Kea: Thank you, Miriam Caskey

Is­land holds spe­cial event for Amer­i­can ar­chae­ol­o­gist who ex­ca­vated site at Aghia Irini

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY AIMILIA KALOGERAKI

The north­ern Cy­cladic is­land of Kea (Tzia) re­cently paid tribute to Amer­i­can ar­chae­ol­o­gist Miriam Caskey for her con­tri­bu­tion to the ex­ca­va­tion of Aghia Irini, a key stop­ping point on trade routes across the Aegean Sea dur­ing the Bronze Age.

“We were a team, the ar­chae­ol­o­gists and the lo­cal work­ers. But your fa­thers, grand­fa­thers and great-grand­fa­thers brought knowl­edge of the ground and had a lot to teach the Amer­i­can ar­chae­ol­o­gists who had just taken their noses out of their books,” Caskey said at a cer­e­mony at the Folk­lore Mu­seum of Kea in My­lopota­mos in Septem­ber.

Caskey first came to Greece on a schol­ar­ship in 1955 and hasn’t left since. She was mar­ried to John Caskey, the former di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can School of Clas­si­cal Stud­ies at Athens who dis­cov­ered the site at Aghia Irini and led ex­ca­va­tions there from 1960 – a piv­otal time for the is­land – un­til his death in 1981.

In 1957, Tzia had wit­nessed the shut­down of a fac­tory that for 30 years had pro­duced enamel table­ware and army hel­mets – its 45-me­ter chim­ney in Koris­sia is listed as a his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ment. Shortly be­fore that, a coal trad­ing busi­ness where steam ships would stop to re­fuel had also folded. These two clo­sures, among other fac­tors, prompted a wave of im­mi­gra­tion from the is­land, as peo­ple looked for work else­where. The ar­rival of the Amer­i­can ar­chae­o­log­i­cal team came like a breath of fresh air for the cash­strapped, job­less is­lan­ders. Apart from the money the Amer­i­cans spent on ac­com­mo­da­tion and food, they also em­ployed car­pen­ters, welders, guards and other work­ers to help at the site. And come Satur­day, the work­ers were handed an en­ve­lope with their name on it – a rare cour­tesy – with their week’s wages and pos­si­bly a small bonus, if the dig had yielded a par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing find.

Many of the chil­dren, grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren of those work­ers at­tended the event to honor Caskey, who stood be­tween her grand­son Aris and her great-grand­daugh­ter Athena as she re­counted sto­ries from her life and her to Greece in 1955 (above left). Top to bot­tom: The ar­chae­ol­o­gist is pre­sented with an hon­orary plaque by Kea au­thor­i­ties; with col­leagues dur­ing a field trip; lo­cal work­ers car­ry­ing an an­cient pithos; Caskey with find­ings at the dig site. mem­o­ries of Tzia well be­fore it be­came the up­scale hol­i­day is­land it is to­day.

Hail­ing from Philadel­phia, Caskey went on to study ar­chae­ol­ogy and in World War II got a pi­lot’s li­cense, taught air force pi­lots me­te­o­rol­ogy, folded parachutes, worked at an air­craft re­pair base and did any­thing else she could. “We all learned a lot from the war,” she said.

She spoke of the pale pink light of dawn as she saw Pi­raeus for the first time after an 11-day jour­ney on the liner Olympia with her daugh­ter He­len on Septem­ber 20, 1955, work­ing at the An­cient Agora and pub­lish­ing a pa­per on the My­conos Vase, fall­ing in love with Tzia and build­ing a home there, and work­ing on the rare clay stat­ues that came to light at Aghia Irini, which were “un­like any­thing found any­where else.” She re­mem­bered how there was only one tele­phone on the en­tire is­land at the time, and how old caiques were more re­li­able than the new ferry boats for sail­ing from the main­land port of Lavrio. She de­scribed the in­car­cer­a­tion of the lead­ers of the 1967-74 mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship at the is­land’s only big ho­tel and how the port of Aghios Niko­laos was bar­ri­caded by war­ships. Mainly she spoke of the lo­cals’ an­tic­i­pa­tion of fi­nally see­ing the finds that were brought to light – with their help in some cases – in a spe­cial sec­tion of the Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum of Kea that is cur­rently be­ing pre­pared by the Greek Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Ser­vice.

Caskey also spoke of her fu­ture plans, say­ing she would like to see the names of all the ex­ca­va­tion work­ers be in­cluded on the plaque that will be set up in the new ex­hi­bi­tion area to honor their con­tri­bu­tion. She is also plan­ning to con­tinue study­ing and writ­ing about Aghia Irini. Re­sort & Vil­las bagged the ti­tle of World’s Lead­ing EcoLodge at the World Travel Awards Grand Fi­nal for a sec­ond year in a row, draw­ing at­ten­tion to the coun­try’s ef­forts in the area of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.

Caskey dur­ing her first visit

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.