Friday, September 24, 2010

African Spiritual Healing in Athens

Walking back from the ACS courier service office near Vathi Square, Athens, an African immigrant handed me this small sheet of paper, advertising his office of spiritual healing. The leaflet is a testament to the multicultural realities of modern Athens and the availability of African spiritual practices to the desperate economic times. By posting it on my blog, I hope to rescue it from historical oblivion and offer it as a primary source for Greek history. We need to all be collecting the ephemera of globalization, which is wonderfully undigital. This text is as low budget as texts can get. It is printed, distributed and discarded and along the way, its author hopes, two people would have made a contact. This piece of paper is a textual medium that will bring together a Greek native and an African immigrant. The advertisement reads as follows (in English and Greek):


Over 20 years experience no matter what your problems are I can help you solve the most difficult once in the fastest way than any one does even when you have been disappointed by other spiritualists. I can bring the loved once more than they are before. I can bring unknown one in love. I also give powerful talisman for protection. Impotency sexual court case exams carrier. Successful business depression and many other things."


Πάνω από 20 χρόνια εμπειρίας ανεξάρτητα από το ποια είναι τα προβλήματα σας. Μπορώ να σας βοηθήσω να λύσετε τα δυσκολότερα από αυτά στον μικρότερο χρόνο από οποιονδήποτε άλλον ακόμα και αν έχετε απογοητευθεί από άλλους πνευματιστές. Μπορώ να κάνω άγνωστους μεταξύ τους ανθρώπους να ερωτευθούν. Επίσης δίνω πανίσχυρο φυλακτό για προστασία. Λύνω σημαντικές δικαστικές υποθέσεις σεξουαλικού περιεχομένου. Επιτυχίες Επαγγελματικές συμβουλές και πολλά άλλα."

One of the most fundamental transformations of Greece happening this very moment is the globalization of its citizenship. Anyone that has walked around Omonia, Kypseli, Patissia and other 1960s middle-class neighborhoods cannot fail to notice the minority of Greeks. The demographics have affected the political discussion, sometimes toward intolerance (the right) or old-school labor naivete (the left). What we might now call "inner city" public schools tell an amazing demographic story. Practically every year, I direct American undergraduates in archaeological projects in Greece. The multicultural reality is the first thing that they notice. Nevertheless, American programs in Greece have failed to capitalize on the sociological potential. Arcadia's program is a noteworthy exception, which incorporates an element of civic service, beyond the traditional grand tourism.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

1915 Lombardic Letters: Evans Building

I have marveled at the medieval script used in The Thomas W. Evans Museum and Dental Institute, School of Dentistry, University of Pennsylvania (1915). The less formal eastern entrance employs Lombardic letters (seen here) while the more formal southern entrance uses Gothic black letter. This historical incongruity illustrates a degree of interpretive freedom. I have only sketched the top line of the inscription. Drawing it, rather than photographing it, is the best way that I can understand it. The font is lively with curving serifs and squeezed round volumes. I was also intrigued by the three-dimensional contrast in the four capital letters of the inscription. Whereas all the other letters protrude from the surface of the wall, the capitals are recessed. The three limestone blocks illustrated in the drawing above measure ca. 6 1/2 ft. by 13 in.

I direct you to historical photos of the entire complex, including a view of the southern portal, see Harold D. Eberlein, "Two Dental Buildings in Philadelphia and Boston," Architectural Record 37, no. 6 (June 1915) 517-534.

Although not very well known, the architect of the Evans Building was John Windrim, who designed over 200 buildings in the Philadelphia area, including the Wanamaker Memorial Tower (1908) next to Saint James the Less (1846), the most important Ecclesiological building in the U.S. and many Bell Telephone stations. John Windrim inherited his father's firm, the office of James Windrim, who designed the Masonic Temple across the street from City Hall (1873), and my favorite bridge over the Schuylkill, the metal Falls Bridge (1895). For more information on the building and projects of Windrim, see the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings database.

Thomas W. Evans (1823-1897) is buried just a few blocks southwest of his dental foundation at Woodland Cemetery. His grave is one of the grandest monuments, a towering gray obelisk.

My F&M colleagues will be interested to know that Evans started his dental career in Lancaster. He made his fortune, however, by settling in Paris, introducing gold tooth feelings to Europe and becoming the dentist and adviser to Napoleon III. According to his obituary, he attended the teeth of Europe's royalty from Queen Victoria to the Ottoman sultan.

