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Greek mythology books come to life in Greece

Even the excavation site where we spent much of our time, was a temple to Poseidon himself, the god of the sea.

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Published: Tuesday, 29 Nov 2022 Author: Zoe Dunnum

Zoe standing on hill with Grecian landscape behind herThis past summer I was fortunate to join the study abroad team of Dr. Jon Frey, Associate Professor of Classical Studies, at MSU Excavations in Isthmia, Greece. Prior to this experience I knew little about classical Greece or archeology, other than viewing artifacts encased in glass at museums. I love museums in general but have always been particularly moved by exhibits showing glimpses into the lives and culture of people who lived hundreds, even thousands of years ago. As my field of study is psychology, I was painfully aware an opportunity to work at an actual archeological excavation in Greece was likely a once in a lifetime chance. The idea that I could work with, and even handle, the kinds of artifacts I’d only viewed in museums was beyond thrilling.  

As a person planning a career in research, the work at Isthmia further solidified my understanding of the importance of proper procedure, documentation, and ethical practices. In addition, I became keenly aware of the responsibility and respect due to the living ancestors of those ancient civilizations who too often found their legacy stolen, plundered, and defaced. In the same way that bad research in psychology can be damaging, bad archeology can be damaging as well.

Zoe standing in front of Acropolis in Athens, GreeceAside from our work, Greece is simply a stunningly beautiful country. Many of the places we visited also felt a bit magical due to their links to Greek myth. We saw the wall of Mycenae whose boulders are so massive some say only a cyclops could have built it. We also stood on the land where Pegasus first touched and saw where Hades is said to have stolen Persephone. Even the excavation site where we spent much of our time, was a temple to Poseidon himself, the god of the sea. I grew up reading enough stories centered around Greek myth for this to make my imagination whirl.

Lastly, I found the Greek culture and its people to be warm and inviting. Even with a language barrier, most people when approached with kindness, gave kindness in return. Although this was not my first trip abroad, Greece further validated my belief that people everywhere have far more things in common than things that separate. Having come home, all I can think about is my next trip back.

Name: Zoe Dunnum
Status: Senior
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Rockford, Michigan
Program: Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece