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Amyklaion Excavation

By Frank S. Ruperto, VI Form

Amyklaion Excavation

Editor’s Note: This project was made possible with the support of the Class of 1968 V Form Fellowship. At their 25th reunion, the Class of 1968 created a fund to provide grants to V Form students for independent study during the school year or, more commonly, during the summer between V and VI Forms. Their intent in establishing this fund was to reward independent thinking, ingenuity, and planning and to encourage the student in exploring non-traditional fields of inquiry or using non-traditional methods of investigation.

My experience at the Amyklaion Excavation program in Sparta, Greece, this past summer enabled me to bring the Classics to life. The Hellenic Education and Research Center offered the program, which consisted of an excavation, archaeological method and practice, on-site documentation and cataloging of artifacts, and Greek epigraphy. 

Amkylaion is located in the southeastern Peloponnese region of Ancient Greece. The site was a ritualistic temple to Apollo and Hyacinthus. Our group sectioned it off into steps for the purposes of excavating and recording our findings in an organized manner. Some of the participants would work on a five-meter wall, using a pickaxe to loosen up the dirt. They would rummage through the loose dirt, shoveling the dirt off the wall. The person sifting through the dirt would separate out any artifacts. Others in our group would clean the newly discovered pieces, using only water and a toothbrush, before separating each piece into different sections by time period, which was determined based on both color and design. These artifacts would eventually go to the laboratory to be marked and recorded. By studying artifacts that were part of daily ancient Greek life, I strengthened my knowledge of Greek culture and my understanding of the ancient world.

Figure 1: Sorting Artifacts Based Off Time Period

Another aspect of the program was geophysical surveying. I was not familiar with this non-invasive archaeological method prior to my time in Sparta, and I enjoyed learning about and assisting with this process. 

A physicist and his team would determine the conductivity of the rock. They would then use radar and magnetic detection to figure out where more pieces were buried, allowing them to create a plan for the best places to dig. The proposal also considered any historical notes, folklore, or other information that the team had access to regarding the site. It is worth noting that many of the hypotheses about the physical arrangement of the site, as well as the tomb of Hyacinthus itself, were incorrect, and geophysical surveying has allowed for establishing a more accurate layout.

The program included field trips to other ancient sites and presentations by various experts as well. I met with a member of the Greek Parliament at the excavation site and also spent time with local Spartans related to my parish priest. These conversations offered valuable insights into the economic and political issues connected to archaeology and provided another dimension to my experience. In addition, as the only high school student in the program, I enjoyed learning about the various paths that the college and graduate school participants had taken in the Classics and other related fields, and I am excited about the many possibilities for academic exploration. 

The Amyklaion Excavation program enriched my journey in the Classics and broadened my exposure to the humanities. This hands-on experience in a culturally relevant environment expanded my appreciation for learning from the past and for the importance of the Classics in today’s world. 

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Figure 2: Program Participants at Amyklaion

Frankie is a VI form student from Jacksonville, FL. He is a recipient of the Class of 1968 Fellowship Grant, which enabled him to further explore his interests in the Classics and the Ancient World. He also enjoys studying languages, mythology, and math.

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