On August 21 and 22, workshops were held at the lecture room of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’s summer camp with two objectives: 1) to start looking for original ideas that could form the basis of the final proposals, and 2) to consider what information will students need to gather from the next two sites, Dion and Pella.
The morning session started with two fundamental advices from the organizers. First, students were asked to overcome the “not enough”-problem based frame of mind. In other words they were asked not to try to come up with ideas that would fill in the gaps observed in the current state of affairs at each site, but to devise proposals that make the most of the current situation as it is today. Secondly, our findings from our interview with the director of the museum of Aigai was shared with the students, and functioned as a reminder from the pre-course education sessions, that there are various stakeholders, as well as approaches, involved in any eventual plan to strengthen the public archaeological value of a site.
On the first day of the workshop, students were asked to make a mind map around two or three ideas that have the potential of not being just “not enough”-based ideas from their presentations on Vergina. The mind map was to include several factors that they would need to think about when drafting a proposal based on those ideas, as well as explanations about where these ideas came from and why. This process, called “thick description” (a term borrowed from anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books, 1973) took expectedly a long time, but the presentations of the mind maps allowed everyone to share suggestions for improvement and to push the boundaries of what is believed to be an original idea. Also, worth of note is that in this workshop students were grouped together in such a way that the new teams were composed of members who had interviewed different stakeholders in Vergina (hence were aware of different points of view) but held ideas that were somehow similar.
After the presentations and a brief lunch, the workshop continued with students asked to revise and/or specify some of their ideas, and start working on the questions they would need to ask in Dion, based on these new proposals. One group was split into two in order to allow them to select ideas they are interested in, and a new group was formed, in order to share the balance of work between participants.
At the end of this first day of workshops, we had the chance to visit another archaeological site nearby; a visit that further changed perhaps the way students think of archaeology. Professor Papadopoulou had indeed arranged for a guided tour of the nearly abandoned temple of Poseidon located near the camp. The tour was held in English by a local sculptor, Mr Magiras, who was born and raised in the region and who had published extensively on some of the archaeological findings of the area. Apart from the fascinating exegesis on the structure of the old temple of Poseidon, students were struck by the state of abandonment of the site, and of course by the lack of signage and other kind of promotion of the location for eventual visitors. These observations revealed the budgetary difficulties of the state to protect and develop every historical finding located on Greek ground, as well as the ensuing plight that some sites are in. Does a public archaeology for such archaeological remains exist?
After a brief detour from the beach, and dinner, we were all warmly invited to a small singing performance organized by the local workers of the camp, where a lot of dancing ensued.
The next day, we were back at the lecture room for a talk by professor Tokmakidis on Dion and Pella, the two archaeological sites we planned to visit the following days, and for more work on the questionnaires that each team needed to write up and share with each other. At the end of the day each student was asked which category of the four stakeholders (except for the one already interviewed in Vergina) he/she would like to question in Dion, and mostly based on these preferences, new mixed teams were built for the next day’s field research.
By 7pm we had all packed our belongings and were ready to return to Thessaloniki for another week of exciting activities and learning opportunities!