Category Archives: Study grant

Iris de Fuijk studying Neolithic Households in the Central Aegean

Athens. Really, it’s a big city for someone from the small, Dutch city of Utrecht. During my three previous trips to Athens (which were all very short) I’ve always been struck by the city’s size, its chaos, its large amounts of coffee-bars and of course its variety. Variety in wealth, poverty, grimness and also in the phenomenon of modern architecture alternated by archaeological remains. In February, I had the great opportunity to get to know the city a little better: I stayed at the NIA for 5 weeks. The main reason to go to Athens was to obtain as much literature as possible for my master thesis, which is about Late Neolithic/Final Neolithic houses and households in the central Aegean. Indeed, soon after I started my thesis in September it became clear that most literature on Greek Late Neolithic and Final Neolithic sites cannot be found in the Netherlands. A trip to Athens was crucial. Fortunately, the trip became a reality thanks to a scholarship granted by the NIA.

And so it began. I landed in an unfamiliar library-world in Athens. But, it didn’t take long before I sat among other people, all engaged in their archaeological and/or ancient historical research. It was not very hard to become encouraged by the library-atmosphere in the NIA and in other institutes.  And of course there are plenty museums and archaeological sites around every corner in the city. So no lack of inspiration there. In fact, the acropolis is right outside the NIA, and honestly, I still can’t get enough of the view.

IdF Athens from Philopappos

Athens city-view from Philoppapos hill

Every morning, I walked with a fellow student to the American and British institutes in the Kolonaki area (yes, we walked. Most people thought we were insane, but we had our reasons: 1. we got at least some exercise during the long library-days, 2. we could save some metro-money and 3. we could see and experience the city). In the institutes, I spend the days searching and scanning dozens of books and articles The evenings were filled with “household-stuff”, such as cooking (preferably on a decent Dutch time. Apparently, diner after 9 pm in Athens is not only a summer thing, which I still do not understand). Or it was possible to go to a lecture. In my mind, this is an extraordinary phenomenon: there are lectures on all sorts of (ancient) subjects in the multiple institutes all over Athens. Despite the differences in venues (from sitting in a cosy environment, almost in the bookshelves, to sitting in a huge hall with cinema-like chairs) the people, students, PhD’s, professors and researchers, often stayed the same. Apparently, this library-world is a small one.

 

 

IdF Library BSA

British School at Athens Library

 

Besides my scanning-tasks and the lectures, I also paid multiple visits to the archives in the Blegen library of the American School. This was a completely new, but interesting experience. One of my case-studies is the Final Neolithic site of Kephala, located at the Cycladic island Kea. The records of the Kea excavations (1960’s) have been inventoried quite recently and this gave me the opportunity to search through all the information about the site. I looked at the old notebooks, first drafts of reports, letters, photographs and maps. Although it was sometimes a challenge (it took me a while to decipher the handwriting), these visits were informative and a welcome addition to my research.

IdF EBA Kolonna

Early Bronze Age Kolonna

Looking back, I feel like I’ve had quite a diverse experience in Athens. On the one hand, I could finally grasp the long-wanted articles and books, which will definitely contribute to my thesis. On the other hand, there were opportunities to visit archaeological sites and museums in Athens (e.g. Kerameikos, National Museum and Acropolis museum) in order to actually see the material I’m dealing with. AND while I was Greece, why not make some trips outside Athens? In the weekends, I went to Brauron (also the location of a Final Neolithic settlement of which the material can be seen in the museum), Delphi (never been there before, absolutely beautiful!) and Aegina (also the location of a Final Neolithic settlement, i.e. Kolonna). In the end, I realized how much I haven’t seen yet, but obviously, one has to save some things to see (and read) for a next time.

IdF Delphi

Delphi

Iris de Fuijk, Research Master Archaeology, University of Amsterdam

Summary: Decisions in mode of transport by commuters in Athens (In English and Greek)

Introduction: This is a summary of a research done into the decisions in mode of transport by commuters in Athens. The research question is: How do soft aspects influence the decision for a specific mode of transport for commuters in Athens? Soft aspects are the attitudes of people that influence their transport mode choice. It focuses on how human behavior is influenced by actual behavioral control (Ajzen, 1991). Research into the relationship between these soft aspects and mode of transport has been done about car use (Steg, 2005), cycling and walking in a case in the UK (Gatersleben & Uzzell, 2007) and in a study in cycling commuting in the Netherlands (Heinen, Maat, Van Wee, 2011).  Athens is the capital city of Greece with a population of over 4 million people in a metropolitan area. The car is the most popular mode of transport for commuting. To raise awareness of other means of transport, a series of measures have taken to prioritize sustainable transportation, such as the expansion of the infrastructure for walking, cycling and public transport. New metro lines, suburban railways, one tramline, cycling paths and more pedestrian zones were constructed to alleviate the heavy car congestion in Athens.

