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Archaeology of the Mediterranean World at 400

February 24, 2009 3 comments

Yesterday I posted my 400th post.  Now, some of those posts were not the most substantial things, but I pride myself on some degree of regularity (bordering on obsessive consistency), so maintaining this blog for now over 400 posts does give me a degree of satisfaction.

I began just this morning to reflect a bit on what I am doing with this blog.  In particular, I was thinking about its origins.  It began as an effort to document the goings on the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project.  The goal was primarily to extend what I do to a broader audience and maybe even to impart a modest sense of community among those individuals who shared a common interested in our project on Cyprus, Mediterranean archaeology, and North Dakotiana.  It’s hard to evaluate how successful I have been at achieving those goals, but I have met many interesting colleagues through my blog and am occasionally (and pleasantly) surprised when I meet a well-respected colleague in my field who knows a something about my work and my interests through my writing here.  (I am also pleased that, with one or two rather minor exceptions, I have stayed out of trouble!).

As the blog has developed, however, my interests and goals have changed.  Beginning with a well-received article on Blogging Archaeology, I began to think more explicitly about the intersection of archaeology and the “new media”.  Over the the life of this blog, I have continued my tinkering with digital video (in collaboration with Joe Patrow), digital audio (via podcasts), and group authored explorations of the archaeological experience (though our “sister” blogs).  This work has made me more aware of the way in which the accessibility of the new media has started to open the doors to new ways of thinking about not only the past but also those processes that allow us to document and explore the past.

Next month I am going to give a talk on the first 6 years of fieldwork at Pyla-Koutsopetria.  I’ve divided the talk into three sections.  The first one sets out the the basic historical questions that our work has sought to answer with a particular emphasis on those relating to Late Antiquity.  It’s a public talk so some of this will need to be simplified, but I start with a critique of the idea that Late Antiquity was a time of decline and settlement contraction, and then go on to place Cyprus in the context of a prosperous Late Roman world.  The second part of the talk discusses archaeological method and methodology.  I set out our tiered approach to the sit and explain how we used intensive survey, geophysical prospecting, and targeted excavation to address specific research questions.

The final section will draw at least part of its inspiration from this blog. I will bring in our efforts to encourage reflexive thought about the archaeological process and to document this reflexive critique in real time.  Our earliest efforts at documenting the reflexive habits have been top down in the spirit of traditional media.  Project directors, team leaders, senior staff wrote blogs, a video documentary organized and funded by the project directors documented many of the day to day activities of the project, and I orchestrated a series of podcast interviews.  These top down approaches presented only a fairly rarified perspective on archaeological decision making and hardly captured the spirit of the new media which has emphasized the democratic nature of the discourse (think: wikis, youtube, et c.), the ability to produce mash-ups that juxtapose different perspectives and visions, and the ultimately the instability of any authoritative discourse.  So, the paper will conclude with a look toward the future where it will be easier to produce kaleidoscopic and multipolar views of the archaeological experience. 

Low cost digital video cameras can produce better images than expensive “pro-sumer” models available just 5 years ago.  Server space for blogs, photographs, and video and audio is now inexpensive and widely available for the storage and distribution of new media content.  The 1+ years and 400 posts on the blog have begun to outline my interest in the opportunities and challenges provided by new media approaches to archaeology.  Hopefully the next 400 posts will begin to embrace more fully the potential of new approaches to old stuff.

The Final Episode: A Note About Survey

April 30, 2008 Leave a comment

SurveyNoteROThe final installment of Emerging Cypriot is now available.  This episodes is a particularly fitting way to conclude the documentary as it shows off the one aspect of archaeological fieldwork that sometimes gets lost in our sober assessments of the process.  Archaeology is fun. 

So, as the 2008 field season for the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project bears down on us with all of its attendant stresses, it is really nice for us to remember (and share!) how fun and entertaining and wacky most archaeological projects and experiences are.  The discipline brings together a range of folks with different interests and personalities. From the fastidious an detail oriented ceramicists, to the procedural and methodological rigor of the field director, the big picture sensibilities of the project directors, and the various types of personalities present among the fieldwalkers, field projects depend on the sense of humor of everyone involved to keep from descending into interpersonal chaos.

