This morning we began our day early with a visit to Dr. Salowey’s old stomping grounds at the American School of Classical Studies. We went into the first of three buildings on the American School campus where we met Natalia, the archivist, who had gotten wind of the fact that travelogues were a theme of our trip. When we walked into her office she had already laid out some examples of earlier travelogues by early archaeologists and travelers, mostly ones from the 19th and early 20th centuries. One of them was a journal that had been kept by a woman who traveled through Greek archaeological sites in the 19th century, which was particularly inspiring to us as travelers and as students of a woman’s college.
Next we headed over to the library, which has an extremely impressive collection of rare books and a large collection of other very important archaeological texts. The library was started on a donation of about 200,000 volumes that came from the collection of a Greek man. Natalia told us that he had not been wealthy, but had a very serious passion for collecting these volumes and then left them to the school when he died. The building, which is very elaborate and in the neoclassical style, was paid for by a grant from the Carnegie Foundation.
Inside the library, we tried to be as quiet as a group of 18 could be as we passed through the workspace of many students doing research. We made it into the Rare Book room where we met a woman who was from Greece originally and had become an art history scholar. She specialized in Byzantine art and architecture, but seemed to be very well-versed in all the subjects that could be found in the library. She showed us some rare and old books that had beautiful 19th century depictions of some of the sites we were looking at; these depictions varied drastically from what we have seen here in Greece so far because the modern parts of the cities have come in only recently.
We then continued to another part of the building to see some journals and photographs of other travelers, including Dorothy Sutton and Heinrich Schliemann. Dorothy Sutton was an American woman who had come to Greece to help with medical care in the orphanages during the 19th century. Next we were shown the notebook that Heinrich Schliemann used when he excavated Mycenae. We were all very surprised that we were able to see such a high-profile object so close to us. We all realized that we can never tell who may be reading our journals some day…
After leaving the American School, we walked through an open-air market place in the neighborhood. Dr. Salowey and Dr. Richter got us a bag of locally grown oranges to eat while we made our way to the National Museum. We were also able to stop in the market place and pick up some Greek oregano and other spices to pack in our bags and take home with us. Really we just enjoyed the stroll outside on such a temperate, sunny day.
Finally we made it to the National Museum for our second visit there, where we would be covering bronzes, pottery and artifacts recovered from Thera, a site at Santorini. We stopped to hear a presentation about an ancient astrolabe that was discovered in the wreckage of a Roman shipwreck. It was really astonishing to hear about this device because it really showed us how advanced the Greeks were in sciences and astronomy. We also learned that the bronzes that we have survived for the most part because of the fact that they were buried underwater and therefore could not have been melted down for industrial use in later periods. At the pottery section we learned about the three types of pottery found at Ancient Greek sites: black figure, red figure and white back. There was a huge collection of intact pottery displaying the three varieties and their different uses that varied from funerary urns to wine amphoras. Lastly at the museum we visited the section about ancient Thera. Most of the artifacts that we have left from the site, including the pieces of large-scale frescoes, were preserved because of a massive volcanic eruption that took place at Santorini in ancient times.
After finishing our second and final tour of the museum, we made our final trek up to the Acropolis. It felt like much less of a trek than it had the first time because of the intense climbs we’ve had at Delphi and the Frankish Castle since then. We walked around the site on our own and walked through the Acropolis Museum, where we saw the real columns that had been salvaged from the Erectheion, as well as a great amount of statuary that had been collected from all over the Acropolis. It was a great place to end our trip as we had a view of all of Athens and the Meditteranean, much of which we had experienced up close ourselves.