Results: For this research, a Likert scale and qualitative interviews have been used. In total 172 respondents filled in the questionnaire and 5 professionals have been interviewed. In short, walking and cycling are seen as cheap and healthy modes of transport but the lack of good infrastructure is seen as a problem. The tram is experienced as very safe but not flexible enough because there is only one tramline. Commuters see the (trolley) bus as safe and cheap but not as enjoyable and flexible. The motor and scooter score positively on their flexibility but are conceived as relatively unsafe in the case of getting an accident. Furthermore, the attitude towards using the metro is very positive. The metro is experienced as safe, punctual, quick and there is a good infrastructure for the metro in Athens. However, in the end most of the commuters experience that they cannot use it to their work because they prefer to commute with the car. Consequently, the car is by far the most popular mode of transport. It is seen as comfortable, gives status and the infrastructure is very suitable to commute to work or school. The negative points about the car are that using a car is not good for the environment and expensive.

Conclusion: The main conclusion is that some variables in Athens are different from research done before. In the literature, it is suggested that some attitudes towards a transport mode have a universal characteristic independent of the factual circumstances in a certain location, whereas others are very different according to those circumstances. For example, in the Netherlands the unique attractiveness of the bicycle as a punctual and stress-free mode of transportation could not be generalized to the situation in Athens. The results of this research show that the image of walking, cycling and public transport should be improved to be able to compete with the car in terms of status and lifestyle. Such a development is already underway.  Especially the improvement of walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure in Athens in recent years has encouraged a culture of people who spend time and money on sustainable modes of transport. Therefore, if one would like to promote walking, cycling and public transport not only the infrastructure but also the soft aspects towards sustainable modes of transport should be improved. Consequently, important policy implications could be that soft aspects are important and that they do influence commuting mode choice.

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Έρευνα: Αποφάσεις του τρόπου μεταφοράς από μετακινούμενους στην Αθήνα Του Luc Keller | Φοιτητή Πολεοδομίας |Πανεπιστήμιο του Άμστερνταμ και  Ολλανδικό Ινστιτούτο  Αθηνών

Εισαγωγή: Το παρόν αποτελεί μια περίληψη της έρευνας που έγινε σχετικά με τις αποφάσεις του τρόπου μεταφοράς από μετακινούμενους στην Αθήνα. Το ερώτημα της έρευνας είναι: Πώς  οι “απαλές”  πτυχές επηρεάζουν την απόφαση για τον τρόπο μεταφοράς των ατόμων στην Αθήνα;  Απαλές  πτυχές είναι  οι στάσεις των ανθρώπων που επηρεάζουν την επιλογή του τρόπου μεταφοράς τους. Ως εκ τούτου, η ανθρώπινη συμπεριφορά επηρεάζεται από   πραγματικό συμπεριφορικό  έλεγχο (Ajzen, 1991). Έρευνα για τη σχέση μεταξύ αυτών των απαλών πτυχών και τον τρόπο μεταφοράς έχει γίνει για χρήση  αυτοκινήτου (Steg, 2005), για ποδηλασία, σε μια περίπτωση για περπάτημα στο Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο (Gatersleben & Uzzell, 2007) και σε μια μελέτη για μετακίνηση με ποδήλατο στην Ολλανδία (Heinen, Maat, Van Wee, 2011). Εν συντομία, η Αθήνα είναι η πρωτεύουσα της Ελλάδας, με πληθυσμό πάνω από 4.000.000 ανθρώπους σε μια μητροπολιτική περιοχή. Το αυτοκίνητο είναι το πιο δημοφιλές μέσο μεταφοράς για τις μετακινήσεις. Ως εκ τούτου, μια σειρά από μέτρα έχουν ληφθεί  για να δοθεί προτεραιότητα στη βιώσιμη μεταφορά, όπως η επέκταση της υποδομής για τους πεζούς, την ποδηλασία και τις δημόσιες μεταφορές. Νέες γραμμές του μετρό, προαστιακός σιδηρόδρομος, τραμ, ποδηλατόδρομοι και πεζόδρομοι κατασκευάστηκαν για να ελαφρυνθεί η βαριά κυκλοφοριακή συμφόρηση στην Αθήνα.

