A Walk Through Time: Surveying Perachora

Reeham Khandkar spent three weeks in January 2020 as part of the Perachora Peninsula Archaeological Project, conducting an intensive surface survey.

The three weeks I spent on the Perachora Peninsula Archaeological Project were honestly a dream come true. I remember first hearing about the opportunity offered by the project Director and my then unit convenor – the amazing Dr Susan Lupack. An archaeological project in Greece, for an Archaeology student majoring in Ancient Greece? It sounded absolutely perfect. I started the whirlwind experience of being a part of the first-year team at Perachora in January of 2020.

Travelling to Greece for the first time by itself would have been amazing enough, but thanks to Macquarie University and of course the AAIA, I was able to spend it engaging in archaeological fieldwork. At such an incredibly beautiful site too. Being the first year on this project, our work included a lot of groundwork for future years. One of the biggest parts of our work was to conduct an intensive ground survey of the area. This is the research that comes before excavation, which is what most people usually associate with archaeology. Our focus remained on the surrounding settlements and waterworks system associated with the stunning Sanctuary of Hera at the tip of the peninsula. The sanctuary, dedicated to the queen of the Olympian gods, is one of the earliest sanctuaries of historical times, dating to the 8th century B.C.

The Sanctuary of Hera. Photo Credit: Reeham Khandkar
The team by the Heraion. Photo Credit: Susan Lupack

To me, field-survey felt like an adventure. It consisted of walking around the seaside mountainous terrains of Greece, searching for sherds of pottery and other artefacts from thousands of years ago. It was a surreal experience, akin to travelling back in time. Our job included recording artefacts in the area, in a systematic manner. Ideally, we were walking in square units recording every artefact we could see and then collecting diagnostic sherds (which are identifiable sherds such as rims, handles, and bases of pottery vessels, as well as painted pottery). In archaeology, the recording of information is everything. We recorded everything from what our terrain looked like, to taking GPS points of our location. Our data was recorded both on physical paper and on a digital database. All these elements affect our interpretation of what we find, therefore it was important to note and store for easy access later.

Our team powered through a range of landscapes and weather conditions like superheroes, recording everything we found for the greater archaeological record. Although, to be honest, it did take a little time to train your eyes to discern what may be ancient pottery to what was simply pretty rocks. It was unbelievable to me that these ancient artefacts had survived through so many processes, only to be found by me in 2020.

My favourite diagnostic find – painted pottery. Photo Credit: Zedekiah Grisez
One of our surveying grounds, by the ocean. Photo credit: Zedekiah Grisez

By extension to the survey came the post-processing of finds, or as we called it – The Pottery Team. I was very lucky to be a part of this team near the end of our project, as this is where we actually analysed our finds collected at the survey. The whole process in this team included washing, drying, analysing and then photographing the finds. This was where I discovered my love for pottery. With help from the Director, our team would interpret the physical appearance of artefacts, weigh and attempt to date them. This part felt like putting together a puzzle. Based on the broken sherd of an ancient pottery vessel we would construct its type, date and possible function. This was the interpretative purpose of the project and I felt very enlightened when analysing our finds. We had a range of artefacts from different periods, such as the archaic, classical and Hellenistic pottery, as well as some lithics!

Drying samples. Photo credit: Nathan Stein

Our trip was also supplemented with tours of Ancient Greek cities on our days off. We had organised trips to the sites of ancient Corinth, Mycenae and Tyrins, sites I had previously studied at university. Nothing compares to seeing and experiencing the physical site which I had only studied theoretically before. Other interesting trips we took were to the sites of the famous ancient Panhellenic Games, including Nemea and Isthmia. One of the best highlights of the trip was our own race at Nemea. I can now proudly say that I raced at the ancient stadium of Nemea, like so many before me. The trips were also educative, to relate these sites back to our own work at Perachora.

The practical experience of the project allowed me to truly appreciate the theories and interpretations I have been learning for two years as an undergraduate student. It has allowed me to envision my future as an archaeologist and has definitely made me realise that this is the career path for me!

About Reeham Khandkar: I am a third-year student at Macquarie University studying a Bachelor of Archaeology. I major in Ancient Greece, Rome and Late Antiquities, however, am interested in all things history and archaeology!

Read the other posts in the Perachora Peninsual Archaeological Project series:

Dr Susan Lupack: Perachora Peninsula Archaeological Project

Samantha Mills: Life on the PPAP

Nathan Stein: Pottery at Perachora: A Photographer’s Journal

Read more from HDR students at Macquarie University on the Ancient History Department blog:

https://www.mq.edu.au/faculty-of-arts/departments-and-schools/department-of-ancient-history

Contacts

Dr Stavros Paspalas – Acting Director
Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens, Room 480, Madsen Building (F09), University of Sydney NSW 2006 Australia
+61 2 9351 4759 +61 (0)2 9351 7693 arts.aaia@sydney.edu.au