Digital Dig: Researcher Discovers Gymnasium in Greece

Digital Dig: Researcher Discovers Gymnasium in Greece


Usually when you tell someone you’re an archeologist
they tell you about this discovery of a dinosaur. Archeologists don’t dig dinosaurs… but that’s
a whole other thing. My name is Jon Frey, I’m an Associate Professor
of Classical Studies in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, and the Department
of Romance and Classical Studies. As digital archeologists, we’re kind of shifting
our focus. There’s a lot of stuff that archeologists
have dug up over the last 50, 60, 70 years that has not been sufficiently published. The creation of digital formats, digital scanning
of things, that’s allowing us to sort of clear out some of that backlog. And it feels a lot more like detective work. We’ve been combing through a lot of the artifacts
that were found in the past. The maps, a lot of the field notebooks, a
lot of that digitized information. We think we actually have what would be known
in the ancient world as a gymnasium. It’s kind of exciting, because we know of
one of these practice running tracks at the site of Delphi, but the only other example
we have of a thing like this is at the site of Olympia, the home of the Olympic games. One of the most popular and famous of the
sporting events was foot races, and the most famous and important of the foot races was
somewhere around 180 meters. That measurement is important because it suggests
to us that this building that we think we’ve identified is directly associated with working
out and practicing for athletic games. This is about 178 meters or something like
that if done right, from this little jog. Here, here, here, and here. This is what we’re talking about. The drone aspect is kind of neat. One of the problems at Isthmia is that we
have a whole series of maps that are very accurate for specific parts of the site, but
we don’t have a very accurate map showing us how those things relate to each other. Using widely accessible digital technologies
of GPS and drones, we end up with this very tight network of individual photographs. We feed all of those photographs into software
that takes all the shared measurements from all the photographs, and what we’ve produced
on the other side is a highly detailed map of the site. Embracing digital does not mean forgetting
about the analog past. It’s about, how can we update those documents
in a way that doesn’t replace them but still adopt these wonderful techniques of openness
and sharing and more accurate data collection. It can have an impact. It can produce exciting new results.

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