Five things

1. A mid-morning blow out

I felt the same way.

On Wednesday Bill and I hiked up the side of the mountain on the southern end of our survey area. We wanted to make sure that we hadn’t missed any major features. The result of our efforts was that we confirmed that we hadn’t missed anything, but in the process we had exhausted ourselves by 9 am and our knees were aching by the afternoon.

2. An iconostasis

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At the northern end of our survey area, on the asphalt road from Lyrkeia to Douka, are two iconostaseis, one older and stone-built, the other of the regular metal variety. Above is a photo of the interior of the older iconostasis. Note the icon of Αγία Ζώνη (left) and the prophet Elias (rear). Here are the two side-by-side:

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3. A nice wall

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Bill blogged about a bridge and mentioned the road that it carried; here is the wall that supported that road. It’s much nicer than the standard terrace wall. In fact, Machal (pictured above) and I came across this wall before we hit the bridge, and I said, “Look at that wall; it’s nice. Could this be a road?” Finding the bridge was a nice confirmation of my instinct. Here’s what the road looks like:

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4. A pocket terrace

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Bill blogged about these, too. Now I’ve been obsessively taking pictures of different pocket terraces. This is one of my favorites because the terrace forms an almost-perfect semicircle around the olive tree.

5. Tires
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Yesterday one of our cars got a flat (an inevitability, considering what we put those cars through on a daily basis) and I decided to get it fixed right away at a local tire shop. They had a remarkable quantity and variety of tires.

… and one last thing:

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Sarah, with Holly dutifully at her heels.

Sounds of Survey

Every now and then when I’m in the field, I panic about falling behind in my journal reading and letting the ENTIRE DISCIPLINE PASS ME BY.

WHAT?? Archaeological Dialogues has an issue dedicated to ROMANIZATION? I thought about that once, like four years ago! I must… read… now!

WORLD ARCHAEOLOGY has forthcoming volume dedicated to the archaeology of sound? I know people working on that RIGHT NOW and how can I possibly interact with them without being familiar with soon-to-be-published articles. More than that, I’m an audiophile and I need to understand the archaeology of connectors. And I’ve done archaeology of the contemporary world (forthcoming) so I must understand what was albums were found on the floor of a commune where the Grateful Dead once live.

It’s not that it has to happen eventually – like say while I’m on sabbatical – it has to happen now.

So instead of spending a weekend catching up on vital scholarship and remaining relevant to my discipline, I decided to clean up some audio file that I captured over the past few weeks in the field.

On my hike to the cave, I encounter a fairly agitated hawk and this what he (or she) sounded like:

We’ve also had the good fortune of encountering some very vocal goats:

And some excitable frogs (especially at night!):

Finally, you can faintly hear the bells of the church at Kaparelli at the western edge of our survey area:

Photo Friday on the Western Argolid Regional Project

This week, I mapped some, drew some, and barely survived the rest of the time. I’m pretty sure that this is the last week of the season on the Western Argolid Regional Project.

I got some good photos of members of our field teams out working. Grace Erny is super photogenic in the field (although she’d deny it). She’s always doing something archaeological:

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One of the project directors, Dimitri Nakassis, is very proud of being a University of Michigan graduate and also very happy to finally be getting into the field on a consistent basis:

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Phil Cook and I spent a long day drawing a an early modern fortified site:

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I saw the usual array of scenic and curious things in the field.

Prof. Nakssis makes lots of phone calls from the field because he’s the boss:

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This is what a day that will approach 40 degrees looks like at the start:

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This what about 38 in the field looks like:

 

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On a hot day of mapping, we were caught off guard by a ZETOR in the wild (it’s a Czech tractor company):

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A magic bus:

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More of things Greek farmers put in trees.

A hoop:

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More bottles presumably of pesticide:

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A bucket:

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Coat and boots:

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One last picture… the low clouds snagging on the peak and the dramatic difference of scale and focus gives the picture a tilt-shift look:

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For more on what’s going on with the project, check out the project blog here.

