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Mycenae Notebooks


Excavation notebooks evolved during the different phases of excavation undertaken between 1920 and 1957 at Mycenae. During all dig seasons, Alan Wace kept a Director’s Day Book, describing daily excavation activity across the site, arrivals and departures, a summary of the local workforce hired from neighbouring villages and an account of their wages.  Simultaneously, each archaeologist on the team wrote a daily log of excavation in their allocated part of the site. During the 1920-1923 seasons, Pottery notebooks, recording the style and type of ceramics unearthed, formed separate journals. Here they can be found at the end of the Excavation notebook series (MCNE-1-2-1). Wace summarised his ceramic findings in three notebooks in 1923, which functioned as indices to the entire body of excavated and inventoried pottery to date. 

From 1939, this system of documentation continued but archaeologists, reprising their roles as trench supervisors, began to list notable pottery finds at the end of their notebooks, usually inverted for the purpose. This system is further refined in the 1950s with detailed logs of ‘units’ meticulously recorded, each ‘unit’ correlating to a specific context/level in a trench and its associated finds. Pottery that was assessed and discarded was ‘papsed’, often signified by a ‘P’ with a squiggle underneath.  

Pottery analysis and documentation was an essential element of every notebook, but other, extra lists appear according to the idiosyncratic interests and concerns of the individual archaeologist. Frank Stubbings recorded theodolite levels for the Archaic Temple and the Prinaria area excavations in 1939 (MCNE-1-1-24), whilst the architect Marian Holland in 1953 includes in her notebooks detailed drawings of small finds (MCNE-1-1-37-42). Other excavators, such as George Huxley, doodled and scribbled snatches of Greek popular songs (MCNE-1-1-40; MCNE-1-1-49). 

Cumulatively, these notebooks provided the bedrock of evidence on which the rigorous academic publication of the site was built. Yet they also, in their unedited entirety, provide glimpses of the complete process and experience of an archaeological excavation in Greece during the first half of the twentieth century.

Both the Excavation and Pottery notebooks are mostly robust and small enough to be slipped into one’s pocket. They are intended for recording by hand, in fountain pen and pencil, immediate observations on site. Sometimes, the notebooks used are whatever stationery was available in the moment, for example two flimsy Greek school exercise books (one of which features a tiny image of the stationer’s shop on its back cover MCNE-1-2-3-33), testimony to the pragmatism of field archaeology. Such resourcefulness is also evident in the sparse packing lists jotted down on back pages, with extravagance only allowed in the multiplicity of coloured inks required for drafting archaeological plans and drawings (MCNE-1-1-20-90). A few notebooks are ‘clean’ versions of notes taken in the field (e.g. MCNE-1-1-028 is Dorothea Gray’s clean copy of her notes in MCNE-1-1-027).

Referencing style – if the entire name is abbreviated, for example AJBW, full stops are not used between letters. If only the first names are abbreviated, full stops are used after those letters prior to the surname. BSA XXV stands for the ‘Annual of the British School at Athens’, volume XXV.