Forced building of character

[Ed.: This is a guest post by Alexandrea Kord,  an undergraduate at the University of Colorado Boulder and member of WARP Team 5]

As a field walker, my job is to collect data contributing to a overall understanding of the survey area. I suppose anyone reading the WARP website would understand the purpose of the project and the job of a field walker. The problem is that I mistakenly saw my job as finding things, and became focused more on trying to find interesting artifacts than to collect data. This ultimately leads to disappointment as we walk empty unit after empty unit. By the end of the day, I’m left feeling disappointed and jealous of the other teams’ success: neither feeling is one I particularly like.

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The only way I have found to combat these feelings is to think about my worker in relation to the bigger picture of WARP, discovering the nature of human activity in the Western Argolid (yes, I did steal that phrase right of the WARP  website). Doing this forces me to ask questions about every unit and see them all in relation to each other.  So on a day when my team has found nothing, but the team working in units right next to ours has high density units, I start thinking about why that might be.  Is it because we worked higher up on the hill and everything eroded down, or was this area used for other purposes then settlement?  Focusing on finding answers instead of artifacts has made these last few weeks of the project much more enlightening then the first week.

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I suppose to someone wiser than I, the difference between collecting data and finding things would be obvious. Collecting data is all about asking questions and looking for answers, finding things is just that: finding something. But that in itself doesn’t tell you much about anything. So despite all the sarcasm the team leaders say it with, walking fields really does build character: it forces you to look at the bigger picture than just your unit and just your team… A lesson that every 20 year old probably needs to learn.

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4 Things Field Walkers Can’t Live Without

[Ed.: this post is written by CU Boulder student Elizabeth Cummings.]

We are now roughly three weeks into WARP, and some people are starting to get used to the way things run. After last week, we’ve started to fall into a pattern. It goes somewhat like this:

An average field walker after a day of too much survey awesomeness
An average field walker after a day of too much survey awesomeness

There are a few things I’ve learned about survey that I never expected. They have to do with the equipment we take into the field — the tools that are crucial to collecting data about the Western Argolid. While some of these things are obviously necessary in our search to understand the past, others are less so. Here is a quick and dirty guide to understanding what you need in the field every day, if you are considering doing an archaeological survey anytime in the near future.

Your Compass

Every great aspiring archaeologist needs a compass. Whether it is hanging around your neck, looped around your thumb, dangling from a carabineer at your waist, or lodged within a GPS unit at your disposal, a budding survey walker cannot live without one.

Team 4 debating the correct bearings
Team 4 debating the correct bearings

Don’t forget to take into account that your clickers and personal cameras may throw off the compass! The key here is to make sure that your bearing does NOT point you in different directions, but rather in the same direction as your fellow walkers. As the great Dr. Gallimore once said, “A true field walker never strays from his bearing. You might want to get a running start so you can make it over those maquis bushes, John.”

Your Sharpie

The next essential piece of equipment falls under the category of, “Wow, I never knew that something so small and permanent and inky could be this important.” This relatively popular writing utensil is something no field walker, team leader, or director can forget. How would one write on artifact bags? How would one create tags with unit numbers on them? How would one mark their fellow team members with bug-looking dots?

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Unfortunately, this is also one of the easiest pieces of equipment to lose. Nicknamed the “Pen of Life” by Team 4, the punishment for losing this item in the field may or may not include losing your life (whether this is figurative or not is yet to be seen). The holder of the Pen of Life must accept such responsibility, and make sure not to drop it in waist high grain. Coincidentally, this brings me to the next indispensable item in the life of a field walker.

Your GPS Unit

GPS stands for “Global Positioning System.” When your team is lost between three olive tree dots and a squiggle unit you’ll be glad that you have one. The satellites orbiting our planet can tell you exactly where you are, down to a five meter margin of error. Using this piece of sophisticated equipment in conjunction with the melodious sound of Team 5’s cover of “All About That Bass” drifting through the mountains (see the previous post, “Giggles across the valley”), you’ll never accidentally re-survey units you’ve already completed. That’s the idea, anyway.

Please note that this is not the appropriate resting spot for your GPS unit. A pocket or cozy spot in your backpack is preferred.
Please note that this is not the appropriate resting spot for your GPS unit. A pocket or cozy spot in your backpack is preferred.