The music for this final section comes compliments of Brice Pearce (for more of his music see his band Drake’s Folly on Myspace) who is a Graduate Student in History at the University of New Hampshire and dutifully walked fields for us as a graduate student volunteer in 2007. 

Thanks to all the folks who cooperated to make this film happen, particularly the good spirited PKAP volunteers and staff.  Special mention goes to University of North Dakota’s Office of University Relations, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania who provided funding and support.  Joe Patrow is the director.  Scott Moore, PatrowVisual, and I produced the film.  Fieldwork on Cyprus was done with the permission of the Cyprus Department of Antiquities with the cooperation and support of the British Ministry of Defense and the Larnaka District Archaeological Museum.  The PKAP/UND Mediterranean Archaeology t-shirts were provided by College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Dakota. 

A few technical notes
The video is all in QuickTime which you will need to download to watch it.  If you right click and download the video, it is formatted for viewing on your iPod or even iPhone or iPod Touch.  When a new installment is made, the image will become a rollover image.  We’ll add a short a week.  I borrowed the idea for this format from a video series at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  The center square in the last row is a link to the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project web page where you can read more about everything that you see in these film shorts.

We have posted a particularly frank interview with the director of Emerging Cypriot and Survey on Cyprus, and you can read the commentaries on the first twelve shorts (with links to those shorts) below.

Landscape_MontageRO7Learning_FieldwalkingRO5ArtifactsJourneyRO4FormerStudentRO4BaseCampRO6FruitCratesRO12KokkinokremosWallRO4_thumb[7]_thumb[1]_thumb[1]_thumb[3]WallViglaRO4654GeophysicalRO474TheHoleRO46DipintheSeaRO4image

Episode 12: Sightseeing

April 23, 2008 Leave a comment

SiteSeeingROEpisode 12 of Emerging Cypriot is now posted!  It looks at sightseeing with students on Cyprus over the course of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project.  This aspect of the project is always a challenge.  We have three goals when we go to visit sites.  First, we try to teach the students how to read an archaeological site just as we would teach students how to read a text (for a longer discussion of this process see here).  This doesn’t mean that we show the students the single authoritative meaning of the archaeological text, but rather ask pertinent questions about what they see.  Our goal with this is help them become more careful readers of our site while working in the field.  Our second goal is to give the students exposure to as many periods and places on the island as possible.  Consequently, our visits range from (as the short shows) sites of modern importance — like the Ledra street wall between north and south Nicosia — to the aceramic Neolithic site of Khirokitia with a hodgepodge of monasteries, Classical sites, Roman sites, Late Roman sites, and Frankish sites in between (David Terry, PKAP Alumnus, does a nice job introducing this period on the short) .  Finally, the goal is simply to give the students a break from the routine duties of archaeological work.  While site tours are exhausting for the PKAP staff (and the students too, I would guess!), they give the students a chance to use a different part of their brain for a day and talk and think about something just a bit different from daily tasks associated with archaeologcial work.

This year, we re-evaluated our regular site visit schedule.  While in the past we have generally added or dropped one or two sites from our circuit, we generally do it in a fairly impulsive way (hey! let’s stop at this monastery!).  This year we went through our list of places visited and considered each one in turn.  So, we now have a list (Included at the end of the post!).  It is always a challenge to eliminate sites from our list and come up with at least some kind of informal criteria to determine which sites we will visit. 

Finally, in this short Joe Patrow captures the dizzying vacillations and juxtapositions on any project that includes students.  One minute you are encouraging the students to follow Christine Kondoleon‘s lead in understanding the social context for Roman period Cypriot mosaics floors.  The next moment we are looking away as one student removes splinters from another students feet (because she wore sandals to an ancient site!) or dealing with a case of severe sunburn! 

A few technical notes
The video is all in QuickTime which you will need to download to watch it.  If you right click and download the video, it is formatted for viewing on your iPod or even iPhone or iPod Touch.  When a new installment is made, the image will become a rollover image.  We’ll add a short a week.  I borrowed the idea for this format from a video series at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  The center square in the last row is a link to the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project web page where you can read more about everything that you see in these film shorts.

