Field research in Dion

On the 23rd, we departed early in the morning from Thessaloniki on the route to Mount Olympus and the archaeological site of Dion. Today and the day after tomorrow, we knew we would only have one day to visit the sites in the morning and conduct our interviews in the afternoon. Mind sets had therefore to be wired to absorb as much information as possible and ask as specific questions as possible to the different stakeholders in a shorter period of time. The teams for fieldwork were announced in the bus, and thanks to our beloved portable printer, we could print out the questionnaires from each proposal group to handed them out to each group member, who would have to work with different partners on the interviews. (In the picture below on the right, green are the teams interviewing residents, grey are the teams interviewing site employees, orange are those interviewing shop owners and purple are those questioning visitors. On the lest are the final proposal presentation teams)

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Our day started with a thorough but quick visit of the sacred city of Dion itself and of the museum later on. Our guide, Ms Benaki, provided very succinct and clear explanations of the geographical significance of Dion, referring to its location on the narrow piece of land that connects central and northern Greece, between Mt Olympus and the Aegean sea. The site had definitely a different air to it. As a sacred city of temples (and later Christian churches), Dion had developed a complex system of infrastructure to host pilgrims, tourists and other kind of visitors of the ancient world. The site was also distinguished because of the presence of water, which during the winter would result in the flooding of parts of the remains, giving the area a different aesthetic to that of the larger towns of Aigai and Pella in the north. The museum housed mosaics found in a very good state, as well as one of the oldest remaining version of an hydraulis, a water organ. Another item that caught our students’ attention was a device that allowed sculptors to copy busts or other types of small scale sculptures. Our visit ended with the watching of a short video of Dion’s satellite exposition at the Onassis Culture Center in New York, which had just ended this past July. The video was particularly interesting because it showed in detail the methods used to transport ancient and precious artifacts over long distances.

After a quick lunch we were back in the annex of the museum for a lecture (interpreted from Greek to English by Prof Papadopoulou) by the archaeologist Maria Iatrou, and in the presence of the vice-mayor of Olympus-Litochoro, Mr Kalaitzis. The lecture, titled “Case‐study: Ancient Dion. Interaction of the Archaeological Site with the Local Communities and the Role of Public Administration,” introduced the history of the site in the modern period and how it had been affected by changes in local administrative boundaries over the years. Particularly informative was also the description of activities aiming at involving the local community and bringing more visitors to the area, which, contrary to Vergina, is fairly difficult to expand further because the modern village is squeezed between the mountain and the remains of ancient Dion. Following the lecture a relatively extended Q&A session was held and revealed similar challenges as to those witnessed in Vergina, although the scale of the issues was perhaps smaller.

Straight after the lecture students were given about 3 hours to conduct their interviews, before we met back in front of the entrance of Dion for a quick tour of the ancient theatre, which marked the end of another very long day.

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