to change from the clothes that they had worn in the site that day to something a little more formal. They would sit around a table with Ouzo and other drinks as well as appetizers. Thirty minutes later they would adjourn to the veranda for dinner.

With Bonna in charge, ouzo hour still occurs, but is much less formal. Certainly everyone changes clothes, but perhaps not to anything more than something clean. Also we don’t sit down on the porch in a circle, rather drink our beer or ouzo or Coca-Cola at a selected spot on the veranda. Nevertheless, last night we wanted to recognize Mr. McCreadie, who has been supplying us with vegetables from his garden  and supporting our activities all summer. Continuing in the tradition of years past we also had a team picture taken. In this case the picture was taken by Bailey, Bonna’s husband.

2009 Samothrace dig team

2009 Samothrace dig team

Amy is in the purple dress in the lower right. Clockwise from her: Kyra, Abi, Sarah, Leah Susan, Hugh, Michael, Roger Stein and Jenny Strauss Clay (visitors for the evening, they are faculty at University of Virginia), Mr. McCredie, Yong, Jake, Bonna, yours truly, Lydia, Matt, and Maggie. In the background is Sylvester, the VW THING (circa 1971) that Mr. McCredie keeps on the island.

Today, Abi and Sarah have been blogging over at iSamothrace.org. Today’s topic is the not-quite-to-the-top of Mt. Fengari. Check it out!

More on Monday…