Catching up with WARP

WARP 2018: THE STUDY SEASON is over… sort of. I am still dealing with the data deluge and trying to rest up after a frantic end-of-season, and I’m even trying to catch up with all of the blog posts that Bill Caraher wrote about WARP. You should read them too. Here they are, in chronological order:

  1. Views of digital archaeology” (4 June 2018)
  2. Resurvey” (20 June 2018)
  3. Thinking about modern Greece” (29 June 2018)
  4. The site” (10 July 2018)
  5. Archaeology, nationalism, destruction” (12 July 2018)

In the meantime, I’m spending a a lot of time looking at this kind of thing (WITNESS MY DIGITAL ARCHAEOLOGY CHOPS)Agisoft "processing" bars

…when I’d much rather be looking at this (GREECE IS PRETTY):

The Lyrkeia valley illuminated by a sunbeam

Distributional Analysis

[Originally posted on Bill’s blog]

One of the challenges of siteless survey is shifting our intention from a focus on sites to the distribution of artifacts across a landscape. Over the last four years at the Western Argolid Regional Project we have collected artifact level data from over 7000 survey units that cover a significant percentage of our 30 sq km survey area.

The material includes several clear clusters of high density units some of which are associated with known sites as well as a wide scatter of material clustered in different ways across the modern countryside. The temptation is to focus on the larger and higher density clusters which have produced more robust assemblages of material and are more susceptible to analysis on the basis of function, chronology, and settlement structure. In fact, there is no escaping from the fact that the more material an area produces, the more we are able to say about the areas history, use, and regional context. What is harder to understand is how areas or even single survey units that produce small assemblages can contribute to the greater understanding of the landscape and region.

I’ve spent the last two weeks attempting to figure out how to describe the contours of the artifactual landscape of our survey area as a whole and to pull apart the high and low density clusters that constitute the artifact distribution. Some of the things that I had to consider are how to define a cluster: is it related to the number of objects? do the units that produced artifacts have to be contiguous or can they be interrupted? how do we control for surface visibility, background disturbance, and other variables that impact recovery rates on individual units?

Even when I was able to use various kinds of buffering and neighborhood analysis to create archaeologically plausible clusters of units with material from various periods, we then had to determine the arrangement of these clusters across the landscapes. The distance of one group of cluster from another (and the impact of the vagaries of our survey area on this kind of distribution) would appear to offer at least one indication of connectivity in our survey area and perhaps an indicator of density or intensity of human activity in the landscape. At the same time, factors such as period length and recovery rates associated with particular classes (or types) or artifacts likewise shape the visibility of periods and functions in the landscape.

Developing a template or a lens through which we define and construct assemblages for analysis is among the most challenging aspect of siteless survey and one that will likely occupy my time and energy for a quite some time to come!

Venetian maps of the Peloponnese

No trip to Greece is complete without multiple trips to the amazing bookstores of Athens. I now usually spend an absurd amount of money every summer buying a huge stack of big, heavy books and having them mailed back to the US. One of the first I picked up this year is an edited volume, published in 2018, with an exciting topic: the Venetian maps of the Peloponnese! I bought it at once:

This wonderful edited volume deals with a newly (in 1986) discovered archive in the Austrian War Archive, composed of 53 pages of maps drawn by Venetian engineers during the second Venetian rule of Greece, 1685–1715.

I bought this book because this period fascinates me and I know too little about it, but it’s also directly relevant to our project, because Argos and Nafplio were Venetian possessions, and so too were the villages of our survey area. I have read a little bit about the Venetian archives for the Peloponnese, in the books written by Panagiatopoulos (Πληθυσμός και οικισμοί της Πελοποννήσου: 13ος-18ος αιώνας [1985]) and Liata (Αργεια Γη [1993]), but the maps are especially interesting for the survey because of their topographical content. I’ve just read Liata’s fascinating chapter about the region of Argos in these Venetian maps and thought that I’d write a bit about my observations.

First, the Venetian maps don’t include many details from our survey zone. Basically it indicates the villages and toponyms that lie on the borders of the villages. I’m not sure if this means anything; it could mean, for instance, that this area wasn’t very interesting, or very wealthy, or it might just be an accident of preservation. As Liata points out, there are a lot of details that are recorded in Venetian archives that don’t appear on the map.

