The PITHOS program launches its second year with a week of workshops and adventure in Greece

May 31, 2024

Students and faculty from A&A joined their counterparts from two collaborating Greek Universities, the University of Ioannina and the University of Thessaly, in Greece from May 19-25 to embark on the second year of the PITHOS (Princeton-Ioannina-Thessaly On-Site Seminars) program. The PITHOS initiative was conceived by the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies to strengthen ties and foster intellectual collaboration among scholars of Greek art and archaeology.

“We are delighted to continue our collaboration with our Greek colleagues at the Universities of Thessaly and Ioannina for the second year of the PITHOS project,” said Dimitri Gondicas, Stanley J. Seeger '52 Director, Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies. "Leveraging the Seeger Center’s unique network of Greek institutions and scholars, PITHOS provides an ongoing forum for rigorous intellectual exchange on a range of topics that are at the center of humanistic inquiry. PITHOS also promotes the training of the next generation of archaeologists to be outstanding scholars and educators, as well as cultural ambassadors across nations, academic traditions, and languages.” 

"Leveraging the Seeger Center’s unique network of Greek institutions and scholars, PITHOS provides an ongoing forum for rigorous intellectual exchange on a range of topics that are at the center of humanistic inquiry." —Dimitri Gondicas

A group stands on a pathway with a ruin in the distance behind them

The PITHOS fellows at the ancient theater of Nicopolis. Pictured from left to right: Maria-Chrysoula Staikou, Andreas Vlachopoulos , Eirini Spyropoulou, Maria Giamalidi, Artemis Maniaki, Maria Niarou, Mark Paul, Maria Lazopoulou, Robert Yancey and Samuel Holzman (Photo/Anthi Angeli)

The program begins each year with a week-long spring seminar in Greece, including a welcome at the Princeton Athens Center, and culminates when participants convene again in Princeton to present their research in the fall.

Three graduate students each from the University of Ioannina, the University of Thessaly and Princeton University, are selected to engage in faculty-led seminars, workshops, and trips in the United States and Greece organized around a yearly theme—currently “elite cultures.”

Three people in discussion at a table

The rector of the University of Ioannina, Prof. Anna Batistatou, joins the PITHOS seminar to welcome participants to the Peristera Monastery. From left to right: Samuel Holzman (Princeton University), Anna Batistatou (University of Ioannina), Andreas Vlachopoulos (University of Ioannina) (Photo/University of Ioannina public relations directorate)

“This year’s seminar theme of ‘elite cultures’ proved an insightful connecting thread across graduate research projects spanning time and materials, with topics ranging from the status of priests in Mycenaean religion to the collecting of Greek panel paintings among Roman villa owners,” said A&A Professor Samuel Holzman, the 2023-24 coordinator for the program.  His counterparts in Greece are Professor Yannis Lolos (University of Thessaly) and Professor Andreas Vlachopoulos (University of Ioannina).

The group of students selected to participate in PITHOS 2024 includes A&A graduate students Mark Paul, Eirini Spyropoulou and Robert Yancey together with University of Thessaly graduate students Maria-Chrysoula Staikou, Maria Niarou and Dimitrios Papadimitriou and, from the University of Ioannina, Maria Giamalidi, Maria Lazopoulou and Artemis Maniaki. 

Vlachopoulos and the University of Ioannina hosted the group in Greece this year. “The University of Ioannina rolled out the red carpet for us!” said Holzman. “We are very grateful to the University of Ioannina for their extraordinary hospitality, especially to Professor Vlachopoulos, who organized a packed week of excursions with guest speakers, as well as to the president of the University of Ioannina, Professor Anna Batistatou. Despite other responsibilities, including supervising an ongoing archaeological excavation on campus, members of the faculty of history and archaeology joined our discussions and excursions, including Alexandra Alexandridou, Kleopatra Kathariou, Elias Koulakiotis and Vangelis Tourloukis.”

