Dr Christina Hatzimichael-Whitley
Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley is a lecturer in the department of Continuous Professional Education at Cardiff University, where she teaches Greek art and archaeology from the Bronze Age to Classical and the Byzantine period.
Educated in Greece (BA Thessaloniki), Canada (MA Toronto) and England (PhD Cambridge), Christina is a specialist in Minoan archaeology. She has participated in numerous excavations in Greece and Cyprus, and is Assistant Director of the Praisos Survey and Excavation Project in East Crete.
What first sparked your interest in archaeology?
I grew up in Kavala in Northern Greece, a town with a rich classical and Ottoman past which is close to major archaeological sites that date from 6000 B.C. to the 18th century A.D. Philippi, one of the biggest Roman and Byzantine archaeological sites in Greece (a Unesco site) is a stone’s throw away from my hometown. As a child I was taken to the Roman theatre every summer to see theatrical performances. I was star struck by the ancient landscape and buildings. I could see the site being excavated and wanted actively to help to reveal its past. In a way, archaeology was a childhood interest that grew into a passion (although I did deviate a bit by taking a Master’s in Art History).
What does archaeology mean to you?
Archaeology may be associated with the thrill of the big finds but for me the fascination lies in the understanding of the people of the past through not only the monumental buildings and private houses but also everyday mundane objects. Archaeology is a window to past lives. And the challenge for an archaeology is to give a voice to the men, women and children of past societies through the traces that they left behind. It is one of the most rewarding things to understand the way people’s actions, beliefs and lives were shaped in the past and to share this knowledge with the students, the public and the guests in the Andante tours.
What is your favourite archaeological site?
This is like asking a parent to tell you who is the favourite child. If I were pressed, I would choose two very different sites from two distinct places and periods. The first one would be Gournia in East Crete, a small Bronze Age town. Walking on the same streets of the Minoans you get the sense of the presence of men, women, and children of the past. The second site would be Olympia. Apart from the lush green landscape there the stories we know about the Greek past come alive. Olympia also connects poetry, religion ,and art in an inextricable matrix of Greek culture that is still relevant today. There is a thread that connects all the pilgrims, visitors, travellers, and scholars to this sanctuary throughout the centuries that you can sense strongly today.