Archiving the Sanctuary of the Great Gods

  • February 24-25: Emory University and Université de Bordeaux Montaigne Partner University Fund Project on Ancient Greek Architecture

    14 Feb 2017
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    Keynote Lecture: “Avenues of Innovation and Communication in 3rd Century BC Greek Architecture”
    Professor Jacques des Courtils, Université de Bordeaux Montaigne
    Friday, February 24, 7:00 p.m.
    Reception to follow

    Classical architecture—one of ancient Greece’s most tangible and enduring contributions to world culture—was transmitted through the innovative designs forged in the tumultuous Hellenistic world and exploited by Roman builders. Two small but significant islands in the northern Aegean—Thasos and Samothrace—played a transformative role in this process. Supported by the Partner University Fund, Emory University and the Université de Bordeaux Montaigne have joined forces in a research project to investigate “Northern Aegean Architectural Networks and the Formation of Hellenistic and Roman Design.”

    Colloquium: “Architectural Interactions in the Northern Aegean”
    Saturday, February 25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

    In this colloquium, professors and graduate students involved in the French-American research partnership, “Northern Aegean Architectural Networks,” will present papers on their current research. Presentations will include the study of design, architectural decoration, architectural dissemination, ancient techniques of construction, and innovative technologies for understanding the ancient material world. This colloquium is sponsored by the Partner University Fund. Participants include:

    Jacques des Courtils, Bordeaux-Montaigne
    Laurence Cavalier, Bordeaux-Montaigne
    Vincent Baillet, Bordeaux-Montaigne
    Edith Guiro, Bordeaux-Montaigne
    Cassandre Mbonyo-Kiefer, Bordeaux-Montaigne
    Alice Ognier, Bordeaux-Montaigne
    William Alyward, University of Wisconsin, Madison
    Bonna D. Wescoat, Emory University
    Cody Houseman, Emory University
    Ashley Eckhardt, Emory University
    Philip Katz, New York University
    Samuel Holzman, University of Pennsylvania
    Andrew Ward New York University, Institute of Fine Arts

    Please see the attached program for more details.

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  • Report on Summer 2016 Stoa Work

    12 Feb 2017
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    Our goals for summer 2016

    Our main goal for “Team Stoa” this summer was to relocate and identify, map, rock-type, and record as many of the 2,400+ blocks listed in the Stoa database on filemaker. In the field, we used the block charts created in 1991 to aid in our quest to locate the actual blocks. What we quickly discovered was that the block fields to the west of the Stoa have been significantly less disturbed that those to the east, because blocks have been moved on the east side to create a path for tourists.

    The heroes of our story

    Ellen Archie

    Phil Katz

    Leah Neiman

    Cassandre Mbonyo-Kiefer

    Measuring Stoa blocks for identification, 2016.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Identification

    Equipped with measuring tapes, sharpies, clipboards, and 25-year-old maps (and a better grip on sanity than we ended with) four of us set out to take on the Stoa. We used a combination of measurements taken when the blocks were excavated, found in the block books, and more updated measurements already entered in the database.

     

    Rock-Typing

    However, identifying, labeling, and mapping the blocks was only half the battle; additionally, we wanted to determine the type of rock of which each identified block is composed. Collecting the data allowed us to observe a correlation between vugginess of dolomitic limestone (DL) and decorative detail. Mostly, blocks with architectural detail are made of a more massive, light tan dolomitic limestone, while a vuggier, light grey dolomitic limestone is the material for more general blocks. There are some exceptions.

     

    Light grey dolomitic limestone

    Light tan dolomitic limestone

    In order to determine the type of rock we did visual inspections of the blocks, noting the color, surface features (e.g. vugginess, calcite deposits), and fossils. The most diagnostic test we did to differentiate between the dolomitic limestones  and limestone and other types of rock was to drop diluted hydrochloric acid on to the rocks. In dolomitic limestone, there is a less vigorous reaction with the HCl because the principle mineral is dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2), as opposed to calcite in limestone. The acid does not react as much with the magnesium in dolomite as it does with the calcium in calcite.