Second, not a lot seems to have changed! The villages are located more or less where they are now. It’s possible that the villages have moved somewhat (although we don’t have any archaeological evidence for that). The map isn’t detailed enough to say for certain, but certainly the map is consistent with the idea that the villages haven’t moved. The names haven’t changed much, either! Modern Λυρκεία, which was called Kato Belesi until 1938, is referred to as “Cato Belessi”, and the names of Malandreni and Schinochori also haven’t changed. An area now called Μουζάκι is identified as Musachi. Interesting, the village now called Sterna is identified as Grias to Lithari: i.e., Γριάς το Λιθάρι (“the old lady’s rock”). What’s really interesting is that this toponym still exists!

It’s also the case that the larger villages now were larger in the early 18th century (Kato Belesi [pop. 511 in 2001], Malandreni [pop. 540]), and the villages that are smaller now (Sterna [182], Schinochori [381]) are listed as being deserted (“desabitata”) in the early 18th century. So contrary to our expectations, perhaps, there’s a lot of continuity in that the bigger villages  stay big through the modern period.

Third, and finally, there’s more work to be done. The local toponyms that run along the borders of the villages are sometimes known, sometimes unknown, and I suspect that they have a story to tell, and as Liata effectively shows, the textual accompaniments to these maps, in connection with the maps themselves, are important sources that enhance our historical understanding.

It’s really amazing that such an important historical source remained hidden until so recently… I’m excited to read the other chapters of the volume. If you’re at all interested in the Venetian period or the Peloponnese, you really need to get your hands on this book.

Archaeology is hard

Today is day 3 of the 2018 WARP study season. My main observation so far is: archaeology is hard. OK, that’s something that I obviously know, but doing archaeology – especially after you haven’t been doing it for 10 months or so – makes it clear how hard it really is.

Most non-archaeologists don’t know this, and in part it’s our fault. After all, this is the kind of thing that we tend to post on social media:

Sunset, Nafplio

But pictures like these don’t really capture the flavor of what it’s like to work on a project, even on a study season, which to my mind at least is supposed to be more relaxed.

So far our study season has involved a lot of tasks, big and small, that occupy our time and attention. There is equipment (new and old) to prepare and computers to get up and running; there is a lab to clean (again), meetings for planning the season , and queries to run. Bill always needs to get a new Greek SIM card and we’re constantly running little errands. But besides all the little things that are required when you move into a new place, there’s effectively an infinite amount of work to do in a relatively short time. We’ll be here working on our material from now until July 11th, and our to do list looks pretty serious to me:

  1. Run a series of queries in GIS to analyze our data in a way that consonant with our siteless methodology;
  2. Make sure that we have adequate documentation of all of our “sites” that we explored from 2014-2017;
  3. Analyze the extensive materials from the modern abandoned villages in our survey area;
  4. Begin working on our publications, a preliminary report in addition to our final publication, focusing especially on a description of our survey area;
  5. Making sure that our data are clean and consistent;
  6. Continue work in the lab to (re-)analyze important materials, and
  7. Continue to get high-quality photographs and illustrations of important artifacts.

This isn’t an exhaustive list – there’s lots more – but even so these seven items are plenty. We already have a long list of tasks that require our immediate attention that need to be done by Monday, so there are effectively no “days off,” even with a team full of talented and hard-working colleagues who know the drill. When we’re not working on the project, we’re sleeping, eating, and attending to other responsibilities.

Of course, once we get into a groove, things will seem more normal. It’s just always jarring to me at the beginning of a new season how all-consuming an archaeological project is. It’s actually a big part of its appeal, I think… that, and beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and generally the beauty of the Greek landscape, and of course all of the joy from just being in Greece.

Contingency, Roads, and Formation Processes in the Greek Countryside

[Ed: reposted from Bill’s blog]

This last week I’ve been working on transforming a paper that Dimitri Nakassis and I wrote from the 2016 Archaeological Institute of America annual meeting. The paper was for a panel organized by Deb Brown and Becky Seifried on the topic of abandoned settlements. Dimitri and I wrote not so much about settlements as about roads and routes through the Greek countryside using the Western Argolid as an example.

