by Irma Havlicek
Web content producer
The Zagora Archaeology Project (ZAP) excavation season duration is six weeks. Volunteers generally sign up for either the first three weeks or the second three weeks or for the entire season. Work takes place on site six days a week, Mondays to Saturdays, except for the middle weekend, this year, 11 and 12 October, when there is no work on site on the Saturday, giving people a clear weekend to rest, relax and recuperate.
Most of the participants who signed up for only the first three weeks were packed up, ready for departure, on the morning of Friday 10 October. They would have returned from a day’s work at Zagora, had a quick shower at Batsi, and then headed to Gavrio for a ferry, mostly to Athens, and then home.
Some team members took advantage of being in the Cyclades, by taking a ferry to one of the nearby islands: Tinos, Syros or Mykonos (and then on to Delos).
The weather conditions in the first three weeks were particularly harsh with strong winds rating up to Beaufort 7 or 8 on many days. It was windy on my first day on site on Friday 10 October. I had really wanted to spend one day on site at Zagora with the first team, so I could take the team photo, and also to meet Andrew Moore who had been site supervisor on the trench at the southern end of the site in the area supervised by Paul Donnelly last year, and which Paul would take over again from this week.
The wind was not as strong on Friday as it had been in previous weeks but it was strong nonetheless – especially for me, as I’d had less than ten hours sleep in the previous 60 hours (with another 12 to go before I’d get more sleep), was jet-lagged, and trying not to fall over in the wind, especially while carrying my camera. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good at Zagora on Friday – glad to be back there, and surprised at how easy the walk had felt compared with my anticipation about it. (One factor, though, is that we now go off the path and walk through fields for about the second half of the walk. It is much less steep than doing the whole walk on the path as we did during 2012 and for most of 2013.)
So, kudos to the team who struggled and did an enormous amount of heavy lifting in difficult conditions in the first three weeks. There was a huge number of rocks to be moved from both last year’s backfill and also from some of the new trench sites (as you’ll see when I show you the wall Antonio Bianco’s team has built out of the rocks they moved from their trench).
Quite a few team members were laid low by stomach and flu bugs that prevented them going to the site for some days. Others just worked harder; and those who were sick got back to work again as quickly as they could.
Without exception, all those I spoke to on Friday who were leaving after three weeks wished they were staying on for the whole season, and were truly sad at having to leave their colleagues, friends and the project.
We thank you and wish you all safe travels home or to your next adventure. And I look forward to working with those of you who remain and those who arrived on the weekend for the second three weeks of excavation.