The unearthing of buildings and vessels at the Akrotiri archaeological site.
The unearthing of buildings and vessels at the Akrotiri archaeological site.

Walking with Ghosts

It isn’t often that we are given the opportunity to walk through history. While some remnants remain of early cities and civilizations, they are usually confined within the walls of a museum. During my experience abroad, I have been lucky enough to see both the Roman Forum and Akrotiri archaeological site. Both of these locales, while vastly different in era and circumstance, give visitors the chance to walk amongst ancient ruins.

Exploring the Roman Forum.

Exploring the Roman Forum.

I arrived in Rome as part of an overnight stay supported through Arcadia University and Accademia Italianna. Our second day was spent perusing the Roman Forum, once known as a marketplace for ancient citizens. It proves to be a fascinating display of the evolution of architectural design. The millennia old buildings are partially overgrown with greenery and have begun to weather or crumble. Behind the free-standing columns and triumphal arches, modern day Rome continues to thrive. It is a perfect juxtaposition of the old against the new.

Standing amongst what were once great architectural feats, I was both stunned by its beauty and curious about its past glory. Over the millennia, millions of people have stood in the exact same spot. Whether they were there to buy food, discuss politics, excavate, or appreciate history, I felt connected to these ghosts.

A much more modern discovery, and thus much less visited, is Akrotiri. Akrotiri is an archaeological site located on the southern half of Santorini, a small island off the coast of Greece. The area is actually still undergoing excavation, leaving me curious as to what else may be uncovered. To visit the ancient city, you enter though a small door in the side of a building. Much to my surprise, I was transported into a landscape of beige, blinding in comparison to the vibrant colors throughout Santorini.

Trio of columns in the Roman Forum.

Trio of columns in the Roman Forum.

In 1627 B.C.E, a volcanic eruption left the settlement buried under ash. More than 3,500 years later, work was begun to uncover the Bronze Age town. Several frescoes were actually well preserved thanks to the layers of ash, making it possible for us to observe their technique and analyze their methods. My favorite area in the town was a small building that was mostly damaged. However, in its wake were several massive, unharmed vessels. Next to the remains was a carefully made walkway, something that seems so insignificant but left me in awe. I found it breathtaking how similar these ancient people were to us today. They paved their roads and painted their walls, not unlike us.

While it is possible to compare and contrast these two ancient sites, I prefer that they speak for themselves. There is so much history, both lost and preserved, that we are blessed with the opportunity to witness. I hope someday you will be able to pass your own judgments on these works of art.

During my stay in Santorini, I felt inspired by the artwork of ancient people. I am, however, only one of many artists over time who have felt moved by early art. This is a testimony to the fact that art is a universal language. Men and women over the centuries have influenced each other and taken part of a great tradition. I know my brief stay on this island, along with my entire study abroad experience, will shape my future work as an artist and as a person.

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