Monthly Archives: October 2015

Stories, spaces, places

It was not only that I went back and found the people there. Yes, I climbed the stairs to the grassroots place where I conduct my research, and ended up on the roof of the building where a concert of the solidarity choir would be held that night. But simultaneously I was enveloped into a history that I had become part of earlier. We greeted after a long summer, and the story continued. “You look so thin. You should eat more”, one of the women remarked. I was in.

I am sitting at the long table in what is called the dance hall, a large living room of the apartment the group is renting. It is the first choir repetition after their concert, and some 20 people, mostly women but also 7 men are present. As always, some cigarette smoke is floating through the room and here and there someone drinks a coffee or a can of beer. I am breathing their air, sitting on their surfaces. I am inhabiting their social and material space, or at least until the extent that I can. I am present but also taken aback by the fast Greek conversations that I still don’t follow. Our conductor, behind the electronic piano, is kind enough to translate some of the song lyrics into English. The people are kind enough to smile at me. Yes I am in.

Here it is that I want to know how a place like this carries significance to the participating people. They, we are writing histories in this place, we are making and rewriting the space in our memories, in our bodies, in our shared presence. The place is a carrier of our stories − be it in cohesion with its own course of history. Should I understand it as physical as the way the walls of the structure are resounding with the sounds we produce during our presence? Should I understand it as literally as the drops of beer that spill unto the floor? Drops that can be wiped away, but still write history through the physical traces of moments that used to be and the labour of cleaning that is put into it over and over again.

The conductor calls on us to take part of more activities that are organised by the movement and next week’s activities are summed up. It is not enough to only sing in the choir, is what they are saying. It is not easy to keep the place going. Time and again, people need to be reminded of the objectives of the movement: the practice of solidarity. The space alone doesn’t make the people act like this, despite all the imperatives that are there through posters, books and texts. Still, it has to be made, it has to be enacted.

What does such learning processes involve? How is the story of the grassroots place rewritten and revived in relation to the historical and local narratives of the participants? What has the place come to mean in the bigger context of their other daily practices?

This blog post was originally posted on

21 Bone street

By Francis Koolstra, student Archaeology at the University of Groningen.

“Kókalo, kókalo, kókalo”. This is what I hear someone sing during an archaeological excavation in Greece, earlier this summer. When I ask what the word means, one of the archaeologists points towards a piece of bone which has been exposed: “It is the Greek word for ‘bone’”. It is a reoccurring word in my internship here in Athens, as I am researching the human remains from the Early Mycenaean Northern Cemetery of Ayios Vasilios, Laconia (ca. 1700-1500 BC). The cemetery is of special significance as it is associated with the formative phase of the Ayios Vasilios settlement, which later evolved into the palatial centre of Mycenaean Laconia. The cemetery illustrates the transformation and the diversity of the Early Mycenaean funerary customs, which led to the typical Mycenaean collective funerary rites that find their most dramatic manifestation in the famous grave circles of Mycenae.

My internship focuses on the analysis of human remains which originate from one specific tomb; tomb 21, which is a unique case in the cemetery of Ayios Vasilios. The single built tomb contains multiple articulated and disarticulated internments and already houses more than 25 individuals, which show diverse mortuary customs and treatment, both primary and secondary.

My work in the laboratory is very diverse, and varies from the washing and sorting of the human remains until the estimation of the sex, age, stature and pathology of the individuals in order to reconstruct their osteobiographies. Such data not only tells us something about the final moment of death, but also about the history of the lives of these individuals, which leave traces on the bones which are, in turn, visible by analysing the bone texture and morphology. The results of this research can help us reconstruct past activities, demography, health and diet, but can also illuminate the mortuary rites of the living in order to assess the social meanings.