Right now we are at the peak prevalence of people associated with the excavation team: the former site director, Mr. McCredie, and his wife, the current site director, Bonna, and her daughter, the glass conservator (Steve Koob), 2 Harvard-associated architects, 2 NYU and 1 Emory students working in the conservation lab, 1 Princeton, 1 NYU, and 1 Emory students working on archaeology, and me. So we posed for a group picture this morning:

Wait, was that a goat herd running by?

A short time after this photo, Steve left to return to his home in Corning, NY, and I will leave tomorrow morning. On the other hand, Steve’s and my places will be taken this weekend by Michael Page, a geographer from Emory, and his wife. Also, Steve will return in 2 weeks. After that people start to trickle out around July 20, although 2 more Emory students also arrive then. The excavation officially closes on August 6.

More later!

As I have written before, one of our tasks this summer is to work on the precinct where Champoiseau discovered the Nike statue. Several of the archaeologists have gone out to the site each morning to clean it, cutting down some of the weeds and troweling a little bit around some of the edges to increase their definition in order to prepare for some photography. In particular a gigapan of the precinct. Now I had taken two gigapans of the precinct two years ago, one from the front and another from above it along its eastern wall.  You might notice from the frontal view that you can’t really see the floor of the interior due to the two massive boulders. This very short photographer is unable to get the gigapan up high enough to really get a good view inside.

So one goal this year was to provide a way for me to get up high enough to take the necessary photographs, shooting a bit over top of the boulders. Our ultimate decision was to put the tripod on a table top, then I could mount a ladder to set the process into motion. So yesterday morning we did just that. I mounted the gigapan on the tripod, then the camera on the gigapan. Then I put the tripod on top of a table, and climbed up a rickety ladder, and made the necessary camera settings and robot settings, and let it go. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see the settings I was making as well as I could if I were working on terra firma, so to speak. I ended up with a massive failure. I aimed the upper row to be too far up so eventually the camera twisted on the screw holding it to the robot, and fell back away from the button pusher mechanism.

Here is a picture of the table-tripod-gigapan-camera assembly:

So today we will try, try, again, this time with a sturdier ladder. But here is the bright side – I lugged the gigapan all the way here, I ought to at least have taken some shots with it. And, I had an interesting conversation on my way up to the site yesterday, with a professional photographer from Turkey, who was curious to know what the gadgetry was all about. Of course he did not speak good English, and I speak no Turkish, so we ended up having the conversation in Spanish.

Today is my last full working day here – I leave on the seven o’clock ferry tomorrow morning. I have so much left to do here today. So I had best get with the program. I will try to post something tomorrow once I get to my hotel in Athens. There is no wifi on the ferry, and, as I recall from the afternoon I spent there a few years ago, waiting for my lost bag to show up, the airport in Alexandroupolis has no internet. And I will have hours to kill between my ferry arrival at 9:30 am and my flight at 2:30 pm.

More later!

Over the weekend, local fishermen found an amphora while out on their boat. They brought to the museum:

It is so well preserved, at least as the physical object goes. I wonder what is underneath all of the sea slime.

And in other breaking news, over the weekend a retaining wall in the sanctuary gave way. So the archaeology team is busy looking at what has been revealed. The wall is near the Neorion, what is more commonly called the Ship Monument, pictured in this gigapan. The wall that gave way is in the foreground on the left hand side. What will we find?

In the meantime, I continue my search for ancient quanta.

Tune in tomorrow!

I have a lot of gear with me. Approximately 100 pounds of gear. I would guess that only 20 pounds or less of that is clothes and toiletries. The rest is all manner of computers, associated drives and cables, cameras (I am packing 4 of them), the Gigapan. And then there are the plugs, adapters, and batteries, lots and lots of batteries. Here is a picture of my work station.

iPad, MacBookAir, iPhone, plugs, cables, adapters, thumb drives galore.

Alas, yesterday the Great God of Technology  was vacillating in the favors shown to me.

The Good: About a month ago I ran across 123D Catch, a product of AutoDesk that has an iPad app. The app supposedly allows you to take pictures with the iPad of a person, place, or thing, then it stitches them together to produce a 3d model that you can rotate in space. It was free, so I thought, why not?

Yesterday, during the Ugly, I tried it out. I decided to see if I could reconstruct this object:

This is an architectural fragment from one of the buildings here.

So I took a bunch of pictures of this object and let 123D Catch work its magic. It is difficult using just still photography to get a really good sense of how easy it is to manipulate this “object” as it has been reconstructed by the program. But here is how it initially appears

and now I have swiped my fingers across the screen to rotate “it” “in space”

It took 45 minutes from the time I started the tutorial until I had this finished “object” – this is just too cool for words.

The Bad: Internet service is really slow here. We must be only one step up from dial-up in terms of speed. And cell phone service is even worse. A lot of the time I have no coverage, and there are at least 3 different companies that alternately appear as the roaming service provider.

The Ugly: My focus on this trip has been in doing statistical analysis, and I depend on SAS, a widely known software package, to do this. Now for days my SAS log has been saying that my license is due to expire in 45 days. But yesterday afternoon I noticed that the log said that my license is due to expire TOMORROW! Yikes!!

