Author Archive

Friday Quick Hits and Varia

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s a cold and clear winter day for some quick hits and varia.

Categories: Varia and Quick Hits

Teaching Thursday: Test Writing and Cheating

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

I could try to put together some kind of blog for today (and rest assured, good reader, that a blog post is brewing), but Mick Beltz has already put together a far more interesting blog post than I could muster.  He responds to recent discussions of cheating at the University of Central Florida, and without getting into detail, sets out three basic lessons to keep in mind while preparing your end of the semester exams:

1. There is an optimal level of cheating on every assignment (and it isn’t zero).

2. Grades and assignments have only instrumental value, not inherent value.

3. Cheating is not (just) a student problem, it is also an instructor problem.

The post is really smart, thoughtful, and thought provoking.  In fact, it’s so good, I’m going to link to it again.

Categories: Teaching

More Indigenous Archaeology and Cyprus

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Over the past few years, I’ve been musing about the relationship between indigenous archaeological practices and nationalism in the Greece.  Recently, however, I have begun to think a bit more seriously about these practices in Cyprus.  This past weekend, I read over parts of the Laudatio Barnabae inspired in part by Paul Dilly’s recent article in the Journal of Roman Archaeology (which I discuss here).

The great thing about this short, apparently 6th century text, is that it explicitly located the discovery of St. Barnabas’ body (Barnabas was the companion of St. Paul) with the tensions between Cyprus and the episcopal see of Antioch in the time between the Church of Cyprus received independence at the Council of Ephesus and the rule of Peter the Fuller at Antioch.  Peter the Fuller was markedly anti-Chalcedonian and have friends in imperial places.  According to the Laudatio he also coveted regaining control over Cyprus. St. Barnabas intervened to avert this by appearing to the Bishop Anthemius in several visions the last of which directed the Bishop to the Saint’s body, in a cave near Salamis holding an autograph of the Gospel of Matthew.  The authority of this discovery and the gift of the Gospel book to the Emperor Zeno ensured the continued independence of the Church of Cyprus. We know that Zeno also elevated the bishop of the island to Metropolitan status.

The role of inventio, or the discovery of a lost sacred object, in this text is important.  The tie between a discovered object and sanctity would have echoed with stories surrounding the foundation of the monastery on Stavrovouni which overlooks the city of Larnaka.  By the 15th century, this monastery was associated with a fragment of the True Cross delivered by Contanstine’s mother, St. Helen, on her return to Constantinople from the Holy Land where she had excavated (quite literally) the remains of Christ’s cross.

In a famous article (for some!), David Reese describes how Cypriots and some early travelers saw the bones of the extinct pygmy hippopotami and other mega fauna as the bones of saints (or even dragons!).  The discovery of large animal bones in caves seems to have led to their association with saints presumably on the basis of various inventio accounts like the Laudatio Barnabae. This phenomena was recorded (with varying degrees of condescension) throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In more recent times, as I have noted on this blog a few years back, both Peter Megaw and Vassos Karageorghis have encountered similar kinds of archaeological practices.  According to Megaw (JHS 66 (1946), 52), local farmers praying for rain excavated parts of the ruined Panayia Skyra church to appease the Virgin. Karageorghis, in his autobiography, recounts a story of a priest who approached him while director of the Department of Antiquties and asked for help locating the tomb of St. Auxibius.

The practice of looking for origins in an archaeological context and using these origins to define the community is not particularly remarkable and almost to be expected in a place like Cyprus where in the modern era nationalism has had such tragic consequences. What is notable, to me at least, is the possible roots of these practices in the 6th century where the archaeological practices of the Bishop Anthemius played a role in a prominent narrative of the island’s autonomy.  In recent times, objects associated with the arrival of the Greeks (mostly during the Late Bronze Age) have taken on the same kind of sacred status as the objects discovered by their earlier predecessors.  The discovery of these objects is grounded, of course, in a faith in scientific archaeology rather than divine revelation, but it is hard to imagine that the basic impulse driving these practices and the narratives that they produce is different.

Categories: Archaeology, Cyprus

Hellenistic Fortifications on Vayia: A Working Paper

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I have long advocated for an increase use of working papers in the field of Mediterranean archaeology.  Circulating pre-publication drafts of articles is already a common practice and the presentation of sites and finds in an efficient and prompt way has long stood as an ethical obligation for archaeologists.

In that spirit, I am presenting as a working paper my preliminary analysis of the fortifications from the site of Vigla on Cyprus.  This is a working draft so the research, analysis, and interpretation should be regarded as provisional.  The basic description of the fortification on the hill of Vigla is accurate and should not undergo significant modification.

The analysis presented below is the work of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, but at present, all issues are the product of my analysis of their hard work.

Vigla Description and Analysis December Working 2010

Clothes make the Professional: Archaeological Boots

December 6, 2010 4 comments

This past week, I’ve been preparing to teach P. Novick’s That Noble Dream (Cambridge 1988) and P. Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas (New York 2010).  Both these books foreground the process of professionalization in a university context.  In a recent spat over the character of academic offices, I argued that we ought to model our offices on the creative space of highly flexible technology start up companies rather than the antiseptic space of anonymous, highly bureaucratized companies (some of which are now faltering).  This idea did not meet with much acceptance especially as the link between university culture and corporate culture is well-known.

