Preparing for a Zagora work day

Loading up for Zagora
Loading up with the gear we need to carry down the hill to the Zagora site. © AAIA; photo by Hannah Gwyther
by Hannah Gwyther

[Note from Irma Havlicek, web producer: Here is a post Hannah prepared last week, in the first week of the Zagora excavation season. Apologies for not having published it then – but the blogging has to take a lower priority than the planning, excavations and research during this last year of the currently-funded three-year Zagora Archaeological Project. Processing the posts can take time to write, review, check and publish – grabbing moments to do that work in between the essential archaeology work. This post of Hannah’s provides a lovely glimpse of the first day of excavations. I hope you’ll agree: better late than never.]

There is a definite type of excitement associated with the first day on site. It is both a keen eagerness and anticipation for the day ahead, whilst also that slightly deathly feeling of waking up in what seems to be the middle of the night, when the thought of trekking to a dusty exposed promontory to dig a hole seems an absurd idea!

What is worse is that there is no dignified swanning around in comfortable slippers and dressing gown, reading snippets of news and social media updates, while slowly savouring a coffee. Rather, one staggers around in the pitch dark (trying to save fellow room mates trying to get Maximum Sleep), attempting to put on socks (why is it so much harder to put on socks in the dark?), to then jam your feet into steel-toed lace-up boots (not morning friendly), to button shirts (challenging at the best of times let alone 5.30am) and stagger downstairs to face breakfast.

Kantouni breakfast spread
Our breakfast spread at the Kantouni Pensione. © AAIA; photo by Hannah Gwyther.

Not surprisingly, at 5.45am the constitution in general does not crave food. However, the thought of the long day ahead makes it necessary to cram down as much as physically possible. If one has the mental capacity to look around at that hour it rather resembles a cow-feeding stall: dead expressions and solid chewing.

Once the clock hits 6.10 mad panic hits and people race up staircases with a strange determination to clean their teeth again, pick up more water, or find those lost sunglasses… and then into the vans we flock.

With some local radio to wake us up, the vans pass through Batsi and up into the pretty hills of Andros. As the sun slowly starts to illuminate the landscape and the endless sea beyond, the morning sickness that seems to afflict all slowly melts away. As you drive higher and higher your mind turns to the day: the long walk down the precarious hillside, what tasks will be awaiting, how the trenches and backfill will have held up after a year, and then following these happy ponderings you start to wonder, how on earth you are going to walk back up that hillside at the end of it all.

The on-site ZAP introductory talk by Stavros Paspalas
The on-site introductory talk by Stavros Paspalas, one of the Zagora Archaeological Project directors. © AAIA; photo by Hannah Gwyther

But you will and you do, and you will do it all over again day after day and keep smiling and being grateful – as to be an archaeologist is the best job of them all, even with the early morning starts.

Zagora site tour for new volunteers by Stavros Paspalas
Another shot of the site tour for new volunteers by Stavros Paspalas, providing a bit more of a view of the site. © AAIA; photo by Hannah Gwyther.

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