For Mantha Zarmakoupi, an archaeological survey isn't just about the artifacts—it’s about reliving the human experience.
“We were cleaning debris from a building that had fallen off a cliff on the island of Kythnos, and I saw this piece of clay with the imprint of a finger,” says Zarmakoupi, the Morris Russell and Josephine Chidsey Williams Assistant Professor in Roman Architecture in the Department of History of Art in the School of Arts & Sciences. “It was actually a seal from the Hellenistic period and on the other side was the representation of somebody in profile. But I remember the human touch of this object, the memory of the person who probably put the clay in that mold, rather than what we value in archeology—the seal.”
Zarmakoupi’s research focuses on the broader social, economic, and cultural conditions underpinning the production of ancient art, architecture, and urbanism, and the ways in which the cultural interaction between Greeks and Romans informed their artistic production and built environment. She co-leads the Delos Network, a collaborative project that investigates the history and legacy of the Delos symposia, which were organized in the context of 1960s and 1970s discussions about the future of urban planning.
Zarmakoupi’s investigative work isn’t limited to land. She first initiated the underwater survey around Delos, which was the home of the sanctuary of Apollo since the archaic period and became an important trading point in the late Hellenistic period. An accomplished diver, her newest project sees her venturing into the depths off the shores of small Greek islands whose mysterious histories could reveal the intricacies of ancient Greek maritime networks and political intrigue.
Zarmakoupi started surveying Mediterranean shipwrecks around the islands of Levitha, Kinaros, and Maura in 2019.
“These are stepping points that led to the connection between Asia Minor and Greece,” Zarmakoupi says. “But an island like Levitha is completely unknown in the sources except as a marker for navigation. Nobody has investigated it because there is not a village or anything there.”
This story is by Blake Cole. Read more at Omnia.