A Bridge

This is mainly to start a blog post with the line that I want you use at the beginning of an important article:

“The study of Ottoman bridges in the Western Argolid remains in its infancy. The goal of this brief article is to bring attention to a small, but important body of Ottoman bridge work in this region.”

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This lovely arch spanned a small ravine and carried a switchback kalderimi road down a low saddle to the village of Lyrkeia and our survey area. The stone work is lovely consisting of local grey limestone faces with smaller stones used as chinking. The arch itself is made of thinner stones arranged carefully with a substantial quantity of pebbly white mortar.

The road that leads to this bridge runs on its own carefully wrought terrace through olive groves. The is evidence that the bedrock had been cut back to let the road pass more easily. The bedrock was close enough to the surface to allow it serve as paving for part of the route, and it probably made this particular field appealing for use as a road (and less than appealing for agriculture!).

Sometimes a Cave 2

Last week I posted about how sometimes a cave is just a cave.

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This week, I can post that sometimes a cave is a super cool cistern from the modern period with a great view and an opportunity to practice my field drawing skills.

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Sorry to miss posting for a few days, my usually reliable MacBook Air is on the blink, so I’m slumming in PC land.

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

Taking stock mid-season

It’s the midpoint of our six-week field season — or slightly before the midpoint, since we’ve worked 12 days in the field so far and we anticipate working another 14 or 15 — so it seems like a good time to take stock of where we stand. Here is the map of the units we’ve surveyed so far:

Units walked as of June 20, 2014
Units walked as of June 20, 2014

Those represent 1,228 survey units covering a total of over 2.8 square kilometers. In 1,103 of those units (we’re a little bit behind in data entry), we’ve counted (and collected) 3,152 pieces of pottery and 48 lithics, and (just counted and collected a sample of) 9,628 pieces of tile.

We called our project WARP because there’s a long tradition of snazzy acronyms in Greek survey — for instance, SNAP and SHARP — and our project is in the Western Argolid, so WARP was a natural abbreviation, not because we’re big fans of Star Trek or Boards of Canada or something silly like that. But we are almost living up to our name by burning through lots and lots of survey units. This is what we wanted for the project: our design was to combine high-intensity survey methods with the larger territorial coverages produced by earlier survey projects (25 sq km by Berbati-Limnes, 50 sq km by NVAP, 40 sq km by PRAP; now 30 sq km is the maximum allowed by Greek law). At the current rate, we’ll cover over 6 sq km this season, for a three-year coverage of some 20 sq km.

In an undertaking of this magnitude, we should expect there to be errors. But we’ve actually been incredibly efficient and error-free. We’ve only messed up once or twice so far. In both cases, the errors are easily correctable, and in fact in both cases the team leaders recognized the errors immediately. But even if we hadn’t recognized the mistakes until later, that’s an error rate of 0.16%! Considering how quickly we’re moving, that’s amazing, and it’s a testament to the hard work and acuity of our team leaders and field walkers.

We really couldn’t be happier with how the past three weeks of field work have gone. We’ve already accomplished an enormous amount, and have put ourselves in a really good position for the second half of the 2014 season.

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Photo Friday on the Western Argolid Regional Project

After another week of the Western Argolid Regional Project, I’m once again prompted to ask whether this is over yet. This isn’t to suggest that I’m not having fun, but to say that this has already been a long field season!

But we’re hard at work. As you can see, Scott Gallimore, one of the directors, is hard at work documenting the upper reaches of our survey area on Mt. Braimi south of Lyrkeia.

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This one is from one of our team leaders, Machal Gradoz. Her field team is lined up in a field of wheat:

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A selfie of myself in the reflection of water in a cistern: 

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Red fruit crates in a green apricot grove:

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A less welcoming sign hanging from an olive tree:

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The Argive Heraion is one of the top three sites in Greece for the clarity of the archaeological remains, the archaeological (and political) questions it has inspired, and, above all, the view:

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Dawn on the way to the survey area. It almost makes that 5 am alarm sound sweet:

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The walk to dinner last night:

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My after dinner constitutional:

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Three Thoughts from the Western Argolid Regional Project

I know it’s cliche, but archaeology provides a good context for thinking. Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten some good thinking done. In fact, my colleagues, The Directors of the project, have been extremely patient interlocutors this summer. I am convinced that an important part of archaeology remains the close and continuous intellectual and social contact between participants. In fact, I write about that very thing in the context of digital archaeological practice here.