     

    Slow reaction of HCl with Dolomitic Limestone

    Vigorous reaction of HCl with Limestone

     

     

     

     

     

    Stoa Cleaning

    The Stoa team also took a brief hiatus from our beloved block fields to show some love for the Stoa itself and to hone our “vigourous sweeping” skills. We cleaned out the dowel holes, swept off the foundations, and uncovered the inner side of the eastern foundations along approximately half the length of the building. The purpose of this cleaning (other than building create forearm muscles) was to allow Michael to take publication quality aerial photos of the building with his drone.

    Stoa Cleaning, summer 2016

    Stoa Cleaning, summer 2016

    Stoa Cleaning, summer 2016

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • Leah Neiman, August 2016
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  • Samothrace – “The Crust of the Earth”

    10 Feb 2017
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    Samothrace has a variety of rocks that were used by the ancient Greeks in their construction, including in the “Sanctuary of the Great Gods”.

    The origin of these rocks reflects the sometime violent history of the island. The southern margin is truncated by the long-active Anatolian Fault. Major earthquakes and vertical upheaval of the sea floor have tectonically juxtaposed rocks of different geologic origins. One of the more interesting rocks in the Sanctuary is called pillow basalt (Fig. 1).

    Pillow basalt from Samothrace

    This rock seems to have been revered by the ancients and is seen as a sacred altar stone in the Sanctuary. Pillow basalt only occurs as sea floor eruptions throughout the world’s ocean floor and is considered one of the main components of the crust of the earth. On Samothrace these rocks are dated as Jurassic in age (200-145 mybp). Nearer to the present time, large intrusions of light-colored granite magma shot through the basalt producing spectacular outcrops (Fig.2).

    Granite intrusion on Samothrace

    These granites are dated at Late Oligocene (34-23 mybp) and were produced by the collision of major tectonic plates is this region that partially re-melted existing rocks producing granite magma. These granites are the second most abundant rock making up the crust. Therefore, Samothrace displays both of the major components of the of the crust of the Earth.

    • Dr. William Size, 2016.
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  • Archiving the Sanctuary of the Great Gods

    11 Nov 2016
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    As one of my research focuses this summer I have been working to organize and prepare the digital archive of the excavation and research history of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothrace. This project includes the collection and organization of various record types from the history of the project. I have been collecting photographs and have continued the collection and organization of drawings, on which I already had been working from Emory. And critically for the archive, I have been collecting and organizing the records, documents, and reports of excavation and research interventions at the site, which reach back to the mid-nineteenth century. As a part of adding to the still growing archive, Abi Green has been scanning conservation documentation for our digital archive this summer.

    A. Green, J. Mundy, and D. Majarwitz working on Samothrace research, Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat, 2015.

    A. Green, J. Mundy, and D. Majarwitz working on Samothrace research, Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat, 2015.

    We are in the process of preparing a plan for the maintenance of this archive, so that it will be securely stored and accessible for researchers. This data collection project will not only provide a resource for the currently available excavation data, but also allow us to see what data is still needed for the archive, so that we can prepare to scan still missing materials.

    The archive records the history of the interpretations of each monument. As we have spent this summer analyzing the Nike Precinct and Hieron, the archive has provided the opportunity to pour over the original Excavation Diary and Catalogue entries from the excavations in the late 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1980’s. We have sought photographs and drawings of specific objects and detailed original photographs from the time when the architectural structures were uncovered.

    Phyllis Williams Lehmann working with the blocks of the Hieron in the 1960’s.

    Phyllis Williams Lehmann working with the blocks of the Hieron in the 1960’s.

    The collection of archival data also has provided the opportunity to review the changes to the site over the years. The conservation team has accessed the archive in order to prepare for interventions of conservation and restoration of different sites in the Sanctuary. For their work related to the Theatral Circle, they looked back at early photographs of the site at its discovery and at past interventions.

    Photograph 1965, taken during the excavation of the Theatral Circle.

