The Sunset Crew
Out on the rocks watching the sunset with the group-- a beautiful way to spend the evening.
As I write tonight, I'm sitting out on the back porch of Georgou's (pronounced Your-go) taverna, enjoying a cold Mythos (the local Greek beer) and watching the sun set over Mirabello bay. It's hard to believe I've been in Mochlos for over a week now. I arrived in Mochlos last Monday after my spelunking adventure at Skoteino, and I was on a boat out to Mochlos island and the archaeological site at 6:30 AM on Tuesday morning. To recap from an earlier post, the archaeological site of Mochlos is located on a small island about two hundred meters off the north Cretan coast. It was occupied during the entire Bronze Age (that is, from the Early Bronze Age, approximately 3500 BC-2200 BC through the Middle Bronze Age, 2200BC-1600 BC, with the Bronze Age occupation ending at the end of the Late Bronze Age, 1600 BC-1200 BC). It was connected to the mainland by a long spit of land during the Bronze Age, however since the northern coast of Crete has been slowly sinking over the past 4000 years, now Mochlos is an island, meaning that every morning, we gather on the town dock at 6:30 AM and are carted (usually in
The small town of Mochlos (view from the island) only has a few hundred residents year round, but it benefits from a healthy tourist population in the summertime.
four or five trips) by motorboat to the island. The site was also occupied in Hellenistic (323 BC-100 BC) and Roman times, and Jeff Soles, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and the director of the project has been excavating here since the late 1970s and has uncovered a significant portion of the island, but there is still much to be explored. So, two excavation season (2009 and 2010) have been planned to answer a series of different research questions across the site.
When I arrived at Mochlos I was pleasantly surprised to find out that two students I had met on an earlier project, Chad and Hannah from Providence College, who were working with Tom Strasser on the Preveli Gorge project, (featured in the post for Week 1), were in Mochlos to work for about a week and a half before they returned home. They are great people, and I really enjoyed spending the past week and a half with them, as they were the inspiration for some of the sunset-viewing hours, and the weekend adventures (see below).
Anyway, to return to Mochlos...I spent the first four days of excavation on the island openning a new trench
After a long climb up the rockface we stopped to take some beautiful pictures overlooking the Aegean Sea.
with Kostas Hagidakis, a native Cretan archaeologist who has justed finished his MA in Archaeology from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and will be beginning his PhD in the fall. He's a great field archaeologist, having logged seven full seasons of excavation at over ten different sites on Crete (and he's only 28). I shadowed him for a few days to understand the quirks of the site and the methods and recording strategies of the project (because every archaeological project has a slightly different approach to recording and excavating). Unfortunately, it was a week spent mainly dumping wheelbarrel loads (Kostas and I switched off, while two Greek workers excavated through the topsoil layers of the new trench), since we were excavating through what seems to be a soil dump from the 1902-1903 excavations. Anyway, it allowed me an opportunity to acclimate myself and to get a feel for what was expected from a trench supervisor at Mochlos-- a job that I was to take over in trench 4400 come Monday morning.
The week passed quickly, with us working from 6:30 AM to 2:30 PM each day, and then enjoying the beautiful weather, a few beers, a few carafaki of
Chad the Mountain Goat
Chad scampers on ahead up the rock as we attacked Afendis Christos (literally the Lord Christ in Greek and the tallest mountain in east Creek).
raki (the local liquor of choice), maybe a couple carafs of wine, and the sunset. By Friday, we (the ten or twelve students excavating at Mochlos, including 7 students from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Chad and Hannah from Providence, and a graduate student from Long Beach State named Will) had perfected sitting out on the rocks with a few adult beverages and watching the sun disappear behind the mountains. It was more than just a time to enjoy life with friends, but also a time to discuss the happenings on the island, who's trenchs were finding what cool stuff, and how we would interpret the various confusing layers that we had been excavating all week long.
