Exposé of my Digging Days
Monday, May 7, 2018
View from the Central Court as a storm rolled into Sissi (© EBSA; T. Thoennes)
My name is Tatiana Thoennes, a current fourth year student completing a History of Art Specialist and a Renaissance Studies Major. Last summer, from June 24th to August 4th, 2017, I interned outside of my concentrated area of study as a volunteer archaeologist on the Sissi Archaeological Project at Sissi, Crete; and had one of the best experiences of my life. Archaeological excavations have been underway in the Aegean since before 1900 when archaeologists such as Heinrich Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans attempted to find evidentiary support for tales told by Homer and Greek mythology. Excavating has since evolved to be more than the unearthing of tales and are now more the attempt to discover all there is to know about proto-historical civilisations. Archaeologists at Sissi, Crete celebrated their tenth year of excavation this past summer; a summer I am proud to say I was able to take part in, a summer which fueled my love for archaeology.
The second object I found – a Lithic Tool (© EBSA; photo by M. Georgiadou)
The excavation is directed by Professor Jan Driessen from the Université catholique de Louvain under the auspices of the Belgian School at Athens and in collaboration with the Archaeological Service of East Crete (Ministry of Culture of Greece). This past season, there was an impressively large team consisting of 69 volunteers in addition to the permanent team and workmen. The Sissi Project consists of the archaeological site and the Apothiki. The Apothiki is located off-site and is where all samples and objects found on site are brought each day; cleaned, identified, dated and stored.
Each day on (and off) site was structured with a specific timeline to ensure productivity. Everyone was expected to be there and ready to work at 06:00. We would work until Kollatzo (breakfast provided by the excavation) at 10:30 which lasted for half an hour; after which we would work until 14:00. All bags containing samples and objects found during the day, as well as supervisor notes, had to be provided to Professor J. Driessen by 14:00 and no later. After excavation was done for the day, we would have a break and were provided lunch back at our respective dig hotels. For those that did not have to go to the Apothiki, the rest of the day was free. Those on the afternoon Apothiki rotation would rest until 16:00 and then would be driven to the Apothiki to clean pottery until 18:30, leaving the remainder of the evening free. Every volunteer that wasn’t already permanently working at the Apothiki was put on rotation to work selected full days at the Apothiki. Full Apothiki days started half an hour later than excavation, at 06:30. We would be picked up and driven to the Apothiki, wash pottery, break for Kollatzo at 11:00, rest between 14:30-16:30 until the afternoon shift of Apothiki workers began to arrive, and continued to wash pottery or to help organize the finds until work was done for the day.
Working hard and having fun! (© EBSA; photo by M. Georgiadou)
This season, Sissi was split into six dig areas, called zones. I was assigned to Zone 16: the Central Court. My Zone Supervisor and Toughbook Assistant were well versed in explaining and guiding new volunteers regarding excavation, explaining individual tasks and creating a wonderful daily working environment. The volunteers in my zone had diverse backgrounds, academically and in terms of excavation experience, which made for an exciting summer of getting to know one another. In my trench, the goal was to extend the Central Court to the south to discover the South Wall (if there was one left). Toward the end of the six-week dig season, my trench found the South Wall of the Central Court! Prior to discovering the southern end of the court, we discovered a western access point to the Central Court which was beautifully paved, and can be argued to be a processional walk way leading into the Central Court!
Washing pottery at the Apothiki (© EBSA; T. Thoennes)
Though there was a lot of worked involved, there was also plenty of time for fun. I was delighted that weekends were ours to do with as we pleased. I spent almost every weekend travelling around Crete to various other cities and archaeological sites with fellow volunteers, my newfound friends. We used the first weekend as a time to relax and give our bodies some rest after being thrown into physical labour and Greece’s extremely hot summer climate. On the second weekend, we went to Rethymnon and to a Minoan cemetery at Armeni (which had over 200 chamber tombs!). The third weekend we went to Knossos, traveled around Heraklion and Malia. The fourth weekend we went to Palaikastro and hiked up to the Peak Sanctuary of Petsofas. On the second-last weekend, a very close friend that I met from the USA and I went to Phaistos: we had contemplated if the long distance would be worth the trip for one day, and was it ever! The last weekend of the excavation, there was a beach party for everyone on the team as a farewell and close to a fantastic excavation season. In addition to free time on weekends, having the evenings free meant there was time to have group dinners with fellow volunteers, time to go to the beach, and time for an awe-inspiring tour of the entire site of Sissi by its director, Professor J. Driessen.
