Excavating the Ancient Sites in Greece

VanGinkel Photo

by Michael Van Ginkel 16C

After spending the first few years of my undergraduate education studying and researching the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, I was finally able to view their remnants firsthand. Spending my spring semester studying abroad in Athens, Greece allowed me to apply my knowledge of the ancient Greek language and culture and view the ruins of their great civilization. From the mystic oracle of Delphi, to the formable walls of Mycenae, to venerated temples of the Athens; the ancient sites of Greece have furthered my education and inspired me to continue my studies in the subject matter.


I spent the first two weeks in Greece excavating at Voula, Greece, in one of the poorest demes, or districts, of ancient Athenians. The finds added greatly to our understanding of daily citizen life and gave me the opportunity to use archaeological field techniques firsthand. The subsequent courses on archaeology and history I took during the semester benefited from numerous field trips to relevant and important sites within Athens, such as the Parthenon, Agora, and Panathenaic stadium. Multiple day trips, organized by the study abroad program, to the Peloponnesus, Delphi, and Northern Greece greatly added to the experience as well. Guided by professors well versed in their chosen fields, the trips proved extremely enlightening and entertaining.


I capitalized on the close proximity of numerous significant sites of ancient battles to pursue my passion for battlefield archaeology and document the current condition and topography. Often located in remote locations, traveling to battlefields such Cynoscephalae, Plataea, and Chaeronea proved difficult without a vehicle. With persistence, however, a reliance on local transportation, and sturdy hiking shoes, I managed to reach the destinations with minimal personal expenditure. The end product, including digital elevation models, photographs, and maps, will be presented on a website to facilitate the research of future scholars. I also spent the semester interning at the Athens War Museum, aiding in translating museum labels and formulating battle dioramas.10410492_935847649793021_4758568353917642453_n

Deciding to extend my stay in Greece, this summer I will be excavating in Athenian Agora, or central marketplace, for 8 weeks while continuing my internship at the Athens War Museum. In August I will be conducting research on Alexander the Great’s Balkan campaign in Bulgaria and Albania. Having received funding from the Emory history department, I will locate and analyze the four major conflicts of Alexander’s campaigns in the Balkans prior to his invasion into Persia.