In Field Trips

A Day at the First Cemetery in Athens

It was a dark and gloomy day.
The clouds were hovering over Athens.
What a perfect day to go to the Cemetery.
Wouldn’t you say?

As part of our Education & Archaeology field trip led by Dr. Corbishley, we had the option to visit the First Cemetery of Athens.
Along with the University of Kent Archaeological Society (UKAS) students, who were visiting Athens, we created a tour around the city and made our way to the Cemetery. Here we saw Schliemann’s tomb which was rather grand amongst other grand tombs. 

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Front and back view of Schliemann’s tomb


The Cemetery seemed like a city in its own right with an imposing entrance, pathways between the tombs and graves that could be considered small roads, the tombs and gravestones which could be considered as monuments of the dead with some modern, some old, some abandoned, and some worshipped.

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An example of one of the abandoned tombs

Despite not delving into deep research about some of the infamous people buried at the Cemetery, we did have some amusing and intriguing conversations about what we saw.
There were many cats in the Cemetery surrounding the graves, which anyone slightly superstitious would find quite creepy. We jokingly talked about the cats as guardians of the dead and the oranges growing on the trees as the fruit of the dead.
We also discussed whether it was disrespectful to take photos in a cemetery as well as discussing issues surrounding the ‘business’ of cemeteries; if people are buried and their loved ones are gone, is it right to leave these graves abandoned or unearth them for new burial?
This also led to further discussion about modern burial and cremation methods and how we would personally like to ‘leave’ this earth. For example, there is an interesting method of burial and cremation where the body or ashes are placed in a pod with a seed and buried in the ground to grow into a tree.

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Searching the cemetery

As well as our discussions, we ended up going on a search with a group of students to find family members of one of our fellow students. Our search came to a disappointing end as we got lost in the maze and could not find the gravestones. It led us deeper into the maze of graves and to the realisation that the First Cemetery of Athens is quite large. This is definitely not a place you want to get lost in in Athens, especially on a dark and gloomy day! Much to our relief, we did (eventually) find our way out.
If you live in Athens or find yourself in Athens, you may want to visit the First Cemetery of Athens as an alternative way of seeing the history of the city (and this actually goes for any city). From an artistic point of view it may also be interesting to see the development of the tomb and gravestone styles over the years. From this trip I learned that there are unlimited amount of ways to experience a cemetery, which was quite unexpected. I would not hesitate on my next city trip to visit the city’s cemetery.
All photos taken by Emma Greenwood.

BLOG Emma headshotEmma Greenwood is the current Social Officer for the HERMA programme of 2015-2016. She has a BA in Liberal Arts and Sciences, majoring in Humanities: European History and Society. She has experience in human resourcing, administration, and volunteer management. Emma is passionate about sports, travelling, photography, volunteer work, environmentalism, history, and food.

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