Monday, September 29, 2008

Charles Weller, Letter's Home, and the Socio-economics of Archaeology

Spent the morning in the Blegen's Archive, looking at the personal papers of the people who excavated the cave of Pan at Vari in 1901. By doing so, I think I can tentatively say that I have started my dissertation!

I was reading Charles Weller's letters to his wife, written while he was at the School in 1901. He actually wrote to his wife EVERY SINGLE DAY, sometimes twice. Back in the day people were either much more dedicated to one another, or they had a lot more free time on their hands. While I was scouring the papers for any of his thoughts on the Vari Cave and ancient religion, I couldn't help but get wrapped up in the personal affairs that he discussed with his wife: their quickly mounting debt, the exhausting task his wife faced as she raised two children in his absence, the terrible sicknesses plaguing his kids. He wrote of receiving pictures of his children and not recognizing them because they looked like sick and emaciated people from third-world-countries. It was pretty heart breaking.

Such is the life for those people who choose to do archaeology in foreign countries, I suppose. Being an ex-pat can be difficult, especially when tragedies befall your friends and family back at home. For example, the first week I got here, Hurricane Ike hit Galveston, where my cousin lives. It's not that fun not knowing what's going on with one's peeps.

Luckily my cousin's house is still standing. He's collecting images of his experiences here, btw, if you are so intersted. Remind me to recount the hurricane-related Rask-Kelly Cat Saga at sometime in the near future.

Oh yes, and Charles Weller did have an interesting note about Lida Shaw King and Ida Thallon, who worked at Vari with him. Apparently they were ready to go down for the excavation until they were told that it would not be 'proper' for them to do so, unless they arranged a chaperone (even though King was over 30 at the time). So they ended up spending the first several days commuting to the Cave, leaving everyday at about 3pm. Finally, they just moved down to Vari and slept on the other side of town. This was actually a momentous occasion. At Vari, King and Thallon were the first women allowed to excavate (on the mainland) in American School history. And it nearly didn't happen, as it was socially unacceptable at the turn of the century for unmarried women to sleep in the same building as men. It makes me glad I live in 2008. It's hard enough being an archaeologist without having to worry about being unmarried while you're at it. Yikes.

1 comment:

Claire said...

Hey Rask! Nice blog! I love hearing about Greece - I live vicariously through you. Your trips sound like my CYA days, except much more intense. I love that you're blogging about the history of the american school - especially women's experiences. Fascinating!