In Times of War and Crisis: Regional Identities and Greek Archaeology

Aimee Genova

  Genova, A. M. “In Times of War and Crisis: Regional Identities and Greek Archaeology.” CHS Research Bulletin 9 (2021).


Challenging the way we view the development of Greek archaeological practices, my book-length project, “In Times of War and Crisis: Regional Identities and Greek Archaeology,” examines the intersections of identity politics and archaeological praxis in Ottoman Macedonia and Crete prior to their incorporation into the Greek state in 1913. These contested states were influenced by the success of the Greek Revolution, and my long-term project traces the broader impacts of early archaeological engagements and the modern reception of ancient Greece through the theoretical concepts of subordination, resistance, and revolution. The allocation of these territories factors into the political debate of Greece’s nationhood (e.g. the “Cretan Question” and “Macedonia Question”) and, thus, the timeline of this project follows the parallel archaeological practices operative in these two geographies. Spanning the Greek Revolution (1821–1830), Crimean War (1853–1856), Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), Greco-Turkish War (1897), Balkan Wars (1912–1913), and their eventual unification with Greece (1913), this project situates Crete and Macedonia’s regional identities into a broader, national context leading to the twenty-first century.


1. Background

My study, which the Center for Hellenic Studies supported, is a long-term initiative about the disciplinary history of Mediterranean archaeology that interrogates the broader implications of applied fieldwork in times of war and political dissent – specifically in the context of Ottoman Macedonia and Crete. As a Research Fellow of the CHS during the 2020–2021 academic term, I had the opportunity to develop my project using the CHS library and Harvard Library’s electronic resources. Having access to physical and digital materials during the COVID-19 pandemic was a privilege that I did not take for granted while in residence in Washington, DC, during the autumn. While most of my previous research concentrated exclusively on a diachronic investigation of Cretan archaeology in the context of state formation, it was through my fellowship at the CHS that I was able to expand my corpora of data related to the early practices of archaeology in Macedonia to develop this multi-sited, comparative project. What the CHS Research Fellowship in Hellenic Studies afforded me was the ability to build on my previous research and archival material collected from various repositories in the United States and Europe.

At the CHS, my research took an unexpected, but adjacent, turn when I began to trace the interface of early archaeological operations and intelligence gathering for North American and European superpowers during times of war and crisis. An example of this cross pollination includes specialized expeditionary accounts of European lands under the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century that were consulted later for archaeological excavations (i.e. William Martin Leake and François Pouqueville), and my additional interrogations span to twenty-first century operations of western archaeology. I credit this development to my project to the access granted to me by the CHS library to the vast amounts of material, including early traveler reports, which opened up this line of inquiry while researching in Washington, DC.

In what follows, I offer a brief overview of the preliminary research I conducted in residence at the CHS and what lies beyond. Although my comparative research is ongoing, this report centers largely on my project’s developments during my time at the Center regarding Greek Macedonia.

2. Project Outline

Navigating fragmented collections of the archive to construct archaeological histories is, to some extent, complementary to the epistemological training required to conduct an archaeological excavation. Just as one might sift through the stratigraphic layers of an excavation site in order to determine a sequence of events, so too, in delving into the artifacts of archival collections, notebooks, and traveler reports do they reveal insight into the events of archaeological practices. My project, supported by the Center for Hellenic Studies, “In Times of War and Crisis: Regional Identities and Greek Archaeology on a Global Scale”, offers a socio-historical analysis of Greek archaeology. Sourcing predominantly archival material, this project places the disciplinary history of archaeology from Ottoman Macedonia and Crete into the broader, transnational narratives of Greek resistance prior to their incorporation into the Greek state in 1913. Initially, the parameters of this project were set to follow antiquity-related topics spanning from the Greek Revolution (1821–1830) to enosis (1913). During the tenure of my fellowship, however, I expanded this material to include the diplomatic and military-directed traveler reports from Ottoman occupied Greece during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), Anglo-Ottoman Wars (1807–1809), and the interwar periods.

