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:
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 ) and Liata (Αργεια Γη ), 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 , Schinochori ) 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.
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:
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:
Run a series of queries in GIS to analyze our data in a way that consonant with our siteless methodology;
Make sure that we have adequate documentation of all of our “sites” that we explored from 2014-2017;
Analyze the extensive materials from the modern abandoned villages in our survey area;
Begin working on our publications, a preliminary report in addition to our final publication, focusing especially on a description of our survey area;
Making sure that our data are clean and consistent;
Continue work in the lab to (re-)analyze important materials, and
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.
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 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 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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
DON’T USE UTENSILS
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.
DON’T POINT THE STICK DIRECTLY INTO YOUR MOUTH
DO USE THE “TEAR” METHOD
The onlycorrect method is to tear individual chunks off the stick by biting down on an individual chunk and pulling it off of the stick.
DON’T ORDER CHICKEN SOUVLAKI
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 Çöpşiş is delicious), and beef souvlaki is an abomination.
DO EAT SOUVLAKI WITH BREAD AND FRIES
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.
DO PUT LEMON ON THE SOUVLAKI
Souvlaki needs freshly squeezed lemon juice on it immediately before serving.
You know you’re gearing up for a new season in the field when you’re cleaning up a winter’s worth of dust, cobwebs, etc. in your storage and study facility. This is really sensitive work that only people with highly specialized degrees and extensive archaeological experience are capable of doing:
My camera lens isn’t dirty; that’s the distinctive blur from fine dust agitated by sweeping and suspended in the air…
Archaeological sites are sites of destruction. They are destroyed by people for all kinds of reasons, including good ones. Excavation, too, after all, is a kind of destruction. And some destruction is inevitable. Especially in countries like Greece, there has to be a balance between development and heritage. People need to build houses and roads, after all. And farmers need to work their fields, which in this day and age often requires modifying the natural landscape to make it more conducive to mechanization and irrigation.
One of our sites from 2014 was pretty badly bulldozed this year. I found the evidence of it two days ago, when I was driving around our survey area inspecting our old sites. A farmer has purchased (or perhaps he always owned) a large number of contiguous plots of land, and he’s bulldozed and plowed them in order to make a large apricot grove. In the process, he used his bulldozer to make large terraces up the hillslope. These cuts have clearly sectioned archaeological levels. There is freshly-broken material everywhere.
It was upsetting to see the destruction, and it was disorienting to walk around a once-familiar landscape that suddenly made no sense to me. I couldn’t quite remember what exactly had been there before, where the fields were where in 2014 we had found some whole loomweights and spools.
On the one hand, I can’t really blame the farmer. If I had to guess, I’d guess he didn’t know what he was destroying. He also needs to earn a living. The field isn’t so big; it wasn’t some faceless, evil agroindustrial villain that did this, I don’t think. Agricultural modification of the landscape is as old as the hills (figuratively). And this is what survey is for: rescuing some information for archaeological research. In 2014 we collected an enormous amount of data about this site. Short of excavating it, we’ve extracted almost as much data as we can, and in our publication we’ll be able to say quite a lot about it. And part of the reason to do survey is to capture this information before development destroys it forever.
On the other hand, the destruction bugs me. I wish that this farmer hadn’t done this, that our site could have stayed the way that it was, split into little, grassy fields.
The Western Argolid Regional Project (WARP) has just concluded its second field season. Whereas in the 2014 season the project surveyed in the area of the modern village of Lyrkeia, which sits on the northern edge of a wide open mountainous river valley, the 2015 season focused on the lower reaches of the Inachos river as the valley begins to flatten out and open up into the Argive plain, in the territories of the modern villages of Schinochori and Malandreni.
Over the course of six weeks (3 June — 14 July), our six field teams intensively surveyed 6.8 square kilometers in 2,699 survey units, criss-crossing the sometimes rough and rocky terrain of this year’s survey area. Like last year, we found a wide variety of artifacts and sites, from the Early Bronze Age to the Modern period, with Archaic to Hellenistic predominating. The total artifact density for 2015 was about two thirds of that from the 2014 field season. This is very surprising considering that (1) we were operating in such close proximity to Argos (about 10 km) and (2) this year’s survey area is a much more actively utilized modern landscape, with many more field houses (kalyvia), threshing floors (alonia) and other agricultural installations. Many of these were no longer in use, giving us an opportunity to do some targeted survey and study of abandoned modern buildings. At next year’s annual meeting of the AIA we’ll be presenting a paper based in large part on this year’s work entitled “Roads, Routes and Abandoned Villages in the western Argolid” as part of a colloquium on deserted villages organized by Deb Stewart and Kostis Kourelis.
Our team was bigger than last year’s: we added an extra field team and in total there were 22 field walkers, evenly split between students from Wilfrid Laurier University (Scott’s home institution) and the University of Colorado Boulder (Sarah’s home institution). They patiently endured the less fun parts of the Greek landscape, like spiders and ankle-turning fields of weeds, with good cheer, and even embraced the challenge of walking directly up rocky slopes! We were lucky to retain almost all of our graduate students from the 2014 season, so students were expertly guided by a remarkable group of very experienced, intelligent, and hard-working team leaders.
Like last year, we took students on field trips to sites in the northeastern Peloponnese, including the CIG excavations at Stymphalos, but there were some changes, too: this year we went as a team to a performance at the Epidauros theatre. We saw a riveting performance of Euripides’ “Trojan Women” by the National Theatre of Greece. To help us appreciate the play, Professor John Gibert (University of Colorado Boulder) visited the project for just over a week and gave presentations on ancient theatre (in the ancient theatre of Argos) and on the “Trojan Women” specifically. Also unlike last year, this year we were joined by some new staff: Ioanna Antoniadou, an archaeologist and anthropologist who worked with the team for eight weeks as the project’s ethnographer, and Joe Desloges and Pamela Tetford, fluvial geomorphologists who studied the Inachos river and its effects on the landscapes of the western Argolid. These specialists are fleshing out our understanding of the recent past and the present of the local communities with and around whom we work, as well as the geological past and present of the region. Although these studies are still preliminary, they have already helped the project immeasurably, not only for research but also for student training.
For more information on WARP, please visit our project website and blog at westernargolid.org!