Αποτελέσματα: Για την έρευνα αυτή χρησιμοποιούνται μια κλίμακα Likert και ποιοτικές συνεντεύξεις. Συνολικά 172 συμπλήρωσαν το ερωτηματολόγιο και έγιναν πέντε συνεντεύξεις σε επαγγελματίες.  Εν ολίγοις, το περπάτημα και το ποδήλατο θεωρούνται ως οικονομικοί και υγιεινοί τρόποι μεταφοράς, αλλά η έλλειψη καλής υποδομής θεωρείται πρόβλημα. Το τραμ βιώνεται ως πολύ ασφαλές, αλλά όχι αρκετά ευέλικτο, διότι υπάρχει μόνο μια γραμμή. Οι μετακινούμενοι θεωρούν το (τρόλεϊ) λεωφορείο ασφαλές και οικονομικό, αλλά όχι διασκεδαστικό και ευέλικτο. Το μηχανάκι και το σκούτερ αποτιμούνται θετικά χάρη στην ευελιξία τους, αλλά θεωρούνται σχετικά ανασφαλή σε περίπτωση ατυχήματος. Επιπλέον, το μετρό βιώνεται ως ασφαλές, ακριβές, με καλές υποδομές και γρήγορο. Ωστόσο, πολλοί μετακινούμενοι δεν μπορούν να το χρησιμοποιήσουν για να μετακινηθούν προς και από τη δουλειά τους. Κατά συνέπεια, το αυτοκίνητο είναι μακράν το πιο δημοφιλές μέσο μεταφοράς. Θεωρείται άνετο, έχει καλές υποδομές, προσφέρει κύρος και μπορεί να χρησιμοποιηθεί για την εργασία ή το σχολείο. Το αρνητικό σημείο είναι ότι η χρήση του αυτοκινήτου δεν είναι φιλική προς το περιβάλλον και είναι ακριβή.

Συμπέρασμα: Το βασικό συμπέρασμα είναι ότι μερικές μεταβλητές στην Αθήνα διαφέρουν από έρευνες που έχουν γίνει στο παρελθόν. Στη  βιβλιογραφία, προτείνεται ότι ορισμένες συμπεριφορές προς έναν τρόπο μεταφοράς έχουν καθολικό χαρακτήρα ανεξάρτητα από τις πραγματικές συνθήκες σε μια συγκεκριμένη περιοχή, ενώ άλλες είναι πολύ διαφορετικές ανάλογα με τις συνθήκες αυτές. Για παράδειγμα, στις Κάτω Χώρες, η μοναδική ελκυστικότητα του ποδηλάτου ως  ακριβούς τρόπου μεταφοράς  και χωρίς άγχος και δεν θα μπορούσε να γενικευθεί για την κατάσταση στην Αθήνα. Οι απαλές πτυχές θα μπορούσαν να έχουν σημαντικές επιπτώσεις στην πολιτική καθώς είναι σημαντικές και επηρεάζουν την επιλογή του τρόπου μετακίνησης. Ως εκ τούτου, εάν θέλουμε να προωθήσουμε το περπάτημα, την ποδηλασία και τις δημόσιες μεταφορές, θα πρέπει να βελτιώσουμε την υποδομή. Από την άλλη, η εικόνα του περπατήματος, της ποδηλασίας και της δημόσιας συγκοινωνίας πρέπει να βελτιωθεί, ώστε να είναι σε θέση να ανταγωνιστούν με το αυτοκίνητο από την άποψη του στάτους και του τρόπου ζωής. Μια τέτοια εξέλιξη πραγματοποιείται ήδη. Ειδικά η παροχή υποδομών για περπάτημα, ποδηλασία και δημόσια συγκοινωνία στην Αθήνα τα τελευταία χρόνια έχει ενθαρρύνει μια κουλτούρα σε ανθρώπους που ξοδεύουν χρόνο και χρήμα σε βιώσιμους τρόπους μεταφοράς.

