• Name: Paul McLerran
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Excavating the Ancient City of Stobi


For more than a century the ancient city of Stobi - the capital of Macedonia Secunda - has been attracting scientists from all over the world to reveal its secrets. The first historiography records that mention Stobi are provided by the Roman historian Titus Livy, and concern the victory of the Macedonian king Philip V over Dardanians in the vicinity of Stobi. In A.D. 69 Emperor Vespasian granted Stobi the rank of municipium and the right to mint its own coins. The salt trading and the good strategic position between two rivers, on the cross-road of Via Axia and branches of Via Diagonalis and Via Egnatia, brought to the city a long-lasting prosperity from the first to third century A.D. In 267/69 Stobi suffered from raids of Goths and Herules, but was rebuilt after their devastating attacks. In the fourth century A.D., the city became the seat of mighty bishops, and in the fifth century – the capital city of Macedonia Secunda. It was devastated several times by the raids of "Barbars", but an earthquake in A.D. 518 marked the end of the urban living in Stobi.

Season 2010 envisions excavations will take place in three sectors: the Theater (built in the second century A.D.), the Western Necropolis (first century B.C. - fourth century A.D.) and an ancient Roman temple. Two field school sessions are available in 2010. The program includes the following modules: fieldwork; educational course (lectures, workshops and field training in Early and Late Roman Archaeology), and excursions to the old towns of Prilep and Bitola, the archaeological site of
Heraclea Lyncestis as well as to Ohrid (UNESCO World Heritage Site). All participants will receive a BH Field School Certificate of Attendance.

Detailed information about this project is available at: http://www.bhfieldschool.org/bh2010stobi.html

Online application form: http://www.bhfieldschool.org/apply.php

Periods of occupation: Late Hellenistic, Roman, Early Byzantine Second century B.C. – Sixth century A.D.)

Location: Macedonia

Session dates: Session 1: August 7-21, 2010; Session 2: August 22 - September 5, 2010

Workshop on Ancient Greek Pottery

Greek Pottery

The WORKSHOP FOR RESTORATION AND DOCUMENTATION OF ANCIENT GREEK POTTERY will guide participants through the history of Ancient Greek pottery, its production and consequent stages of archaeological conservation, documentation, study, and restoration. Both the theoretical and practical courses will be based on artifacts found in the ancient Greek city of Apollonia Pontica on the Black Sea. The project in 2010 will include three modules: practical work in documentation and restoration of ancient Greek pottery; educational course (lectures, trainings, study - and behind-the-scenes visits) and excursions to the ancient coastal towns of Nessebar (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Sozopol as well as the city of Varna (including visits to the archaeological museums in Sozopol, Nessebar, Varna and a contemporary pottery workshop). By the end of the workshop the participants will: know basic methods of how to document and restore ancient pottery; develop basic/further practical skills (depending on participant’s initial level of qualification) in ancient pottery restoration and graphics; reproduction of ancient pottery shards/vessels; deepen their knowledge through first-hand experience on Ancient Mediterranean/European History and Archaeology; meet professionals who work in the areas of Classical Archaeology and/or pottery restoration and documentation. All participants will receive the Balkan Heritage Field School Certificate of Attendance.

Detailed information about this project is available at: http://www.bhfieldschool.org/bh2007apdr.html

Online application form
: http://www.bhfieldschool.org/apply.php

Periods of occupation: Antiquity: Ancient Greek and Hellenistic (Seventh - First century B.C.)