One of the predominant goals of this project has been to systematically examine the development of early Cretan and Macedonian archaeology in the context of the legacies and struggles of the Greek Revolution in the liminal spaces of Greece – ultimately recentering what “Greek archaeology” means for the geographies of these Ottoman controlled states. Crete and Macedonia were contentious territories not only because of their political conflict under Ottoman rule during the late nineteenth century, but also because they have been treated as marginal to the intellectual histories of central Greece and the idealized forms of Hellenism (see Borza 1982; Hammond 1989; Hatzopoulos 1996; Kotsonas 2016). Crete and Macedonia functioned as liminal spaces at the symbolic intersection of Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and transcontinental interests. I apply the concept of liminality as developed in Arnold van Gennep’s The Rites of Passage (1909) and Victor Turner’s The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (1969) to the question of how archaeological practices were developed in terms of their geographic and temporal liminality, as well as the individuals who navigated the landscape of these intermediary borderlands (regarding the politics of archaeology in the Ottoman Empire, see Shaw 2003; Eldem 2011; Anderson 2015; Çelik 2016).

3. Early Macedonian Traveler Reports

The early foundations of Macedonian archaeology can be traced primarily to nineteenth-century French, British, and Russian traveler reports, such as those of François Pouqueville (1826–1827), Esprit-Marie Cousinéry (1831), W. M. Leake (1835), and Léon Heuzey (1876) (regarding archaeology prior to the FYR Macedonia, see Novaković 2011: 417–420). Additional interest in Macedonia was expressed by nineteenth-century historians and antiquaries from Russia, such as V. Gligorovich, N. P. Kondyukov, and P. H. Milyukov (see Novaković 2011: 417; Bitrakova-Grozdanova 2009). For the limited discussion that follows about Macedonian traveler accounts, I focus primarily on persons from Britain and France during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but earlier foreign expeditionists were of course already underway in the Balkans, including naturalist Pierre Belon in the mid-sixteenth century (Hatzopoulos 2011: 36), or local scholars who published on the ancient geography and monuments of Macedonia, like Margaritus Dimitsa [1829, b. Ohrid – 1903, d. Athens], a high school instructor in Bitola and Thessaloniki (Novaković 2011: 417).

“Traveler” and “Traveler Accounts” are reductive terms that cannot fully encompass the nuance of expeditionists who reported on their experiences, expeditions, and research in Macedonia. To use the terms of Miltiades Hatzopoulos (2011: 36), these “Macedonian antiquarian-diplomats” who were stationed at a post for prolonged periods had an advantage to document their observations systematically and methodically, like French Esprit-Marie Cousinéry and the British William Martin Leake. Leake may not have been an archaeologist, but he was a topographer of ancient Greece and documented his travels as part of a military operation for the British. Between 1804–1807, Leake served as a military advisor to the Ottoman authorities and was accused of being a British spy. Subsequently in February 1807 at Salonica, Leake was sentenced to nine months of confinement during the Anglo-Ottoman Wars (1807–1809), which ran parallel to the Napoleonic Wars between Turkey and England (regarding Leake, see Wagstaff 2009: 28; Witmore 2004: 133–164; Witmore 2020: 245–258). Upon Leake’s release, he served as part of a British diplomatic mission as a representative to engage with Ali Pasha of Ioannina, also known by Ali Tepelena (1740–1822).

Accusations of Leake’s espionage fit into the larger narrative about the history of Cretan and Macedonian archaeology, because he is part of an early military tradition documenting contact zones – the liminal and contested space of Macedonia under the geographic delineations of the Ottoman Empire. His strong diplomatic ties are worth noting, and, in the larger objective of this project, I plan to explore further his connection to the well-known British traveler of Crete, Robert Pashley, who visited the island during 1834 – as Leake’s connection to Pashley was documented in letters to George Finlay, the Scottish historian in Greece (Wagstaff 2009: 29–30). As in the case of Crete, these detailed and systematic reports in Macedonia were integral to archaeological practice, not only referenced in site reports or excavation propositions but also looked to as part and parcel of the excavation process.