Holzman also relished the setting for seminars at the University of Ioannina, housed in the historic Peristera Monastery, on UOI’s Dourouti campus; “Its panoramic views and shaded arcades were an inspiring setting for focused discussions,” he said.

Launched a year ago, the collaborative spirit that the PITHOS program aims to cultivate has already begun to take effect; 2023 PITHOS alumnus and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Ioannina Giorgos Mastropavlos toured the group through the ongoing Dourouti campus excavation and Professor Elias Koulakiotis (University of Ioannina), who was a Visiting Fellow at the Seeger Center in fall 2019, delivered a keynote lecture. 

Dramatic mountains in the background with a stone village in the foreground

Papigo village (Photo/Samuel Holzman)

Along with seminars, the week was brimming with captivating excursions throughout the region and to Albania’s Adriatic coast. “Among the numerous activities that our PITHOS 2024 seminar offered to our Ph.D. candidates stand out the onsite lecture at Nikopolis by the excavator Dr. Konstantinos Zachos and the detailed tour to the fabulous site of Butrint (ancient Bouthroton) by the director of the excavation Dr Dhimitër Çondi,” said Vlachopoulos, adding, “Needless to say, the natural beauty of the Zagori villages and their unique architecture attracted the interest of many students, especially of the ones who study architecture through a diachronic prism.”

Two people stand in the doorway of an ancient stone wall

Robert Yancey and Eirini Spyropoulou at a Hellenistic gate in the fortification wall of Butrint, Albania (Photo/Samuel Holzman)

Spyropoulou agreed on all counts, noting the privilege she felt at meeting Zachos. The visit to Butrint stood out as well. Professor Dhimitër Çondi, longtime excavator at Butrint and Professor of Archaeology at the Albanian Institute of Archaeology, explained the phases of the site from the 7th century B.C.E. to the Ottoman period, showing the results of recently-excavated areas not open to the public. Spyropoulou described his tour as “one of the best tours I have ever attended. In a direct, lively and eloquent manner, Professor Çondi, at the same time as presenting the monuments, told us the story behind each archaeological discovery, the difficulties he faced, and his excitement when he discovered a temple that had been known for years from an inscription.” Holzman pointed out the particular benefit of seeing the well-preserved Hellenistic gates and towers at Butrint which offer a useful comparison with the Hellenistic fortification wall on Samothrace, where Princeton students are excavating later this summer. 

The breadth of experiences throughout the week also left a lasting impression on Paul.  “My fear of heights was superseded by the sheer majesty of the mountainous region of Zagori at sunset,” said Paul, “and my fear of boats was allayed when I reached the Island of Ioannina and explored the Monastery of Philanthropenoi with its incredible frescoes.”

The Zagori region is known for its traditional stone masonry architecture, exhibited throughout the village of Papigo and by the Kokkoris Bridge. The backdrop was unforgettable, too. “We also took in the natural splendor of the Vikos Gorge, dipping our toes into the refreshing cool pools near Papigo and walking up cliffside trail at Monodendri to appreciate the stunning panoramas of the lush gorge,” said Holzman.

PITHOS 2024 participants felt unanimous gratitude for the rich week of presentations, discussion and experiences at the University of Ioannina and all are anticipating a fruitful reunion when the group convenes in Princeton in fall 2024. “I am grateful for this opportunity to travel to a region of Greece I had not visited before and be introduced to the sites and museums by those who have excavated them and have intimate knowledge with the history of the area,” said Paul. “I’m looking forward to meeting everyone again in September and seeing how our papers have developed after our first workshop!” 

Agroup waves from the shores of a turquoise green river

The PITHOS fellows by the Voidomatis River during their trip to the Vikos Gorge. Pictured first row, left to right: Andreas Vlachopoulos, Artemis Maniaki,  Maria Lazopoulou, Eirini Spyropoulou, Maria-Chrysoula Staikou, Robert Yancey, Maria Niarou; second row, left to right: Dimitrios Papadimitriou, Maria Giamalidi, Mark Paul; back row: Kostas Overnovich. (Photo/Samuel Holzman)