French School: A cen­tury of ex­ca­va­tions on Tha­sos

Thes­sa­loniki Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum ex­hibit ded­i­cated to FSA

Kathimerini English - - Life - BY IOTA SYKKA

Philippi or Malia. How­ever, the one on Tha­sos, an is­land in the north­east Aegean Sea, is no less im­por­tant. Tha­sos used to be among the 10 most pow­er­ful cities of the an­cient world and was rich in mar­ble quar­ries, gold mines and pot­tery work­shops.

Early digs in 1911 re­vealed parts of the an­cient city walls, the port (which was used by the navy as well as mer- chant ships) and the agora (the an­cient mar­ket). Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have also un­earthed the is­land’s an­cient po­lit­i­cal, ad­min­is­tra­tive and re­li­gious cen­ter, a the­ater and en­tire neigh­bor­hoods that sur­vive in rel­a­tively de­cent con­di­tion.

Many of the sculp­tures and in­scrip­tions dis­cov­ered at the time are now on dis­play at the Lou­vre in Paris.

The Tha­sos an­tiq­ui­ties are the sub­ject of an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum of Thes­sa­loniki. Ti­tled “100 Years of Ex­ca­va­tions on Tha­sos by the French School of Athens,” the show is or­ga­nized in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the 18th Ephor­ate of Pre­his­toric and Clas­si­cal An­tiq­ui­ties in Kavala, north­west­ern Greece, and will re­main on dis­play through the end of Au­gust.

The or­ga­niz­ers are hop­ing to draw at­ten­tion to the Athens-based school’s mul­ti­fac­eted ac­tiv­i­ties over the past cen­tury and at the same time high­light some of the finds that have been brought to light over that pe­riod. It is im­por­tant to note that the digs be­gan when the is­land was still un­der Ot­toman oc­cu­pa­tion and they are still on­go­ing.

The ob­jects on dis­play are rather small in num­ber – the Kavala ephor- ate has pro­vided 18 ar­ti­facts on loan from its col­lec­tion. All of them were found dur­ing ex­ca­va­tions car­ried out by the French School of Athens. Among them, per­haps the most strik­ing item on dis­play is a 5th cen­tury BC in­scrip­tion found at the site of the an­cient agora. It car­ries the names of in­spec­tors and mar­ket reg­u­la­tors.

There is also an ar­chaic ter­ra­cotta acro­te­rion in the form of a Gor­gon and clay fig­urines, as well as a large num­ber of of­fer­ings that were col­lected from the is­land’s sanc­tu­ar­ies.

The pho­to­graphs and texts that fea­ture in the ex­hi­bi­tion are di­vided into the­matic units that in­clude the ac­tiv­ity of the fran­co­phone in­sti­tu­tion, the ex­perts who have worked on the is­land, and re­lated doc­u­ments pro­duced over the past cen­tury. Vis­i­tors can learn about past ex­ca­va­tion works on mon­u­ments and sites such as the walls and the acrop­o­lis, the agora, the sanc­tu­ar­ies, the neigh­bor­hoods of the city, the ne­crop­o­lis, the pot­tery work­shops and the mines in the coun­try­side.

There will also be screen­ings of a film about the his­tory of the is­land and its role dur­ing an­tiq­uity.

“This ex­hi­bi­tion must be viewed as a whole. It does not pri­or­i­tize spe­cific ex­hibits over oth­ers be­cause ev­ery­thing, to­gether with the pho­to­graphs and the his­tor­i­cal records, is used to cre­ate a nar­ra­tive,” Eleft­he­ria Akrivopoulou, an ar­chae­ol­o­gist work­ing at the Thes­sa­loniki mu­seum, told Kathimerini.

The ex­hi­bi­tion does more than just shed light on the his­tory of the is­land. It’s also a tribute to those who have taken part in the ex­ca­va­tions car­ried out over the past 100 years: ar­chae­ol­o­gists as well as re­searchers from across all fields, both Greek and for­eign, and other staff such as se­cu­rity guards. Black-and-white snap­shots of or­di­nary peo­ple that lent a hand dur­ing the digs are dis­played next to his­tor­i­cal pic­tures de­pict­ing land­mark mo­ments in Greece’s his­tory.

A kouros is grad­u­ally dug up by an ex­ca­va­tion team at the Tem­ple of Pythian Apollo on the is­land of Tha­sos in a pho­to­graph from 1920 (above left). Right: Sili­nos’s Gate is seen in a pho­to­graph from 1913.

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