The analysis of organic material is an integral part of modern excavation. In Greece, since the beginning of the 20th century, famous archaeologists like Chr. Tsountas (1898, 1899, 1908), G. Mylonas (1928, 1929) and D. Theoharis (1967, 1973) have applied principles of what later would be known as “Environmental Archaeology” (Karali 1991, 1998: 44, 1999:1). At the University of Athens, Professor Chr. Doumas (various publications and conferences esp. on Thera, e.g. Doumas 1983) and Professor A. Zois (1967, 1970) stressed the importance of the natural environment and the need for analysis of the organic remains in the archaeological record.
Courses in Environmental Archaeology have been taught by Professor Lilian Karali at the University of Athens since 1988-9. The courses have included visits to laboratories, excavation sites and museums of archaeoenvironmental interest, as well as lectures by invited speakers and participation at organised seminars. The students become also familiar with excavated environmental material and reference collections at the Environmental Collection of the Athens University Archaeological Museum.
The Environmental Collection of the Athens University Archaeological Museum
The first important step towards the collection and curation of organic remains was made in 1990, when teacher and students organised a permanent exhibition of seeds, shells, human and animal bones at the Museum of Tutorial Collections of the Dept. of Archaeology at Athens University Campus, located at the building of the Faculty of Letters (“Filosofiki”). The goal of this collection is:
• to make the students and visitors familiar with the archaeological findings of this type;
• to approach the environment through the archaeological remains, and
• to teach their importance in archaeological interpretation.
The main principal is that all the remains of an archaeological site must be considered worthy of archaeological study, and not just the artifacts of aesthetic value.
The organisation of the museum collection of environmental remains was made possible thanks to the help of (in alphabetical order): Nikoleta Antonopoulou, Amanda Laoupi, Eirini Maleyanaki, Eleni Maratou, Fanis Mavridis, Anastasia Tsaliki, Maria Tsatsouli, Evi Tsota, and Eleni Tziligkaki. Special thanks are due to Ms Pat Collins (former BSA Fitch lab fellow), Prof. Adamantios Sampson, and to Dr. M. Petropoulos of the Greek Archaeological Eforia of Patra.
The Team for Environmental Archaeology
The “Team for Environmental Archaeology” was founded under Prof. Karali’s direction in 1995 . The members are interested undergraduate & postgraduate students, doctoral & postdoctoral researchers and academic scholars. Projects regarding terminology problems in Environmental Archaeology, the study of archaeological organic material and the organisation of a related book section at the University Archaeological library (“Section of Environmental Archaeology Books”) have been completed since.
Seminars on Environmental Archaeology
The Team for Environmental Archaeology also organises seminars on Environmental Archaeology almost every year at different locations in Athens, since 1996 . The scope has been to inform students, scholars and state archaeologists of the importance of ecofacts and of the interdisciplinary nature of modern archaeology.
The seminars have included the following subjects:
1. “Environmental Archaeology; a first approach at the archaeological testimonies of environmental interest” (2-5 December 1996)
2. “Environmental Research Approaches applied in Greek Archaeology” (31 March 1998)
3. “Environmental Archaeology in Greece: Excavation Research, Methodology and Perspectives into the 21st century” (3 March 2000)
4. “Methods and results of current Archaeoenvironmental Research in Greece” (8 May 2001)
5. “Issues of Bioarchaeology and the Environment” (7 March 2002)
6. “Law, Archaeology, and Environment” (11 December 2002)
7. “Geosciences and Archaeology” (19 March 2003)
8. “The Changes of Archaeoenvironments in Greece” (10 December 2003)
9. “The Neolithic period and the contribution of Plants in its study” (6 February 2004)
10. “Archaeoenvironmental research in Greece: Present and Future” (14 April 2005)
11. 2nd International Symposium on Textiles and Dyes in the Ancient Mediterranean World (24- 25 November 2005 )
12. “New technologies and culinary practices in ancient Greece” (9 June 2006 )
13. “Environmental Archaeology: research and digital reconstruction of Greek Palaeoenvironment” (24 January 2007)
Laboratory for the Study of Archaeo-Environmental Remains – University of Athens, Dept. of Archaeology
Prof. Karali established the first official laboratory for the study of ancient seeds, shells and bones under the auspices of the University of Athens, located inside the Museum of Tutorial Collections of the Dept. of Archaeology mentioned above. This lab is constantly being improved with the addition of books and technical equipment (calipers, osteometric boards, microscopes, magnifying glasses, sieves, etc.). It is also used in conjunction with the Environmental Archaeology Tutorial Museum Collection as an area of student practice and teaching.
• DOUMAS C. (1983) Thera: Pompeii of Ancient Aegean, London.
• KARALI L. (1991) Perivallontiki Arxaiologia, Arxaiologia 38, 84-86.
•KARALI L. (1998) Lexiko Arxaiologikon – Perivallontikon Oron, me Suntomi Istoria tis Arxaiologias (aggloelliniko-ellinoaggliko-ermineutiko) (2nd ed.), Athina.
• KARALI L. (1999) Shells in Aegean Prehistory, BAR International Series 761
• MYLONAS G. (1928) H Neolithiki Epoxi en Elladi, Athina
• MYLONAS G. (1929) Excavations at Olynthos, Part 1: The Neolithic Settlement, Baltimore.
• THEOHARIS D. (1967) H Augi tis Thessalikis Proistorias, Volos
• THEOHARIS D. (1973) Neolithic Greece, Athens
• TSOUNTAS C. (1898) Kykladika, A.E. (Arxaiologiki Efimeris), 137-212.
• TSOUNTAS C. (1899) Kykladika, A.E., 73-134
• TSOUNTAS C. (1908) Ai Proistorikai Akropoleis Diminiou kai Sesklou, Athina
• ZOIS A. (1967) Mathimata Arxaiologias, Athina
• ZOIS A. (1970) Mathimata Proistorikis Arxaiologias – Geniki Episkopisi, Athina
Special thanks are due to Prof. Ch. Doumas, who has welcomed the concept of foundation of an environmental archaeology section at the University museum and to Prof. V. Lambrinoudakis for his help to get the necessary permissions.
NB. The above text is based (with necessary updates) on a Poster presentation entitled: “Athens University: Projects of Study and Curation of Organic Archaeological Remains” by L. Karali and A. Tsaliki at the 2nd BABAO (British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology) Annual Meeting, University of Bradford, 1-3 Sept. 2000