Week 3 of Greece at a Crossroads: History, Landscape, and Material Culture

15 May 2024

By John Carragher

Week 3 was quieter than the first two weeks, but still a ton of fun! I started off Monday with my Myth and Reception class and had a quiet day afterwards. Tuesday started with my Digital Archaeology class and then we had our class with Alex afterwards. We were very fortunate to have a guest speaker at our class with Alex, Michael Boyd. He is actually quite a big name in archaeology and has been a part of many important archaeological digs. Both Boyd and Alex taught us about the Cyclades in the Early Bronze Age, which is about 3,000 BCE. Boyd specifically taught us about some excavations he has done on the island of Keros and Dhaskalio. Some fun tidbits of information that we learned include that the Cycladic people were creating their own agricultural and residential land through “terracing,” they had complex, hierarchical ways of living, and that Keros was likely a sanctuary during the 3rd millennium BCE. Both Michael Boyd and Alex are clearly great archaeologists and it is such a treat learning from true experts in their fields!

Wednesday was similar to Monday as I had my Myth and Reception class and an overall relaxing day. Thursday was similar to Tuesday in that it started off with my Digital Archaeology class. My two CYA classes are Myth and Reception as well as Digital Archaeology and I have been really enjoying them thus far. After Digital Archaeology, our meeting for Alex’s class was at the Museum of Cycladic Art. The museum was beautiful and we got a tour from one of the curators who used to be an archaeologist. She took us all around the first floor of the museum which she called the “core” of the museum. She said that one of the biggest takeaways from our visit should be that the early Cycladic culture is the only culture from prehistory that can be called anthropocentric. This idea is very clear in the beautiful, elegant human figurines and sculptures that they made.

Second largest Cycladic sculpture in the world.
Male Cycladic figurine. Males were always shown “doing something” and here the figure is drinking water. It is very impressive that the sculptors could have the outstretched arm.
Very thin Cycladic figurine. Depicting a woman like the first picture shown.

It is truly incredible that those marble figurines look so good by modern standards. If I walked into someone’s house and they had a figure / sculpture like that I would think it is a relatively contemporary piece. It was a great tour and afterwards we got to learn about one of the museum’s initiatives for preserving the Cycladic identity. The initiative was really cool and it is trying to address some issues in the Cyclades such as biodiversity decline and the slow death of the Cycladic culture. Some of the highlights of their plans include an educational workshop for kids on Ios to shoot a movie about their island as well as trying to make a hiking trail that spans all of the Cycladic islands. I would love to go on a hiking trail through the Cyclades! Overall, the visit to the museum was really cool since we got to connect what we learned about in class from Alex and Michael Boyd to the real world. Getting to genuinely see the art pieces and artifacts you are studying in person is such an enriching experience. It was a visit to the museum!

On Thursday night after the museum, my sister got into Athens from Paris. Since she lives in France, it was a relatively easy trip for her to come out here. I was really excited to have her visit me for the weekend and it was a blast! We had a quiet Thursday due to her flight delays, but we still walked around the city and had a great dinner. We then did a bunch of fun stuff on Friday like going to the Acropolis and its museum, walking around the city some more, and hitting the town for a fun night. We found ourselves back near the Acropolis for dinner and drinks with a great view!

Parthenon from the bottom of the Acropolis.
Women columns at the Erechtheion atop the Acropolis.
View of the Acropolis from a fun rooftop bar.

On Saturday my sister and I walked through the National Garden, I showed her around the neighborhood we are staying in, Pagrati, we did some shopping around the “touristy” areas, and we got some great Greek food for dinner. We went to the beach on Sunday and had a quiet night since my sister has a 6am flight on Monday. I had a bunch of fun and it seemed like my sister did too so her visit to Athens was a success!

View of the water from Edem beach.
Fun 3v3 basketball tournament at Edem.

It’s always great to see my sister, but it was especially cool to spend time with her in such an awesome place like Athens. Really grateful that it could all work out and super glad she made the effort come here from Paris! Overall, week 3 was a ton of fun and I am really happy to be here!

Read this piece on the Spring 2024 Blog for Greece at a Crossroads: History, Landscape, and Material Culture here!