Indiana TZEINA and The Temple of Corinth

Ancient Corinth.  Just another archaeological site?  Well according to my language professor Apostolos, “Corinth?  Eh there is nothing to see really.  Just some columns and ruins.  There is not much else to do there.  No nice town.  It’s okay.”

 Sounds worthwhile huh?  But I still went this past Friday with some other kids in my program-I’ll decide for myself if Corinth is “just ruins.”  The director of the Arcadia program here in Athens, Jan, is married to the director of excavations at Corinth.  So essentially, we would be getting a backstage tour of Corinth from her husband.  Sweet!

 And man did we get a behind-the-scenes look at Corinth, or rather a behind-the ropes look.  “Ok just step over these ropes guys,” Jan’s husband, Guy, told us.  Step over the ropes?  Go into the closed off area of the ruins?  Wasn’t that breaking the rules? 

 Guy is British and he often used the words “brilliant” and “rubbish” in his explanations, which only further held my attention.  Not to say that he was boring at all.  He took us behind ropes, over “closed” areas, and even encouraged us to touch everything.  It was pretty much as close to being Indiana Jones as I’ll ever get-especially in this economy. We walked all over the site, even crossing some “bridges”-or pieces of plywood that looked as ancient as the ruins underneath them.  At the end Guy brought us to an area where pottery and other artifacts where being reconstructed by the archaeologists.  Thousands of pieces of pottery covered tables set up outside overlooking the entire site. 

 “Go on, pick up anything you want.  Touch it,” Guy said.

 What?  I couldn’t even believe that he brought us that close to the artifacts in the first place (I felt like just breathing near them was damaging them somehow).  Now he is encouraging us to pick them up?  One of the excavators was reconstructing a vase as Guy was speaking.  He had all of these little important looking tools near him, but the one that he was using at that moment was a toothbrush-Colgate brand to be specific.  As I watched him, he seemed to favor the toothbrush over all of the other fancy little brushes.  Talk about tartar control.  If that toothbrush can get ancient earth off pottery, it must be able to handle anything. 

 The most interesting thing that Guy said was about our potential futures in graduate research.  He is overseeing five graduate students at Corinth right now, all of whom are up for Ph.d s. 

 “You have to just throw away the books.  That is what I tell my students.”  

“I told them not to read anything that anyone else has written about Corinth.  But instead, just look at the material culture in front of you-make your own observations-and write about them.”

“As a result four of my past students have disproven previously accepted research about Corinth and five more are on their way.”

“One of them dated pottery in a new way that has made a very famous book about Corinthian pottery completely irrelevant-seeing as it is 100 years off.  This is a huge deal because it has repercussions for the rest of history.”

“This is what you guys must do.  Get rid of the texts written by old farts and draw your own conclusions.  There is nothing more satisfying or empowering than disproving some old scholar’s life work.  It is so gratifying.”

 I loved that idea, just loved it.  It makes me want to change the way we study history.  And as an education major concentrating in social studies, I found his lesson especially relevant. 

 After the site, Melissa (one of my roomies) and I got coffee in the little village nearby.  After we ordered the waiter told us that we spoke excellent Greek.  Well hot damn!  That’s a first.  It felt great to be complemented on something that I have been working soooooo much on.  Just the pronunciation alone is difficult.  And after being corrected so many times over and laughed at by Greeks-I would say on a daily basis- when I speak Greek, I only appreciated the complement more.  But no need to worry about my ego getting too big- a bouncer corrected me on my Greek last night (since when do they even talk?).

 So I guess, for me at least, Corinth was a little bit more than “just ruins.”  In fact, it was full of modern ideas, all of which were uttered by Guy.  And I got a little bit more out of the trip than pictures and facts.  I got an epiphany about history and a complement on my Greek! –It’s all Greek to me.

 Love,

 TZEINA

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