Unearthing History on the Greek Island of Mochlos

As an architecture student, Dillon Tripamer expanded his studies into the fields of anthropology and archaeology.  For the past two summers, Dillon’s pursuit of archaeological work brought him to excavation digs and surveys in the Great Plains of the United States, the backcountry of Croatia, and to a small Greek Island off the coast of Crete.

Dillon is now an architectural designer with TruexCullins, and his experience with archaeological excavations has influenced his approach to architecture – that the spaces we inhabit tell the stories of our heritage, past and present.

In this special blog post, Dillon shares his experience from the dig site and describes his summers unearthing history on the Mediterranean Sea.



By Dillon Tripamer

While at Kansas State University, I pursued my degree in Architecture with a minor in anthropology. Anthropology is the study of humans at all times, while archaeology is the study of humans in the past.

Much of what remains of ancient civilizations is the architecture of the time. Understanding the symbolic importance architecture had to each culture led me to find special connections and valuable insights in both architecture and archaeology. With this insight, I made it my goal to pursue the intersection of these two fields.

This is what led me to work as an archaeologist on the Mochlos Archaeological Project.



Mochlos is a small island 200 meters off the coast of Crete, and the name of a settlement on the island – what was once a Minoan town with Hellenistic overlay. This tiny Island was occupied for more than 4,500 years, going back to 3,500 BC. Today, all that remains of the town are foundation walls, stairs, and pillars of what used to be.

The Mochlos Archaeological Project has been conducting digs on this site since 1989, in collaboration with the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.  In 2022 I spent the summer volunteering as an archaeologist with this group, joining about 20 others on the dig site.

Each day, we dug, following the walls, uncovering numerous ceramic shards, loom weights, stone tools, and many other artifacts. During the 2022 season we unearthed over 117,000 pieces of pottery. I know this because I counted them all the following summer. They came in all shapes and sizes, and from all different periods of occupation. My favorite find was a large chunk of pottery about the size of my hand. It had an embossed lily on it, perfectly preserved. Nothing compares to finding and holding a beautiful object that hasn’t been seen or held in thousands of years.

Other objects on the Island were made of stone, gold, and bronze. In all, every object we found tells the story of what everyday life was like on the Island thousands of years ago. Much like today, the inhabitants ate fish and goat, made pottery using the clay beneath them, wove their own clothes, and had a clear hierarchy to their society.


Ruins on Mochlos



During the excavation season, each day would start on the docks at 6 am. 15 minutes prior, I would walk up to the crashing sound of waves that echoed down the cobblestone streets of the village. We’d take a small boat, driven by Kosti and his dog Roxi, often needing to make three trips to transport the whole team to the island.


View from the dock


Island of Mochlos


Then we’d start to dig. We’d carefully remove dirt in 10-centimeter passes, bagging, tagging, photographing, and documenting anything we found. Slowly, we’d go back through time, finding objects of increasing age, until we hit bedrock. This process was repeated over and over, starting with the top of a wall, following it until a wall became a room, and then down.

By 2 pm, we’d call it a day. Coming off the boat, we were covered in sweat and dust caked into mud, walking past the faces of confused tourists. Overall, this was an amazing feeling – never before have I participated in something as physically and mentally rewarding as preserving the history of Mochlos, a tiny forgotten site in a remote part of the world.


During the two summers I lived in Crete, I was fortunate to experience authentic Greek culture. We became engrained in the local community and met new Greek friends. Throughout the summer, we were invited to what were essentially Greek street parties in the neighboring towns. There, we participated in Greek dancing, listened to live Greek music, and ate delicious local food.

The cultural aspect of what I experienced during the last two summers is simply indescribable. It had a profound impact on my life and fostered a much deeper appreciation for all people and the lives we live. I am forever grateful to have been a part of that community.


Traditional Cretan dance at village summer celebration


This experience has cemented my commitment to the preservation of architecture and culture in Crete, Greece, and America alike. Preserving the built heritage of the past connects us to the past and tells the stories of those long gone. It teaches us valuable lessons and how to move forward. Likewise, it is important to preserve the built heritage of today, to tell future generations the story we are living out now.


Village of Mochlos


The excavations on the island of Mochlos are a project of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and are carried out in collaboration between Greek and American professors.  Learn more about the Mochlos Archaeological Project, the history of the site, and notable archaeological finds at