At Petsofas Peak Sanctuary overlooking Palaikastro (© EBSA; E. Sevastakis)
I am often asked about how I found out about the excavation, how I got on it, and how much it cost. Like many people I did not know how to get onto an excavation: I also had no idea that someone without any archaeological background or previous experience would be accepted onto a dig site. It wasn’t until I met with a professor from one of my classes and asked very basic questions about how he had found his path in the academic world: it was him that suggested I try excavating, and it was him that put me in touch with the director of Sissi. Once I was in contact with Professor J. Driessen, we established I was available for the entire six-week excavation season and that I was able to (and expected to) fund my own way to Crete, and my stay during the unpaid excavation. Although funding my own way to and during the excavation proved to be rather expensive, booking my flights in advance and grocery shopping instead of eating out for every dinner brought the cost down significantly. Lesson learned: go talk to your profs! They are wonderful people that are there to answer your questions, however basic they may seem!
Having the opportunity to live and work in a small town in Greece was a fun and eye-opening experience that had an immense impact on me. Dining at family run venues (my personal favourites were Remezzo, Paradosiako and Stam Stam!) created an atmosphere of intimacy and wholesomeness that left one feeling rejuvenated and one with Greek cultural traditions. The experiences I accumulated during excavation as well as on weekends exploring the Cretan environment re-established my passion for ancient history and has since helped direct my interest moving forward into graduate studies.
In the six-week excavation at Sissi, I grew a lot as an archaeologist and as a person. I found that I had pushed myself mentally and physically more than I had ever originally anticipated when I had left Toronto. The experience to work hands-on with history, being in the dirt trying to find quite literally the foundation of proto-historical societies, was an astounding feeling. Volunteering on this excavation introduced me to an aspect of history which I will continue to study, and hopefully, will continue to excavate.
Sissi Team photo taken on the Central Court (© EBSA; Gavin McGuire)
HASA Conference Report
Thursday, April 5, 2018
On Saturday March 10th, the History of Art Students’ Association (HASA) at the University of Toronto presented the Fourth Annual Undergraduate Symposium; this year in cooperation with the Graduate Union of Students’ of Art (GUStA). The conference was centered around the theme of The Art of Passage: Trade, Colonial Expansion, Globalism, and featured a keynote speaker Iftikhar Dadi from Cornell University.
The day began by Professor Jenny Purtle’s introductory lecture on “Ambiguous Ground: Chinese Painting and the Sino-Mongol City”. After which, Students from universities across North America, including University of Toronto, UBC, Yale, Harvard and Columbia, presented their papers on related topics. Grouped in thematic panels the presenters opened a dialog with the audience on the subject of their papers and communicated their research and ideas.
The event provided an opportunity for students to gain from each other’s work and encounter various approached to undergraduate research in art history. Each presentation portrayed a unique methodology in perusing the influence of foreign encounters in artistic development from antiquity to contemporary artistic practices. The diversity and intellectual depth of the papers made for a dynamic educational experience for the presenters and the audience alike.
Report by Faraz Olfat
Photos: Nadia Bortolazzo
Samantha Chang UTAA Graduate Scholar and Sedra Award Finalist
Friday, March 16, 2018
The University of Toronto Alumni Association has named Samantha Chang (BA 2013 TRIN, MA 2016) as one of three recipients of the UTAA Graduate Scholar and Sedra Award Finalist.