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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 http://europeanfutures.tumblr.com/

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.

Aerial-view-Ayios-Vasilios

Athens Bike Festival

This weekend the sixth Athens Bike Festival was organised from Friday 18 to Sunday 20 September. This event is becoming more popular during the years. It started with 15.000 in 2010 visitors and 35.000 people in 2014 visited the festival. This event shows that Athens is a city with a growing cycling culture. This festival is a platform for cyclists and sympathizers to show and share their experiences with the bike in Athens. There were many activities; I would like to highlight a few.

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I went to the festival on Saturday to participate in a workshop called Introducing and supporting Cyclelogistics in Greek cities. Due to negative impacts of the carlike air pollution, congestion, safety issues, the bicycle is seen as a potential solution for these problems.  Not only as a medium for citizens to commute but also as a medium for transporting cargo. Many transportation of goods are transported via motorized modes of transport. However, the bike could be an ideal alternative to deliver (light) cargo. This workshop aimed to show the potential of bicycles as a potential player in urban transport. One example was Andrea Saccon, who started his cargo services in Parma (See: https://vimeo.com/91788560).

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Furthermore, Safe Cycling in Athens was an important issue during the festival. For kids, there was an educational program where they got lessons in wearing safety equipments (such as a helm) and how to behave safely on the bike in the traffic. There was also a special kids spot, to show their learned lessons in practice. They got instructions from special coordinators. Overall, an interesting experience!

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On the threshold

By Herbert Ploegman, anthropologist, doing field research on grassroots movements in Athens through a research grant of the NIA

One night I am sitting with a Dutch friend and a new Greek friend at an Exarchia terrace, in the centre of Athens, while I am told: “the Greeks, they don’t know and don’t wanna know, but many of them are in fact Turks”. Which is quite a statement, considering the rivalry between both nations.

The night after that, I am talking philosophy with a Greek designer, who takes it for granted that Greeks are indeed European. He tells me that I shouldn’t forget that Greece is in fact a continuation of centuries-old flows and rhythms. “What you see here, is the Roman Empire. People like to link up with Greece’s ancient history from 500 B.C., but after that came the Roman Empire for almost 2000 years. The Ottomans came in 1453, leaving most of the religion and culture as it were. How could you expect Greece to act like a Northern-European country with a history like this?”

I am back at Athens, and I am thinking about what this place actually is: What is it that appears before my eyes? How should I understand all that is happening here? How could I peel off all those layers of meaning that are hidden behind the façades of various kinds, but that appear so much ironed out by popular discourse? Or rather, how could I understand the complex hotchpotch of cultural identifications, that seems to be challenged during these days of losing dreams and the confrontation with so many international flows of foreign power, money and people?

Foto: Herbert Ploegman
My Dutch friend tells about the many refugees she encountered on the island of Leros. She tells about the precious work many islanders are doing. But also about the incapability of the Greek state to act decisively. I hear about the decision to build two large refugee camps in Greece, but I know that the state is big and demanding; that there are many people between these words and the deeds. And still, what will it be like in the end?

She tells that she remembers the arrival of the first immigrants, Albanians, in the 1990s. The scapegoating that haunted them until others came. There will be Albanians voting for nazi-party Golden Dawn in the upcoming national elections on Sunday. Perhaps to consolidate the position in the Greek society that they have acquired by now. But Greece still has a whole lot left to deal with. Can Greece be expected to confront these issues without trouble? I remember the country where I come from, with its difficulty to swallow its colonial history in all its enduring facets.

I am here to do anthropological research about grassroots movements. People that try to pave roads that have not been there before, and where the State does not (anymore) offer a thing. People call Athens a testing ground for neoliberal policies, implemented by the European Union, which gratefully uses the vulnerability Greece finds itself in. It is also a testing, or a battle ground of opposition to these policies, and possibly a testing ground for alternatives.

I have no illusions that Greece has a panacea at hand. Nor does any other country or context. I will not find a new, more fair, Europe in Greece. Nor do I find it in my home country the Netherlands. But it might be in the dialectics between here and there that something new appears. I am studying Athens to get to know Athens. I will bring myself for that purpose: with my particular background. And I will try to speak about what I come to see, in my languages.

* this blog post was originally posted on http://europeanfutures.tumblr.com/