Location: 39°57'07.15"N, 75°12'11.34"W
40th & Spruce Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Friday, September 17, 2010

Time Definite Services

I was riding behind this truck on the Schuylkill Expressway and I was really overtaken by the graphics of this company from Illinois, Time Definite Services, Inc. The logo shows an analog clock with its circumference growing in thickness. The hands end with an airplane and a truck. I especially liked the truck pictogram for its clarity, and its economical perspective. I admit that part of this sketch was done while driving.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Main Line

Pictorial notes -- looking out of the window -- Main Line train ride from Amtrak 30th Street Station (top left) to Overbrook (bottom right)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Main Line

Quick drawing, view from train, rolling out of 30th Street Station on Main Line. Drawing on arbitrary homework assignment in hand

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Masons of the Morea

Dimitri Nakassis asked me about secondary literature on architectural labor in vernacular Greece, so I’m taking the opportunity to gather up a few thoughts. Although the study of vernacular architecture in Greece begins ca. 1925, early folklorists and architectural historians were more interested in the formal principles of houses and their decoration rather than the labor that produced it and its organization. For the early studies, see Demetris Pikionis, Angeliki Hadjimichali, Anastasios Orlandos and George Megas. The 1920s generation set up the educational infrastructure of research at the Polytechneion, where every graduating architect and engineer went out into the rural provinces and produced painstaking documentation of the surviving stock. It was not until the 1960s, that attention turned onto the sociology of architectural labor.

In summary, architectural labor from the 18th to the early 20th century was organized in itinerant groups of masons. They would specialize on the finer aspects of construction, such as the corners, quoins, the windows, openings and roofing and would hire local work for the unspecialized work, such as building infill walls. Itinerant masons typically came from mountainous villages that had little access to agricultural land. The best known masons of the 19th century were Albanians. With no work at home, they would be gone for most of the year, leaving behind the womenfolk to raise the family. They would return to their villages for one or two months every year and, if lucky, succeed in impregnating their wives. Itinerant masons occasionally migrated to new territories where there was demand, thus, creating a new local tradition. For instance, Albanian masons settled in Peloponnesian mountain villages, like Langadia in Arcadia, turning those new villages into “mason villages” (μαστοροχώρια). It’s a bit ironic that during the 1980s and 1990s, a new wave of Albanian masons found themselves as the new builders of the countryside given the shortage of male hands. What is different with this immigration wave, however, is that Albanian workmen were exploited by Greek contractors. Although the new Albanians retained a lot more knowledge of stone-masonry than the 1980s Greeks, they had undergone a transformation. Isolated geographically by the Iron Curtain, they lost the labor market that had allowed them to perfect their art. New material, like concrete, had already transformed the Albanian building trades. Sadly, the typical Albanian stonework of the 1980s-2000s is characterized by goops of concrete rolling between stones. Much of this Albanian stonework is decorative stone applied over a concrete structure.

By the early 19th century, the Peloponnesian masons were in such great demand that the new nation-state would explicitly recruit them to build the new capital of Athens. The pride of Peloponnesian stonemasons working in Athens can be seen, for instance, in a mason’s graffiti on the Temple of Sounion from ca. 1920s. The life of the itinerant stone mason was tough. The group was hierarchical according to seniority and expertise. The masons also developed their own language and technical vocabulary. Since these groups of men spent so much time together, they filled their workday with talk. And in order that the local populations not understand exactly what they were saying, some anthropologists argue, they developed their own code. This code language has been well documented. As one might expect, a lot of it is gender specific and sexist. One of the mason’s vocabulary that made it into modern Greek usage is “boulouki” which describes the social group. With the advent of reinforced concrete (beton arme), traditional building crafts and their organization disappeared. Since this happened so much later in Greece than in the industrial European north, Greece offers a good case study. Certain specialized crafts, like plasterers were still needed to decorate the concrete frames. They survived well into the 1960s and 1970s (and Miltiadis Katsaros is documenting them). Marble working specialists were artificially resuscitated with the opening of the Penteli quarries for the building of Neoclassical Athens in the 19th century. Interestingly enough, the staggering resources devoted to the restoration of the Acropolis (one of the longest uncompleted projects) has also sustained a group of stonemasons from the islands of Paros, Naxos and the islands with marble quarries.

