In the courtyard of the traditional building in Kalamata (the capital of South/East Peloponnese) where the Department of History, Archeology and Cultural Resources Management of the University of Peloponnese is set since 2003, Greek students enjoy the sunshine sitting together with colleagues from the U.S., Slovenia and Turkey who have moved in Kalamata in order to attend in English language the Master’s program “CultTech” (Cultural Heritage Materials and Technologies), while a Canadian has already graduated and returned to his homeland.
Foreign students come especially for postgraduate studies at this Department which hosts one of the most modern equipped Laboratory of Archaeometry, which trains the archaeologists in the use of new techniques for the analysis, characterization, origin and dating of the ancient materials. The laboratory is activated at analytical, non-invasive research of archaeological collections, absolute dating and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction studies.
According to Nikos Zacharias, Associate Professor and Head of the Department the Lab produces an ideal platform for holistic approaches that are guaranteed by the creative mixing of up-to-date methodologies with archaeological science, archaeometry and cultural heritage technologies. “We deal with archaeological materials and crafts, ie with any kind of movable finds, in which we carry out analyzes in order to find their origins and to determine their dating. Usually archaeologists use the typology and stratigraphy to draw conclusions with the aid of science we can have absolute answers. We can identify interventions that have taken place over time in a monument “, he adds.
The recent success of the Lab was the collaboration with the team of the Greek Professor of the NTUA, Antonia Moropoulou, who undertook the unique work of restoration of the Holy Tomb and the Holy Sepulcher. “She, while looking at the historical walls and the Tomb of Christ that she first opened up to its original surface, was able to see the history of Constantinople, the Byzantine, the Crossroads, the Renaissance, and a recent “19th century intervention. The confirmation in absolute chronologies came from the measurements of the Kalamata Archaeometry Laboratory in 17 samples of the tomb, proving that the first full-white marble slab was placed by St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great! “, Professor Zacharias explains.
Archaeometry in HI-TECH environment
Professor Nikos Zacharias having graduated from the School of Chemical Engineering with an experience at the Institute of Radiation and Nuclear Physics of the University of Bonn, and after a long and very rich research work at the Archaeometry Laboratory, in the Institute of Materials Science of the NCSR “Demokritos”, he joined the department in Kalamata, chasing a personal bet that seems to have won and “running” “Cult tech” in order to motivate young Greeks but also foreign students to attend it rather than deciding to go on for a well-established and traditional institution abroad, likewise Oxford, London, Sheffield and Nottingham Universities.
The basic equipment of the Archaeometry Laboratory includes six stereomicroscopes, a petrographic-metalograph microscope, an XRF device, materials processing areas, XRF and Raman portable sets and a scanning electron microscope that enlarges up to 100,000 times and simultaneously analyzes the objects. The Lab is specialized in luminescence, a method for the absolute dating of ceramics, briquettes, mortars and sediments.By using this method, scientists can identify the time of baking if it is ceramic or when the material was exposed to light in order to precipitate or mortar. “From a monument, one can remove mortar samples and after their absolute dating we can have the various construction or repair phases of it”, the Professor adds. It is noteworthy that the first scientific publication of this method for the dating of mortars was made by him when he was working at the University of Bonn. Now it is routinely applied.
The Lab has been collaborating with universities and research teams from Italy, Germany, Oxford, Spain, America, Australia, and so on. Since July 2013, has participated in 25 national and international projects. However, Professor Nikos Zacharias considers also the full operation of the Marine Archeology Laboratory, which has already been established in the Department of History, Archeology and Cultural Resources Management in Kalamata, to support the courses of Sagittarian Archeology.
Vasiliki Michopoulou, Biologist-Free lance science writer,Board of the International Science Writers Association (ISWA).