Paleo-Olympics showcase ancient activities at GVSU

By Kyle Doyle | 9/25/16 9:20pm


With some help from the archaeological society, classics society, theta history club, anthropology club and Grand Valley State University History Journal, ancient Greek and Roman cultures jumped off the page of textbooks for three hours to entertain the students of Grand Valley State University.

During the eighth annual Paleo-Olympics event Friday, Sept. 23, students were given the opportunity to take part in games, crafts and activities based off ancient cultures on the west lawn of the Kirkhof Center.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes - Ariana Martineau decorates a cookie. The Paleo-Olympics were held in the KC West Lawn on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016.

The Paleo-Olympics are about getting people across majors and programs together to enjoy something they have a common interest in, said Melissa Morrison, Classics department professor and event planner.

This year, the Paleo-Olympics kicked off with an augury performed by professor David Crane, an ancient Greek way of determining what the will of the gods was for that particular day by observing birds.

Though no birds could be found, a stuffed monkey was found and was used as a substitute.

“I saw the monkey fly through the quadrant of Jupiter and Risus, the god of laughter, so I interpret that as indeed very auspicious for the Paleo-Olympics,” Crane said.

New this year were several games and events, including an eight-legged race inspired by a Greek battle strategy called "hoplite" and a game based off Roman team-building exercises where players stand in a circle and pass a ball back and forth. There was also a presentation of ancient weaponry and a rugby-inspired game from medieval times.

In the eight-legged race, four students were tied together in similar fashion to a three-legged race. Two teams of these students were then tasked with getting from one end of the field, to the other, then back again.

“Our key to victory was pretty much just keeping in rhythm and going with our inside legs, then figuring out how to move them in order,” said Jonathan Bluck, GVSU senior and president of the archaeology club.

The Paleo-Olympics also featured a wide array of crafts, including cookie decorating, shield painting and pot reconstruction.

The pot reconstruction involved students going through different fragments of pots that had been broken and reassembling them with masking tape.

Allie Poehler, a GVSU senior, said she studied abroad at an archaeology field school and the events were similar to what she did.

The event has grown in popularity since its beginning and involves several groups on campus.

Morrison said only a few archaeology professors and their students came out the first year, but since then, more groups have gotten involved, drawing more students each year.

“We’re trying to make this kind of a campus tradition,” she said.

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