Method and Theory in Classics
Session 19: Doing Greek Archaeology
In Alcock and Osborne eds. Classical Archaeology (2007) see the chapter
by Jack Davis; in the textbook see chapters 14, 15 and 21.
Key moments and figures in the development of the discipline:
• Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768)
o An influential figure in spreading interest in ancient Greece in
the mid-eighteenth century, though he was part of a larger
o Winckelmann never did any fieldwork (and never visited
Greece), but (from 1763, when he was appointed Papal
Antiquary) had access to virtually all the sculpture excavated
in Italy and most of what was exported from Greece.
o Winckelmann was still largely driven by reading ancient
literary texts; though he visited the excavations taking place
at Herculaneum (which had started in 1738) and Pompeii
(which started ten years later) he was highly critical of them.
His scheme for the classification of Greek sculpture was
derived from an earlier scheme for Greek poetry.
• Greek independence
o The waning power of the Ottoman empire made Greece, and
antiquities from Greece more directly accessible (Lord Elgin’s
acquisition of much of the sculpture from the Parthenon from
1801-1811 is the most famous example but was hardly
unique). The Greek War of Independence (1821-30) resulted
in a new nation-state whose leaders (especially, but not only,
the newly-installed Bavarian monarchy) paraded the
monuments of the classical past as the most important
symbols of its identity.
• A peculiar feature of archaeology in Greece is the presence of the
foreign national schools of archaeology, founded in the wake of
Greek independence. The biggest and most important are those
which were founded in the 19 century, starting with the French
School (The École Française d'Athènes or EfA) in 1846, but followed
by the German School (the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
(DAI), Abteilung Athen) in 1874, the American School of Classical
Studies at Athens (ASCSA) in 1881 and the British School at Athens (BSA) in 1886. There are now 17 such foreign schools with official
recognition (the most recent is the Georgian School, founded in
1997). The Canadian Institute in Greece (CIG/ICG) was formally
recognized in 1976.
o There are tight controls on archaeological fieldwork in Greece;
each foreign school can apply (to the Ministry of Culture) for
three permits for excavation or survey projects each year, and
a further three for collaborative projects with the Greek
Archaeological Service. Only fieldwork with the sponsors