As I’ve worked to transform the paper into a proper article, I’ve started to try to weave together two complicated little strands related to regional level intensive pedestrian survey. One strand understands the countryside as contingent and dynamic and challenges the perspective that rural Greece was backward or unchanging guide to ancient practices. The view of the Greek countryside as stagnant and conservative drew heavily on both contemporary Western views of conservative rural life as well as Orientalist ideas that the East was resistant to change and, as a result, and unreceptive to the forces of progress (and perhaps resistant to the transformative power of capital). The most obvious expression of this among Classicists was the tendency to look to rural life and practices as a place that preserved ancient culture. Efforts to conflate ancient places with modern villages by the modern Greek state reinforced the plausibility of a conservative countryside. This, in turn, supported the nationalist narrative advanced by both the West and the Greek state itself that the modern Greek nationstate had it roots in the Ancient Greek world. By changing Slavic, Albanian, or Turkish place names to the names of Ancient Greek places, the modern state sought less to overwrite the more recent history of the region and more to restore the authenticity of the Greek countryside.

For archaeologists, this confidence in a stable Greek countryside arrived with the early travelers who took ancient texts as their guides and consistently noted practices that evoked those in ancient sources. By the 1980s and 1990s, however, intensive pedestrian survey and processual archaeology had begun to produce evidence for a more dynamic view of rural settlement patterns where even major settlements expanded, contracted, appeared, and vanished over the centuries. Attention to the Early Modern and Ottoman Greek landscape by the Argolid Exploration Project and in the Nemea Valley demonstrated that far from being ossified and unchanging, rural life, economic strategies, and settlement in the northeast Peloponnesus was in constant flux as denizens of the countryside adapted to local and regional economic and political opportunities. To put their conclusions in starkly contemporary terms, scholars like Susan Buck Sutton demonstrated that precarity of capitalism was alive and well in the Greek countryside throughout the Early Modern and Modern periods. While this may initially feel like something to celebrate as it makes clear that Greece was not an Oriental backwater, it should also give us pause as it reminds us that the self-sufficient farmer so celebrated for their independence was every bit a product of larger economic forces as any kind of individual will. Removing the condescending (and racist) burden of the Oriental conservatism from the backs of the Greek peasant and replacing it with forces of capital does not, necessarily, impart more agency in the Greek villager, farmer, or pastoralist. Agency within the capitalist system may appear more “modern,” but in some ways, it is only an inversion of an Orientalist reading of Greece by hinting that the instability, contingency, and precarity of rural life anticipates progressive modernity.

Whatever the larger metanarrative at play, contingency is now a significant paradigm for understanding Early Modern and Modern Greece, and understanding the process of abandonment plays an important roles in recognizing change in the Greek countryside. Attention to abandonment involves a greater commitment to reading artifact scatters in the countryside as the products of archaeological and natural formation processes rather than palimpsests of settlement or other rural activities. As we come to privilege the contingency and dynamism of the countryside more, we also lose some of our confidence in assigning tidy functional categories to rural survey assemblages. Low density scatters of artifacts, for example, may well represent short-term habitation, low intensity rural activities, or even redistributive practices like manuring or dumping.

For our paper, the significance of contingency and our reading of formation processes intersect in our analysis of two seasonal rural settlements in the process of abandonment and the routes that connected these sites to larger networks of travel in the region. In traditional reading of the landscape of the Inachos Valley and the Western Argolid, scholars have tended to see modern routes along the flat valley bottom as more or less following ancient routes. In this context (and putting aside the role played by topography and geography, for example), long-standing roads serve as indicators of persistent patterns of movement, settlement, and the political relationship between places. A more contingent view of the countryside, however, forces us to consider the more ephemeral routes through the landscape that leave only fleeting traces in the landscape and connect less persistent settlements.

Moreover, and this to my mind is really neat, roads and routes through the countryside also shape the formation processes at individual sites. For example, the proximity of an structure to an unpaved dirt road seems to have influenced whether that structure was maintained and used for storage or provisional discard. The dirt road, however, may not have any relationship to the earlier, simpler path that originally connected the settlement to other places in the region. Access by modern dirt road shaped the formation processes at play in the settlement. Structures only reached through footpaths tend to see less modern activity.

