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).
This is my favorite picture from this year: