Archaeology is hard

Today is day 3 of the 2018 WARP study season. My main observation so far is: archaeology is hard. OK, that’s something that I obviously know, but doing archaeology – especially after you haven’t been doing it for 10 months or so – makes it clear how hard it really is.

Most non-archaeologists don’t know this, and in part it’s our fault. After all, this is the kind of thing that we tend to post on social media:

Sunset, Nafplio

But pictures like these don’t really capture the flavor of what it’s like to work on a project, even on a study season, which to my mind at least is supposed to be more relaxed.

So far our study season has involved a lot of tasks, big and small, that occupy our time and attention. There is equipment (new and old) to prepare and computers to get up and running; there is a lab to clean (again), meetings for planning the season , and queries to run. Bill always needs to get a new Greek SIM card and we’re constantly running little errands. But besides all the little things that are required when you move into a new place, there’s effectively an infinite amount of work to do in a relatively short time. We’ll be here working on our material from now until July 11th, and our to do list looks pretty serious to me:

  1. Run a series of queries in GIS to analyze our data in a way that consonant with our siteless methodology;
  2. Make sure that we have adequate documentation of all of our “sites” that we explored from 2014-2017;
  3. Analyze the extensive materials from the modern abandoned villages in our survey area;
  4. Begin working on our publications, a preliminary report in addition to our final publication, focusing especially on a description of our survey area;
  5. Making sure that our data are clean and consistent;
  6. Continue work in the lab to (re-)analyze important materials, and
  7. Continue to get high-quality photographs and illustrations of important artifacts.

This isn’t an exhaustive list – there’s lots more – but even so these seven items are plenty. We already have a long list of tasks that require our immediate attention that need to be done by Monday, so there are effectively no “days off,” even with a team full of talented and hard-working colleagues who know the drill. When we’re not working on the project, we’re sleeping, eating, and attending to other responsibilities.

Of course, once we get into a groove, things will seem more normal. It’s just always jarring to me at the beginning of a new season how all-consuming an archaeological project is. It’s actually a big part of its appeal, I think… that, and beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and generally the beauty of the Greek landscape, and of course all of the joy from just being in Greece.