In Dreams, Inventio, and Archaeology, I began to think about the link between dreams, the sacred, and the formal, modernist discipline of archaeology. Since then I've noticed several examples of this phenomenon.
In his, "Three Vaulted Basilicas in Cyprus" JHS 66 (1946), 48-56, A.H.M. Megaw describes the excavation of the Panayia Skyra on Cyprus as follows:
"Further details of the first basilica were disclosed about fifteen years ago, when in a period of drought the cultivators of the neighbourhood cleared the debris from the interior, to appease the Panayia, and summoned a priest to pray there for rain. The floor of the reconstructed church was reached and broken through, revealing parts of the original pavement about 30 ccntimetres below it. In the central apse a simple synthronon was laid bare. In the course of the same clearance works fragments of a marble ambon and of chancel panels came to light." (52)
Elsewhere Vassos Karageorghis in his engaging autobiography, A Lifetime in the Archaeology of Cyprus (Stockholm 2007), describes a regret he still has from his early days as the Director of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus:
"one day a priest of the Astromeritis (a village near Morphou Bay), came to my office, bringing on melon and one watermelon. We had never met before. He put them on my table and said that this was a reward in advance, I had to discover the tomb of Ayios Afxivios (a local saint) in the area of his village. I tried to say that I was not sure that I could, but he insisted. He left my office full of hope. I never managed to satisfy his expectations and I have many regrets for having accepted his reward in advance." (77)
It is worth noting that a French translation of the Life of St. Afxivios (Auxibius) appears as an appendix to J. Des Gagniers and Tran Tam Tinh's Soloi I: dix campagnes de fouilles (1964-1974). (Sainte-Fox 1985) pp. 132-144.
Both of these anecdotes look at the relationship between archaeology and the sacred in the Cypriot landscape. The first example viewed a form of excavation as a devotional practice which unintentionally revealed the long standing history of the site as a sacred place. The second example, in contrast, reflects the view of the modern, "scientific" archaeologist as the agent of inventio. In this example, Karageorghis became the individual vested with the responsibility for discovering a sacred place that had been lost and thereby returning the eternal sacred landscape to view.
This passage is a good example of a phenomenon recently discussed in Y. Hamilakis, The Nation and its Ruins: Antiquity, Archaeology, and National Imagination in Greece. (Oxford 2007) where he compares the role of the archaeologist in Greek society to the role of the priest. Archaeologists are sometimes said to perform a leitourgima (λειτούργημα): "The modern connotations of the word denote not only an operation but also the religious church ceremony. This last meaning is perhaps closer to the public perception of archaeologists as people who mediate between the world of the past ancestors and the modern world." (39). Archaeologists, in Hamilakis analysis, emerge as priests of a "secular religion".