In her junior year, Nancy Wilkie went on a trip to Egypt and Greece with her school. Wilkie described her first impressions of Pylos in southern Greece as “almost mystical.” At the time, Wilkie was attending Stanford University in California for an undergraduate degree in Classics. She later got a PhD in ancient Greek.
While at Stanford, Wilkie had an archeology professor who worked at the school’s museum. When an earthquake knocked down the museum, much of the classical pottery broke and needed to be put back together. Reassembling that pottery is when Wilkie fell in love with archeology.
Her Greek language professor in graduate school was Carl Blegen, the archeologist who found the first linear B tablets in Pylos in the 1930s. His discovery meant that the Mycenaeans had been in southern Greece, which was previously unknown.
Wilkie was given the opportunity to go back to Pylos with that professor.
While Wilkie was digging in Greece, she was offered a job at Macalester College, replacing a friend that was going on sabbatical. She replaced friends at Macalester until she was given a job at Carleton College in Minnesota.
Wilkie has traveled to Egypt, Greece, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Her favorite site she has visited is Sigiriya, Sri Lanka. The site she loves was built by a king and has a garden, boulder garden and paintings on the face of the big cliff. The paintings are of “cloud maidens.” Up the terrace are the remnants of a lion citadel. When the citadel was complete, people could walk through the mouth of the lion to cross the cliff. Now only slits are left in the cliff where the head used to be, but Wilkie said you could still walk through the paws on the side of the cliff.
Wilkie advises that all students interested in archeology should make sure they do not culture-bond too early. They should make sure they get knowledge of many countries before they commit to one. Also, she said to make sure they have a transferrable focus like soil, language, literature or bone studies.
Wilkie loves prehistory and said, “Survey is where my heart lies, more than excavation.”
By Ben Reeves
Professor Nancy Wilkie from Carleton College gave a talk on Tuesday about her recently completed archaeological survey in the Greek Macedonian nomos of Grevena. Her team surveyed the entire region, visiting over 100 villages and interviewing their mayors, clerks and local priests in search of archaeological sites. Wilkie’s team was looking for sites dating from anywhere between the Neolithic period and 1942 A.D. What they found was that the region had some Neolithic sites but almost no Classical or Roman sites and only a small Hellenistic presence.
The most interesting find that they made was a collapsing Greek Orthodox church from the Ottoman period, which contained previously undiscovered frescos. Professor Wilkie’s photos of these frescos are the only ones in existence due to the fact that the church collapsed in an earthquake two years later. The survey crew also studied the geology of the region as well as the anthropology of the local nomadic goat herders, the Vlocks.