August 23, 2007

Greece, part 2

So who goes on an archaeological project like this one? Well, like most projects, this one relied on student volunteers. Some, like me, were graduate students and had plenty of experience, while others were college students looking either to gain experience in archaeology, or just to party in Greece for a month (this misapprehension was soon corrected). A few experts were brought in to fulfill specific tasks, like ceramic analysis.

Most of the student volunteers lived in a schoolhouse in a tiny village close to our survey site. They slept in cots, 5 or so to a room, and had access to a sink and some really unpleasant toilets.

I, however, stayed with several other people in an apartment in Kiato, a larger town several miles from the site and right on the sea. Even though I slept in the living room, I can’t complain too much, because we had a functional toilet and shower (no hot water though). Plus, it was 2 blocks from the beach…and 3 blocks from a really nice bakery.

Since none of our accommodations had a functional kitchen, food was provided for us by the project. We were on our own for breakfast, and lunch consisted of a nasty sandwich in the field…but dinner made up for all of this, as it was catered by a local restaurant and was consistently fantastic. Every night it was something different- roasted chicken and lemony potatoes, moussaka, meatballs, fassoulia (bean stew with tomatoes and zucchini), roast pork…and my favorite- pastitsio.

Pastitsio is a layered pasta dish, often compared to lasagna, although it’s a bit different. It typically consists of a layer of ground beef or lamb cooked with tomato, followed by a layer of long tubular pasta, and topped with a thick layer of b├ęchamel sauce and a bit of cheese on the very top, which gets crusty and delicious in the oven. Often the b├ęchamel contains nutmeg or cinnamon, which gives it a distinct taste. This is, in my opinion, one of the best things in the world when it’s done well- the ultimate comfort food...meaty, creamy, and so rich that afterwards it feels like you've eaten a (delicious) brick. I’ve never made pastitsio, but it’s certainly on my “to cook” list.

Feeding your crew well is essential on projects like this- but not all project directors realize it. Think about it- you have a fairly large group of people (25 in our case), many of whom have come from far away to work FOR FREE on your project. And the work is not easy- it’s a lot of physical labor, unpleasant working conditions, and often very long work days (9-12 hours a day, 6 days a week). If you don’t take good care of your crew, you’ll have a mutiny on your hands in no time, or at the very least they will do a half-assed job. It’s amazing what an effect food can have on morale. Oh, and beer....archaeologists need lots of beer.

Next: A day in the life…

See the other installments in this series:

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