    Photograph 1965, taken during the excavation of the Theatral Circle.

    Joy Bloser and HaeMin Park working with conservator Elisavet Mantzana on the Theatral Circle, Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat, 2015.

    Joy Bloser and HaeMin Park working with conservator Elisavet Mantzana on the Theatral Circle, Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat, 2015.

    The archive records the people who have worked at the site and invested in its study over the years. The first photograph below shows the archaeological team from 2001 including emeritus head of the project, Dr. James McCredie. The current professor in charge of the American Archaeological Project in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothrace, Dr. Bonna Wescoat, can be seen below in a photograph during her second season here.

    Group Photo 2001 with Dr. J. McCredie on the right, 2001.

    Group Photo 2001 with Dr. J. McCredie on the right, 2001.

    Dr. Bonna Wescoat, Samothrace, 1978.

    Dr. Bonna Wescoat, Samothrace, 1978.

    The work completed by the archaeological team this year for the American Archaeological Project of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothrace will become a part of the future digital archive.

    Archaeological and Conservation team, Samothrace 2015, Photograph taken by A. Green.

    Archaeological and Conservation team, Samothrace 2015, Photograph taken by A. Green.

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  • Perilous Plaster Pieces (Poem)

    11 Nov 2016
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    Egad! Hey guess what! A picture of me! Brace yourself for my poetic story.

    Egad! Hey guess what! A picture of me!
    Brace yourself for my poetic story.

    Sometime before, I had encountered you.
    I remember the years; it was just two.
    But now trouble you bring me, my great foe.
    Oh, here in Samothrace, you mock me so!

    Let's take a look at plaster; it's so fun! Now you get to peek at the work we've done...

    Let’s take a look at plaster; it’s so fun!
    Now you get to peek at the work we’ve done…

    Many fragments there are, much work to do.
    The colors, you ask? White, red, pink and blue.
    White and blue (with a little red as well)
    Are found on the topcoat; there they do dwell.
    Some backings exist, but first you must think
    Of what hue they are, either white or pink.

    Red, white, and blue are plasters that I see.  Each fragment special and priceless to me.

    Red, white, and blue are plasters that I see.
    Each fragment special and priceless to me.

    Architectural features also live
    On the plasters’ faces; answers they give.
    Cavetto and cyma and ovolo,
    Numerous moldings to look at and know.
    Confusing perhaps, but alas, truth calls,
    Be prepared, for I shall build Nike’s walls!

    This is an ovolo, a monstrous force. But where does it go? Pin it on a course!

    This is an ovolo, a monstrous force.
    But where does it go? Pin it on a course!

    And you, oh lion, I have a small doubt;
    Help! Are you a functional water spout?
    Maybe I made a fantastic mistake?
    In reality, you may be a fake!
    The more that I learn, more questions soar.
    One day, King Simba, I’ll hear your great roar.

    Plaster lion - an intellectual scare. It's hard to fathom. Enemies, beware!

    Plaster lion – an intellectual scare.
    It’s hard to fathom. Enemies, beware!

    We learned a lot, our knowledge superior
    It’s time to finalize this interior.
    The finish, I see, is within my sight.
    If I fail? Bonna won’t feed me tonight!

    Queen Bonna rules with her helper, Abi. What'll they make for dinner? Something yummy!

    Queen Bonna rules with her helper, Abi.
    What’ll they make for dinner? Something yummy!

    (Thanks to Madeleine and architect Chase,
    Whose aid helped create Nike’s wondrous space.
    Also to Bonna and to her big brain
    Of which without we would all go insane.)

    Here Madeleine sketches a plaster piece. She gets more tired as fragments increase.

    Here Madeleine sketches a plaster piece.
    She gets more tired as fragments increase.

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  • Columns, Altar Courts, and Angel Babies: An architecture blog post on Samothrace

    11 Nov 2016
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    By: Chase Jordan

    The 2015 summer season had many architectural projects to tackle! Within our office cottage lies the “architecture grotto,” where our motto is “home is where the surfboard is,” surfboard being the nickname of the tank of a laptop used for architecture software.

