Monday, February 6, 2012

Goddesses in the Dirt: Plastered Women

An archaeologist unearths the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time...

Goddesses in the Dirt - Issue #28: Plastered Women

Many palaces from the Bronze Age period of Greece are decorated with elaborate frescoes, which are images painted on a plaster surface that covers the walls of ceremonial and dining areas. Many different scenes are portrayed on these plaster surfaces, such as the exquisite composition above from the Palace of Minos in Crete, depicting a group of women in procession, their dark hair adorned with diadems and hanging in ringlets around their faces. 

This past summer, I was excavating in Greece near the town of Pylos. 


One of the students in my trench showed me this - he said it looked to him like a piece of fresco and he wanted me to see it - sure enough, that's what it was.



These small pieces of fresco are precious - instead of bagging them on site in plastic with all the potsherds, we put them in these foil lidded containers and tag them separately before they are taken to the lab for analysis and - if she our conservator is able - reassembling at the excavation's lab.


Our director was ecstatic - this was the first piece of plaster to be found in my trench, but in another part of the site we are uncovering lots of painted fresco fragments and the images appear to be simliar to the one above.



You never know what you are going to discover in this ancient soil, which is what makes archaeology endlessly fascinating to me. When you are excavating it's possible to feel a real kinship and connection to the lives of those whose homes you are excavating. Who were these people? What was important to them?


It's amazing what a little bit of painted plaster can tell you about a civilization...these women adorned themselves with bracelets up and down their arms. It makes you wonder what we might have had in common.....


Like these ancient women, I like to do the same thing


Yet I always want to know more about what the lives of these people were like — how did they raise their children?

What did they think about during their days as they passed along corridors decorated with frescoes such as this? Can you imagine living in a palace and walking by such amazing scenes every day?

How did they prepare their food, and what did they eat? 

What did they drink with their meals at the end of a long day?

In the evening I would ponder these questions - sometimes over an occasional ouzo

or glass of wine.........I guess it just goes to show you 

with magnificent surroundings such as these






not only ancient women run the risk of becoming "plastered" by such overwhelming scenery

...sometimes even archaeologists are intoxicated by the sheer beauty of this place as well.....

Photos courtesy of author and Google images 

36 comments:

  1. Amanda! You have me smiling ear to ear. I loved this!

    What is an ouzo? I know I can look it up but I'd rather have it be a conversation with you.

    It's funny, I noticed your bangles before you mentioned them and started to forge the connections to which you were leading me just before you took me there. Nice!

    The plastered bit, though, took me by surprise. I like. This post also makes me realize that bits of fresco are in the eye of the beholder!

    Happy week, dear friend.

    Love,
    -Suze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ouzo is a singularly greek beverage - anise flavored, it tastes like licorice. people usually enjoy it in the late afternoons after siesta time or before dinner and often add ice or cold water, which makes the clear liquid turn cloudy. greeks always serve alcohol with food, so if you order an ouzo, expect it come with nuts, chips, or if you're lucky, a plate of cucumbers, tomatoes and sausage bites!

      (btw the 'plastered' bit was supposed to be a play on words;-)

      Delete
    2. This past weekend, I ordered a 'peppery, licorice' red called Terre del Primitivo with my dinner -- I was out on a 'late' Valentine's date with my husband. Boy, was that strong drink. I'm willing to bet ouzo would be more to my liking ...

      Delete
  2. oh yes!!!!!I am so there with you!1...just as enamored...i relate so much to all of their artwork....sometimes it feels like i am chanelling their beauty when i just let myself flow into a painting.....I left a bit of myself there once and all through out my art education i focused on the Minoan civilization...i even did a fresco!....love the shards....that is what started my own journey....loved this post. Amanda.....connection!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i recall you said you had lived on crete, right, sue? of course - the mermaid cafe!

      how amazing that you have made a fresco...i am impressed!

