In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Greek Archaeology

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Sources
  • Exhibition Catalogues

Classics Greek Archaeology
Maria Stamatopoulou
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0081


The study of Greek archaeology was until the late 1970s art historical in its approach, focusing on the study of objects and connoisseurship, and perpetuating the trends of the 19th- and early 20th-century scholarship, as expressed by leading figures such as Adolph Furtwangler and John D. Beazley. Classical archaeology as a whole was focused on the Greek peninsula, but Greek archaeology in particular was limited to the study of the southern part of what is now modern Greece and was essentially Athenocentric in nature. The latter was a result both of the nature of exploration, which focused in the emerging new Greek state, and the wealth of the literary and epigraphic testimonia available for Athens and the Peloponnese. John Boardman’s The Greeks Overseas (1999, originally published 1964; Boardman 1999 cited under Early Iron Age–Geometric Period) was one of the first publications that examined the Greeks in their wider geographical setting and showed interest in the Near East, the Black Sea, Italy, central Europe, and northern Africa. The study of these regions is now essential for anyone wishing to understand Greek culture and civilization. At the same time, Anthony Snodgrass and his students advocated the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the study of classical Antiquity, the usefulness of regional field surveys in identifying sites and settlement patterns over time, and the significance of the application of theoretical models from other disciplines. A less empirical approach has thus emerged. Greek archaeology has shifted from the study of Greek art to the study of material culture as a whole and with a contextual approach. Regionalism, thematic studies, the investigation of changes and usage of the ancient landscape, and economic analysis of ancient settlements and their territories feature in modern publications on the field. Also prominent is the closer collaboration with ancient historians and epigraphists. The main emphasis of this bibliography will be on regional archaeology, with areas that have been recently explored presented in more detail. As the field is enormous, it will focus on recent publications that offer good introductions to a given topic or region with up-to-date bibliographies.

General Overviews

Until recently the study of Greek archaeology has tended to be Athenocentric or art focused (Pedley 2007). Since the early 1990s, there have been major advances in the discipline, starting with Snodgrass 1987, which advocates that classical archaeology could benefit from a better awareness of theoretical debates and the application of theoretical models. Many handbooks tend to be chronological and factual (Pedley 2007) and arranged by class of material (as is Hölscher 2006 despite the extensive first part). However, recent overviews, especially Anglophone ones, are thematic in nature, focusing on case studies that are used as vehicles to showcase trends in the field, theoretical debates, and the closer collaboration between Greek archaeology and other disciplines (Alcock and Osborne 2007, Whitley 2001). Due to the inaccessibility of modern Greek to many scholars and the absence of definitive publications, the exciting new finds from northern Greece (Thessaly and Macedonia) rarely figure in handbooks. An interest in the history of the discipline and reception studies is reflected in Whitley 2001, Hölscher 2006, and Anthony M. Snodgrass’s article in Alcock and Osborne 2007 (pp. 12–29). See Settis and Parra 2005 for Magna Graecia and Valavanis 2007 for the Greek Peninsula.

  • Alcock, Susan E., and Robin Osborne, eds. 2007. Classical archaeology. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Handbook aimed mostly at English-speaking undergraduates. Each chapter has two sections discussing Greek and Roman culture, respectively: aims of the discipline, excavation and survey methodology, landscape archaeology, the polis and the chora, domestic archaeology, ritual, neighboring cultures. With clear and well-informed text, this book is not an overview of the subject but has interesting case studies showcasing the breadth of the field.

  • Hölscher, Tonio. 2006. Klassische Archäologie: Grundwissen. 2d ed. Stuttgart: Theiss.

    Comprehensive handbook in German. The first nine chapters examine the history of the discipline, its methods, issues of chronology, the geographical limits, survey. Then the rest of the book is arranged thematically (cities, sanctuaries, tombs, historical topography). A large part is devoted to the study of classes of material evidence (sculpture, pottery, mosaics, etc.). The chapters are brief but authoritative and the selective bibliography is useful.

  • Osborne, Robin. 2004. Greek archaeology: A survey of recent work. American Journal of Archaeology 108:97–102.

    Review article of recent trends and advances in Greek archaeology with useful bibliography and a concise discussion of the debates and interests of current research.

  • Pedley, John Griffiths. 2007. Greek art and archaeology. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

    Very general but extremely useful handbook. Arranged in chronological order, with clear presentation of facts and numerous good illustrations. Does not explore “big themes and ideas” but offers a reliable introduction to students and teachers studying the topic for the first time.

  • Settis, Salvatore, and Maria Cecilia Parra, eds. 2005. Magna Grecia: Archeologia di un sapere; Catanzaro, Complesso Monumentale di San Giovanni, 19 giugnio–31 ottobre 2005. Milan: Mondatori Electa.

    The catalogue of this exhibition focuses on the history of exploration in Magna Graecia. It is very useful both for students and scholars interested in reception studies and for those interested in the archaeology of the region as it presents key monuments from the sites explored by leading figures in Italian archaeology.

  • Snodgrass, Anthony M. 1987. An archaeology of Greece: The present state and future scope of a discipline. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    In this book the author revisits some of the themes about which he has written extensively over the years, namely the scope of classical archaeology and the need to engage closely with theory and other disciplines, the usefulness of regional field surveys and the importance of the study of the Greek countryside, the early Iron Age, and the iconography of early Greek vases. A standard book summarizing the views of the author; in most undergraduate reading lists.

  • Valavanis, Panos, ed. 2007. Great moments in Greek archaeology. Translated by David Hardy. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.

    Coffee-table book that presents brief articles with good illustrations of some of the most spectacular discoveries from Greece. For the general reader but useful illustrations and bibliography.

  • Whitley, James. 2001. The archaeology of ancient Greece. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    An up-to-date summary of current research on the material culture of the archaic and classical periods. Arranged in three parts, the first offers a very useful overview of the history of the discipline, the second is devoted to the archaic period, and the last is devoted to the classical period. The evidence is arranged thematically. Overall the book is a bit uneven, with more emphasis on the archaic period (which is the area of expertise of the author). Standard textbook for undergraduates.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.