    In order to get started, the Master Sanctuary AutoCAD file containing the cumulative survey points and linework of our previous seasons needed to be organized. There were mislabeled polylines, multiple layer colors for similar stones, duplicate points, and unused layers. After going through each layer of the file, creating a color coding system that builds off of the previous one, and restructuring how to show dates for point data, the file is now a perfect angel baby! Each new set of survey points is placed on its own layer titled “PNTS – (1 or 2 word description + the date it was placed in the file).” The linework from the survey data, however, is identified and color coded according to its function. For example, all euthynteria blocks are blue, and all foundation courses are green, etc.

    AutoCAD line drawing of the sanctuary

    AutoCAD line drawing of the sanctuary

    With the AutoCAD file in good shape, we began work on the Altar Court. One of the major goals of the season is to better understand the original elevation of the Altar Court. It is a surprisingly puzzling question, due to the comparatively low floor level of the Hall of Votive Gifts immediately to the north and additionally the relationship to the relatively high level of the theater orchestra to the west. Somehow, the Altar court must have met the same level of the theater orchestra, and simultaneously provide circulation down to the Hall of Votive Gifts. Additionally, new theories are being tested regarding the number of bays above the diazoma in the theater.

    AutoCAD drawing of the Altar Court, Theater, and Nike Precinct

    AutoCAD drawing of the Altar Court, Theater, and Nike Precinct

    Another test project in the architecture grotto was testing 3D modeling of trenches from excavations of the Nike precinct. Using excavation diaries and a provided grid coordinate system, we mapped our first trench on the eastern side of the precinct, using the elevation data to plot the finds. One experimental method of representing this data is to use an exploded axonometric drawing, which shows both plan and section data of the trench and stratifies the layers where different materials where found in the trench. This technique would show the shape and location of the trench, elevations of layers in which materials were found, what type of materials, how many, and their respective catalog numbers. The data collected from this exercise will be used to find if there is any correlation between the layers of excavated materials and what materials were used to show interiority, exteriority, and whether or not the Nike precinct was a covered monument.

    Axonometric drawing of a trench in the Nike precinct

    Axonometric drawing of a trench in the Nike precinct

    Another ongoing project throughout the summer was converting the hand colored stone maps into a digital format. Different types of stone from each of the major monuments have been previously identified and mapped on paper, and now we’re transferring the data into illustrator and ArchGIS. The illustrator maps will be designed for publication and the ArchGIS data can be used to geotag the stones to better understand the elevation and topography of the site.

    CJ4

    Hand-colored stone map

    The rediscovery of the M190 column in the central ravine outside of the sanctuary was an exciting find! It belonged to the Milesian Dedication building, whose other column drums have been measured and drawn for publication of the Western Hill. With a team of very precise archeologists as measuring assistants, we drew the column in 1:10 scale with noteworthy characteristics to represent its current state. The drawing will eventually be inked to be included with the other inked column drum drawings of the Milesian Dedication.

    Drawing of the M190 column

    Drawing of the M190 column

    And last, but certainly not least, the Nike monument! Last summer, we worked very carefully to understand the relationship of the Nike Monument to the Theater. After several weeks of measuring the archeological finds and comparing that to the survey data in the field, we were able to put together a rendering of the reconstructed monument, which has since been published by the Louvre and several other publications. The goal this year was to update the rendering with colored plaster wall panels that have been excavated in the precinct, update the 3D model of the Nike sculpture herself, and adjust the architectural features to line up more closely with the archeological evidence.

    Rendering of the reconstruction of the Nike Monument

    Rendering of the reconstruction of the Nike Monument

     

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  • Getting Stoned

    11 Nov 2016
    jcmundy
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    1-2% HCl solution in a syringe.

    1-2% HCl solution in a syringe.