      Delete
  3. Ouzo - my dad loves it. I am not fond of it's anise flavour. I love your bangles Amanda. I like to wear them too but my wrist is so small that many times, they just come off of my hand. The frescoes are lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  4. i noted your bracelets in the shot before you pointed them out. (i see suze did the same.) of course, i was entranced by them. i think of them often. isn't that something? silver is so very beautiful to me. i just bought a piece of amber in silver, a vintage piece for next to nothing. (gotta love e-bay.) and elisabeth of sixth in line just wrote a piece about how we define ourselves with ornamentation. i thought about this as i put the amber piece back on after i ran today. i thought, what a silly thing, a silly little thing that says i am me. but these are not really silly at all, are they? and your bracelets say you are you.

    what do these things say of our lives? as you talked about the small piece of fresco that created such excitement, i thought about what some future civilization might think of us by our incremental residue.

    you always bring me to thoughtful places.

    xo
    erin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i can see how some would call it a silly thing, but we know better, right? i like that statement about how we define ourselves by ornamentation. i am a jeans and t shirt girl if i'm otherwise not wearing mostly black. other than the bracelets, i mostly can't stand wearing jewelry, but there you have it - an armload of silver. must be genetic, as my mother did the same thing.

      your vintage piece sounds heavenly.....i love amber as well. there is something so ancient about that stone..

      Delete
  5. well duhh..didn't you ever watch Gladiator or 300? Ha.

    I think your work appeals to me more in the nature of travel and less in the tedium of digging...i would be far too impatient to uncover such delicate items.

    Really like the photo of the sunlight coming down through the clouds..looks like some sort of obelisk. neat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. tom, i saw both (gladiator multiple times.....ah russell crow 10 years ago..) but i recall women were not exactly major players in either (with the exception of connie nielson's role) - in fact, in 300 the mothers have to give up their 9 year old sons to be trained for war. personally i would not have wanted to be female and live in those times...happier to dig it up and ponder it all over an ouzo ;-)

      now that you mention it, that foto of the sunlight does resemble an obelisk!

      Delete
    2. yeah- movies or television aren't very good at accurate portrayals of women, minorities, or anything for that matter (there are exceptions). Glad there are people (you) out there trying to sort it all out and keeping it real.

      Delete
  6. magic.

    please have you all a wonderful tuesday.

    daily athens photo

    ReplyDelete
  7. Amanda, this post took me so far from here, to another era, your words made me think about lots of questions , magical questions... and so many amazing photos!! Thank you for sharing your work, your life , your thoughts. Have a wonderful week,
    warm wishes from Brazil!
    Mina

    ReplyDelete
  8. I cannot imagine what it is like to come across something so truly ancient, just resting in the dirt.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You are so blessed to be able to "touch" these old treasures.I am making pieces,out of plaster,that are "supposed" to look old.I found these plastic toys that look like fossils and I am molding them and filling the molds with plaster,then painting them and eventually incorporating them into some jewelry.So you see sweet Amanda,your life,your friendship, has touched me in so many ways and I look at things in a different way.Just looking at the photo on the beach with the pebbles makes me want to go pebble hunting.I may not be able to touch real treasures,but I am so thankful that I get to stop by here,visit for a while,and leave feeling refreshed and alive.Big Hugs friend,Cat

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. dearest cat,

      you do touch real treasures, and every day - the magical pieces you create with your hands are every bit that....and some day, someone will dig them up and wonder at them too.

      xoxo
      amanda

      Delete
  10. When I first saw the title, I imagined inebriated woman, and it didn't entirely make sense. But once you said "fresco," I understood. What a find!

    And yes, in the "old world" there are so many, many places where it is easy to meditate on the surroundings, the history, the culture. I wonder what people who are digging us up in 2,000 years will think of what we have done?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. r-bear,

      i wonder that all the time as well - what people centuries and millennia from now will think of us when digging up our civilization. i watched a documentary the other day called prophets of doom in which six scientists discuss the world's major problems (climate change, water shortage, nuclear attack etc) and the scientist discussing the environment made a statement about how future generations will be disgusted with the waste we left behind. quite a sobering thought...maybe it will prompt us to clean up our act!

      Delete
  11. Wonderful post Amanda... thank you for sharing the beauty of now and before.
    Wishing you many more wonderful adventures too.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I always wonder how they lived in such warm places without fresh water, often in the mountain. Maybe the climate was milder these times?

