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 Archaeology UROP

UMD Student Helps Conduct Archaeology Survey in Greece

Recent graduate, Jake Anders, was one of the 175 UMD students who participated in a UMD Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) project last year, but his project was a little more unusual than most.

In October 2004 Anders, an anthropology major, got the opportunity to participate in the archaeological survey of ancient Plataiai in Greece. Along with Ron Marchese, professor, UMD Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Andreas Konecny from the University of Vienna, Anders spent long days marching across 14 football field-sized plots of land at the historic site. Below: Jake Anders (left) and Andreas Konecny at Plataiai.

“From 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., we picked through rubble,” he said. “By the end of the day, our bags were pretty heavy.” The work was a visual survey rather than a dig, so their task was to look for artifacts that were on the surface. Although they concentrated on collecting and identifying pottery, Anders also found a Roman Bronze Coin of Emperor Constance dating from the fourth century AD. “I’m slightly lucky,” he said. “The pottery gave us the best clues to how old the site is and how long it was occupied. I found crude, thick, handmade pieces from the Neolithic era. I also found Byzantine pieces that were glassy smooth and radiantly colored in yellows and blues.”

Thousands of years of habitation make the Plataiai site extremely interesting to archaeologists. Located midway between Athens and Thebes, it has deep and rich history. Its name occurs for the first time in the ship catalogue of Homer's Iliad (1250 BC). Plataiai was also a center of discontent between the two states, Thebes and Sparta, in the Peloponnesian War.Below: Some of the pottery shards Anders found.

Anders interest in Plataiai began months earlier. Marchese and Art Historian, UMD Professor Tom Hedin, took students to Greece in January 2004. "At every site we visited, Sparta, Mycenae, Olympia, Thebes, I was fascinated by the pottery," Anders said. "Even the smallest shard could reveal so much. It burned into me that this was a passion to pursue. When Professor Marchase approached me with the chance to do this project, I jumped at it." Anders did have some experience. He participated in an archaeological field school in the Boundary Waters with UMD faculty members David Woodward and Susan Mulholland. "The first time I stuck a shovel in the ground, I came up with a biface knife of Knife Lake siltstone. The next day, while I was getting water in the lake, I found a button-like metal piece from a fur traders pack." Anders luck and the hard work that went along with it, took him from the Minnesota site to Greece.

After 16 days at the Plataiai site, Anders lost no time writing about the adventure. “On the way home, I had a long wait in the Athens airport, “ he said. “I sat on the floor, plugged my laptop into the wall and started typing. Later, as I pulled all the research together, I referred to those notes over and over.” He compiled the data into his UROP report, “Habitation and Occupational Sequence of the Ancient Site of Plataiai from the Neolithic Period to the Byzantine Period: An Analysis of Ceramic Samples from Southwestern Boeotia.”

Anders presented his research at April 2006 at the 19th Annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Lexington, Virginia. Anders plans to work in Alaska for a year and then apply to the anthropology masters program at University of Alaska Anchorage.

“I can’t thank Dr. Marchese and UMD enough.” he said. “It was an incredible experience.”


Written by Cheryl Riana Reitan. Posted June 2, 2005

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


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