Category Archives: Elizabeth Cummings

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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