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have often thought these questions about my foremothers, having dwelled in this one small town of Himmelpforten (Heaven`s Gate), where according to my family tree they have all lived, generation for generation, back to the first date in 1668. I wish I knew how they brought up their children, got along with their husbands, learned to do all the chores, dreamed their dreams. But then think back 2000 or more years - have we changed at all? Excavating must be so extraordinarily interesting! But me, I think I would sit and play with the pebbles on the beach all day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. geli - excavating is fun, but at the end of a long, hot day, i love to play with pebbles on the beach too ;-) xoxo

      Delete
  14. Hey, I like the way you work and I like the way you relax! Great piece, as always.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Your posts are always magical.....but when you write about Greece....your passion really shows....every word intensifies....how thrilling to have that discovery of the pottery shard!

    When we first *met*, I loved seeing and hearing about your silver bangles....your connection to your Mum....and to Greece. The one with the leaping Dolphins could have come right off the Dolphin Fresco! Fabulous!
    Greece (like parts of France, Italy and New Mexico) has that *special, almost unearthly light*.....your photos bring it all back to me.... wish I could sit on the veranda with an Ouzo and trade Greek stories!!!

    Love,

    ♥ Robin ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i would love to do that too, dear twin. maybe someday we can share some glasses of ouzo - if not greece, then maybe overlooking san francisco bay?

      Delete
  16. I envy the intellectual side, escaping into another world of our ancestors that you get a sense of while following your passion. What amazing photos and how I wish I thought more of the past, rather than what's happening today. Thanks Amanda. Would love to share a glass of wine with you some day. BTW, please submit your own "My Gutsy Story." I have something I'm working on and we could all connect through that. Working on a movie with my husband too. More on that on Thursday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. wow - a movie?! will be looking forward to that post!!

      Delete
  17. HaHaHa!! You had me laughing there at the end!
    I envy your work and am so happy that you blog about it. It must be so exciting to find these little treasures from the past!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Grinning at the thought of you decoratively getting plastered - right place to do it ;)

    It's strange how we sometimes forget just how colourful the ancients every day surrounds were ... flickering torches must have given a lot of movement to those images at night.

    ReplyDelete
  19. What a beautiful and productive summer you had. You look so content. Can't resist a pun!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Fascinating blogpost and great pix. I've often wondered what people were doing centuries ago when I walk round old castles and monuments. Did they think that they were living in the very best of times? Perhaps.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I adore this post! Same fascination for me...I wanna go with you and happily dig in the dirt. I really can't imagine how much I would love it.

    Your photos are beautiful, and the bracelets so lovely.

    On a grey cold morning, it's lovely to imagine the heat and sun.

    Can I go in your suitcase next time....please???

    ReplyDelete
  22. Dear Amanda, how can one comment on this - words escape me. You have the most fascinating profession I can imagine. I too woudl be like you, standing forever in awe at each dig, waiting with great expectations. Even if unearthing just a piece of pottery, it woudl be like finding priceless treasurers in my mind and the same contemplations as you describe here would be filling my perception.
    Beautiful images and words - the last ones show that we cancerians know how to enjoy life.;)
    Have a great week dear Amanda,
    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  23. What a breathtaking post in all ways!

    I noticed your bracelets in the earlier photo and thought to myself, "She looks like one of the ancients, herself."

    It's true that no matter how much things change around us, humanity is still very much the same as it always has been.

    That's both a blessing and a curse, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thank you for sharing, Amanda; the dolphin fresco is stunning.

    ReplyDelete
  25. How far we've come is relative to how deeply layered we've been and why we need to uncover what happened before.

    The Minoan women appear to have lived a luxurious life without need for armies for a period of time. How many blips in time have there been where a lifestyle has been sustainable before falling apart?

    I enjoy contemplating a culture of beauty that lasted a very long time! Walking in beauty is one way to breathe into the world that which we wish to bring to life. The ringlets and painted eyes and bangles and dreaming make me smile...

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting♡