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UMD J-Term: Study in Greece

Art, Archaeology, History and Mythology of Ancient Greece

The group arrives in Athens just in time for the New Year's Eve fireworks. These pictures are from the 2004 student trip.

During January term 2005, from Dec 29 - Jan 16, UMD students will explore the rich cultural heritage of ancient Greece and its archaeological, historical, and ethnographic character. Art, philosophy, architecture, science, music, and poetry all had their origin in this Mediterranean country. UMD students will see the "wine-dark sea" of which Homer sang, the mountainous Delphi, the cities of Corinth, Olympia, Sparta, and Athens, the cultural center of the ancient world.

This is the third year of the UMD J-term in Greece. It is one of the most popular offerings; this year's registration was filled in less than two weeks. Two senior faculty members at UMD, Professor Eve Browning, Department of Philosophy and Professor Ron Marchese, Department of Sociology-Anthropology, are leading this study program. In addition, Thomas Hedin, Department of Art and Design has participated in orientation meetings and consulted on student projects dealing with art history. Browning is an expert in ancient Greek philosophy and classical mythology. Marchese is an expert on ancient history and archaeology. Both have traveled extensively throughout Greece.

One of the more unusual sites the group will visit is the archeological dig at Plataia, located midway between Athens and Thebes. This site has deep and rich history and brings to life other parts of Greek history. Its name occurs for the first time in the ship catalogue of Homer's Iliad (1250 BC). Writings in the fifth and sixth century BC reveal that Plataia was under the rule of Thebes until 500 B.C. Plataiai became an Athenian possession due to Sparta's arbitration which did not please the Thebans - it is this incident that made Thebes anti-Athenian and in this manner Plataiai was a constant center of discontent between these two states, that is why Thebes was pro-Persian during the Persian Wars, and sided with Sparta in the Peloponnesian War.

Pictures from the archaeological dig at Plataia.

Ron Marchese, professor of ancient history and archaeology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology will lead the group to the Plataian archaeological excavations. Marchese is one of the directors supervising the work. Plataiai has three directors and three institutions: Marchese at UMD, University of Vienna (Institute of Archaeology) and the Thebes Archaological Museum, whichr has provided the project with much of the support staff. It is an international excavation and the project is under the general supervision of the director of the Ephorate of Boeotia who is the director of the Thebes Archaological Museum.

The work has concentrated on the acropolis mound at the Plataiai excavations where substantial deposits of Bronze Age date are evident. The students will see walls, courtyards, fortifications, and other remnants of the many ages of Plataia's settlement. They may even see pottery, coins, roof tiles, which have been previously found at the site. The site is especially important because student can see evidence of human habitation in Plataia's Neolithic (4500-3500 BC), Bronze Age (2300-1050 BC), Archaic (600-900 AD) and Medieval (500-1000 AD) artifacts.

Epiphany celebration. Far right: UMD students watch the ceremony from the upper wall in 2004.

Because of the timing of the trip, UMD students will also experience a colorful Grecian cultural event. On January 6, the "twelve days" of Christmas officially come to an end with the day of Epiphany. In Greece, Epiphany includes a celebration to bless the waters and water vessels. Festive paraders march through coastal towns to the edge of the Mediterranean where a priest hurls a large crucifix into the waters. Young boys dive into the water and the boy that retrieves the cross will have good luck during the remaining year.

The 2004 UMD student group on a hike (far left and far right). The Neda Canyon (center).

While the UMD students will go to the most often visited sites in Greece, the museums and monuments, they will also get to experience some of the rarely visited countryside. Outside Olympia, they will take an all-day trek to the Neda Canyon and the White Waterfall.

Questions? Contact the International Education Office, 138 Kirby Plaza, 726-6274, or see the webiste at:

Written by Cheryl Riana Reitan. Posted Jan 3, 2005

Cheryl Reitan, Publications Director,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830



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