130 Years of the ASCSA

American School of Classical Studies at Athens...
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Working my way through my mailbox (as often) I came across this item from a couple weeks ago in Athens News … nice little list of who’s working where at the end too:

NEARLY as old as ancient Athens itself is the long history of travellers – both foreign and domestic, among them kings, merchants, soldiers, antiquarians, students and scholars – who through the centuries have all made their way to this venerable city to observe firsthand the illustrious ruins of its inspiring past.

The attraction of ancient Athens as a centre of power and learning was already evident from at least the mid-5th century BC. Around 447BC, the eastern Greek historian Herodotus, born in Halicarnassus (presentday Bodrum in Turkey), came to Athens, where he ultimately recorded in his Histories his admiration for the Athenian people and their democratic institutions.

Later firsthand admirers and documenters of Greek ways past and present included the 2nd century AD Roman emperor Hadrian and the geographer Pausanias. In 1436 another Italian, Cyriacus of Ancona, sketched the Parthenon’s sculptural decoration and interpreted its Ionic frieze as scenes of Athenian victories (today viewed by many specialists as a depiction of Athens’ Panathenaic procession).

Following in this great tradition, other educated travellers, ardent but occasionally unscrupulous antiquarians, patriotic preservationists and restorers and an increasing stream of classical scholars and early archaeologists all visited or took up residence in Greece during the 19th century. Athens once again became a centre of learning, since new Greek or foreign institutions devoted to education and research now began to appear, just as respected schools of philosophy had sprung up in the ancient city.

In the 1830s were founded the Greek Archaeological Service (1833), the University of Athens (1837) and the Athens (or Greek) Archaeological Society (1837). The Academy of Athens (1926), the National Hellenic Research Foundation (1958) and its Institute for Greek and Roman Antiquity (1977) were subsequent developments of the 20th century.

Of particular impact on Greek archaeology, however, was the establishment of the foreign archaeological schools and research institutes, the oldest of which are the French School at Athens (1846), the German Archaeological Institute, Athens Branch (1874), the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1881) and the British School at Athens (1886).

Better to know Greece than what has been written about Greece

On June 4, the American School (ASCSA) launched a weeklong celebration of its 130th anniversary, which featured a series of talks, tours, social gatherings, visits by American and Greek dignitaries and alumni. It also opened a temporary exhibition that highlights through archival photographs, documents and film clips the first century of the ASCSA’s academic programme in Greece.

The school’s director, Prof Jack L Davis, presided over the celebration’s launch, accompanied by guest speakers that included Nikoletta Valakou, director of prehistoric and classical antiquities for the Greek ministry of culture; Daniel Bennett Smith, the US ambassador to Greece; and Yanos Gramatidis, president of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.

Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, the ASCSA’s archivist, also introduced the temporary exhibition, It is Better to Know Greece Than What Has Been Written About Greece: Celebrating 130 Years of Teaching at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, which can be viewed in the Gennadius Library’s Basil Room through to September 30.

The American School is the only foreign archaeological school or institute in Athens that offers students a formal nine-month academic programme including courses, extensive site visits and hands-on archaeological training (at the school excavations in ancient Corinth). The temporary exhibition emphasises the importance of students gaining direct experience with Greece and tracks the growth of the institution’s regular and summer programmes. Summer academic sessions were added in the 1920s, but due to increasing demand had to be doubled in 1968.

The American School’s celebrations and exhibition serve as a delightful reminder of not only American contributions to the study of ancient Greece, but of the impact made by all the foreign archaeological schools and institutes since the mid-19th century. Through the sole or collaborative efforts of these foreign institutions, many great and small archaeological sites have been revealed and become better understood (see box).

Havens of research

Today, in addition to conducting or sponsoring fieldwork, the foreign archaeological schools and institutes offer excellent research libraries and photographic archives, provide accommodation and assistance to visiting scholars and assist the Greek government with the selection process for acquiring study and fieldwork permits.

It is also amusing to reflect upon the simpler, yet often more arduous days experienced by eager young students and other foreign travellers as they struggled both to learn about the past and to deal with daily life in early modern Greece.

The ASCSA’s rich archives offer rich historical insight, revealing that school leaders in the late 1880s were initially discontent with the school’s new premises (originally located opposite Hadrian’s Arch): “It was convenient only to a hospital and the summit of Lycabettus,” ran one complaint. Furthermore, “the shops were half a mile distant, the Acropolis was well over a mile.

