… and I’m not referring to that horrid film that played off every awful Greek stereotype. No, I’m referring to the fact that even at a 5-Star resort, I encounter archaeology every single day.
On the drive from my apartment to the resort, I pass five brown “Archaeological Site –>” signs. FIVE. One in particular has piqued my curiosity. It reads: “Mycanean tholos tombs -> This way”. A visit to the tombs is at the top of my priority list.
But I don’t have to travel off the road at all to see some of the excavations— there are several on the golf course! My favorite part of the back nine is turning the corner to the 15th teebox and seeing the massive, 1,000-yr old olive trees providing shade to ancient Bronze Age ruins. The excavations are very current; I keep hoping to see some archaeologists, with trowels in hand, walking along the cart path.
There are 5 areas that are covered with blue-green tarps (to protect the mud-brick houses from stray golf shots). I “happened” to hook my tee shot near one of them on my first day here, and managed to get a quick peek underneath the cover. The area is very well-swept (I have a great appreciation for a clean site after my season in Ashkelon) and notes are tacked to specific layers. I would love to get a better look, but I think I”ll wait until I get permission to do so.
Why are there excavations on the golf course? Well, you can hardly dig a grave without hitting something of historical significance. The resort owns thousands of acres, most of it along the coast here in Messinia. The ancient site of Pylos was a port city, so much of the town was built close to the sea.
All this information I knew upon my arrival. Everything I’ve learned since, I’ve heard from resort guests! I gave my first tour yesterday. Often, visitors (who have no golf experience) will want to see the beautiful course. My job is to take them on a grand tour, explaining the layout, the design, the water system… or just stopping every time they want to take a picture. I was thrilled to learn that my first two guests, Frank and David, were from London and had regularly vacationed in Messinia. They had watched the course being built and, as avid golfers in the UK, they were excited to see the completed design. I was able to give them a general overview of the course, but they gave me something even more valuable: the history of the area.
We drove over a creek and David said, “Do you know what this river is?” I responded in the negative; I had assumed it was part of the golf course construction, although looking at the extensive foliage I now realized it had a bit more maturity than that.
“It was once part of King Nestor’s port,” he told me, excited to share his archaeological knowledge. “They’ve actually excavated the port, but they let the cattails grow over it to protect it during the building of the golf course. Its right over there, actually,” he said, pointing just a short distance from the cart path.
“That’s incredible!” I said, genuinely impressed. “How do you know all this?”
“I’ve read extensively about the history of this area. Carl Blegen was the first to excavate here, and Davis is in charge now. I wonder how he feels about the golf course…”
It was hard to tell whether he was upset about the new construction or if the beauty of it had won him over.
We stopped near the green on 12 and stood on the hills behind the green, looking at the spectacular view before us. Frank took a number of pictures.
“You can actually see Nestor’s Palace from here,” David told me pointing east into the mountains. “See that long rectangle? That’s the roof that covers the excavation.”
Absolutely unbelievable. To the east is Nestor’s Palace, slightly to the north is Pylos (both the modern and ancient city), to the west are the tholos tombs. Sparta is 100 km away. Olympia is 150 km. Hello, history, its a pleasure to spend every day with you.