This nifty little gadget only runs several hundred euro and is irreplaceable in this region in Greece, so try not to stress too much about misplacing it. It also has a camera to take photos of unit forms, unit locations, unit visibility, and to take selfies. Need the time? It also has a watch! Who needs church bells anymore? Unless a solar flare knocks out all of our electronics or aliens eat our satellites, you’re good to go.

Your Tissues and Allergy Medicine

Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to account for your allergies. A day of itchy eyes, a runny nose, and constant sneezing may leave you focusing more on trying to calculate how much goop your body can make on a daily basis than on finding artifacts. If you don’t want your team leader to think that you have pink eye or are turning into a zombie, run to your local φαρμακείο and pick up that once a day magic medicine. Otherwise, a field like this rapidly becomes your worst nightmare:

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The upside? Fields like this are normally unsurveyable anyway, due to the sticker weeds that could cut off your legs. If for some reason you run out, the pharmacy runs out, or you forget your medicine, don’t worry. Always keep some tissues in your field bag. With tissues, at least you won’t be miserable and drippy. Plus, it makes for a great TP substitute in the little archaeologist’s room.

After reading this guide, you’ll be ready to tackle any field, anywhere. As long as you bring along a sense of adventure, optimism, and these few things, you’ll have the time of your life. You never know which team will find the next Mycenaean tholos tomb! Make sure it’s yours.

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Giggles across the valley

[Ed.: Today’s blog post is written by CU Boulder students Emily Kim and Katie Souder]giggles_1An ordinary workday begins for the WARP surveyors.  Early morning sunlight slants across pale grain fields, illuminating silvery olive groves and delicately woven webs along the way.  The landscape awakens peacefully as field walkers on teams 1 through 4 begin surveying their first units of the day — and then singing and giggles bubble up in the distance.  “There’s Team 5,” the other teams say; now they can assess their position in the valley based on where they are in relation to the sound of our laughter.

A Day in the Life of Team 5

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Step 1: Fight over the music in the cargiggles_3

Due to Mike’s lack of respect for the Backstreet Boys, the little blue Suzuki Swift contains more turmoil than is reasonable considering that that Mike falls asleep moments after the music begins.

Step 2: Park D.B. (our car, Donkey Blue) anywhere with zero regard for the surrounding terrain.

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Our beloved blue stallion is a trooper who can handle even the most intense terrain!

Step 3: Pace off: KRS, KJO, MAS…. wait… where is Mike?

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Our dear Michelangelo is secretly a mountain goat.

Step 4: Shout all the information back at Stephanie at the same time.

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A typical Team 5 report goes something like this:

 Bearing? Straight.

Time check? 140… wait, what did you ask?

Background disturbance? I picked up a bunch of rocks.

Visibility? Crappy.

(“That’s not a number,” Stephanie says, time after time.)

Vegetation height? Krystyn’s head, Mike’s waist… so… shoulder?

Features? We saw a goat skull and a turtle!

Really, putting up with us is quite the feat. Stephanie has developed a keen ear when it comes to listening to us.

Step 5: Scare a director.

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For some reason, we manage to startle our directors every day with our odd, energetic conversations and activities. Isn’t it normal to sword fight, sing, and brush each other’s hair every morning?

Step 6:  Try to take a picture that Stephanie does not ruin.

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This is a Herculean labor.

Step 7: Send Emily off to her death…

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Team 5 injuries are few and far between, but when they happen, they happen to Emily. Whether it’s wild dogs, steep hills, or flying spider sticks, Emily, in her quest for GPS points, always encounters it. Luckily she is a ninja and can handle anything nature can throw at her!

Step 8: Sing!

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A lull in conversation?

Because I’m all about that bass, ‘bout that bass, no treble!

This song can also serve as secondary GPS when a director or another team is trying to find us.

(Please note Stephanie intentionally hiding from the camera.)

Step 9: Drop off our finds and go get coffee!

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It feels as if we’ve only just started working and singing, but suddenly it’s 12:58, the day’s units have all been surveyed, and it is time to go home.

Step 10: “Stephanie, what is the upside down L again?”

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We struggle to read as many signs in Greek as possible while DB faithfully returns us to Myloi. Stephanie tries her best to teach us some of the language and we try our best to systematically butcher every word we pass.

