Princeton Welcomes Greek Archaeology Students as Part of the Collaborative PITHOS Program

Oct. 5, 2023

PITHOS (Princeton-Ioannina-Thessaly On-Site Seminars) completed the second half of its inaugural program in the last week of September 2023, with participants from the University of Ioannina and the University of Thessaly joining Princeton participants on the Princeton campus. The program selects three graduate students annually from each participating university to engage in faculty-led seminars, workshops, and trips in the United States and Greece organized around a theme. The theme for 2023 is “Regionalism.” In May 2023, the group convened at the Princeton Athens Center to launch the program. 

Current PITHOS Coordinator for Princeton, A&A’s Professor Nathan Arrington, joined A&A graduate student William Pedrick along with Chiara Battisti and Sarah Norvell, both graduate students in the Classics Department, together with Arrington's Greek counterpart Professor Andreas Vlachopoulos and three graduate students each from the Universities of Ioannina and Thessaly in Greece for a full program on and around the Princeton campus hosted by A&A and the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies. 

A packed conference table of participants laughs at a comment
PITHOS participants assembled for Professor Nathan Arrington's presentation (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

“The PITHOS program in Princeton provided new opportunities for intellectual fellowship between doctoral candidates from Princeton and their counterparts from Greece,” said Dimitri Gondicas, director of the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies. “We were delighted to build on the connections created during the session in Greece last May and expand our network of partnerships with Greek institutions.”

Throughout the week-long program, students had many opportunities to present their research and to explore and benefit from one another’s expertise.

“It was immensely productive to tackle the problem of regionalism in ancient Greece from an international perspective,” said Arrington. “The papers that the graduate students delivered were of the highest quality and inspiring for all participants. That said, as so often in these programs, much of the learning emerged during conversations and dialogues as we visited sites, examined objects, and shared meals together.”

Three participants are huddled over a tray of coins

From left, Lambros Stavrogiannis, Giorgos Mastropavlos, and Aspa Efstathiou examine coins of the Princeton numismatics collection in the foreground with Curator of Numismatics Alan Stahl in the background (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

Ph.D. Candidate from the University of Ioannina Andreas Spiroulias felt the topic of regionalism reverberating throughout the week. “The complexity of the central issue, influenced by a number of factors, both independent and interconnected, such as the effect of the shared memory and the heroic past, the importance of the political and social organization, the enduring significance of the landscape, the interpretation of the material culture, and the agency of things and facts within a wide chronological spectrum from the Bronze Age to the Roman period, emerged in the best possible way,” he said. "This allowed each of us the opportunity to learn from the different approaches of the other participants and commentators.”

Surrounding their academic exchanges, the participants experienced a full spectrum of Princeton, both on campus and off. 

The group visited the numismatics collection, where curator Alan Stahl and Byzantine Numismatics Cataloger and Linked-Open-Data Coordinator Elena Baldi showed a cross-section of Princeton’s impressive collection of Greek coins.  Before the visit was finished, each participant’s wish to see coins from their specific area of study had been granted.

The group surrounds a table covered in maps and drawings

Julia Gearhart shows the group items from the Visual Resources collection (Photo/Nathan Arrington)

Another engaging afternoon was spent with Director of Visual Resources Julia Gearhart, who showed the group a selection of items spanning the history of the department. Items on display included drawings and handmade maps of Syria from Howard Butler’s expeditions as well as a scrapbook of photographs from Butler’s excavations at Sardis. “They were a wonderful group,” said Gearhart, “very engaged and thoughtful.”

Graduate student in the Classics department Sarah Norvell valued connecting with her counterparts in Greece as the week progressed. “I was struck by the fact that, due to the limited availability of doctoral funding in the humanities in Greece, many of the Greek students support themselves over the course of their Ph.D.’s by working as professional contract archaeologists for the Greek state. This means that the Greek Ph.D. students tend to have more field excavation experience than those of us coming from the American system, and they may even have access to unpublished archaeological material on which to write their dissertations. On the other hand, this need to secure funding means that they are constantly having to navigate the challenges of balancing their academic and professional workloads, and I was reminded of the vast privilege that students in the American system—and especially at Princeton—are afforded, namely, access to fully funded doctoral study,” she said. 

School of Historical Studies Professor of Ancient History and Classics Angelos Chaniotis and Research Associate Aaron Hershkowitz welcomed the group to the Institute of Advanced Studies to show off the second-largest epigraphic squeeze collection in the world. 

Hershkowitz demonstrated the method for making a squeeze, by which acid-free, long-fibered filter paper is pressed into stone epigraphs and lightly pounded into the impression using a brush to create a relief.  This memorializes the epigraph and makes its impression transportable. Hershkowitz also demonstrated his customized 3-D scanning table and photogrammetry method for digitizing the squeezes.

Aaron Herschkowitz demonstrates the squeeze-making to students

Aaron Herschkowitz demonstrates the squeeze-making method at the Institute for Advanced Studies (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

Local history also figured into participants’ experience of Princeton.  Along with a campus and town tour led by the Princeton Historical Society, the group also visited the Princeton Battlefield State Park.

William Krakower and the group stand in the interior of the Clarke House

Guide William Krakower relays the history of the Thomas Clarke house (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

Guide William Krakower toured them through the Clarke House, weaving together history with fascinating anecdotes that brought his presentation to life.  The house was central to the Battle of Princeton, which took place on January 3rd, 1777, in which George Washington’s army triumphed over the British Crown forces.  As Krakower pointed out, it wasn’t a decisive war, per se, but would have been, had Washington’s army lost. 

Largely responsible for their victory was American General Hugh Mercer, who unfortunately perished in the house. Mercer became a hero of the war and the namesake of several counties in the United States, including Princeton’s.

As the group took in the sweeping meadow, Krakower presented candid, riveting accounts of the battle that took place there. 

William Krakower points across a green meadow as the group listend

William Krakower describes the battle at the historic Princeton Battlefield State Park (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

The visit even offered an archaeological site to inspect; beside the Clarke House, a barn is currently being excavated. Though the barn hasn’t turned up any historical artifacts, those were not in short supply.  The group visited the Princeton University Art Museum offsite classroom to view objects from the Museum’s collection of ancient ceramics and toured the Metropolitan Museum of Art before returning to Greece.

A group stands in a wooded area focused on a guide

William Krakower leads the group through the excavation near the Thomas Clarke House at the Princeton Battlefield State Park (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

“Whilst I really enjoyed the excursions (especially the one to the Princeton Battlefield Historic Site – the historical interpreter there, Will, was a phenomenal storyteller!) and the academic workshop,” said Norvell, “the highlight of my experience was being able to make meaningful connections with my Greek peers. As someone who hopes to establish a career working in Greek archaeology and aspires to one day co-direct a synergasia [collaborative] archaeological project, the PITHOS seminar presented the unique opportunity to develop personal and professional relationships with the next generation of Greek archaeologists and their mentors.” 

The group is lined up behind a table with ancient ceramics on it

PITHOS participants examining objects from the Princeton University Art Museum collection. From left: Andreas Spiroulias, Zacharoula Papadopoulou, Giorgos Mastropavlos, Will Pedrick, Assistant Curator of Ancient Mediterranean Art Carolyn M. Laferrière, Aspa Efstathiou, Sarah Norvell, Lambros Stavrogiannis, Giannis Zogkos, and Professor Nathan Arrington (Photo/Joelle Collins)