Macedonia – largely seen as the ‘Other of the Mediterranean’ (Fotiadis 2001: 115–116; cf. Andreou et al. 1996: 560-561; Kotsakis 1998: 47) – became the focus of scholarly journals after the 1900s, especially after World War I when prehistoric research about Macedonian archaeology became of greater interest (Fotiadis 2001: 116; Borza 1992: 6). Thus, there is value in tracing the veins of Macedonian archaeology as a discipline and the parameters that helped dictate those foundations – like military reports detailing specific forms of topographic and social intelligence. From 1805–1810, Leake partook in four tours throughout Greece, and according to the Macedonian specialist Eugene Borza (1992: 12): “It was with France in mind that the British government dispatched Captain (later Lieutenant-Colonel) William Martin Leake in 1804, charging him with surveying the countryside to provide detailed information about topography, fortresses, and naval stations and reporting on ‘the political and military dispositions of the inhabitants’”. That is not to suggest, however, that the disciplinary history of Macedonian archaeology was produced from the same type of intelligence collection that emerged later in the twentieth century with archaeologists like T. E. Lawrence during World War I, the Office of Strategic Services, or Cold War operations (cf. Classical Spies: American Archaeologists with the OSS in World War II by Susan Heuck Allen, 2011). The organization and mobilization of resources during the nineteenth century were different from the types of expeditionary accounts produced later, but they serve, nonetheless, as precursors for the way in which certain archaeological projects evolved (see Table 1, partially based on Leekley and Efstratiou 1980).

An important point to stress is how Macedonia was not a widely understood geographic space, except from accounts of expedition reports broadly defined. Leake is exemplary of British efforts to understand Macedonia, while his French counterpart would be found in the medical physician and historian François Pouqueville (1770–1838), who performed diplomatic services as a Consul of France over a decade between Ioannina (1805–1815) and later Patras (1815–1816) (Sève 2011: 110). Pouqueville was appointed to this position after his publication of Travels in the Morea, to Constantinople, Albania and several other parts of the Ottoman Empire in the years 1798, 1799, 1800 and 1801 (1805), which was dedicated to Emperor Napoleon I. While the British worked towards preventing an allyship between the French and Ali Pasha, it was through the subtle, diplomatic efforts of the agent Pouqueville who was able to promote the French’s interests in Janina (Ioannina). According to Miranda Vickers (1995: 21–22): “It was very much through his [François Pouqueville’s] efforts at the Porte that Ali secured the appointment of his two sons, Mouktar and Veki, to the pashaliks of respectively Morea and Lepanto”. Nonetheless, tensions eventually escalated between Ali Pasha and the French.

Pouqueville’s five-volume Voyage dans la Grèce (1820–1821) was reissued later in six volumes, under a similar title, Voyage de la Grèce (1826–1827) – critiqued by French archaeologist Jean-Antoine Letronne (1828). Particularly, his focus was on Epirus and Albania, but Pouqueville is still relevant for earlier studies of Macedonia (see also Sève 2011: 110, esp. n. 4). These were reports not just published for the sake of exploration, but with a military mission in mind. Although not an uncommon practice, these publications were delayed for the very nature of their content, and, while one does not typically associate these reports as sprouting from the seeds of espionage and the need to procure military intelligence, I focus on the traditions set in motion by early archaeological practices in these contested geographies.

The Napoleonic French occupied the Ionian Islands in 1797, competing for control with the English. This competition and the negotiations they prompted are worth consideration in the grander scheme of military missions around Macedonia – including how having personnel stationed in the contact zones, like Leake and Pouqueville, ties these figures’ involvement into the larger narrative about how intelligence subsequently used for archaeology was produced (cf. Gilkes 2003: 48). The relationship of Leake or Pouqueville leading to Ali Pasha of Ioannina was not unidirectional, but an exchange. Adopting the premise that Ali Pasha was “the father of Albanian archaeology”, Oliver Gilkes (2003: 49–50) suggests that “[a]ntiquities and archaeology became a tool for him [Ali Pasha] to use in his manoeuvrings with the French and English. This is underlined by his conversations with Peter Oluf Bronstead, a Danish antiquarian who travelled and excavated in Greece between 1810 and 1813” (additionally regarding Brøndsted, see also Witmore and Buttrey 2008).