For our paper, we present an example from the Western Argolid to demonstrate the presence and significance of these contingent routes through the countryside, to unpack the relationship of roads to formation processes at abandoned settlements, and to suggest that the contingent countryside is not simply about places, but also about all the interstitial spaces that define social, economic, and political relationships in the changing landscape.

WARP papers in Boston

WARP is giving two papers at the AIA meetings in Boston in January of the new year. The preliminary program is available here. Our papers are on Friday, January 5, 10:45 am – 12:45 pm and 1:45 – 4:45 pm. 

These are the abstracts:

Boom and Bust in the Western Argolid: A Tale of Polis Formation
Melanie Godsey, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Machal Gradoz, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Sarah A. James, University of Colorado Boulder

This paper presents evidence collected from the intensive survey in and around the ancient city of Orneai by the Western Argolid Regional Project (2014-2016). Dense diachronic clusters of artifacts collected in this area present opportunities to analyze and interpret the formation and status of Orneai over time. First, these clusters offer the opportunity to trace the physical transformation of the city from scattered prehistoric hamlets to a wealthy Classical polis through a steady decline in the 3rd-1st centuries BC. Second, these clusters challenge the ancient literary record, which describes Orneai as dependent upon Argos and even destroyed by the regional power in the late 5th c BC. The archaeological evidence questions this traditional narrative to suggest that Orneai maintained a higher level of socioeconomic autonomy, and even prosperity, throughout the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.E.

An Iron Age cemetery and settlement are the earliest occupation on the slope Orneai, found just to the north of the citadel. During the Archaic period, small pockets of habitation occurred across the hill slope and a possible “sanctuary” was constructed on a hill east of the acropolis. In the Classical period, activity increased on both sides of the acropolis with substantially more artifacts in terms of quantity and diversity, including fine ware, cooking ware, and industrial implements. Moreover, the large amount of Archaic and Classical roof tiles recovered from the slope of Orneai indicates a period of intense building activity. Combined with the ceramic evidence and architectural terracottas, these materials reveal the growing wealth of the polis in the Classical period. In addition to the increase in activity on the acropolis, a new satellite community appeared to the west that was active in the Classical period. Late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. Finally, the lack of evidence for Hellenistic and Roman roof tiles on Orneai in conjunction with the small amount of contemporary pottery suggests a decrease in activity, compared with the plentiful Archaic and Classical evidence.

Arguably, the evidence from Orneai indicates the existence of an internal socioeconomic system thriving at the edge of the western Argive Plain during the traditional period of Argive hegemony (8th – 3rd centuries B.C.E.), while the disappearance of the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods so commonly found in Mediterranean surveys is, in this case, far less dramatic.

The acropolis of Orneai

The Medieval Countryside at a Regional Scale in the Western Argolid and Northeastern Peloponnesus
Dimitri Nakassis, University of Colorado, Sarah James, University of Colorado, Scott Gallimore, Wilfrid Laurier University, and William Caraher, University of North Dakota

The study of the medieval Mediterranean is paradoxical. On the one hand, scholars have continued to define the master narrative for the Medieval and Byzantine periods in the Mediterranean through politics and church history. On the other hand, few periods have seen as concerted an effort to understand the life and experiences of nonpolitical classes from villagers to monks, mystics, and merchants. At the risk of simplifying a complex historiography, historians of the Annales School pioneered the study of everyday life in medieval and early modern Europe. At the same time, Byzantine historians have drawn influence from concepts of cultural materialism to critique the codevelopment of particular economic and political systems and to recognize the fourth to 14th century as a period of rural transformation. This work has found common ground with landscape archaeologists who since the 1970s have sought to emphasize long-term, quantitative methods within tightly de ned regional contexts to understand the tension between local and re- gional developments in the medieval countryside.

Recent work in the Peloponnesus and central Greece by the Nemea Valley Archaeological Project, the Argolid Exploration Project, the Boeotia survey, and the Methana Survey Project, among others, provides a methodologically sophisticated, regional perspective on the medieval countryside that is almost unprecedented in the Mediterranean. This paper adds to this existing body of regional evidence based on three seasons of the Western Argolid Regional Project. From 2014–2016, this project documented 30 km2 of the Inachos River valley through highly intensive pedestrian survey. This work has revealed significant postclassical activity ranging from Late Antique habitation to 13th-century settlements and Venetian towers. These sites derive greater significance from both the impressive body of recently published fieldwork on the countryside of the northeastern Peloponnesus and the well-documented histories of the urban centers of Argos, Nafplion, and Corinth. The existence of both rural and urban contexts in this region offers a unique opportunity to consider the tensions between town and country and rural life and urban politics in the postclassical centuries. The result is a study of the medieval countryside that probes the limits of the long-standing and largely urban and political master narrative while also demonstrating significant regional variation.

