Cretan and US archaeology students in dig in Crete

Azoria is a city destroyed by fire about 2,500 years ago. So far, no graveyards have been found, and depictions of language on pottery at the site are indecipherable. So clues must be gathered from the remnants of buildings, personal items, implements and food.

The project is the life’s work of Donald Haggis, an archaeology professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who is the project director. UNC is one of only three American universities with a license to dig in Greece, underscoring its long-held national reputation for top-drawer archaeological scholarship.

Greek officials monitor the dig in the seaside village of Kavousi . All antiquities found must stay in Greece. Crete is a magnet for archaeologists. The island off the Greek mainland is where European civilization started with the Minoan culture from 2700 B.C. to 1450 B.C. The Minoan civilization was thought by many to be just a legend until ruins were discovered in the 1890s.

In 1900, the American archaeologist Harriet Boyd Hawes discovered the site of Azoria as part of her exploration of the area. But she only conducted a trench test, because she was looking for older Minoan ruins. The site remained unexplored for the next century.
Azoria was a small city, with an estimated population of 2,000 to 5,000 people, that started after the great Minoan civilization. The site is not open to tourists because the trenches could be disturbed by people walking around.

Each year, undergraduate and graduate students – most of them future archaeologists – do field work at Azoria under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Greek Ministry of Culture. The funding comes from more than a half dozen grants that include the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation.

This summer, 42 students are working on the project, including 15 from UNC and four from Duke University. There are also about 17 Greek workers. The students tend to be women, but the Greek workers are mainly men.

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

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