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Samothrace, Sanctuary of the Great Gods

Summer 2016

Image by Ioannis Poularakis.

In the summer 2016, I participated in the NYU and Emory University joint excavations at Samothrace, Greece as a student conservator. This study season focused on site documentation and stabilization as well as supporting Greek conservators and archaeologists during renovations of their on-site museum. The Sanctuary of the Great Gods was built along the northern edge of the island Samothrace in the northeastern corner of the Aegean Sea. It is considered one of the earliest religious cult sites in Greece and was the site of a secret cult ceremony Misteria.

Modern explorers first visited Samothrace and noted the ruins of the Sanctuary in 1444; and the site was later excavated by German, French, Greek, Austrian, and Czech teams. One of the most notable and well-known finds from the Sanctuary was the Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, excavated by the French in 1863, prominently displayed at the Louvre since 1884. NYU began explorations and excavations in 1938, and apart from World War II, they have continued research there annually. 

Assessing the stability of site monuments. Image by Ioannis Poularakis.

Geography Student, Louis Blackwell, records mapping coordinates for areas of land collapse.

Map of recent land collapses generated by the survey team. Image by Michael Page, Emory University.

Clearing debris and growth from limestone foundation blocks. Image by Ellen Archie.

Applying poultice of paper pulp and dilute bio-cide to an inscribed marble on-site. Image by Steven Koob.

Water washing large terracotta objects. Image by Steven Koob.

Inpainting plaster fills on a large third century BC. amphora. Image by Ellen Archie.

Amphora full treatment images.

As the student conservator, I assisted the archeology team with site maintenance and documentation including clearing seasonal growth and reassessing condition maps. I worked with the geological survey team to probe areas of land instability surrounding the built monuments and compiled our judgements into a comprehensive report for the site director, Bonna D. Westcoat, and the Greek Ministry of Culture. Other treatments included the on-site cleaning and stabilization of an inscribed marble block and re-treating discolored fills and inpaintings on ceramic objects in preparation for their placement in the new museum. This work was supervised by American conservators Steven Koob, Michael Morris, and the Greek regional site conservator, Elisavet Mantzana. 

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