Aimee Michelle Genova, a Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of Chicago with a focus on the Ancient Mediterranean World, is finishing her dissertation at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens as an Associate Member.
Q: What are you researching at the moment?
A: My research at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens is twofold. My first objective is to finish my dissertation about the disciplinary history of Cretan archaeology. I argue that archaeology on Crete was used as a strategy of resistance against Ottoman-Turkish occupation. My general timeline, therefore, focuses on the development of the field of archaeology, particularly between 1878-1898 and through to the island’s unification with Greece in 1913.
My second objective is to review the Heinrich Schliemann Papers at the Gennadius Library Archives titled: Heinrich Schliemann’s Knossos: A Failed Proposition for the Excavation of a Lifetime. Sir Arthur Evans’ “Minoan” excavation in 1900 is widely known, but my project develops our understanding about the early stages of these excavations starting with the first excavator, Minos Kalokairinos in 1878/9, followed by Heinrich Schliemann’s failed proposition to obtain permission for this site.
Q: Could you say more about this project with the Heinrich Schliemann Papers?
A: My project with the Heinrich Schliemann Papers is funded by American School’s M. Alison Frantz Fellowship, which gives me access to the Gennadius’ Library and Archives. I am examining in particular about twenty letters from the Cretan excavator-doctor, Iosif Hatzidakis, written to the German excavator Heinrich Schliemann between June 1886 and August 1889. Schliemann was interested in excavating Kefala Hill-Knossos, and this project looks at what his failed proposition can tell us about the social, political, and economic status of Crete during that time.
Aside from original letters written from Hatzidakis to Schliemann, I am reviewing and translating sections from Schliemann’s Copybooks in order to trace his corresponding letters written to Hatzidakis and to his colleagues about Kefala Hill—like Luigi Palma di Cesnola, Friedrich Max-Müller, Georges Perrot, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, and Frank Calvert.
Using these letters, I argue that certain members of the Cretan intelligentsia actively sought out foreign archaeologists who had the means and ability to conduct excavations on Crete as professionals. Some have argued that archaeology was a colonial institution imposed on the Cretans, but I maintain that the first stages of Cretan archaeology reflect a symbiotic and collaborative relationship between foreigners and locals who wanted to advance archaeology on the island.
Q: If Cretans like Hatzidakis initially wanted Schliemann to excavate Kefala Hill-Knossos, then why did his efforts fall short?
A: The answer is complex, but the bottom line for Schliemann’s failure was that: 1. he was unwilling to follow the terms that were dictated to him about purchasing the land; 2. there was miscommunication about who the proprietors of the land were; and 3. when the last opportunity arose for Schliemann to purchase the land, political instability on the island erupted and any prospect for excavation was delayed.
Q: Is the Schliemann Project part of your dissertation?
A: Although some of the Heinrich Schliemann Papers are featured in my dissertation, my archival research about Kefala Hill-Knossos belongs to another long-term, trans-disciplinary project. Given the proper resources and means, I want to map the social networks of Cretan excavators (both foreign and local) using archival material in order to create an online repository for the meta-data related to the disciplinary history of archaeology.
Q: You mentioned Iosif Hatzidakis, but what can you say about him particularly?
A: Iosif Hatzidakis [1848-1936] was a physician from the island of Milos, whose family was originally from Crete. After he finished his education in Paris, Berlin, Munich, and Athens, Hatzidakis moved to Iraklio where he became President of the local educational group called the “Filekpaideftikos Syllogos.” In this role, he made one of the Syllogos’ main objectives to curate and safeguard archaeological materials from the island. The Syllogos maintained that Crete had been the “first cradle of the Greek civilization,” which transferred throughout the rest of Greece.
Although Hatzidakis wasn’t trained professionally in archaeology, he made a name for himself with excavations at sites like Tylissos and Malia. Hatzidakis, alongside Stephanos Xanthoudides, spearheaded archaeology on the island by negotiating terms for local and foreign archaeologists.
Q: What brought you to the American School?
A: Before being named the Frantz Fellow, I spent time at the Gennadius Library and Archives in 2014 and then returned in 2015-2016 as an Associate Member through the Cotsen Traveling Fellowship for Research in Greece. My experience with the American School goes back even further to my undergraduate years while studying abroad partially through College Year in Athens (CYA) for the 2004-2005 academic year. While studying abroad, I attended lectures at the American School and used the Blegen Library for my reports. Even then, I was fascinated by the intellectual community of the School and knew that I wanted to be a part of that some day. After years of traveling back and forth to Greece for research, it’s a privilege to be here.
Q: What resources are you using for your research?
A: Being trained in Mediterranean archeology as well as ancient history, most of my previous material came from ancient texts and the archaeological record. My dissertation, however, looks at Cretan archaeology as a strategy of resistance during the late 19th and early 20th century. Therefore, my evidence is mostly rooted in archival documents, e.g. legal mandates, newspapers, public and private correspondence, notes, and photographs.
For my research, I have visited collections from the Historical Museum of Crete, the Archaeological Museum of Iraklio, the General State Archives, as well as the Gennadius Library and Archives. This is not an exhaustive list of my material sources, of course, and I am thinking long-term about the archaeological record as part of a curated collection in the archives.
Q: How did you become involved with archival collections?
A: I never anticipated that I would write about the reception of Cretan archaeology when I began my graduate school career, and this transition occurred while taking courses outside of my immediate field of interest. I have always been fascinated as to why ancient material matters to modern populations, and I am fortunate to have had the support of my advisor, Jonathan M. Hall, and my mentor, Nanno Marinatos, throughout the development of my research.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Athens?
A: «Το Μαύρο Πρόβατο του Press Café» in Pangrati is my favorite restaurant in Athens («The Black Sheep»). However, when I want to have a café with a unique aesthetic, I prefer to visit «Little Kook» in Psirri/Gazi.
Q: If you were a Greek god or goddess which one would you be?
A: I want to identify with the wisdom of Athena or the resourcefulness of Zeus but when it comes down to the wire, my thoughts on hubris align mostly with Nemesis. Her propensity for justice is quite admirable in an ancient, mythological context.
Q: If you could visit anywhere in Greece that you haven’t yet, where would it be?
A: I would like an invitation to the private island of Skorpios, formerly owned by the Onassis family. Because I could be waiting a lifetime for that invitation, I will take my chances with visiting the island of Milos where the statue of Venus de Milo was recovered.
Q: What do you get from your experience at the ASCSA?
A: The American School community is both socially and academically enriching because students and researchers interact with one another closely at the School. Additionally, we have many opportunities to interact with academic and foreign communities outside the School and integrate with the local community. With a background in archaeology and ancient history, I am fortunate to be a part of ASCSA because I have mentors who have guided me during my time in the archives, like Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, Eleftheria Daleziou, Alexis Malliaris, and Leda Costaki. Additionally, my time at the Gennadius Library has been productive thanks to the support of Maria Georgopoulou and Irini Solomonidi.