CULTURE

Archaeology throughout the Aegean

Modern Greek towns and cities are practically all built on the foundations of ancient cities and sites. We live on ancient ruins, yet besides the obvious and most well known, we hardly know of the hundreds of other sites that occupy an important position in our cultural heritage. A visit to a region in Greece may provide the occasion for some further reading on a particular site, and this is where guides or more specialized books on a given site may be quite handy. Yet it is rare that one is offered a more comprehensive knowledge of archaeology and is given a broader context in which to place existing information. «Archaeology, Aegean Islands,» recently published in Greek by Melissa (an English edition and possibly a German one are expected for the fall), is an impressive publication that for the first time in both the Greek and international bibliography, offers full documentation of all archaeological sites throughout the Aegean. From the largest islands to the smallest islets, it covers every piece of land in the Aegean Sea that was populated by man in any period in time from 7,000 BC to the fourth century AD. Rich in content and filled with well-reproduced images, the book, which is edited by archaeologist Andreas Vlachopoulos (currently collaborating with Christos Doumas in the excavations at the site of Akrotiri in Santorini), puts together the most important archaeological sites in the entirety of the Aegean in a single, hardbound, fully illustrated, 460-page volume. The wealth of information and the sheer number of contributing authors renders it an objective documentation – instead of a partial selection made on specific criteria – of archaeological research over the past two decades. The book, which was presented recently to the press by professor of archaeologist at Cambridge University Colin Renfrew, who actually came to Greece especially for the presentation, as well as archaeologist Christos Doumas, author of the book’s foreword, is the outcome of four years of research and includes essays by 46 authors (all Greek archaeologists with the exception of Luigi Beschi and Thomas Brogan), each chosen by Vlachopoulos for his rounded knowledge on the area that he writes about. Much of the information it includes is presented for the first time and all photographs have been produced especially for the publication. Vlachopoulos chose to place the emphasis on recent archaeological discoveries. Another intention was to present archaeological sites as a chain in a cultural continuum rather than as an isolated cultural heritage. This led him to concentrate on the present-day state of the ancient sites; he has chosen to exclude information that fail to make a connection between past and present (for example, the ancient names of the cities are not included). The book follows a clear structure. The first few chapters provide an overview of the cultural history of the Aegean Islands and each chapter that follows examines a different region of the Aegean, with every island treated separately in sub-chapters. The reader will be pleasantly surprised with information on the most remote islands but will also grow aware of the importance of having all the data presented together. It is what gives a rounded understanding and allows for comparisons and connections to be made. «Archaeology, Aegean Islands» is the first volume of a series that will cover archaeological sites all over Greece. Melissa has a strong tradition of producing comprehensive, scientifically substantiated survey books that cover entire aspects of Greek culture. The series on Greek traditional architecture and the four-volume series on Greek architecture are examples. The «Archaeology» series is added to this important oeuvre of documenting Greek civilization. An innovative addition to the existing bibliography on archaeology, it also makes a specialized field accessible to the general public.