In the summer of 1990 Davidson Professor of Classics Michael Toumazou established the Athienou Archeological Project (AAP), a program near Athienou, Cyprus, where undergraduates nationwide can gain excavation experience. Two decades later now, Toumazou and collaborators have published a 27-chapter compilation on their findings titled Crossroads and Boundaries.
"The book is a by-product of the project," said Toumazou. "We've continuously put out information in the form of articles and other publications, and felt it was time to bind some of that information between two covers."
The AAP has involved 400 students and other participants, and been supported with nearly $1 million in research funds. The investigators have focused on how successive rural populations in the Malloura valley have adapted to local environmental changes and shifting political tides. Participants based their finding on artifacts and historical and ethnographic records recovered on site.
"Most people understand that artifacts can tell you a lot about a place's history and culture," said Toumazou. "But what we learn from artifacts spans more disciplines that just those two."
Chapters in Crossroads and Boundaries incorporate insights into as what soil chemistry tells us about ancient cultures, what skeletal remains explain about burial practices, and how the AAP affects the modern Athienou community.
The 21 contributing authors include undergraduates, project alumni, professors from a variety of disciplines and specialists in archeology. "I've worked with many of the authors for a long time," shared Toumazou. He singled out Davidson Professor of Chemistry Ruth Beeston, and the book's co-editor, Derek Counts '92. Counts is now an art history professor at the University of Wisconsin, but was part of the first ‘Mickey Mouse' crew in 1990.
While the AAP is a Davidson sponsored and supported program and involves college affiliates, it also accepts applications from outsiders and has involved individuals from more than 50 North American and European institutions.
Another important aspect of the book's publication is its support from the Athienou community. "Without the Athienou people and their tremendous hospitality," said Toumazou, "the book and the project wouldn't be what they are."
The project operates for six weeks every summer, and the crew has included as many as 50 people. Regardless, each year the villagers provide lodging, invite the crew to weddings, and supply unlimited amounts of bread, cheese and eggs.
"These people are so generous'" said Toumazou. "When the Athienou Cooperative Bank and the town mayor found out that the book required additional funds for printing color, they covered the cost without hesitation."
Within the past five years the town of Athienou incorporated a museum and AAP laboratory into its new $5-million municipality facility. The museum features samples of the more than 4,000 artifacts excavated by AAP. The basement houses a state-of-the-art laboratory designed with AAP's needs in mind.
For Toumazou, the project is more that just the ideal research experience. It has significance on a personal level. He himself is a Cypriot and his mother is from Athienou.
Crossroads and Boundaries took five years to assemble. But the nearly 400-page volume is just a small piece of a much larger picture and covers only a portion of more than 20 years of research at a site nearly 2,800 years old. "We have generated enough material to fill at least four more volumes," Toumazou said. "This first volume is a good start. It give those interested a good sense of what we've been working on."