And now a few words about the secondary literature. While documenting vernacular architecture in Eleia and Achaia, the Morea Project conducted a few interviews on the mason traditions. Mary Coulton (folklorist at Oxford) supervised that part of the project. Unfortunately, we have not published this adequately, but see Frederick A. Cooper, Kostis Kourelis et al. Houses of the Morea: Vernacular Architecture of the Northwestern Peloponnese (1250-1950) (Athens, 2004). On the Greek side, the absolutely best starting point on the architecture of vernacular architecture is Giannis Kizis publication on the construction of houses in Mount Peleion. Kizis teaches at the Polytechneion in Athens. Unlike his predecessors (Pikionis, Orlandos, etc.) who were interested in formal features and the expression of Hellenism, Kizis has brought Greek vernacular architectural studies to the standards of international scholarship. The study on Mount Peleion is an exemplary synthetic work, see Giannis Kizis, Η Πηλιορείτικη οικοδομία. Η αρχιτεκτονική της κατοικίας στο Πήλιο από τον 17ο στον 19ο αιώνα (Athens, 1994). Since the 1990s, Kizis has turned into a restorations dynamo, and some have complained that his professional practice has overtaken his scholarly focus.

On the anthropological study of the traditional masons, my favor author is Chrestos G. Konstantinopoulos, who has done a lot some serious data gathering, see Οι παραδοσιακοί χτίστες της Πελοποννήσου. Ιστορική και λαογραφική μελέτη (The Traditional Masons of the Peloponnese: Historical and Ethnographic Study) (Athens, 1983), and Η μαθητεία στις κομπανίες των χτιστών της Πελοποννήσου (Education in the Mason Companies of the Peloponnese) (Athens, 1987). The latter includes a very amusing glossary of the masonic code language. Although problematic with its methodology, Melissa’s Παραδοσιακή Αρχιτεκτονική στην Ελλάδα (Vernacular Architecture in Greece) is still pretty informative. One of my favorite recent studies about the transformation of building labor under colonialism is Michael Given’s study of Cyprus under the British, see The Archaeology of the Colonized (London and New York, 2004), photo above from National Geographic (1928).

I'm sure there is so much more to say about the scholarship of Greek vernacular masons, but these are the first thoughts that come to mind.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Morea Project Revisited

It's very disheartening that the Morea Project data exists on-line but it is practically un-Googleable. As a result, nobody ever looks at it, uses it in scholarship, or ever comments on it. Thus, I feel compelled to advertise it. Everyone, please click here. Archaeological Sites of Eleia, the latest iteration of the website, contains all the digitized data from the Morea Project, including scans of our B/W negatives. The photos themselves have become archival since most of the houses were documented 15-some years ago. Moreover, the region suffered devastating fires in 2007 that destroyed many of our villages. Our photographs are, sadly, the last testament before the destruction.

The Morea Project recorded thousands of specimen of medieval and early modern houses between 1991 and 2001. The project was published in Houses of the Morea: Vernacular Architecture of the Northwest Peloponnesos (1205-1955) (Athens, 2002). My dissertation, "Landmarks of Rural Archaeology: Medieval Settlements in the Northwestern Peloponnese" (2003) provided a denser publication of the medieval settlements.

A Morea Project exhibition with original drawings, photos and models took place at the Gennadeios Library in Athens, May 21-August 15, 2002 and then traveled to Eleia. While the Greek archaeological service was preparing the spectacular Chlemoutsi Museum, the Morea Project was on display in the castle for almost three continuous years, August 17, 2004-July 17, 2007.

In the meantime, the digital genius Todd Brenningmeyer produced an on-line catalog under the MARWP website. In 2007, the Greek Ministry of Culture asked us to make available the Morea Project data in the new Pyrgos Archaeological Museum. The museum is housed in the old neoclassical market of Ernst Ziller. Although the building itself has been beautifully restored, the exhibits have not been installed and the museum has not yet openned. The opportunity to repackage the data for the Pyrgos Museum lead Todd Brenningmeyer to improve his on-line catalog and create a brand new website that you clicked on earlier.

This last June, Todd and I started a new collaboration, re-photographing some of the Morea Project sites in Eleia. This work was done under the auspices of the Pyrgos Museum and the Greek Archaeological Service. We brought students from our respective schools (University of Maryville, Franklin & Marshall) and experimented with new aerial photogrammetric tools. Todd had received a grant from Hewlett Packard with which he bought all the advanced technology (GPS's, cameras, GIS and photogrammetric software, kites, ballon etc.), and we pooled together our academic resources. The collaboration was terrific and we are tempted in turning it into an annual field school.

For instance, we revisited Taxiarches, the first village that the Morea Project completed almost 20 years ago, and rephotographed all the houses. This means that we now have a record of what happened in Taxiarches between 1991 and 2010. The village continues to be semi-abandoned. The greatest shock to me was to see an African immigrants herding the village's sheep. The streets are being repaved by Albanian workmen. Emigrants are returning for the summer, including Greek-Americans who worked in the World Trade Center (and were lucky enough not to go to work on 9/11). Like many "traditional" villages in Greece, the processes of globalization are evident.

The photo above shows Taxiarches' main spring house dating to 1832.

Blog Archive

Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States