The tower at Skala

Bill is hard at work drafting the second paper…

Studying the survey: the Western Argolid Regional Project, 2017

[Ed note: this blog post was written for, and originally published at, the Canadian Institute in Greece’s website]

The 2017 season of the Western Argolid Regional Project (WARP) was designated as the first of two planned study seasons in the five-year plan that the CIG submitted on our behalf to the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports. We were a small team of faculty, returning graduate students, and visiting specialists, and our focus was improving our understanding of our survey area’s material culture. This was no mean goal: over the 2014-2016 seasons, we managed to collect nearly 70,000 artifacts.

We worked hard to re-study as much of this huge collection as we could in our storage facility in Argos. Sarah James and Scott Gallimore headed up an apotheke team of Grace Erny, Joseph Frankl, Alyssa Friedman, Melanie Godsey, and Machal Gradoz. This team looked more closely at significant concentrations of material and pulled material for cataloguing. Joining them was Heather Graybehl, an expert on ceramic petrography and the ceramics of the northeast Pelponnese, Daniel Pullen, an expert on the Greek Bronze Age and especially the Early Bronze Age, Guy Sanders, an expert on Medieval and post-Medieval archaeology, and Bill Parkinson, Dani Riebe, and Katerina Psoma, experts on chipped stone. All of this work has allowed us to refine our readings of the material we collected, giving us a much clearer idea of what we found in previous years. We’re hardly done with the study of our material—we have one more study season to go, in 2018—but we made important progress this year towards getting to grips with what we have. Sarah worked hard with Melanie and Machal, for example, on the area around ancient Orneai, to come up with a story for the site from the Final Neolithic to the Early Modern periods.

But our season this year wasn’t only a study season. We also held a survey permit in cooperation (synergasia) with Dr. Alkestis Papadimitriou, the director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Argolid. The survey permit was limited to a handful of sites, chiefly fortifications, that fell outside of our 2014-2016 survey area. These sites were known, but for a variety of reasons, it wasn’t practical to include them in our original permit request. It might seem odd to hold another survey permit while studying material from another survey permit, but as we move towards publication of the survey, we find ourselves thinking more and more about how our survey area fit in with what was already known from the extremely valuable work of topographers like Pritchett and Pikoulas. Without looking more closely at these sites, however, it would be difficult to really integrate them into a robust discussion. Pikoulas, for instance, has less than a page about Sportiza, a fortification with over half a kilometer of clearly-visible fortification walls! A small, targeted survey would, we felt, allow us to integrate these known sites into our discussion, and allow us to produce a thicker description of our little corner of the western Argolid.

Bill Caraher and I headed up the field team with the help of Rachel Fernandez and the occasional member of the apotheke team. Our main goal in the field was to adequately map and document standing features, and to make limited collections that would allow us to illustrate the range of material culture at each of the sites. In most cases we made use of “grab” samples. Although these grabs were unsystematic, they allowed us to collect quickly and efficiently, especially because our team was composed of experienced archaeologists. Most of our energy was focused on mapping standing architecture, however. The sites that we investigated included three large fortifications, three towers, a mountain pass that connects the Argolid to Arkadia, and the Roman aqueduct that fed Argos, so we were dealing with a good deal of architecture. We used a fancy Leica GPS (GNSS RTK) system that gave us extremely accurate measurements in the field, together with a robust system of photography, to document the sites.

Although we’re still in the process of dealing with all of the data we collected, we think that the work we did this year will really help us to contextualize what’s happening in our survey area. It’s prompted us to think about particular periods (like the 7th century AD), for instance. But it’s also given us a different spatial and geographic perspective on the western Argolid. Climbing up to these hills on the edges of our survey area and looking down on landscapes that we know so very well, walking out the Roman aqueduct that brought water from the mountain slopes of the western Argolid to the Nymphaeum on the slopes of the Larissa: they have helped us to understand how the different parts of the northeastern Peloponnese fit together.