(Serres regional unit of Greece)
E. Cousinéry (1831); L. Heuzey (1861); and P. Perdrizret (1894-1899)
(Post-World War II, substantial excavations carried out since 1965 with D. Lazaridis, E. Stikas, and A. Romiopoulou)
1856PhilippiGeorges Perrot
Léon Heuzey and Honoré Daume
(Dispatched under Napoleon III; part of the French School [École française d’ Athènes] excavations in 1914 and 1930-1936)
Léon Heuzey and Honoré Daume
1898/9Ayios Panteleimon
Russian Expedition
(Iron age cemetery, 4000 graves discovered in Pateli because of railway line)
1910DerveniTheodoros Makridis
(Macedonian type-tomb: the Macedonian tomb of Langadas or the “tomb of Makridy Bey”)
(Central Macedonia)
Georgios Oikonomos
Table 1: Select Early Archaeological Initiations in Macedonia (Not Exhaustive)

4. Methodology

Building on decades of research about the history of state-formation and nationalism in Ottoman Greece (c.f. Greene 2000; Hamilakis 2007; Şenışık 2011), my project concentrates on Macedonia and Crete prior to their bilateral unification with Greece by consulting archival records held at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), British School at Athens (BSA), General State Archives of Greece (GAK), and the Archaeological Museum of Iraklio (AMH), among others. The archaeology of Ottoman Macedonia and Crete is juxtaposed for this project for several reasons and motivated by three factors. First, although the London Protocol recognized Greece as an independent, sovereign state from the Ottoman Empire in 1830, not all regions of modern Greece were initially incorporated – like Crete or Macedonia. Crete and Macedonia were left behind, as it were, at the intersection of this state formation until formally incorporated in 1913. The second reason for approaching these disparate landscapes is that although the general timescale of when Macedonia and Crete unified with Greece aligns, their archaeological histories (while often overlapping), find themselves in a unique passage towards what became of their archaeological trajectories (i.e. how the “Macedonian Question” and “Cretan Question” factored into these conversations). Third, the geographic spaces of Macedonia (part of the southern Balkans – a geographic and administrative region of northern Greece) and Crete (an island in the Eastern Mediterranean and the largest of the Greek islands) are spaces located at the periphery of Athens and the Peloponnese – a foci of early archaeological exploration in Greece. By applying state-formation as a framework for analysis, the disciplinary and intellectual history of Macedonian and Cretan archaeology can be placed within a wider, geo-political context of European nationhood, encouraging us in the twenty-first century to rethink Greek antiquity beyond its borders.

As a concluding thought, I would like to re-emphasize the value in detailing the micronarratives about the disciplinary history of Macedonian and Cretan archaeology during periods of conflict, and how the field developed in periods of economic and political stability as well. Through this approach, I investigate how the early archaeological operations in Ottoman controlled states served as a baseline for intelligence gathering and acted as leverage for international relations. As I continue to develop this long-term project, I leave us with this question: what does the disciplinary history of archaeology mean for your own practices as a scholar, and in what ways could this information be presented differently so that it foregrounds future discussions?

Note: When I use the terms “Macedonia” or “Ottoman Macedonia” in this report, I generally refer to the historical regions identified presently as part of the administrative territory of northern Greece in the southern Balkans, but these classifications did not exist until after the Balkan Wars (19121913). The wider, historic region of Macedonia – specifically in the context of these cited traveler reports – extend to include five additional countries within the Balkans: Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kosovo (part of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia), and North Macedonia (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, i.e. FYR Macedonia or FYROM).

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