We have posted a particularly frank interview with the director of Emerging Cypriot and Survey on Cyprus, and you can read the commentaries on the first eleven shorts (with links to those shorts) below.

Landscape_MontageRO7Learning_FieldwalkingRO5ArtifactsJourneyRO4FormerStudentRO4BaseCampRO6FruitCratesRO12KokkinokremosWallRO4_thumb[7]_thumb[1]_thumb[1]_thumb[3]WallViglaRO4654GeophysicalRO474TheHoleRO46DipintheSeaRO4

Here’s our current list
Bolded sites are those that we consider indispensable (and initials afterward represent the votes of the directors)

The big 3 [DKP][RSM]
Paphos
Kourion
Amathous

Monasteries and the History of the Cypriot Church
Ay. Neophytos [RSM]
Kykkou
Stavrovouni

Churches of the Troodos
Ayios Ioannis Lambadistou [WRC][RSM]
Angeloktisti [DKP][RSM]
Hala Sultan Tekke [DKP][RSM]
Ay. Lazarus [DKP][RSM]
Pyrga
Ayios Irakleidios Monastery

Comparanda Type Sites:
Ziyi [WRC][RSM]
Panayia Ematousa
Ay. Georgios-Peyia [DKP][RSM]
Eastern Cyprus Coastal Sites [WRC]

Prehistoric Cyprus:
Khirokitia [DKP][RSM]
Kalavassos-Tenta
Lemba
Maa-Palaeokastro

Modern Sites
Famagusta Overlook [DKP]
Kokkinochorio Villages
Pyla Village [DKP]
Lefkara Village
Green Line in Nicosia [DKP][RSM]

Museums
Paphos Museum
Peirides [DKP][RSM]
Larnaka District Archaeological Museum [DKP][RSM]
Nicosia Museum [DKP][RSM]
Byzantine Icon Museum
Kykkos Museum
Limisol Museum
Polis Museum

Other Sites:
Tombs of the Kings [DKP]
Pyla Tomb [DKP][RSM]
Pyla Tower [DKP][RSM]
Kolossi Castle
Polis
Paliopaphos
Athienou
Idalion
Tamassos
Limassol

Episode 11: A Dip in the Sea

April 16, 2008 1 comment

DipintheSeaRO Episode 11 of the Emerging Cypriot is now posted.  While the last few episodes have been technical and archaeological, this one provides a different view of an archaeological field project.  Many archaeological projects are based in the countryside, but the participant in the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project live in the middle of the bustling city of Laranka.  Almost every year our project intersects with the week long summer festival called the Kataklysmos which celebrates both the Biblical Flood and Pentecost.  The festival involves everything from music concerts, to parades, to midway rides and games, to booths full of gadgets and toys which break almost before they leave the sellers hand. 

The festivities are a great opportunity to unwind after a long day in the museum and the field and give the students a chance to enjoy themselves.  Sometimes there are bumper car crashes and retaliatory “dips in the sea.”  As with many forms of retaliation, there is almost inevitably some collateral damage in the process.  This short shows the lighter side of archaeological work.  Enjoy.

A few technical notes
The video is all in QuickTime which you will need to download to watch it.  If you right click and download the video, it is formatted for viewing on your iPod or even iPhone or iPod Touch.  When a new installment is made, the image will become a rollover image.  We’ll add a short a week.  I borrowed the idea for this format from a video series at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  The center square in the last row is a link to the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project web page where you can read more about everything that you see in these film shorts.

We have posted a particularly frank interview with the director of Emerging Cypriot and Survey on Cyprus, and you can read the commentaries on the first ten shorts (with links to those shorts) below.

