McMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

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UC Classics Professor Made Honorary Citizen of Nestor

Jack Davis was made an honorary citizen of the Municipality of Nestor because of his archaeological research on the Palace of Nestor.

Date: 8/22/2011
By: Ryan Varney
Phone: (513) 556-4190
Photos By: Jack Davis
Jack Davis and his wife, Sharon Stocker, study unpublished finds from Carl Blegen
Jack Davis and his wife, Sharon Stocker, study unpublished finds from Carl Blegen's excavations.

You were made an honorary citizen for your invaluable archaeological contributions to the area, specifically the Palace of Nestor. How did this honor come about?

I was made an honorary citizen of the Municipality of Nestor, which includes the modern city of Pylos, as well as the town of Hora, nearer to which the Palace of Nestor is located. The initiative to grant me citizenship was the idea of successive mayors of Hora, most recently Dr. Panayiotis Petropoulos, as well as that of Mrs. Evyenia Kokkevi, also of Hora.

My work is highly collaborative and involves many colleagues who are based at dozens of universities. I accept the honor on their behalf, as well as myself. But also very important is the critical role that my wife, Sharon Stocker, has played—as I mention later.

What are some of your contributions?

I have been involved in the organization of archaeological projects in the area of Pylos since 1990. The projects build on foundations laid by Carl W. Blegen, for whom my chair at UC is named. In 1939 Blegen discovered the best preserved palace of the Mycenaean civilization, an extensive complex destroyed circa 1200 that he called the Palace of Nestor. In the ruins were about 1,000 accidently basked clay tablets with the incised texts written in a script called "Linear B." Blegen’s finds made possible the decipherment of that script, which we know was employed to represent an early form of the Greek language.

It has been clear since the 1950s that the king who ruled from his throne at the Palace of Nestor controlled a vast territory that was divided into more than twenty districts with capital towns and numerous small settlements.

The purpose of our first project in Pylos, in the earlier 1990s, was to explore parts of the landscape around the palace, within which these other settlements were located. Our goal was to document their history: When had they been occupied and how big were they?

Since the later 1990s I have participated in a second project, currently directed by my wife, also of the University of Cincinnati, to publish finds excavated by Blegen but never published. This work has resulted in the discovery of many new things, including evidence for animal sacrifice of the sort described by Homer in the "Iliad" and "Odyssey," as well as new wall-paintings, including the first representations of a fleet of Mycenaean ships.

Do you plan on doing more research in the area or are you pursuing different projects in the future?

Sharon and I are currently collaborating with the Greek Archaeological Service to improve the presentation to tourists of the archaeological site. With support of the Semple Fund of the Department of Classics at UC, we have been able to prepare the architectural plans for a new roof to be placed over the site, as well as elevated walkways that will lead visitors through the remains of the Palace of Nestor. We are also in the process of purchasing unexcavated land in the area and hope to renew excavations in several years.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve found while doing your archaeological research?

Probably the biggest surprise was discovering that there was so much to be learned from re-examining finds from Blegen’s own excavations. Many of our finds are changing the way that we think about some aspects of prehistoric Greek culture.

Another enormous surprise, and one for which I was in part recognized this past summer, was the realization that it is possible to restore so much of the more recent past—once believed lost—to the current residents of the area. My colleagues and I have published extensively about the history and economic geography of Pylos in the 17th and 18th century A.D., when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire. We have succeeded in doing so by mining previously unused documents in Istanbul and Venice.

How will this honor impact the rest of your career?

The citizens of the area of Pylos have always been kind to me and to others on my team. The name of UC is well-known and highly regarded there, since we have been a part of the lives of locals since 1939. I am extremely honored to receive honorary citizenship in the Municipality of Nestor, a place that has become my second home. I hope to continue to serve the community there as well as UC for many years to come.

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