An extremely popular social media account related to History has been made by a wonderful narrator who loves history, has deep knowledge of the subject but also a great gift: to combine knowledge and sensitivity so that he can perceive how a person will approach history which, at least in our country, schools have not managed to make it friendly to the students. Dr. Theodoros Papakostas is a famous and beloved archaeostoryteller.

#history #archaeology #education #socialmedia #instagram #humanscience #science

By Mia Kollia
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos

How were you as a student and what do you remember most vividly from those years?

I was just a good student. Not something more than that. I was much better in humanities compared to the positive scienses. Generally I wasn't excellent. And now that I think about it, I did well. I was striving for the best and I was what we would stereotypically describe as a nerd, but it was never neccessary for me to be on top; neither as a school student nor as a university student. I failed twice in the Panhellenic Exams and I admit it with pride, because we have to break the stereotype of the perfect student with the excellent grades.

Now as an adult, I am even more unable to bear the fact that we give value to an excellent degree in terms of knowledge acquisition, but knowledge and the use of it cannot be measured and recorded in numbers. I don't need any 'EXCELLENT' to feel better about myself. I feel sorry for those people who think that this is exactly what gives them value, and I will say a big thumbs-up to those who achieve it without beating the drum for it. 

How and why did you make your Instagram account? Do you feel that for some, it may degrade your science?

I think that science is not degraded by what I do as Public Archeology. Why do we automatically consider science to be conservative and rigid? No, I never felt it was degrading my science. My science is one of the most universal human sciences. The fact that my science is not degraded is ensured by the fact that I pay close attention to what I say, I just don't say it in loud words or terminology, but I try to distill the conclusion of the archaeological scientific process into as simple words as possible. The love and support I have received from many colleagues gives me both joy and strength to continue.

How can we teach History to children so that they love it and eventually learn it?

The teaching of History in Greece unfortunately focuses on transmitting as much information as possible. It transmits dates and battles just to stimulate a "national mindset". A collective and national mindset doesn't come only from that. What the teaching of history needs in the 21st Century is to first understand the globalisation and complexity of human existence in order to realize man's journey on the planet: what went wrong, what went well, what is worth admiring and what is important to avoid in the future. 

Is there objectivity in history after all? How do you approach that matter?

Complete objectivity may not exist, but there are many simultaneous subjectivities, which if we perceive them all together, can show us human history on many levels and help us to develop our way of thinking. My approach is to see the significant and the insignificant events altogether, so that we can draw conclusions concerning the people behind the events.

What kind and how much history knowledge do we need in order to comprehend and draw conclusions concerning our society?

You don't need too much knowledge. But the knowledge you need should be global. And of course the level that each of us will immerse in is at our own discretion, in our own search, enjoyment and desire for exploration and discovery.


Do you think that history also cultivates our aesthetic education?

Yes, very much. Mankind has been making art since the Paleolithic era, or to put it more simply, since the cavemen era! First we made art, and much later we discovered that we could cultivate the land or build houses! That says a lot by itself. In caves inhabited by people hundreds of thousands of years ago, they painted the walls with huge and magnificent representations. Art is a deep-rooted need in human psychology and whoever denies it simply doesn't even realise what our most distant ancestors did in caves.

What is your goal and what do you hope to achieve with such a popular social media account?

My goal is to make archeology, antiquity, and the study of the past much more popular, including even larger audiences. The audience exists. And science belongs to all of us.

How do you choose the issues you raise?

I prefer to choose subjects that have either unknown details (for example a small potter which hides a wonderful story behind it, but one would pass over in a museum), or subjects that touch on issues that still concern us (e.g. racism or sexism). But I also choose seemingly popular themes that could be approached with another viewpoint (e.g. how beautiful the symbolism in the Parthenon sculptures is).

What else do you do and what else do you prepare?

Social media is just one step. I really enjoy and love my Podcast and of course the archeology books I write for the audience. The first book has already been published by keybooks with the strange title: "Does all antiquity fit in the elevator?", exactly because I wanted it to be weird and because it's surreal. The second is almost ready and will be much more intriguing because our past can be both funny and shocking. At the same time, various other projects are being prepared, such as documentaries. 

Do you consider your job lonely and introverted?

The work of an archaeologist is very lonely and necessarily introverted. But what I do, which deals with the communication of science, is the exact opposite. I have to and I want to communicate with people who love archeology. And that's good for me because I understand better how non-experts view science and how it could be made even more accessible!

How do you see today's people who live and are informed mostly indiscriminately through the Internet? What are your tips to make their dream come true?

I would say persistence, patience and a lot of self-criticism, because what we want is not always what we can achieve and that should be ok. I once wanted to be a comedian or a cartoonist. I considered my skills not to reach the high standards that I wanted in order to feel satisfied with what I could produce. So I didn’t follow it. 

I may like singing, but I also can’t sing well. If I try to sing even in the bathroom, the tap turns on its own in the icy. But when we find that thing which combines what we want and what we actually can, then another fight begins, which requires perseverance, patience, dedication and work.

Does history repeat itself, as we are used to saying?

We repeat human motifs because we are and will be imperfect creations. We pass on to our children the complexes and stereotypes of older generations and in the process we collect new complexes and create new stereotypes. Mankind's road to improvement is neither prescribed nor linear. I don’t know if history repeats itself. Every historical period has some regular common patterns, and each era has specific characteristics that differentiate it from the previous ones. After all, human history has only one constant: perpetual change. 

What do you think is your strongest asset: knowledge or personal charm?

Charm being my asset? I don’t believe that. I was able to go out and expose myself through social media when I stopped thinking about how I look to others. I don’t mind if I don’t look sharp and perfect. It’s worse when you try to look like you’re perfect and impressive. I'm not trying to be likeable and I certainly don’t consider myself to have "personal charm".

I'm just as stupid as the rest of humanity and I don’t take myself seriously. I focus more on what I have to say, to be right, to be interesting, to be influential, to promote archeology. It’s not important who I am; it could be anyone else.