Landscape_MontageRO7Learning_FieldwalkingRO5ArtifactsJourneyRO4FormerStudentRO4BaseCampRO6FruitCratesRO12KokkinokremosWallRO4_thumb[7]_thumb[1]_thumb[1]_thumb[3]WallViglaRO465GeophysicalRO47TheHoleRO4

Episode 10: The Hole

TheHoleRO

Episode 10 of the Emerging Cypriot is now posted!  This Episode deals with one of the more intriguing features confronted by the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project.  The Hole is just that: a deep hole on the height of Vigla.  It seems almost certainly that this apparently natural feature functioned at least at some point as a cistern for the fortifications on Vigla (See Episode 8: Wall on Vigla).  Moreover, its location to the west of our proposed Early Christian basilica on this prominent coastal height (see the discussion surrounding Episode 9: Geophysical) would be consistent with the relationship between large cisterns and Early Christian basilicas elsewhere on the island (e.g. the basilica on the Acropolis of Amathous and the Extra Muros Basilica at Kourion; for a general discussion see: The Early Christian Ecclesiastical Architecture of Cyprus: First Impressions).  These cisterns were typically pre-existing features that are incorporated into the atrium areas of the church.  The best comparanda for our feature is probably the larger cistern on the Acropolis of Amathous which likely provided water for the sanctuary, fortifications, and later the church on that site.

From a methodological standpoint, exploring The Hole represents another way to gain knowledge of subsurface features!  In fact, it was probably the most exciting day of archaeology on the project last year.  We sent Michael Brown and Mat Dalton down in The Hole to check it out.  When I first told some colleagues that we were producing a documentary on our work in Cyprus, several responded incredulously, “Isn’t survey archaeology… boring?”  Of course, I said “no” and pointed out that survey archaeology is often confused with excavation which is, in fact, boring.  (That’s a joke. Maybe).  This short provides a good insight into how exciting survey archaeology can be and shows the point where routine fieldwork can capture just a bit of the spirit of Indiana Jones (for a good discussion of this see the recent blog post by Cornelius Holtorf at Archaeolog: Hero! Real archaeology and ā€¯Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystall Skull).  While we didn’t discover the Ark of the Covenant or The Crystal Skull (we also did not unleash a horrible curse on our project), we did contribute to our archaeological knowledge of the area.  

A few technical notes
The video is all in QuickTime which you will need to download to watch it.  If you right click and download the video, it is formatted for viewing on your iPod or even iPhone or iPod Touch.  When a new installment is made, the image will become a rollover image.  We’ll add a short a week.  I borrowed the idea for this format from a video series at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  The center square in the last row is a link to the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project web page where you can read more about everything that you see in these film shorts.

We have posted a particularly frank interview with the director of Emerging Cypriot and Survey on Cyprus, and you can read the commentaries on the first nine shorts (with links to those shorts) below.

Landscape_MontageRO7Learning_FieldwalkingRO5ArtifactsJourneyRO4FormerStudentRO4BaseCampRO6FruitCratesRO12KokkinokremosWallRO4_thumb[7]_thumb[1]_thumb[1]_thumb[3]WallViglaRO46GeophysicalRO4

Episode 9: Geophysical

GeophysicalROEpisode 9 of Emerging Cypriot is now posted!  This episode focuses on the geophysical work that the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project conducted during the 2007 field season and introduces John Hunt who collects our geophysical data for us.  The technique that we used during the 2007 season was electrical resistivity.  John described it fully in this week’s short.  It is the most commonly used technique in the Eastern Mediterranean largely owing to its simplicity and cost effectiveness.  As I have noted in other posts our results were all that we hoped for as I have noted elsewhere in this blog (e.g. Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project Mid-Winter Update).  The outline of a possible Early Christian basilica and highly-suggestive bedrock cuts on the ridge of Kokkinokremos will become the targets of excavations during our rapidly-approaching 2008 field season.

