By Derek Devine
Rising fourth-year student Margie Freeman spent part of her summer break digging up Greek history and uncovering the past of an ancient city in Messinia.
Discovered in 2007, ancient Thouria was one of the most important cities in Messinia. Freeman, and 10 other students from all over the United States and England, excavated in an area where two walls of a historic building had already been found. Still, there was much to be discovered across the grounds.
“We had no clue what sort of building we were uncovering so we had to learn how to dig trenches deep enough to find more walls,” says Freeman. “We worked slowly to look out for any interesting smaller finds such as pottery, roof tiles, metal, and tools — all of which we found.”
The experience marks Freeman’s second trip to Greece. During ISP season last year, she spent time in Athens while taking a course on Ancient Athenian monuments. Seeing all of the ancient sites made her crave an opportunity to find and handle that sort of primary evidence herself. When she discovered the Hellenic Education and Research Center (HERC) program, her academic advisor professor, Carl Shaw, encouraged her to apply.
“I had never taken an archaeology class before, so being a part of this dig provided a more hands-on approach to history than I was used to,” says Freeman, who studies history and classics at New College. “Returning to Greece and having the ability to hold ancient pottery in my hands was incredibly surreal and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.”
Having the opportunity to travel to Greece twice as a New College student has added depth and meaning to Freeman’s studies, something she is extremely thankful for.
“The excavation definitely made my education feel more holistic, since I can say I’ve studied the classical world’s history, literature, language, and now archaeology,” says Freeman. “Excavating Ancient Thouria was genuinely one of the most fun and most important experiences I’ve had not only in my academic career but also my life.”
Beyond living and digging with other aspiring archaeologists, Freeman and company made the best of their two weeks in Kalamata, Greece, while they explored the city, enjoyed the beach, and traveled to Epidaurus to see a performance of Oedipus Rex in an ancient theatre.
“Honestly, the best part of the entire experience was the people that I met,” says Freeman. “When you’re living in a hotel full of 10 twenty-year-old archaeologists who all dig together, have class together, and eat all their meals together — almost always with no WiFi — it’s hard to not get super close.”
Freeman already planned to study classics as she looks to attend graduate school, but after her second trip to Greece she will also be applying to programs that include classical archaeology.
“Even if I don’t go on to formally study classical archaeology, I definitely want to be part of more digs in the future,” says Freeman. “I might not even be studying classics if it weren’t for the amazing classics department at New College, so I owe a lot of thanks to Professor Shaw and Professor David Rohrbacher.”
— Derek Devine is the social media manager at New College.