DIY archaeology in Crete

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Crete is clearly an island with a lot of history – millennia, in fact. Indeed, it has so much history that it doesn’t know what to do with some of it. The likes of Knossos are obviously going to be popular with millions of tourists:


But smaller, less famous, out of the way sites are a slightly trickier proposition. Sometimes, there may not even be room for a car park, let alone the staff to look after the site.

Take the Minoan settlement near the village of Στύλος (Stylos) in NW Crete. It’s a bit up a hill from the village itself and a bit of trek.

You’ll be able to find it easily if you’re walking though, because there’s a sign. Next to a ‘stock fence’.

Sign for the Minoan settlement near Stylos

All you have to do is undo the string securing the fence, peel it back, go through, re-secure the fence, then up the hill you go to the left, through the flock of sheep, turn right and keep going up until you come to a single building with a green roof.

The green roofed building near Stylos

Now you know you’re in the right place. Because there are no signs, no guidebooks, no nothing to tell you where you are. Which is a shame, because there is actually quite a lot further on up the hill, behind the green-roofed building.

More of the Minoan settlement


Of course, you’re better off reading this web page to find out exactly what.

Things get a little weirder up the hill from the settlement, because there’s actually a Minoan tholos tomb nearby. How do we get there? Well, a little further up the road from Stylos, there’s a grove of trees, behind a proper fence. Look here’s the gate. It’s been padlocked shut. Fortunately, there’s a key attached to it.

The gate to the Tholos tomb

Behind the gate is all the information you’re going to get about the tomb and its excavations. Maps? Not really…

The map of the excavation

So after a bit of wandering around the trees, avoiding (if possible) the cicadas that hurl themselves at you, you might find this:

The dromos to the tomb

Could this be what you’re looking for? Why yes, it’s the δρόμος (dromos or path/route) to the tomb. You knew that, didn’t you?

If you’re plucky enough to pick your way down through the grass and the weeds, this is what you’ll find – a Minoan arched entrance to a tholos tomb:

The entrance to the Tholos tomb

You can just go in. No one will stop you. What's inside? A coned roof with a hole at the top.

The top of the Tholos tomb

You are now standing in something that people made 3,500 years ago. And you will be literally the only people there and may be the only people who will have been there in days or even weeks.

There’s stuff like this all over Crete. Just look and you should find something like this pretty much anywhere. It’s well worth it.

On the Homeric Hymn to Demeter

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This was a minor write up and analysis of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter that I wrote for a book club, recently.

Greece is the word

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It was an event in October to celebrate modern Greek culture and writing. We were there mainly for Bettany Hughes and Victoria Hislop, but both Katerina Vrana and Greece’s answer to Robert Downey Jr, poet/performer Vassilis Amanatidis, proved to be surprise discoveries of Greece is the Word.

And you can watch the whole day’s events below. You probably won’t spot us, though.

Classics for all

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A charity to get the classics taught more in schools.

Just a quick note to say that as of the February 2013 issue, I'm going to be editing Geo:International. It's something of a homecoming for me, since I was editor of Mapping Awareness for over a year, back in the 90s, and it feels good to be back. More details about commissions et al once I've settled into the job.

A few pictures of Helsinki

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I'm back from learning to be a hacker in Helsinki, which was actually very interesting, particularly with regards to advanced evasion techniques. Thanks to Stonesoft and Harvard for organising it all.

As with most press trips, I didn't get to see much of the host city, but I did get to see a little on the first day. No snow, but Christmas has definitely arrived, as have the Moomins.




Moomins in Helsinki airport

Here's a sad sight – students (or protestors) have defaced the beautiful Technical University of Athens, albeit in a good cause:

Grafitti on the University of Athens

Athens, the Parthenon and more

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We were on holiday in Athens for a few days last week, which not only gave me a chance to try out some of my Greek – now in my fourth year, this time with CityLit – but to see some wonderful sights. Here's just four:

The Parthenon

The Parthenon

The Erechtheion


The Temple of Olympian Zeus


The Panathenaic Stadium

The Panathenaic Stadium

I'm off to Helsinki for a couple of days next week with Stonesoft to learn how to be a hacker (kind of). Here's the itinerary so if you happen to be an editor, maybe there's something you might be interested in commissioning (hint, hint):

Brief introduction to The HACK THE LAB experience
Dive deep into hackers' minds and motives - 60-minute presentation on the latest global trends in hacking: nationalisation, industrialisation and hacktivism.

The HACK THE LAB experience starts
Introduction to hacker tools and techniques (30 min) - a hands-on, step-by-step guide to the most common current techniques - and how to mitigate risk and protect against them.

Let's hack! It's your turn. We have created three typical hacking scenarios to cover the typical motives of cyber-crime, hacktivism and advanced nation-state hacking. With real-life simulations and technical guidance you can experience how it feels to hack and to be hacked.

  1. E-crime: Hacking into a database to steal user account data and credit card information.
  2. Hacktivism: Spying and loss of privacy - hacking into personal computers to take total control.
  3. Nation state cyber-attack: Hacking into critical infrastructure to disturb the supply of utility services and demonstrate the potential effects on people and society.

After the Hack the Lab experience you can book one-on-one discussions with Stonesoft experts about the threat landscape, Advanced Evasion Techniques and any other IT security issues which are currently on your agenda.