A belated blog post about 2017

I was really looking forward to this year’s season. Mostly, it was going to be a study season, focused on studying the materials and sites that we had already studied in the previous three field seasons. We were going to be a small, tight-knit group of returning faculty and graduate students, with several friends coming through to help us out with our finds: Heather Graybehl for fabrics, Bill Parkinson, Dani Riebe and Katerina Psoma for the stone tools, Daniel Pullen for the prehistoric, and Guy Sanders for the Medieval and post-Medieval. I hoped that it would be relaxed relak: plenty of swimming, weekend trips around the Peloponnese, gelato in Nafplio, that sort of thing. But I suspected that it wouldn’t be like that. When we were running a big project (30-40 people), my tendency was to try to make sure that everything was functioning more or less as it should, and to use the rest of the time to rest or relax. But in a study season, there’s no shortage of work to be done, and it’s all to easy to try to do all of it. That’s more or less what happened, and there was no swimming, the weekend trips were cancelled, and I ate no gelato in Nafplio.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t fun. It was. See?

Mr. Joseph Frankl, having fun

Part of the reason this year was so hectic, and why I didn’t blog at all, is that we weren’t just in a study season. We also had a survey permit. See, when we were planning the survey, we were limited to a 30 square kilometer survey area. So we drew the survey area in places where intensive survey made sense (to us, anyway), where we could survey a contiguous block of fields that would allow us to talk about the region and its changing dynamics. To a large extent this has to do with our approach to this survey, and what we are trying to accomplish with WARP, which is to marry high-intensity methods to the large-coverage approaches of the “second wave” surveys of the 1980s.  But drawing our survey area this way excluded sites that are known from topographical work (by people like Pikoulas and Peppas) but that we would have liked to study in some more detail. So we put in a permit request to do limited survey at a specific number of sites on the edges of our 2014-2016 survey area, in cooperation with the local archaeological service.

Most of these sites are fortifications, and they weren’t easy to access. I think the worst was Palaiokastro, which involved 45 minutes of us pushing our way uphill through dense woods of kermes oak (Quercus coccifera, or πουρνάρι in Greek), without any real paths. Most of them weren’t so bad, but it was difficult work to hike up to these sites in order to document them, in addition to the regular study-season work that we were primarily there to do. It was work, but it was fun: a lot of the team had spent enough time in Colorado (and one is a native Coloradan) to have embraced the “it’s fun to hike up a mountain” attitude of the Front Range. And there’s lots of cool stuff on the tops of hills, standing architecture and magnificent views, too.

Livy 34.25: nam duas [arces] habent Argi
It was a strange season, with lots of moving parts and people moving in and out, but it was an enormously productive one. The study part of the project went through a huge quantity of material, revisiting some of our most interesting areas and refining our understanding of their surface assemblages, and the visiting specialists worked incredibly efficiently to help us understand the earliest and latest periods in our survey. The field part of the project, which I was more involved in, opened our eyes to what’s going on outside of our little survey area, and how it connects to the valleys to the north and south. It was super interesting, and a little strange, to be constantly working outside of the bounds of an area that we had become really intimately familiar with. And the newness wasn’t just geographical: we also encountered different kinds of material in our fieldwork this year, like a much broader range of prehistoric material and more Late Roman material than we’re used to, too.

It was a really nice season. We ate a lot of souvlaki. I mentioned that our group was small and tight-knit. It’s really great to spend time with so many friends; after three field seasons together, we’re practically family (“in a nice way,” Bill would add).

Check out Bill Caraher’s reflections on WARP over on his blog (June 14/June 28/July 3), and especially his “Foto Fridays” (June 9/June 16/June 24/July 7).

This is my favorite picture from this year:

“Do not collect the greens” (Μην μαζεύετε τα χόρτα)



Three years of fieldwork in the western Argolid

[DN: This was a post written for the CIG’s website]

Our survey project, the Western Argolid Regional Project, or WARP, has just wrapped up the third year of fieldwork. Over three years, we’ve fielded 17 field teams, 62 field walkers and 12 team leaders from Canada and the US, and this remarkable group has surveyed nearly 8,000 units covering over 18 square kilometers. That represents the fieldwork that we applied to do in our five-year plan, submitted by the CIG on our behalf to the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports. It’s a pretty remarkable achievement, I think, and it’s entirely due to the incredibly hard work of all of the many students that have worked on the project over the past three years.

