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Grecian urns satisfy Classic student yearns

Victoria University Classics students will have a first hand opportunity to explore the archaeological wonders of early Greek and Minoan civilisations with a new study centre currently being established on Crete.

The Kolumbari facility, located in west-Crete, is close to the recent and ongoing excavations of the ancient Minoan palace at Chania and a range of other key sites such as Knossos.

Known to contain a wealth of archaeological material, the island will also serve as a springboard for students to visit a range of classical sites on mainland Greece.

Head of Classics at Victoria University, Professor Chris Dearden, says the intention is to spend time exploring classical sites in mainland Greece - Athens and environs, Delphi and the Peloponnese and then spend a block of time in Crete.

"There, students can explore both the early Minoan civilisation, the palaces, houses and religious sites, the classical Greek remains and then the Roman material. There's also the Byzantine, Venetian and other civilisations that followed," he says.

"It is an exciting opportunity for Classics students to put their studies at Victoria in context and get a real feel for the land, its people and its archaeology."

Professor Dearden says the idea of establishing a study centre emerged from a recent review of the department and was also raised at an alumni function for graduates of Greek nationality.

"As a result, we received an offer to use, at reduced rates, a motel-type unit in Western Crete near Chania. It is an area that already had strong associations with New Zealanders because of their defence of the island against the Germans during World War Two."

One of the challenges facing the concept was that of travel and accommodation costs for students already shouldering large burdens of debt.

"Some money has been made available to reduce these costs through a bequest and the University has provided funding to seed the initiative," says Professor Dearden.

"We are also launching an appeal for scholarships to support students with hardships. We are looking for commitments to provide $1000 a year for five years since our own commitment to the scheme is a five year one.

"And in the true spirit of Kiwi fund-raising some students have sold cakes and donated the profits to the Classics department as a first step in raising money for the study centre."

Managed by Stavros, Roula and Georgina Hatzidakis, who lived in Wellington for 20 years, the facility at Kolumbari will be able to house up to 16 students and two staff members. The aim is for them to live there for around six weeks over the New Zealand summer, the off-season in Crete and Greece and develop their knowledge of archaeology and what it can tell us, while sharpening their research skills.

Courses, based on the stay in Crete, will be able to be credited either to an Honours programme or to a Major in Classics at third year level.

Victoria University Wellington

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