     

    Figuring out rocks?
    Use hydrochloric acid.
    Fizz! Oh, a limestone…

    Acid testing is crucial for identifying various stone types in the field. Often, rocks look the same, but are quite different. Let’s use limestone as an example. Dolomitic fossiliferous limestone and fossiliferous limestones look rather similar. However, a chemical difference exists. Fossiliferous limestone, as we define in our stone maps, has a high percentage of calcite, or calcium carbonate (CaCO3), where as dolomitic fossiliferous limestone, or CaMg(CaCO3)2, has more magnesium present, replacing some of the calcium. Due to the slight variation in chemical properties, fossiliferous limestone will react instantaneously with hydrochloric acid (HCl), releasing carbon dioxide (CO2). This reaction can be seen in the form of a fizz; bubbles will start forming on the stone. In contrast, dolomitic fossiliferous limestone will have a delayed reaction when presented with HCl, and won’t fizz as violently. Therefore, HCl is a great way to test for dolomitic qualities in limestones.

     

    The reaction of calcite with hydrochloric acid:

    CaCO3 (s) + 2HCl (aq) –> CO2 (g) + H2O (l) + Ca+ (aq) + 2Cl(aq)

     

    IMG_8854

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  • Surveying on Samothrace

    11 Nov 2016
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    The 2015 Samothrace survey team has been very busy capturing data throughout the site to help spatially locate a number of buildings and geographical features. This year, we used several new technologies to improve our understanding of the site. For the first time in Samothracian history, we captured aerial imagery using an aerial robot. Unfortunately, the aerial robot encountered some technical difficulties, resulting in its decommissioning for the remainder of the season. However, we did get some great photos and videos of the sanctuary before then and look forward to its use in future seasons!

    Aerial photo of the sanctuary

    Aerial photo of the sanctuary

    Another exciting resource this season is the ability to capture 3-D videos and still photographs using 3-D cameras. We documented various monuments and geographical features throughout the site with the cameras. This imagery will be useful for future site management by documenting the current state of various elements in three-dimensional space.

    Ethan and Daniel, our 3-D camera crew

    Stay tuned for some fantastic underwater footage when the survey team took the 3-D cameras under the sea exploring a potential ancient quarry site off the Phonias shoals!

    Jordan capturing underwater video

    Jordan capturing underwater video

    In addition to these thrilling new technologies, we continue to survey in the traditional manner using a total station to capture geolocation data. We also continue to employ photoscanning software for 3-D modeling of specific features on the site.

    Jordan operating the total station

    The main focus of our survey work this season has been exploring how the two main streams in the sanctuary ran through the site in antiquity. Consequently, we have been capturing large amounts of data in the central and eastern ravines through survey, photoscans, and 3-D imagery. As part of this project, we investigated a possible Roman bridge that spanned the central ravine. Using survey data and photoscans of the bridge remains, we hope to determine what the original bridge might have looked like in antiquity.

    Kyriaki surveying boulders in the central ravine

    An unexpected but extremely beneficial project conducted early in the field season was completing the survey of every visible block of the orchestra of the Theatral Circle, which had recently been cleaned. The stalwart survey team logged numerous hours in the sun to capture this data and those efforts will enhance our understanding of this very important architectural feature.

    Theatral Circle, newly cleaned

    What do we do with all this data? Much of the survey data captured during this and recent field seasons has been used by our architect to create a current state plan of the sanctuary, documenting the current condition of both the monuments and the geographical features of the site. The 2-D and 3-D imagery assists in site management, providing a clear record of what the site looks like in 2015, for comparison in future years. Such data will allow future teams to assess which areas of the sanctuary are most in need of attention. Further, this information places monuments and geographical features within their geospatial location, creating an accurate site plan and helping us understand how the sanctuary looked in antiquity and how people would have moved through it.

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  • Mapping the Stones of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods

    11 Nov 2016
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    The Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothrace is constructed from a wide variety of local stone types. Over the past three seasons we have researched which types of stones were used in the construction of these buildings and from which parts of the island they may have been quarried. The choices of stone types for specific monuments can reveal information about dating various buildings as well as potentially reveal information about the degrees to which different stone types were valued.