Since it’s the middle of the middle week of the survey season on the Western Argolid Regional Project, and thanks to “a non-serious, fatigue-related, incident”, I’ve been stranded in my lux-u-ary apartment for the last two day, I’ve scrawled down a few thoughts about a few things:

1. Team Leaders. One of my arguments in favor of a return to a “slow archaeology” is that we have created an increasingly atomic view of the archaeological process. Our dependence on forms, digital data collection, and methodology to produce archaeological knowledge has inhibited our ability as archaeologists to understand and represent the complex interrelationships between objects, context, architecture, and landscape. In short, our tendency to parse archaeological knowledge ever more finely in the field has created a practice that runs counter to the integrative goals of the discipline. 

My fear is that archaeologists no long have a complete grasp of the archaeological universe, but only their little part of it. Our graduate student team leaders this summer have undermined my argument by demonstrating the ability to move fairly easily from the detailed documentation of a unit to the more expansive view of the landscape necessary for mapping units. Moreover, these team leaders not only have field experience, but also have experience with GIS and databases. Their training has prepared them to do more than simply collect data carefully in the field, but also to analyze it using the increasingly robust tools available to archaeologists. This shift in training is remarkable and suggests that the computer lab has become as much a place of analysis as the field.

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2. Internet Objects. One of my favorite finds so far this season was a very modern, mould-made, ceramic roof tile with the website of the manufacturer’s on it. Since it is not permitted to publish a possibly ancient artifact in a digital format prior to the end of the season, I can’t show you the artifact here, but I can offer a link to its digital object which has already been published. (Director’s Note: Actually Bill could show it, if he had a photo because it’s not an antiquity.) It is easy, then, to go and check out the location of production, the specifications of the tile, and even the cost. More interesting than that: the tile is a physical icon for a virtual object. This relationship between the tile and the website, however, is only temporary. When the website disappears, changes location, or is updated, the link between the particular tile and the virtual object is changed or broken.

 There is significant talk these days about the internet of things where physical objects and virtual objects exist side-by-side. The roof tile might be one of the humblest examples of these interconnections, but one that nevertheless demonstrates the archaeological complexities of the internet as a mediating entity between objects separated by vast distances and connected by unstable, mutable links.

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3. Performing Archaeology and the Rhetoric of Fieldwork. We’ve had some interesting conversations at the dinner table and in the field about how archaeological field work employs performative positions grounded in traditions of masculinity. The “work hard, play hard” attitude, for example, which characterized an earlier, almost pre-professional model of archaeological field work clearly drew upon premodern labor practices. Experience in the field produced through apprenticeships to senior archaeologists counted as much as training and the ability to conform to social expectations of field practice.

There is a need to perform field work in such a way that conforms to social expectations that exist outside of formal methodological assumptions. For example, despite almost a half century of discussions of archaeological sampling and the limits to archaeological definitions of space and the landscape, there continues to be pressure for full coverage survey and grueling excavation schedules that produce more data than will ever be published in a project director’s lifetime. The “mo’ fieldwork, mo’ knowledge” paradigm holds its appeal to archaeologists, in part, because the discipline remains ambivalent toward modern practices even as it embraces technology and “scientific” practices in the field.

 So at the same time that the discipline is modernizing field practices and defining the landscape or trench as a series of tick boxes, numbers, and fields on a form, archaeology continues to have this patina of premodern practices that rely a largely hidden set of social expectations about doing archaeology “the right way”. It should come as little surprise that an “old boys club” are responsible for much of this unwritten pressure that still shapes certain aspects of the discipline. I have a longer post of this in the slow cooker where I try to work out some of the issues, but I think I need a few more conversations with my conspirators here on WARP to get the argument worked out.