The Adel S. Sedra Distinguished Graduate Award is a fellowship awarded annually to a doctoral student who demonstrates outstanding academic and extracurricular leadership. Samantha has been recognized for her outstanding academic and non-academic achievements, her initiative, creativity, and dedication to her scholarly activities, and her leadership capabilities, including her vision and collaboration skills. Samantha and the other recipients of the 2018 Awards of Excellence will be celebrated at a recognition ceremony on Thursday, May 3, 2018.
Please join us in congratulating Samantha on receiving this prestigious award!
More information about the University’s Awards of Excellence and this year’s winners can be found here: https://alumni.utoronto.ca/events-and-programs/awards/awex
Professor Kavaler recipient of Docteur honoris causa
Monday, March 12, 2018
Professor Ethan Matt Kavaler has been awarded a prestigious honorary doctorate by the University of Liège in Belgium.
The recognition cited Prof. Kavaler’s landmark work on Pierre Bruegel the Elder, his research and teachings at the juncture between the Middle Ages and the modern times, and his contributions to renewing the focus on famous artistic productions of European art of the sixteenth century. Prof. Kavaler was among eleven academics honoured for their achievements.
Founded in 1817 following a decree by Napoleon a decade earlier, the University of Liège is one of Belgium’s oldest and most respected institutions. Previous individuals awarded honorary degrees by the university include Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Salman Rushdie.
Please join us in congratulating Prof. Kavaler on receiving this prestigious award!
More information about the Prof. Kavaler’s Docteur honoris causa from ULiège can be found here: https://events.uliege.be/dhcdr/docteurs-honoris-causa-2018/matt-kavaler/
How do you explain and visualize opera and the performing arts to blind and partially sighted people while keeping true to historical forms?
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
L to R: OA Board Member Jan Lambert, Lauren, OA Co-Artistic Director Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg @ a community workshop
Hello, I am Lauren Wu and I am currently a fourth-year student competing my art history major in the Department of Art. Throughout my university career I have always been fascinated with the spectacles and traditions of the preforming arts. Opera, dance and theater have been themes and ideas that I have explored in many classes including FAH353H1 (On Display: Cultures of Exhibition, 1789-1900) and FAH345H1 (The Romantic Movement in French Art).
Love of the arts has been cultivated and nurtured by my ballet teachers, Jeannette and Marshall. Opera Atelier is an Opera Company based in Toronto, with an emphasis on baroque period opera. Annually, they mount two different productions and take a travelling production to the Royal Opera House at Versailles. Not only an Opera Company, Opera Atelier has the Making of an Opera program for schools to introduce to opera to students through participation in activities such as staging, singing, and dancing.
Photo by Bruce Zinger
Two years ago my ballet teachers approached me with a question of making opera more accessible to a broader audience. With my background in government relations and advocacy I was motivated to find a solution and provide innovative programming that catered to blind and partially sighted people.
Throughout the course of this project, I have researched how certain institutions, particularly the Art Gallery of Ontario and Metropolitan Museum of Art have approached this question and apply their solutions to what would later be used at Opera Atelier. I have had the opportunity to create partnerships with various community agencies that cater to blind and partially sighted people. These relationships have helped us create unique programming for each group. Workshops can range from a single day workshop in a community or school setting, as part of the Making of an Opera program to a series of workshops for young professionals designed to engage a new generation of opera goers.
Art Gallery of Ontario, Multisensory tour – Lauren and Rodin’s The Thinker
Designing these workshops has also put my skills developed in art history to use. Opera Atelier produces baroque opera and therefore studies the history of baroque art and baroque performance. The skills of art history such as research and the study of objects is essential for their productions Motifs, found especially in classical sculpture for example, and can be a great way to teach positions of the body or help engage students in historically informed discussions. For our course happening in the winter, we have used Ulysses sculpture at Versailles as principal inspiration. Furthermore, other courses I have taken in anthropology and archaeology have also helped the creation of this project.
I encourage any student to explore their interests outside of the classroom. Taking an independent study or internship course can help you broaden the scope of your interests. Not only does it provide a motivating challenge to complete a real project in the world, it also provides a space to develop your own ideas and have them realized in the broader community. These opportunities should not be overlooked by any student interested in a career in the arts.