This brings me to what academics should wear. Over my time as  teacher I’ve found myself increasingly adopting a more and more professional dress code especially on the days that I teach in the classroom.  When I am writing in my office, I tend to dress more casually and comfortably.  In this way, I publicly divide creative time (writing) from corporate time (teaching).  (This is not to suggest that these two do not overlap).

I also have another professional persona and that is as a field archaeologist.  In the media, at least, archaeologists are known for distinctive clothing, but even Indiana Jones dressed in a more professional “corporate” way when in the classroom (bow tie and the requisite tweed).  C. Holtorf has written on this very topic in some interesting ways here and here.


I prefer to “rock the neck beard” in the field to mark out my departure from “corporate” world of classroom. I typically imagine my rather unkempt appearance as an reference to the archaeologist as artisan.  The neck beard represents the both a layer of additional protection against the sun, the unpleasant nature of shaving and then sweating, and distracted air of someone deeply engaged in their work.


The boundaries between my various professional identities or avatars (casual creative writer, stuffy company man teacher, and archaeologist as artisan) can be fairly rigid. I will occasionally wear a NASCAR hat while walking across campus in my teaching attire, but never in the classroom.  I will also sometimes wear my teaching clothes on days when I have a series of “important” committee meetings or other responsibilities.  The one thing that I almost always wear (at least from October to April) are my boots.

Boots are the most vital component of an archaeologist wardrobe.  Without a rugged pair of boots, an archaeologist is, at best, another weekend warrior whose engagement with the realities of the out-of-doors stops at the well-groomed trail or the end of a manicured lawn.  Boots make the archaeology.

My wife introduced my to Blundstone boots almost 10 years ago and since then, I have never been without a pair.  I wear them on campus, in teaching clothes, in my creative clothes, while walking home and while doing anything outdoors.  (Ironically, I don’t always wear them while doing actual archaeology. I prefer low-top boots and nylon to the traditional Blundstone, hightop, leather.)  I have found that my boots last about 3 years, but I don’t care for them properly.  The walks home through the freezing snow and the super dry environment in campus buildings tend to make the leather dry out.  I shuffle my feet and walk incautiously scuffing the tips on obstacles.  I have a pronation in one of my feet and that stretches the leather in an unnatural way usually resulting in it pulling a bit away from the sole.  A few times a year, after considerable harassment, I will polish the boots and put some leather treatment on them.  If I pass through the Minneapolis airport, I’ll stop at the shoe shine place, but that’s mostly to banter about the Timberwolves and, as they say, to pass the time.  (The men at the shoeshine stand can always identify the Blundstone’s and usually chide me for not taking better care of them!).

This past week, I got my new pair of Blundstone’s!  They replace my old pair as the link between my professional avatar as a teacher and my professional avatar as an archaeologist.  The old boots get retired into more rugged duty and less high profile tasks (shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, et c.) and the new boots make their debut this morning on a casual writing day.  The old boots are inscribed with three years of activities from long walks with the wife through our small town to cold winter mornings spent shoveling out the car.  They also preserve the marks of innumerable professional lectures, classroom successes and failures, and afternoons in the library, archives, or hunched over my lap top. Coats of water, snow, polish, and conditioner have changed their color.  My idiosyncratic stride has etched deep wrinkles across the soft leather.


The new boots are stiff and unforgiving at present undoubtedly aware of the fate of their predecessors and hoping to hold off the inevitable.

Categories: Academia, Archaeology

Friday Quick Hits and Varia

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

As we wait for the snow to arrive, a little gaggle of quick hits and varia to keep you entertained for the weekend:

Categories: Varia and Quick Hits

Teaching Thursday: Propositions for the Study of History

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

A series of Parisian park-bench, NoDak hipster, propositions for the study of history.  These were prepared for an introduction to my Graduate Historiography class next semester.  They are meant to be points of departure for broader discussions into the links between historical epistemology, social responsibility, method, and practice.

Propositions for the Study of History

1. History is a form of social activism.

2. Reading, writing, presenting, and teaching history requires thought.

3. Historical thinking is both the product of the texts (of various kinds) and how we read texts (of various kinds).

4. Texts (sources) are socially constructed.

5. The historian uses various tools to interpret sources.

6. These tools are socially constructed.  Some would say that they have a kind of agency.  Most would say that tools exert an influence on the work that they do.

7. One of the historians’ tools is method (which we sometimes call theory).

8. Theory is not a single thing: it is a blanket term for method, methodology, epistemology, historiography, ideology, and even procedure that makes historical thinking possible.

9. Many theoretical positions require a historian to make clear how they approach a text or a historical problem.

10. By making obvious the relationship between texts and the act of “doing history” we make our work as historians visible and open to critique.

11. To many people, the more that history is critiqued (as a method), the more it appears to be either common sense or wrong headed.

12. Skepticism of the historical methods undermines the basic disciplinary structure of the field.

13. Most people in the world do not value the work of historians even though they should.  This is our fault.

14. Skepticism toward the historical method may lead to the end of history as a discipline.

15. People will continue to study the past.

For the real Teaching Thursday post, go here.

Categories: Teaching