Elpida Hadjidaki's unusual career as an underwater archaeologist combines her love of antiquities with her penchant for adventure. Her work involves diving into the sea and digging up objects left there thousands of years ago by sunken ships, or by cities that sank beneath the waves during earthquakes. She enjoys the thrill of picking up objects last touched 2500 years ago.
Historical research provides clues about where to search, but a fruitful dive also involves carefully observing the shoreline or sea-bottom and visualizing the way it must have been thousands of years before, so that the whole excavation is partly complete in her eyes before it begins. To do fieldwork successfully Hadjidaki must be a fearless diver as well as an acute observer. In Athens where she lives half the year, her days are mostly spent on paperwork (such as putting in requests for permits) and the academic study of the finds from her dives.
Hadjidaki grew up by the harbor of Chania, on Crete, a Greek island. This setting from an early age fostered her love of the sea and of history. She already had the notion that she was interested in underwater archaeology when she went to England to finish high school and begin her undergraduate work, although she had not yet learned how to dive. In England she was fortunate to develop a close relationship with Honor Frost, one of the first female SCUBA divers, and one of the first people to search for antiquities underwater. She was also influenced in her research by Barri Jones, her tutor at Manchester University--which is where Hadjidaki earned her master's degree in History, with a thesis on ancient harbors.
Following her passion for her career has meant making some difficult life choices: Hadjidaki spends half the year away from her husband, Michael Marder, who must live in the U.S. where he works. Marder points out that young people interested in this field need to develop ``extremely thick skins, and prepare for a long and difficult road," because underwater archaeology is incredibly competitive and challenging. Obviously a woman or man who pursues this career must possess unusual determination, as Hadjidaki does. How can she make such personal sacrifices? Her husband answers simply: ``Archaeology is her life."
Source: This biography is based on an interview with Michael Marder, Elpida Hadjidaki's husband.