Wall Street Opinion Journal Stefan Beck August 18, 2006
Experiencing firsthand the glamour–and backbreaking labor–of archaeology.
I’m no Marco Polo. My colleagues at work have visited Russia, Guatemala and New Zealand; I once spent a night in Paris, Ky. A trip to exotic Pittsburgh in my early college years was ruined when a hobo brandished a knife at me for telling a bad joke. Chastened by this brush with the Other, I spent my study-abroad semester writing a screenplay in New Britain, Conn. I didn’t have a passport anyway.
I was, in short, America in the eyes of her enemies–parochial to a fault–and I knew it. So this June, at the urging of an exasperated friend, I flew to Greece to observe the Mitrou Project, an archaeological excavation managed each summer since 2004 by the University of Tennessee and by a Greek government agency devoted to preserving antiquities.
The dig site, Mitrou, is a tiny island (about a tenth of a square mile) in the bay of Atalanti in Southern Greece. It’s a preposterously lovely postcard of olive groves, bone-white stone escarpments and waves blending seamlessly with the sky. My friend, who studied classics with me at Dartmouth College and now creates three-dimensional digital models of holes in the ground, had promised paradise, and this was it.
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