Get Adobe Flash player

A Day at Sissi

The Sissi Archaeological Project involves undergraduate, graduate and more senior researchers with years of fieldwork experience in the Aegean. Several doctoral theses and master dissertations on the project are in preparation. Places on the excavation are reserved for students of the Université Catholique de Louvain and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. We do accept some students from outside on condition that they pay their own transport, board and lodging. Apply to eb.ni1498411889avuol1498411889cu@ne1498411889sseir1498411889d.naj1498411889 with cv and digital photo but be prepared to carry your own costs and to participate for at least 6 weeks.

Since we work during the summer, it can get pretty hot sometimes although the hill usually is a rather pleasant location to excavate, receiving sea breezes from 10 am onwards. Still, we take advantage of the early hours of the day, starting at 6 am and finishing on site around 1.30 pm. We take a break (kollatzo) for half an hour at 10 am for breakfast. After lunch, we start again at 4 pm.

Each area is directed by a senior supervisor with several digs or seasons experience. He/she keeps a notebook in which all relevant information is noted down and in which hypotheses, interpretations are offered. At the same time, we use field computers, sturdy tablets by Panasonic, which have full working day autonomy. These toughbooks have a variety of functions but we use them first of all for database entries. The Sarpedon-project uses a special database, developed by Hubert Fiasse, which is entered on site. Moreover, digital photographs are immediately stored and linked to this database.

Among the techniques that we apply and in which students are trained are the following more detailed information can be found elsewhere on this website:

Topography and GIS. We rent a total station (Leica) from the Institute of Mediterranean Studies at Rethymnon through the kind services of Dr. A. Sarris. Piraye Hacig�zeller has used it first of all to lay out a site grid and reconstruct the topography of the site. She also shoots hundreds of points all throughout the different campaigns: some of these may relate to finds, some to standing architecture, some to natural features of the landscape. All this information is linked to a GIS environment. GIS or Geographical Information Systems is a relatively new technique which allows spatial researchers to construct a series of interrelated maps.

Excavation techniques. Whereas the top layer may be excavated with a khazma a large pick, the usual tool we employ is the small pick, the skalistiri. Trowels are useful when it comes to fine work but the soil is mostly too hard to use it often. Brushes of all kinds and spatula are involved when fine work like clearing skeletons is necessary. There are specific ways to use all these tools and methods differ according to the situation. Soil from archaeological layers is scrutinized by the workmen and archaeologists on the spot and then sieved on site. We also take judgment samples, meaning that, if specific archaeological layers are considered interesting, they are kept after dry sieving to be wet sieved in the excavation house. The excavation itself proceeds in archaeological units or contexts, called zembils after the large, rubber baskets, used to collect sherds. Each unit also involves a bone and shell bag as well as a bag for plaster and obsidian. Objects encountered are given a three-dimensional location. Contexts are drawn at 1:20 scale, sometimes, as in the case of skeletons, at 1:10. Often we take vertical digital photographs that are rectified and redrawn on the computer. Students take turns to wash sherds and other finds in the excavation house or to operate the flotation cell for wet sieving. The result is then selected by hand for all kinds of organic and inorganic materials, supervised by Dr. Valasia Isakidou. A careful analysis of animal bones may teach us something about the kinds of animals Minoans at Sissi kept for their subsistence. Organic materials may inform us about agricultural practices.

Post-excavation. In the excavation house, where Dr. Charlotte Langohr is in charge, a series of other specialists are busy. Charlotte herself is a specialist in ceramic studies. This implies first of all keeping track of all incoming finds, for which she is assisted by Clélia Delmotte. All objects apart from those that are judged necessary for specific analyses such as residue are washed and left to dry. Charlotte, assisted by Florence Liard, who is specialising in ceramic petrography, will go through each zembil of sherds, note down its nature, count and weigh it and propose a preliminary date. They will also look for joins among the sherds of a zembil or among sherds from proximate archaeological units. Vases and other objects that are broken will receive special treatment by the conservation team, father and son Nikakis. They have worked for many years for the archaeological service and are experts where object conservation but also the consolidation and conservation of site remains are concerned. All objects are drawn to scale and photographed.

Minoan landscape. Alongside the archaeological programme, we also try to reconstruct in as much as this is possible the Minoan landscape. We know that the sea level is higher now than it was in Minoan times since remains of an Early Minoan settlement (ca. 2600-2500 BCE) were seen in the sea in the sixties, to the east of the hill, at Kharkoma bay where the beach is for the Kalimera Kriti hotel. Our geoarchaeologist, Simon Jusseret, did a series of auger cores in the valley behind the site and examines each trench carefully in order to collect environmental data. Hence, Minoan society is said to have suffered from an eruption of Santorini volcano during the second half of the 16th century BCE. This may have involved tsunamis and tidal waves and the deposition of masses of pumice on Cretan beaches. At Sissi, layers of pumice can be found at the foot of the Kefali and also further on along the shores. Can these be connected to the Great Eruption?