But, Saturday was a day for the ages. After learning from Kostas that the highest mountain in east Crete was only a forty-minute drive from Mochlos (in fact the top can be seen from Mochlos, and was used as a Minoan peak-sanctuary and ritual area, and is also visible from other Minoan sites in the vicinity), Chad, Hannah, Chase (a UNC-G student) and I decided that we should try to climb the mountain. After a quick trip to Ierapetra (the closest
A view from the clouds
By the time we reached the top of the 4500 foot mountain we looked back to the Libyan Sea and realized we were actually above some of the clouds.
large city) to go to the ATMs, grocery store, and do some window-shopping, we headed up a hair-pin, mountain side road, through some of the most picturesque scenery I've yet experienced on Crete. As we wound our way through the mountain village of Thripti, the road quickly deteriorated, and with the very lower clearance on my rented car, we didn't make it much further before we were forced to abandon the car and carry on by foot. After finding a fortuitus shepherd's path that looked to be pointed roughly towards the summit, we followed it for about half an hour and found ourselves looking at a 250-300m rock face. With our only choice being to go onward and upward (turning around and admitting defeat wasn't really an option), Chad took the lead, and we soon found ourselves scampering up a tremendous climb-- a lot of fun but very challenging... At the top of this rock face we found that we weren't even at the summit of the mountain! Luckily, we had also found a dirt road that climbed to the top (a path we later learned we missed after taking a wrong turn in Thripti). We wound our way up
One of the most beautiful beaches I have yet to see on the island-- we swam out to the rocks pictured, climbed up and settled in for a quick nap.
the switchbacks and finally, after about three hours of difficult climbing and hiking, made it to the top. WHAT A VIEW!! From there we were able to see all the way to the tip of eastern Crete, as well as see the Libyan Sea (off the southern coast) and the Aegean Sea to the north. And, had it been a bit clearer of a day we might have caught a glimpse of Santorini, the southern most Cycladic Island-- unfortunately the clouds were a bit too thick. Regardless, it was an amazing place, and we sat at the top snacking on cherries and cookies for a while, just taking it all in. We then trudged back down, this time opting to take the dirt road, and passed through three or four sheep farms before finally finding ol' Herbie and driving back to Mochlos. A fantastic adventure
On Sunday we (this time Chase, Hannah, Jonathon, a graduate student from UNC-G, and I; Chad decided to sleep in after an eventful Saturday night) took another trip that was planned in large part at Saturday's dinner by taking advice and suggestions from Tom Brogan. First we drove out to Sitia, a small town about
L-I-V-I-N. Minoan Style
The palace of Kato Zakros is one of the largest complexes on the island, and it is the biggest in east Crete. A fascinating site, but confusing... especially because we're not really sure it was a palace (despite the title)-- more likely it was an administrative complex.
35 km from Mochlos, stopped for breakfast (coffee and a krema, which is basically a really rich vanilla custard and a delicious way to start the day), and then continued on, around the eastern tip of the island to a small, quiet, beautiful beach called Xerokambos (Here-ro-kum-bose). We swam there for a while and enjoyed a nap. Next, we headed off to the Minoan palace of Kato Zakros, a few miles up the coast, followed by lunch at a famous local taverna on the water in modern day Kato Zakros, and then made our way further up the coast to the Minoan town of Palaikastro, a remarkable site that has been excavated by the British over the past twenty years and has really contributed to our understanding of Minoan houses and towns (which have often been overlooked in favor of excavating palaces). At the end of the day we stopped at a palm beach called Bai (pronounced Vae), and then made our way back through Sitia which allowed us to stop at an ATM, grab another for the ride Krema, gave me the opportunity to put an ill-fated 9 euro bet on the US soccer team who was playing in the Confederation Cup final against Brazil. Unfortunately a wonderful day ended in disappointing fashion when Brazil came back from a 2-0 halftime defecit to beat the Americans 3-2 in a game that the whole excavation watched to the bitter end.
In all the week was a fantastic one, in which I got back to excavating (the reason I really started doing archaeology), gave me the chance to create a handful of new, good friendships, and let me experience some more of this beautiful island.
Once again, I apologize for the growing gaps in between my posts-- as my weekends and free time fill up hanging out with friends here, watching the sunset, or constantly updating, reviewing and fixing my trench notebook from the excavation-- I've let the blog slip a bit. But I hope to get back on track this weekend. Thanks again for the kind notes of support-- glad to know you're all enjoying reading this as much as I enjoy writing it.
All the best,
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