New processes at Zagora in 2013: flotation of marine debris and seeds

Rosa pouring a bag of soil from one of the excavation areas into the first phase of wet sieving

Rosa-Maria Beshara pours a bag of sample soil debris from one of the excavated occupation levels into the flotation tank. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek

by Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

For the first time at Zagora in 2013, soil samples were collected and processed through flotation in order to recover organic remains to find the charred, small, light material which floats to the surface of the water. This process had not been developed 40 years ago when the excavations of the 1960s and 70s took place at Zagora.

Organic plant material such as wood and plants decomposes over time, so such material from the period of the Zagora settlement no longer exists. If it has been burnt and transformed into charcoal, it can survive thousands of years which makes it extremely valuable in providing information about the kinds of plants which occurred at particular locations at different times.

The existence or absence of organic material such as tiny fish bones, shell fragments, seeds and charcoal in occupation deposits can provide evidence of ancient diet and domestic and industrial economy and activities at Zagora. We can also learn about the general environmental conditions in which the Zagoreans lived because organic material can inform us about plants that aren’t exploitable by humans but still throw light on the climatic and other environmental conditions there at that time. Fragments of heavier material such as obsidian, slag and pottery sherds can also be found through this process. If sampling for organic remains had not been undertaken, this information would be permanently lost.

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Another Archaeologist Q&A – Adela Sobotkova

by Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

Adela Sobotkova on the pathway, pointing towards Zagora

Adela Sobotkova on the pathway, pointing towards Zagora. Photo by Petra Janouchova

I’ve added a new Q&A by Dr Adela Sobotkova to the Archaeologist Q&As. Adela describes her path from her early interest in archaeology at the age of ten, inspired by the book, ‘Dream of Troy’ by Arnold C. Brackman to her position now as a Research Associate at the University of New South Wales.

Adela touches on the satellite remote sensing work she did at Zagora with her colleague, Petra Janouchova. Her post portrays the hard work but also the great fun that can be had in archaeology.

And congratulations to Adela and her partner, Shawn Ross, on the birth of their baby, Vivienne, in December.

Petra Janouchova – Zagora 2013 volunteer

Trowel tales and true – Petra Janouchova

by Petra Janouchova,
Archaeologist

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.

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Archaeological activities for children in Sydney

Artefacts found during the Fort Phillip excavationsby Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

If you’re in Sydney and wondering what to do with the children in your care these school holidays, why not give them an opportunity to explore an archaeologically themed activity? There are great programs these holidays at Sydney Observatory and the Nicholson Museum. The objects pictured at right were excavated from Fort Phillip at Sydney Observatory.

Sydney Observatory

Children's archaeology program at Sydney ObservatorySydney Observatory (up on Observatory Hill in Millers Point, just above The Rocks in Sydney) offers not only astronomy and meteorological exhibits and programs but also popular hands-on archaeological activities, linked to the archaeological work undertaken in recent years at Fort Phillip, within Sydney Observatory grounds. The excavations revealed substantial, intact foundations of the Fort (built in 1804-1806) and its bomb-proof chamber.

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New Archaeologist Q&A – Archondia Thanos

by Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

Dr Archondia Thanos

Dr Archondia Thanos

Check out the entry of Dr Archondia Thanos, Honorary Research Associate and Lecturer at the University of Sydney in our Archaeology Q&As, giving her perspective of archaeology as a career.

Here’s a glimpse:

“Archaeology examines all aspects of the human condition. That is why it appeals to so many people. It allows us to understand the human journey through time, what has brought us to this particular point of our story as entities of the world and where we may end up hundreds of years from now. It is a great teacher. The future always seems to have happened before to some degree.”

Archaeology and the Powerhouse Museum – an ancient association

Archaeology display at the Powerhouse Museum

Archaeology display at the Powerhouse Museum, outside the Coles Theatre (between levels 1 and 2 of the Museum), from October 2013. End date not set. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM

Archaeology and museums both rely on objects (also known as artefacts or examples of material culture) to understand people and societies better. By examining and researching material culture, we enrich human knowledge about people, cultures, societies and history. We can learn about societal and technological developments and use this knowledge to help more wisely chart our own course into the future.

Powerhouse Museum curator and archaeologist, Paul Donnelly (and my Powerhouse parter in the Zagora Archaeological Project), arranged for a display (pictured at right) at the Powerhouse Museum to introduce visitors to the Zagora project and to raise awareness about the particularly close association of the Powerhouse with archaeology.

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Damien Stone – Zagora 2013 volunteer

Trowel tales and true – Damien Stone

by Damien Stone,
Archaeologist

Damien Stone at Zagora in 2013

Damien Stone at Zagora in 2013. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM

Having finished my undergraduate degree in Archaeology earlier this year, I thought it was about time I went on my first excavation. With keenness I purchased my first trowel, affectionately naming it Enkidu (after the protagonist’s friend of the Gilgamesh Epic), and applied for the Zagora excavation.

Previous to this, being a volunteer with the conservation and collection management team at Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum, I have been blessed with the opportunity to have handled artefacts from various civilisations, though these have all long been removed from their original context.

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The “monopati” (path) to Zagora


Antonio Bianco

Antonio Bianco. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM.


by Antonio Bianco*
Archaeologist

The Greek name “monopati” means pathway, and the Cycladic Islands are commonly characterised by their famous ones. Farmers and shepherds use these “monopati” to reach their fields on slopes. It is not rare to meet there a wise man on his donkey contemplating silently the changes of nature.

What I’m going to describe to you here is another story, which has for its main actors a different kind of observer: the archaeologists. 


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Fashions in the field, archaeology-style

by Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

Beatrice McLoughlin

Beatrice McLoughlin would look as stylish at the Melbourne Cup Carnival as she does here at Zagora in the hat bought for her in Tinos by Andrew Wilson. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM

As it’s the Melbourne Cup Carnival here in Australia, and so many people are obsessed with ‘fashions on the field’ – I thought I’d put up a post of our own ‘fashions in the field – archaeology-style’, from among the many photos I took during the season this year.

Following are photos featuring members of the 2013 Zagora Archaeological Project team wearing hats or scarves – valuable Sun and wind protection in the field. Most are published here for the first time but some have illustrated other posts on this blog.

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2013 Zagora excavation season comes to an end

by Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

A great team effort and a perfect end to a perfect flightToday is the last day on site for the Zagora 2013 team. Yesterday and today were dedicated to backfilling the trenches to protect and conserve them, after excavations were completed on Thursday. People have pushed themselves to the limits of their endurance this week to get everything done carefully, properly and to the very best of their ability.

Frankly, I’ve never seen people work harder. Or care more about what they’re doing.

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