I dashed off an email to the help desk back at home. I even tried to talk to them twice, but the call was dropped both times before I could do much more than to say hello. Fortunately both Reuben and Sidney were most responsive – Thanks, guys. Unfortunately I might be out of luck beginning midnight EDT until sometime late afternoon my time on Monday if they don’t figure out how to upgrade my SAS installation to the next version, then renew my license. That means I would lose all day Saturday of working as well as most of Monday. Since I leave on Thursday on the 7 am ferry, I am not very happy with this prospect. Let’s hope that they can figure out a way…

There are lots of bugs here, and you can see some of the fine specimens here. They have been particularly problematic this year, since our leader, Bonna, was bitten not once, not twice, but three times by a centipede while she was asleep on Saturday. One bite would be bad enough to cause nausea and vomiting, but she had three. Fortunately she is just about recovered today.

Nevertheless the bugs constitute an important part of the environment here, as does the wind. Moreover they constitute the major part of the aural environment. Major contributors are grasshoppers, like this guy.

One of the criticisms of the animated fly-throughs of the reconstructed model of the Sanctuary is that there is no sound. So I have taken it upon myself to record some of the ambient sounds. Here is a recording I made yesterday afternoon. Nothing much happens except that the chirping volume waxes and wanes, as does the sound of the wind. Anyway, here is your short taste of the Sounds of Samothrace:

Crickets attempt 1 from iphone

On-line education is currently a hotly debated topic now in the higher education circles that I frequent. It is not that people doubt the technology, rather the controversy evolves around the extent to which it should be incorporated into the collegiate experience. As an example of the extent of the controversy, the president of the University of Virginia recently lost her job. Part of UVA’s board’s reasoning was that she was too slow in incorporating online learning. (The other part, from what I can tell, is that she was dragging her feet about killing the Classics and German departments.) (UPDATE: President Sullivan has been reinstated. You can read more about the controversy here.)

Online education is here to stay, and those of us in higher education are going to have deal with it. I will be amused to see, however, how many of the children of proponents of the online only institutions actually “send” their children there.

Enough of that rant. I am really thankful that I work at an institution that is as supportive of education in all of its forms as Emory. An example of one of the many guises of education is how my colleague Bonna Wescoat brings a new team of students to Samothrace summer after summer and guides their field experience. Here is a picture of the most formal part of this educational experience:


This picture was taken at the start of the tour of the site, and we are sitting in the block field for the Propylon of Ptolemy II. The Propylon is the point of entry for initiates into the sacred cult that conducted its rites here. Bonna is on the far left, placing the building in the context of a map of the site. There are three Emory students here (third, fourth, and fifth students from the right), as well as students from Princeton and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. Now these students can sit at their computers in the comfort of their homes in NYC or ATL and learn about the process of initiation, but NOTHING will replace the experience of being in this place.

One of the major things that these students will be working on this summer is the precinct that housed the famous statue, Nike, aka The Winged Victory of Samothrace. She sits atop the Daru staircase in the Louvre Museum in Paris, as seen in this picture:


Here is a closer view:


The statue was discovered here in the 19th century by French archaeologists and shipped back to Paris. The arms and head are missing, although a hand was discovered here in the 1950’s which was reunited with a finger later found in a drawer of an Austrian museum. The hand is also on display in the Louvre.

Speaking of education, the members of my department, students and faculty alike, all received departmental T-shirts. Our charge was to take them along on our travels and be photographed in them. So here is my picture, in which I answer the charge about the T-shirt, and pose as the Nike. This is taken in the precinct where the French found the statue.

More tomorrow!

In ancient times, prospective members of the mystery cult of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods would sail to the island, putting in to the harbor at Paleopolis, the ancient city. They would proceed up the hill through the city, then go through the city walls and into the Sanctuary for initiation rites, starting from the Propylon of Ptolemy II. One of my tasks here this season was to help to “plot” the walls of the ancient city, so that our geographic / cartographic expert, Michael Page, could feed the data into the geographic information system that “we” are developing for the site.

Originally I had planned to hike the wall with my niece, but her ankle was twisted. With Bonna’s leg broken, and the memory of my broken foot of 2 years past still fresh in my mind, I decided that perhaps hiking the wall was not such a great idea for me. However, some of the NYU students were interested and willing to climb the wall and collect points into my handy dandy GPS device. Here are some pictures of their adventure yesterday.

on the way up against the wall

Above are two of the team as they start the ascent.

It's a long way up there

It’s a long way up there.

Taking a point

Here are two of the students taking a point reading.

They made it!

Their perseverance paid off and they made it!

It's a long way down.

It’s a long way down – yikes!

They made it back, with no serious injury although with varying percentages of skin removed from their legs. Neverthless, I want to publicly thank Amy, Arielle, and Emily for their willingness to take on this important task, and the good cheer with which they returned!

Lisa and I are on the mainland. We left Samothraki on the 4 pm ferry today, and drove due east to the coastal town of Kavala. Tomorrow we will stop in Vergina, the site of the tombs of Macedonian royalty, on our way south to the Peloponnese, where we hope to visit Epidaurus and Mycenae on Thursday. I hope to have a picture or two for you tomorrow.