As excited as we are about the discoveries produced by the geophysical work, we are equally excited about our success in implementing a multi-stage research strategy rooted in survey archaeology. The first phase of fieldwork in 2003, as readers of this blog know, was informal “extensive” type survey that did little more than allow us to gain a broad understanding of the distribution of artifacts across the site.  In 2004, 2005, and 2007 we first increased the intensity of our survey employing a gridded collection of the highest density areas of the site and then expanded out intensive survey to the surrounding area using larger units.  The next stage in our fieldwork saw us conduct geophysical prospecting of the highest density areas and this will continue in 2008.  The final stage will be focused excavation of two areas documented by geophysical work.  This tiered approach will enable us to analyze not only the varied success of the techniques used to document the site, but also to ensure that any finds from both excavation and survey have reciprocal archaeological context.  We can correlate excavated material with the spatially more extensive material from survey and (hopefully) correlate the unstratified material collected by survey with stratified deposits from the excavation.  Finally, survey and geophysical work minimizes the area requiring excavation.  Excavation is not only costly, labor-intensive, and time consuming, but it is also a far more destructive method for gaining knowledge about past activity than even our relatively intensive survey collection.  By implementing a multi-stage approach to the landscape we not only protect the archaeological remains at Pyla-Koutsopetria, but we are also producing a far more meaningful context for those that we collected (i.e. removed from their depositional or “archaeological” context) than we could using any one technique alone.

A few technical notes
The video is all in QuickTime which you will need to download to watch it.  If you right click and download the video, it is formatted for viewing on your iPod or even iPhone or iPod Touch.  When a new installment is made, the image will become a rollover image.  We’ll add a short a week.  I borrowed the idea for this format from a video series at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  The center square in the last row is a link to the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project web page where you can read more about everything that you see in these film shorts.

We have posted a particularly frank interview with the director of Emerging Cypriot and Survey on Cyprus, and you can read the commentaries on the first eight shorts (with links to those shorts) below.

Landscape_MontageRO7Learning_FieldwalkingRO5ArtifactsJourneyRO4FormerStudentRO4BaseCampRO6FruitCratesRO12KokkinokremosWallRO4_thumb[7]_thumb[1]_thumb[1]_thumb[3]WallViglaRO4

Episode 8: The Wall on Vigla

March 26, 2008 Leave a comment

WallViglaRO

Episode 8 of Emerging Cypriot is now posted.  Similar in theme to Episode 7: The Wall on Kokkinokremos, this short documents in the in-field component of the process of archaeological analysis on the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project.  Specifically, Joe Patrow captures my initial rumination on the wall on Vigla. 

The full extent of this wall became evident after the dry winter ended with torrential spring rains.  These rains cleared earth and vegetation away from parts of the wall allowing us to follow it for much more of its length than during previous seasons.  On the ground, the wall is very difficult to see and almost impossible to video or photograph in a convincing way.  From the air, however, its course along the south face of Vigla is clearly visible.  On the photo to the left below note the parallel lines just to the right of the cultivated area.  The northern approach to Vigla was fortified by another stretch of wall and a dry moat, or taphros which is also more visible from the air than the ground as is clear from the two parallel lines separated by a line of bushes on the right of the the photo to the right.

ViglaWallDetailViglaTaphros copy

This short also captures one of the archaeological problems that we face at Vigla.  The material on the plowed surface of the hill is predominantly Late Classical or Hellenistic (i.e. 4th-2nd c. BC).  We are fairly convinced that the construction techniques used in the wall and dry moat are Late Roman or Early Byzantine in date (i.e. ca. 600 AD).  Moreover, our geophysical work (stay tuned for Episode 9!!) produced an image suggestive of an Late Roman basilica style church.  Excavations this summer should shed considerable light on this archaeological mystery.  I think some of my confusion about this seeming incongruity (a Classical-Hellenistic overburden?) is evident in this short.

ViglaWalls

A few technical notes
The video is all in QuickTime which you will need to download to watch it.  If you right click and download the video, it is formatted for viewing on your iPod or even iPhone or iPod Touch.  When a new installment is made, the image will become a rollover image.  We’ll add a short a week.  I borrowed the idea for this format from a video series at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  The center square in the last row is a link to the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project web page where you can read more about everything that you see in these film shorts.

We have posted a particularly frank interview with the director of Emerging Cypriot and Survey on Cyprus, and you can read the commentaries on the first seven shorts (with links to those shorts) below.

Landscape_MontageRO7Learning_FieldwalkingRO5ArtifactsJourneyRO4FormerStudentRO4BaseCampRO6FruitCratesRO12KokkinokremosWallRO4_thumb[7]_thumb[1]_thumb[1]_thumb[3]

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