Location: Southern Bulgarian Black sea coast, Bulgaria

Season dates: September 06, 2010 - September 19, 2010

Early Christian Monastery Excavations in Varna

Christian Monastery

100 years ago, the Bulgarian archaeologist Karel Schkorpil began excavating the early Christian church of the 6th century on the Djanavara hill in Varna (ancient Odessos). The Byzantine-era building was decorated with distinctive marble revetments, colorful mosaics, and its crypt contained three precious reliquaries made of gold, silver and marble. Unfortunately, nearly all documentation of Schkorpil’s excavation was lost while being transported to the U.S. for publication. Since 2007, the archaeologists have returned to the site to try to answer some lingering questions. Was the church a part of a larger monastic compound? What was the role of this structure for the early Christian community at Odessos? In addition to helping answer these questions, dig participants will attend regular lectures and workshops on archaeological methods and Byzantine archaeology and excursions to Black sea beaches and resorts, Madara (UNESCO World Heritage Site), stone forest rocks and Roman mosaics museum in Marcianopolis. All participants will receive a Balkan Heritage Field School Certificate of Attendance, specifying fieldwork hours, educational modules, and sites visited.

Field school follow-up excursion (3 days): to
Istanbul (Turkey) for only 99 EUR.

Detailed information about this project is available at: http://www.bhfieldschool.org/bh2007varexc09.html

Online application form: http://www.bhfieldschool.org/apply.php

Location: Western Black Sea Coast, Bulgaria

Session dates: Session 1: July 3- 17, 2010; Session 2: July 18- August 1, 2010

The Heraclea Lyncestis Excavation Project


According to the Athenian orator and lawyer Demosthenes, Heraclea was founded by Philip II (the father of Alexander the Great), as a strategic center of the north-western Macedonian province of Lyncestis. Heraclea was named in honor of Heracles (Hercules), the claimed progenitor of the ruling Macedonian dynasty which Philip belonged to. The epithet “Lyncestis” means “the Land of the Lynx” in Greek. Nowadays the ruins of the ancient city lie at the western side of modern town of Bitola. During the last half century archaeologists have uncovered and restored significant monuments of antiquity (the Forum, Theater, and early Christian basilicas and residential buildings, many of them decorated with polychrome mosaics). Season 2010 envisions excavations in two sectors: the acropolis or the area across the river (presumably Hellenistic and Early Roman), and the area around the Theater (Roman and Late Roman).

Two field school sessions are available in 2010. The program includes three modules: fieldwork; educational course (lectures, workshops and field trainings), and excursions to the UNESCO heritage town and lake of
Ohrid as well as the ancient city of Stobi. Field school participants will work on random excavation sectors with the possibility to shift to another sector. Participants who join both project sessions will have different schedules during the second session - the activities in the afternoons will include: Workshop in mosaic-making, field surveys, finds processing and documentation; excursions to Pelister National Park and local monasteries will replace the standard excursions in the second session. All participants will receive a Balkan Heritage Field School Certificate of Attendance specifying fieldwork hours, educational modules and sights visited.

Detailed information about this project is available at: http://www.bhfieldschool.org/bh2007.hlexc.html

The online application form is at: http://www.bhfieldschool.org/apply.php

Periods of occupation: Hellenistic, Roman, Late Roman (Fourth century B.C. – Sixth century A.D.)

Location: Pelagonia, Macedonia

Session dates: First session: July 3-17, 2010; Second session: July 18- August 1, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

New Smithsonian Exhibit a Big Hit

Few would argue with the fact that most people who walk away from a long visit at any of the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., would be very favorably impressed with what they experienced. The same could be said of the Smithsonian's newest addition to its permanent exhibition spaces -- the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins. Tucked artfully within the monumental walls of the Smithsonian's ever popular National Museum of Natural History, this exhibit presents some of the evidence that underpins the scientific explanation for how we, humans, evolved over time, focusing much of the discussion on how the earth's changing environments have played a salient role in the process. What makes this exhibit different than most museum presentations on the subject, however, is not the thematic focus, but how it is presented to the visiting public. After walking through a "time tunnel" entrance displaying the morphological milestones of human evolution, one walks into a spacious array of interactive stations designed to engage the visitor more directly in the learning process. Feel the sharp edge of a stone hand ax (cast) dated to over a million years ago. Do you see why it would be a useful tool? View a cast of a fossilized footprint made over 3 million years ago. It looks human, but you don't know for sure. The question below it on a wooden panel reads, "what made this footprint?" You lift the panel to see the answer inside -- "Australopithecus Afarensis" (an ancient hominid, or human predecessor, that lived over 3 million years ago in Africa). Would you like to see what you would look like as a Neanderthal person, a human species that inhabited Europe and Asia over 30,000 years ago? Then sit and interact with the face morphing station and watch yourself transform.