There was no public conveyance accessible except the temperamental horse car which, under favourable circumstances that rarely existed, ran once every half hour.”

Records also show that the foreign schools often collaborated with each other, just as they do today. Architect Wilhelm Doerpfeld, of the German Archaeological Institute, led annual trips to ancient Greek sites in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at a time when the ASCSA had not yet organised its own programme of educational tours. American students were fortunate to be allowed to participate in these tours and to become acquainted with Greece under Doerpfeld’s tutelage until his retirement in 1908.

Doerpfeld also was present at the ASCSA’s first excavation in 1886 at the ancient theatre of Thorikos. Walter Miller, the school’s first excavator, wrote: “Dr Doerpfeld himself took a lively interest in the work and came several times to visit us.” The following year the school undertook excavations at another ancient theatre, in Sicyon. ASCSA excavations began at Corinth in 1896 and the Athenian Agora in 1931.

Without an extensive, in-house programme of site tours, early ASCSA students had to be resourceful and adventurous. Harold N Fowler, who attended the American School’s first academic year in 1882-1883, later recorded his further travels in the spring of 1887:
“Very soon I set out again, this time alone. I had planned to hire a sailboat to carry me from Corinth to Itea, but found that too expensive, so waited for a steamer. I visited Old Corinth, Acrocorinth, and the theatre of Sicyon. In Corinth I shared a room with a young Frenchman, an engineer engaged in cutting the canal through the Isthmus. When the steamer came, I went in it to Itea and walked to Delphi, or rather Kastri, which stood where the excavated area now is. Thence I rode a horse to Arachova, Daulis, Chaeroneia, Orchomenus, Lebadeia, Thespiae, Leuctra, Plataea, Eleutherae and Thebes. There I took the night coach to Athens.”

As a student member of the ASCSA, Fowler also recalled a lively social scene in Greece’s late 19th century capital city:
“… There was quite a little social life in Athens for us that year. Mrs Goodwin was very good about giving us tea and the like. I dined often with [them] … There were two court balls, both of which some of us attended, [and] the Schliemanns gave a ball …”

Foreign archaeological schools and institutes in Greece,
with year established and main Greek sites researched

French School (1846): Delos; Delphi; Argos; Malia (Crete); Philippoi; Thasos
German Institute (1874): Kerameikos; Olympia; Tiryns; Orchomenos; Sanctuary of Hera (Samos); Sanctuary of Zeus (Egina); Kalapodi (Lokris)
American School (1881): Thorikos; Sicyon; Corinth; Athenian Agora; Pylos; Nemea; Lerna; Isthmia; Kavousi, Gournia, Azorias (Crete); Samothrace; Kea
British School (1886): Knossos, Palaikastro (Crete); Mycenae; Sparta; Lefkandi; Pavlopetri; Plataea; Servia, Assiros, Sitagroi (northern Greece); Kiros; Milos; Chios; Kythira
Austrian Institute (1898): Lousoi (Arkadia); Ilis, Egeira, Gremoulias, Pheneos (north Peloponnese); Kolona (Egina)
Italian School (1909): Gortyn, Idaian Cave, Phaistos, Agia Triada (Crete); Limnos
Swedish Institute (1948): Asine, Dendra/Midea, Berbati (Argolid); Malthi (Messenia); Paradeisos (Thrace); Asea (Arkadia); Kalaureia (Poros)
Swiss School (1975): Eretria
Canadian Institute (1976): Khostia (Viotia); Lesvos; Stymphalos (northern Peloponnese); Zarakas (Arkadia); Kiapha Thiti (Attica); Argilos (northern Greece); Kastro Kallithea (Thessaly)
Australian Institute (1980): Toroni (northern Greece); Kythira; Zagora (Andros)
Netherlands Institute (1984): Argos; Argolid; New Halos (Thessaly); Yeraki (Lakonia); Nikopolis; Tanagra; Aitolia; Zakynthos
Finnish Institute (1984): Arethousa (northern Greece); Stratos (western Greece); Kokytos River basin (Thesprotia)
Belgian School (1985): Thorikos; Roman marble quarries at Styra (Evia); Sissi, Itanos (Crete)
Norwegian Institute (1989): Tegea (Arkadia); Alonnisos; Ithaki; Petropigi (Kavala)
Danish Institute (1992): Kefalonia; Chalkis, Kalydonia (Aitolia); Zea Harbour (Piraeus); Pilion; Kydonia (Crete); Rhodes
Irish Institute (1996): Mylones, Livatho Valley (Cephalonia); Priniatikos Pyrgos (Crete)
Georgian Institute (1998): No fieldwork yet

