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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Akrotiri: Pompeii of the Aegean

The island of Santorini in the Mediterranean sounds for the most part like an enticing summer vacation spot. Actually, it is this, and much more. In addition to the attractive Mediterranean clime, the island harbors an incredible archaeological site for those doing the archaeological tour circuit as well as for those conducting serious archaeological research. Known anciently as the island of Thera, it was the location of a settlement that represented one of the most advanced Late Bronze Age settlements in the world. With an elaborate drainage system, sophisticated multi-story dwellings, beautiful wall paintings, furniture and other vessels that marked the trappings of a highly developed civilization, the ancient city of Akrotiri on the island of Thera has been referred to by some as the historical basis for the mythical civilization of Atlantis. It was the series of earthquakes and massive 17th century B.C. volcanic eruption of Thera that scholars say resulted in the city's abandonment and, some suggest, even the demise of the great Minoan civilization itself. Ironically, like ancient Pompeii, the volcanic debris and ash that smothered Akrotiri also ensured a remarkable state of preservation for present-day archaeologists and other researchers to explore and study.

From May 23 to June 11, 2005, Professor Christos Doumas of the University of Athens will be conducting a course designed to instruct interested students on the theory and practice of managing archaeological resources, using the remains of Akrotiri as the focus. Although the work will not involve actual excavation, it nevertheless promises to be a "hands-on" learning experience, as indicated by the following itinerary (from the Website):

Archaeological management and site protection
Lectures on archaeology, history, geology, environment and the traditional life of Thera
Detailed on-site lectures at the monuments of the archaeological site of Akrotiri on town planning, architecture and iconography
Special sessions on pottery and wall paintings
Daily teaching and practice in the laboratories of pottery, wall paintings and organic materials
Conferences with slide shows
Visit and on-site lecture at Ancient Thera
Outdoor activities and lectures at nearby archaeological sites
Museum lectures (museus of Prehistoric Thera and storerooms, Museum of Classical Thera)

The program concludes with a two-day stay on the island of Naxos where the students have the opportunity to visit archaeological sites and museums in which modern methods of management, presentation and exhibition of archaeological evidence have been applied. The on-site visits at Naxos include the following:

The archaic temples: at the town of Naxos (Portara), the temple of Dionysos at Yria and the temple of Demeter at Sangri
The unfinished archaic kouros at Melanes
The site-museum at Metropolis Square
The archaeological museums at the town of Naxos and at the village Apeiranthos
The Byzantine collection housed in the Glezos tower
A tour of the medieval center of the city of Naxos
On the day of return to Athens the program includes a short visit to the island of Paros where the students will have the opportunity to visit
the archaeological museum of Paros.
The ancient cemetery of Paros
The famous early Christian church of Panagia Ekatontapyliani

Classes take place at the site of Akrotiri and on the islands Naxos and Paros.

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