The landscape hasn’t made their work any easier. This year we worked in the zone between our 2014 and 2015 field seasons in the territories of all four of the villages that are part of our survey area: Lyrkeia, Sterna, Malandreni, and Schinochori. The terrain was really variable, from flat, well-maintained groves on the valley bottom to upland plateaus to steep slopes covered in maquis (mostly kermes oak, Greek πουρνάρι) that scratches skin and rips cloth, wild sage bushes that fill eyes and nostrils with pollen and dust, thistles, and thorny vines.

One of the interesting results of this year was the very low artifact densities. In 2014 we counted over 10,000 tiles and sherds per square kilometer surveyed; in 2015 that number was about 6,500, and in 2016, it was just above 2,700. In some ways, this wasn’t too surprising; a relatively large amount of our territory this year was taken up by long, high ridges oriented east-west that back up against the mountain range that separates the Inachos and Xerias river valleys. The ridges themselves were too rocky and removed from arable land to have sustained settlements in most periods. Rather, our sites this year tended to be located on small hills immediately above the course of the Inachos river, especially at “pinch points” where the valley narrows. On the east side of our survey area, this type of site was represented by Kastraki, where the ruins of a Classical farmstead, with the remains of its stone tower and a large millstone, were surrounded by a fairly dense scatter of sherds and tiles, including Late Roman material.

Many of our high density fields from the first two seasons were especially associated with Classical and early Hellenistic materials. Our 2014 season included the polis of ancient Orneai, which seems to have reached its maximum extent and intensity in these periods, and our 2015 season included a large settlement near Schinochori, probably a town associated with the Argive polity. In the 2016 season, however, only a scattering of Classical and Hellenistic artifacts were found on the left bank of the Inachos river. Thus, it may be that we have evidence for a boundary between the communities of the plain (surveyed in 2015) and those of the upper valleys (surveyed in 2014), manifesting itself as a largely empty space or borderland. This was not true in all periods, however: we found fairly consistent traces of Medieval and early Modern material in the 2016 season, especially on the slopes and hills above the river and its tributaries.

In non-archaeological developments, we continued our little traditions of Saturday fieldtrips to sites in the area, of going to see a play at Epidavros (this time, a raucously hilarious performance of Aristophanes’ Ploutos) and of adopting a local stray puppy and taking it back to North America.

For more information on WARP, please visit our project website and blog at!

Dimitri Nakassis
WARP co-director

How to eat souvlaki

Every great cuisine has meat on a stick. Okay, that’s probably not universally true, but meat on a stick is still a wonderful thing. It’s portable and simple and delicious. And Myloi, where our project’s base is located, is famous for having the best souvlaki in the Argolid (in Greece, Livadeia is the champ). Souvlaki is Greece’s contribution to the fast food meat-on-a-stick. It was a staple of my childhood summers, and I’m pretty passionate about it. I have a little mental database of my favorite places, and I sometimes talk (half-seriously) about opening my own super-authentic hole-in-the-wall souvlaki joint in north America.

So you can imagine my horror when I realized that most of the students and staff on WARP don’t know how to eat souvlaki properly. So I thought that I’d provide a little primer for people who haven’t grown up eating meat on a stick.


Souvlaki is street food, so using a fork or any utensil is improper.



Do not eat souvlaki like it’s corn on the cob. It’s gross and messy.

Nice shirt, Joey, but bad technique
Nice shirt, Joey, but bad technique


This is dangerous.


The only correct method is to tear individual chunks off the stick by biting down on an individual chunk and pulling it off of the stick.



Chicken doesn’t have enough fat, so chicken souvlaki is way too dry. Best to avoid it. The only correct meat for souvlaki is pork. Lamb souvlaki is not a thing  in Greece (although Turkish Çöp şiş is delicious), and beef souvlaki is an abomination.


Souvlaki is always served with bread and french fries. You might ask why you need two different starches. That would be a bad question. Put it out of your mind.

Extra salt is recommended


Souvlaki needs freshly squeezed lemon juice on it immediately before serving.



It’s delicious.