    Stones in the Faux-Mycenaean Niche, including Vuggy Crystalline Limestone and Porphyritic Quartz Trachyte. Photograph by J. Mundy

    Stones in the Faux-Mycenaean Niche, including Vuggy Crystalline Limestone and Porphyritic Quartz Trachyte. Photograph by J. Mundy

    In 2013 Sara Chang, with the assistance of Dr. Bill Size from Emory University, mapped the different types of stone used in most of the buildings around the sanctuary. She created thirteen maps of various buildings around the sanctuary, and in 2014 Rao Lu cleaned and color-coded the maps for future reference.

    This year geologist Dr. Bill Size from Emory University has been verifying the stone maps. He has also been standardizing the scientific language used to describe the stones and regulating the identification of the stones from all of the major ancient architectural structures in the sanctuary. Additionally, with Dr. Size’s assistance and expertise, I have been creating new stone maps for areas around the Lower Stoa. The Lower Stoa complex of dining rooms A-P was the only architectural area not previously catalogued.

    Lower Stoa drawing 9F of the entire Lower Stoa Plan by J. Kurtich 1980

    Lower Stoa drawing 9F of the entire Lower Stoa Plan by J. Kurtich 1980

    In order to create the new stone maps of this area, I had to work from an actual state plan to keep track of the complicated layers, walls, and structures made of rocks and stones. I first consulted the scanned architectural drawings of the site, and then printed copies of the actual state drawings of the Lower Stoa.

    For the past two and half years, I have been working with the Samothrace project to help sort and organize the database of Samothrace records and have worked closely with the digital copies of the architectural drawings of the site. For this stone mapping project I went through our records and printed copies of the 1994 actual state drawing of the south portion of the Lower Stoa by John Kurtich, as well as three other drawings for other parts of the Lower Stoa.

    Actual State plan of the south Lower Stoa, drawing 9D, from 1994 by J. Kurtich

    Actual State plan of the south Lower Stoa, drawing 9D, from 1994 by J. Kurtich

    After I had prepared the plans, I consulted with Dr. Size on types of stones. Dr. Size taught me how to identify the different types of stones that were used in the structures around the Lower Stoa. Then I spent time in the field closely inspecting each stone, and identifying the types on the actual state plan for four different sections of the Lower Stoa. Finally, I checked back with Dr. Size for corrections to my determinations for accuracy.

    Lower Stoa, viewed from north. Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat 2009

    Lower Stoa, viewed from north. Photograph by Dr. Bonna Wescoat 2009

    The stone maps are now being digitized for future research, using a combination of Adobe Illustrator and ArcGIS software. Once finished we will be able to use these plans as a resource for future studies on the construction sequence of the buildings, the sources of stone for the sanctuary, and various other future studies.

    Working stone map of the south Lower Stoa, plan by J. Kurtich, 1994, stone mapping by Dr. Size and J. Mundy, 2015

    Working stone map of the south Lower Stoa, plan by J. Kurtich, 1994, stone mapping by Dr. Size and J. Mundy, 2015

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  • From the Vantage of the Victory: The Performative Heart of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace

    14 Jun 2016
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    Sponsor:

    NEH Collaborative Research Grant

    Project Description:

    Vantage of the Victory Project TeamThe Victory (Nike) of Samothrace in the Louvre has long captured the imagination of the world, but it becomes all the more powerful when reunited with its spatial, material, historical, religious, and aesthetic environment in the ancient Greek Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace. From the Nike’s vantage over the performative heart of the Sanctuary—Theater, Stoa, and Altar Court—we reframe the archaeological investigation of this Hellenistic international religious center, grounding our exploration in the rich material record of the region, the dynamic environmental factors underlying it, and the human actions through which it was determined and experienced. Drawing on approaches to space, memory, and identity to investigate cultural interaction and community creation in this evocative place—whose rites were open to all and whose promises were famously valued—our work aims to provide a basis for engaging the spatial and experiential issues at stake in understanding sacred places.

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