Petra Janouchova – Zagora 2013 volunteer

Trowel tales and true – Petra Janouchova

by Petra Janouchova,

Petra Janouchova
Petra Janouchova. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM
[Petra Janouchova worked at Zagora during the 2013 season, assisting Adela Sobotkova with satellite remote sensing (about which a post is being developed). Petra kindly agreed to answer my ‘Trowel tales and true’ questions, to provide a glimpse into her perspective on archaeology.]

Why did you want to work on Zagora?

I used to read about Zagora in my textbooks and it never occurred me that I would be one day able to come and work here. So when Adela (Dr Adela Sobotkova, from the University of New South Wales) asked me to come with her to do the Remote Sensing project at Zagora in 2013, I didn’t hesitate for a second.

I think that the site is amazing and and there is still so much to reveal in the future. It has enormous potential and I am lucky to be part of it at least for a short period.

Petra working on the PDA, with Zagora in the background
Petra working on her Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), with Zagora in the background. Photo by Adela Sobotkova.

What archaeological study and/or work have you done?

I have studied Classical Archaeology and Ancient Greek for my Masters at Charles University in Prague. I am currently a PhD student of Ancient History at Charles University and my main topic is Greek inscriptions from ancient Thrace. I am focusing on mutual contacts of Greeks living in the area and the local Thracian population, as it could be traced on Greek inscriptions (as they are often the only remaining evidence).

Petra Janouchova on the southern edge of Zagora on her first visit to the site
Petra Janouchova on the southern edge of Zagora on her first visit to the site. Photo by Adela Sobotkova.

How many archaeological excavations have you worked on before (and as paid or volunteer)?

I have worked on projects since 2006 in Israel, Czech Republic, Italy, Greece and in Bulgaria, usually as a student volunteer. I met Adela Sobotkova during my first project in Israel and since then we have worked together as a team on three different continents. She was so kind and gave me the opportunity to join her own project in Bulgaria (Tundzha Regional Archaeological Project) and also invited me to a few other projects in Greece and Italy. I have gained so much and I am enormously thankful to her for inspiring my ‘archaeological life’. 

Petra walking over the field walls above Zagora
Petra walking over the field walls above Zagora. It looks as though she is dropping the PDA – but it is attached by a lanyard around her neck. Photo by Adela Sobotkova.

When did you develop your interest in archaeology?

I decided to be an archaeologist when I was four years old and I persisted. When I was 17 I decided to include also ancient Greek, as I thought that it was necessary to know the language and history as well as the material culture. During my studies I shifted my focus to epigraphy (inscriptions) which ideally connects both Archaeology and Classics.

Petra looking towards Zagora with the sea behind her
Petra and Thalassa (the Greek word for ‘sea’). Petra is looking towards Zagora from the north. Photo by Adela Sobotkova.

What inspires you about archaeology?

Amazing people that I can meet and work with. I have to travel all the time and see interesting new places; I get to know the culture, the landscape and the history. Archaeology is full of adventures and surprises and I am keen to sacrifice some of the luxuries of ‘normal’ life, in order to discover the unknown.

Petra during fieldwork wearing her kangaroo hat
Petra during fieldwork wearing her kangaroo hat. It was cold and windy but lovely day. Photo by Adela Sobotkova.

How does working at Zagora compare with other digs you have been on?

It is hard work, but rewarding. It is physically demanding, time consuming and sometimes tiring, but we are being taken care of, so I can just focus on the research. Amazing group of people.

I have enjoyed every minute of our two weeks and I hope to come back in the future. Australians are one of the friendliest people, passionate about their work, but who also know how to relax. They welcomed me with an open heart and I can only hope to give them something in return.

Petra working with a PDA on the way to Zagora
Petra working with a PDA on the way to Zagora. Zagora is in the background. Photo by Adela Sobotkova.

How does the experience of working at Zagora compare to how you imagined it would be?

I was warned that the terrain is quite difficult, and it really is. So the first day of our fieldwork was quite a shock and I was very tired afterwards. But it is improving every day, as we know more about the landscape and as we walk a lot. The island is amazing and the views are just breathtaking.

Petra Janouchova working in the Zagora office at Batsi
Petra Janouchova working in the Zagora office at Batsi. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM

Did you bring your own trowel to Zagora? How long have you had it/how many digs have you used it on?

Yes I did, but I’ve never used it here, as we are not excavating. I use mostly my boots, camera and my lovely archaeological kangaroo hat (pictured in several of the photos above).

Petra Janouchova parading her hat at the Hat Party
Petra Janouchova wearing a hat made out of a printout of a satellite image at the Hat Party. Lydia Beaumont-Cankaya is the tiger at right. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM

What would you say to others who may be considering volunteering to work on an archaeological excavation?

Don’t hesitate and come. It is hard work, but it gives you much more in return and you make so many new friends.

Petra Janouchova working in the Batsi Zagora office
Petra Janouchova working in the Batsi Zagora office. Changing position when working for long hours on their laptops helped to make work more comfortable and also assisted in remaining alert. Photo by Adela Sobotkova

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1 thought on “Petra Janouchova – Zagora 2013 volunteer”

  1. Hi Petra,
    great to hear about all your experiences, digs and papers. We are well impressed! I never knew you were interested in archaeology since the age of four! Would you believe Fergus was in Stara Zagora in 2005 participating in Kukeri Festival, full of music and craic? We were recently in Devon, at a bronze age stone settlement in Grimspound, Dartmoor and some great 13th century old pubs in Sticklepath and South Zeal. Keep up the good work and see you over Christmas my wee bright sister!
    Love from Marketa and Fergus xxx

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