Since 1984, art and archaeology professor William Childs '64 GS '71 has awoken most summer mornings at 4:15, early enough to buy fresh bread for the students he brought to Cyprus to excavate the ancient city of Marion.
The purpose of the dig, which was completed this year, was to determine the earliest points of interaction between the Cypriot copper mining center and ancient Greece. While previous research had found that trade between the two areas had developed by the sixth century B.C.E. and was strong into the fourth century, Childs and his group looked for potential Greek influence as far back as the ninth century.
Childs began the program primarily as a teaching tool for his students, more than 100 of whom have taken part over the years.
"We meant to continue the long tradition, since the 19th century, of training students to dig," Childs said.
While in Cyprus, Childs and his fellow archeologists, along with graduate and undergraduate students, reached the dig site by 5:45 a.m. to await the arrival of the sun and local "dig boys" who assisted in the excavation. For the next three-and-a-half hours, the group dug through the trenches, finding coins, lamps and terracotta shards.
"A lot of what you do in archaeology is kind of monotonous, lots of meticulous note taking," said Marya Grupsmith '07, a classics major who participated in the most recent dig. "But when someone finds something exciting ... everyone would come racing over."
After a half-hour break for "second breakfast," one of the five meals they ate daily, team members dug for another three hours before stopping to escape the afternoon sun and temperatures that often exceeded 100 degrees. With those six-and-a-half hours of digging per day, the group extensively excavated five sites, whose origins ranged from 312 B.C.E. — when Marion was destroyed by Ptolemy — to the eighth century.