Hall of Human Origins

Not all of the fossilized bones and artifacts are casts. You can view an almost complete Neanderthal skeleton carefully preserved within a climate-controlled space. Currently on loan to the U.S., it was originally excavated at Shanidar Cave in current-day Iraq. Besides fossils and fossil casts like this, you can also view lifelike reconstructions of the faces of five different early species of humans, as well as beautifully sculpted life-sized bronze representations of early humans masterfully created by artist/sculptor John Gurche.

Going to Washington, D.C. for a vacation or just passing through? This would be a must-see for those interested in the distant human past; however, if it isn't in the cards for you at any time in the near future, you can still learn about it and much more on the topic of human evolution at Smithsonian's new website at http://humanorigins.si.edu. Either way, it is an adventure in learning.

Photo Credits: Chip Clark, Jim DiLoreto and Don Hurlbert, Smithsonian Institution

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blue Creek: Excavating an Upscale Community

When we think of the ancient Maya civilization, the monumental centers of Tikal, Palenque, Chichen Itza, and Copan usually come to mind. These, however, are only a few of the countless ancient sites, many of which, though known to exist, still lie unexcavated and unexplored. Still others are yet undiscovered, and their number is still a mystery. The jungle shrouds their secrets. The archaeologists who uncover and investigate these sites have many years of work ahead them before a complete picture of the Maya civilization, and how it mysteriously and suddenly declined, emerges.

Blue Creek

A comparatively small site in northwestern Belize promises to add an important chapter to the story. It will help answer questions about how a medium-sized community of approximately 20,000 people managed to support an unusually wealthy class of residents and a large public precinct surrounded by numerous, well-defined residential structures and agricultural components. Known as Blue Creek, scientists at this site have uncovered a large number of exotic goods, unusual for a community of this size. It is thought that its strategic location, in combination with the techniques the ancient inhabitants employed in agricultural production, defined the foundation for its wealth.

The Project

Dr. Thomas Guderjan of the Maya Research Program is leading a team of archaeologists and other professional staff to find answers to the questions surrounding the site. In 2010, the team will be returning to continue excavations in an elite residential area of Blue Creek, and in the agricultural field systems surrounding the site, including other nearby centers.
They are calling for students and volunteers to join them for their 2010 season, which begins May 24 and runs through July 25.

The Field School

Participants will receive training in field and laboratory techniques as well as receive a "crash course" on the Maya and archaeological methodology. Accommodation is at the Blue Creek research station, which has 35 small residential cabanas, a 1500 square foot laboratory building, a main building with a dining hall, and men's and women's restrooms and showers. All meals, equipment and supplies are provided. There will be four two-week sessions. Participants are welcome to join any or all of them.
A particularly noteworthy aspect of this opportunity involves the offering of 10 Welker Scholarships, funded by income from the Welker Endowment and a generous donation by Mr. Jack Thompson. The intent of the Scholarships is to encourage talented young undergraduate and graduate students to participate in the project and to pursue archaeology or related fields. Moreover, these students will be afforded greater responsibilities than other participants during the fieldwork.

Join the Team

For the student or enthusiast of Maya archaeology, the Blue Creek experience represents one of the best field school opportunities available for this region of the world. If you are interested in becoming a part of it, you can find out more by going to
www.mayaresearchprogram.org or by emailing Dr. Guderjan at guderjan@gmail.com. The project staff has prepared an excellent, detailed Participant Guide that will tell you just about everything you would want to know as a Project student or volunteer. The Guide can be accessed at the website.

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