WARP papers in Boston

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 acropolis of Orneai

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 tower at Skala

Bill is hard at work drafting the second paper…

WARP at the 2015 annual meetings of the AIA

The preliminary program of the 2015 annual meeting (in New Orleans) of the Archaeological Institute of America  is out, and our talk is scheduled for a Friday morning session called “Reports from The Field: Greece.” The name of the session is boring, but the content should be fascinating: the audience will hear about the exciting work of our friends at the Mazi survey and the most recent work at Mantineia, Olynthos, and Molyvoti in Thrace. It’s a testament to the growing internationalization of Greek archaeology and the AIA that these are Canadian (WARP), Swiss (Mazi), British (Olynthos), American (Molyvoti), and (I think) Greek (Mantineia) projects.

Here’s the abstract that we submitted to the AIA:

The Western Argolid Regional Project: Results of the 2014 Season

Dimitri Nakassis, University of Toronto, Sarah James, University of Colorado
Boulder, Scott Gallimore, Wilfrid Laurier University, and William Caraher,
University of North Dakota

The summer of 2014 was the first of three planned field seasons for the Western Argolid Regional Project. This interdisciplinary project, carried out under the auspices of the Canadian Institute in Greece, is centered on an intensive diachronic archaeological survey of the upper valleys of the Inachos river to the north and west of Argos. Our survey seeks to investigate the nature of the relationships between the communities in and around the western Argolid. This is a significant issue, since although Argos is a major center in virtually all periods of Greek history, its regional context and its connection to other cities in southern Greece is poorly understood, in part due to the paucity of research in the western Argolid, especially in comparison with the eastern half of the prefecture.

In 2014 the survey worked in the region of ancient Orneai (modern Lyrkeia), an independent polis destroyed in the late 5th century BC by Argos (Thucydides 6.7.2, Diodorus Siculus 12.81.4-5), and through which the Klimax, a major road connecting Argos and Mantineia, passed (Pausanias 2.25.4-6, 8.6.4). The region thus lay at the edge of Argive influence and at the intersections of several overland corridors and roads that connected the communities of southern Greece.

In the course of a six-week field season, the project surveyed an area of 5.5 square kilometers and investigated seven major sites in addition to numerous minor scatters, all ranging in date from the Early Bronze Age to the Ottoman-Venetian periods. The survey was highly intensive in its spatial control and in its collection strategy: individual survey units, defined primarily by modern agricultural fields, were very small (on average, 0.21 hectares), and field walkers, spaced at 10 meter intervals, collected all artifacts other than tile, which was sampled.

Our preliminary analysis of the 2014 season suggests that there were two major shifts in the settlement history of the valley. First, there was a massive increase in activity during the Classical and Hellenistic periods, with settlement focused on low, defensible hills. These low limestone outcrops also seem to be favored loci for pre-Classical activity. This pattern shifts dramatically in the Roman period: Roman and post-Roman settlement is characterized by nucleated habitation on the lower slopes on the north side of the valley, less than half a kilometer from the Inachos river.