WARP 2014 Team 5: Good Enough!

*heights in photo to scale
*heights in photo to scale

Surveying Through Greek Fields

[Ed.: Today’s blog post is written by CU Boulder student Sariah Rushing].

When people ask what I am doing out here in Greece, no one understands what I am explaining. I try to explain how beautiful the landscape is and right after I will talk about the horror of the units filled with what are better known as spiders to the rest of the world. They wonder how I can cut my legs while wearing pants and I try to explain how sharp the maquis is and about the “tricky” flowers. The diversity of the units is hard to explain and everything about our survey area I try to explain generally leaves people back home confused.

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From up higher it is easy to see the diversity of our survey units, but it isn’t until we are down in them that we can see exactly how different and unique each unit is.

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Sometimes we have these awesome units where we can see the ground easily with about 90% visibility and we find pottery everywhere.

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Then we get these fun fields with 0-10% visibility with wheat and/or weeds at or above our heads. Some of these lovely spider-filled wheat fields have trees like this one and others don’t. Its units like this that warrants a spider stick to whack them and their webs away!

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Then we get a field like this that has no creepy crawlies and looks like we should be able to find stuff but the mowed down hay covers the ground almost completely making it hard to see anything but flattened hay.

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The freshly plowed and sometimes freshly planted units are everyone’s favorite. A unit like this would be considered 90-100% visibility and we generally find a lot of artifacts if there are any to be found in the area.

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There is always this little issue of background disturbance. To anyone else this would look like I took a picture of dirt and rocks but to us this picture tells us what the ground looked like when we walked through the unit. This is also what we stare at for about 6 hours a day 5 days a week and we are able to pick out what is pottery, tile, lithic and other various things.

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Let’s not forget the beautiful landscape we walk in every day. Though this flower is beautiful to admire they have sharp spiky leaves that cut at your legs even through pants. Great flowers to admire at a distance. This is what I call a “tricky” flower.

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Just to clarify: I might complain about the spiders, the “tricky” flowers, bushes that apparently have thorns, the heat and how tired I am at the end of each day, but what we do here is amazing and I wouldn’t trade a single moment for anything else. I don’t think I could ever get tired of looking up and seeing views like this one.

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We never know what we will find each day and what type of units we will get. Some days we get crappy units, and other days we get awesome units, but we find awesome stuff each time we are out there working. Then there is always a little perk for someone like me; I am convinced that these two trees create a perfect doorway and that they lead to Narnia!

Fear and Loathing in the Field

[Ed.: Today’s blog post is written by CU Boulder student Lena Streisand].

In 30° Celsius weather the only dark cloud ahead is one of impending doom at being “flappled” (thank you, Bill Caraher) in the face by the likes of this thing:

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You’re walking your first swath of the morning.  You see an artifact in the distance.  You hasten your step and soon you are face to face with this artifact and the only thing stopping you from grabbing it is the massive, intricate web of a spider the size of your left eye that has conveniently woven its way around your point of interest.  The clock’s ticking, the other walkers are waiting for you and just as you reach for that artifact the walker beside you asks if you need him to “hold on.”  Not remembering you’re diving face-deep into the web of doom you mutter “yes” and just as you do so you go face first into one of these:

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You flail your arms around helplessly, ground yourself in the soil and stand up directly into the olive tree branch you were avoiding, effectively diving head first into another web.  Flustered and frazzled you trip over a rock and unleash a whole new kind of beast.

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Trying not to totally freak out about the fact that you are in very close proximity to a scorpion you keep on the move.  Beetles of unimaginably large sizes propel themselves at all imaginable angles towards you and bees buzzing in various octaves swarm around you, but you keep moving through that field and away from that scorpion.

Finally you’ve left the realm of unmentionables for dinner when the delusion sets in: suddenly all sorts of things are flying past you and you think you hear buzzing and you feel something crawling on you and you’re waiting for a flapple when you look up and realize that you’re actually just sitting at a dinner table swatting, dodging, and flailing the air directly above your neighbor’s Greek salad.  It’s okay, she understands.

Tomorrow you’ll both wake up and face the treacherous inhabitants of the field once again because regardless of the delusion and the constant feeling of web-on-face, the possibility of finding that one artifact makes it all worth it.