The Getty and the Berthouville Treasure

Tormented centaur and Erotes amidst tables and...
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From a Getty press release:

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today that one of the most prominent holdings of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France’s Cabinet des Médailles in Paris, the Berthouville Treasure, has begun a three-year-long process of conservation and technical research at the Getty Villa. This rare cache of approximately 95 ancient Roman silver objects was discovered in March 1830 by a farmer plowing his field near the village of Berthouville in Normandy. An extraordinary group of luxury vessels—including bowls and pitchers, many with figural decoration, as well as two silver statuettes of the Roman god Mercury—the objects are associated with a nearby sanctuary of the god Mercury and date to the first through third centuries A.D. Four large, late antique silver missoria (plates) belonging to the Cabinet are also part of the conservation project.

While undergoing conservation treatment at the Getty Villa, each piece will be individually cleaned and conserved, x-rayed and closely studied in preparation for a new publication on the hoard, and for inclusion in a 2014 exhibition at the Getty Villa of the holdings of ancient Roman luxury goods belonging to the Cabinet.

Jerry Podany, the Getty Museum’s senior conservator of antiquities, said, “We feel extremely fortunate to be able to study and treat such a diverse range of silver objects from the same find site. Following our treatment and conservation efforts, these objects will be better understood, better preserved and available to a wider public.”

Cabinet des Médailles curator Mathilde Avisseau-Broustet, who manages the collection along with curator Cécile Colonna, adds, “We appreciate the unique opportunity to exchange knowledge and expertise with our colleagues at the Getty. Not only will the conservation project help preserve these national treasures, but the findings will also advance art historical research and promote collaborative scholarship between art historians, museum curators, conservators, and scientists.”

New discoveries are already being made on the first of the objects x-rayed in January. Using the most current methods for treating silver artifacts, a recent analysis of two double-walled drinking vessels revealed hidden inscriptions on their interior surface. The inscriptions recorded the weight of the metal used to construct a portion of the object. This precise inventory information demonstrates an acute awareness of the high value of silver used in their manufacture. The x-rays also revealed various restoration materials, which will undergo scientific analysis in the coming year.

Eduardo Sanchez, the Getty Museum’s associate conservator of antiquities, is leading the Getty’s conservation effort along with Susan Lansing Maish, the Getty Museum’s assistant conservator of antiquities.

Funding for the shipment of the silver from France to Los Angeles was provided by the Getty Museum’s Villa Council.

What to do With A Classics Degree: Work for Google!

We’ll start with the tweet (thanks Sylvia!):


… and then we might as well include the incipit of the post from the Gmailblog to have it on record in case it moves:

In this month’s Faces of Gmail we’re profiling Sarah Price, our history-loving, lindy-hopping community manager.

What do you do on the Gmail team?
I’m the Community Manager for Gmail. That means that I watch over Gmail’s user forum and talk with Gmail users in other places. For example, I’m one of the people behind @gmail on Twitter and Facebook. If you use Google+, you can follow me there, too!

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Gmail users have high expectations for us. They think of Gmail as their own and have great ideas about how to make it better. I love this about our users. Sometimes, though, we make a change that some people love and some people don’t like as much. For the people who don’t like the change, it can be hard to help them understand why we made it, and that we are still listening to their feedback.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love that I get to work with such an amazing product, and I love meeting Gmail users from all over the world, including the “Top Contributors” in our Help Forum. I also love helping people get to know each other. It’s very powerful when people come together over a common interest in Gmail.

What did you do before coming to Google?
I studied Latin Literature at Yale and Ancient History at Oxford. You are probably wondering how I ended up at Google! While I was a student, I also worked as a computer repair technician. I enjoy solving problems and teaching people about technology.


… just noticed the photo of Sarah has her clutching a Loeb … a few other Classics-looking tomes in front of her as well.

UPDATE (a few hours later): I asked Sarah on google+ about the Loeb and she  said it was Suetonius; there’s also a copy of  Ursula LeGuin’s Lavinia in the stack, and assorted others …