Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Archive in Paper

December 20, 2010 Comments off

If you want a paper version of the archive, you can download it here:

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The Archive

December 20, 2010 Comments off

This website represents an archive of the posts prepared for the Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Blog from 2007-2010. I am no long curating this archive meaning that links and media may no longer function properly. I have made no effort to reproduce or capture the network that these blog posts relied upon for significance or meaning. The links preserved in the posts, however, may provide a kind of breadcrumbs from a future researcher. The Internet Archive captured three images of my blog in 2007:

October 16, 2007: (

November 12, 2007: (

December 24, 2007: (

The blog began in the spring of 2007 and continued until the end of 2010.  It consists of 857 posts and 455 comments.  During its time live at, it received well over 110,000 views and had an average of over 80 page views a day.  These are miniscule numbers in the broader world of the internet, but they do show that the blog had a consistent audience and grew steadily over its life.

As of this writing, a print version of this archive exists and is available online. A permanent archival copy (in print and in digital form) will be archived in the University Archives at the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections at the Chester Fritz Library on the campus of the University of North Dakota.

I continue to blog at the New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World.

Creative Commons License
Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Archive: Volume 1 by William R. Caraher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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Friday Varia and Quick Hits

It’s another beautiful Friday morning in the Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Blogcast area.  So it seems like a good time for another exuberant gaggle of quick hits and varia:

  • Melissa Terras’ Digitial Humanities 2010 Plenary talk (Present, Not Voting: Digital History in the Panopticon) is among the best, recent “state-of-the-field” talks about Digital Humanities.  It is equal parts optimism and critique and any digital humanities project could take something away from it.
  • Harvard’s Center of Geographic Analysis, AfricaMap is a nice combination of of GIS, online distribution, gobs of data, and a user-friendly interface. It’s not overly flashy and has all the feel of something that almost anyone with a modest budget, time, and data could do (in other words, accessible), and at the same time is built on a robust, and “lightly” customized Open Source foundation.  The spelling mistakes on the “About” page actually add charm.
  • Apparently the colon, the punctuation mark not that body part, has come under some intense scrutiny lately.  The changing role of punctuation in the media has an almost immediate “trickle down” influence into how students use punctuation.  The new evil: the rise of the jumper colon.
  • I missed some things being out of the country.  Here is Yannis Hamilakis’ most recent thoughts on post-colonialism and archaeology: “Are we Postcolonial Yet? Tales from the Battlefield“. It was delivered at the Theoretical Archaeology Group meeting in May.
  • I’ve follow enough cricket to know that this match won’t get more interesting, but I am still naive enough to think that Pakistan could put together some kind of rally and do something spectacular.  As of lunch on day 4, Pakistan is chasing 439 (!!) and are now 224 back with a second innings of 216/4.  I know, it’ll never happen, but it’s a beautiful Friday and there is no harm keeping an eye on the score, right?
  • I am listening to three somewhat interesting freebies from World Around Records lable: Naturetone’s Nihon, Louis Mackey’s Destroyer of All Things (if for no other reason than it’s awesome, throwback, album cover), and J. Dante’s EP Destiny.  All are worth a download, listen, and chill.
  • I am reading: S. Friesen, D. Schowalter, J. Walters, Corinth in Context: comparative studies on religion and society. (Brill 2010); C. Nadia Seremetakis, The Last Word: Women, Death, and Divination in Inner Mani. (Chicago 1991); and M. Trachtenberg, The Craft of International History: A Guide to Method. (Princeton 2006).
  • This is pretty funny.  The Old Spice Guy (and concept) has received a good bit of buzz lately.  Too bad for Tony Stewart.

Have a good weekend!

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The Future of Ancient History

The recent Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient History at Nottingham in the UK inspired vigorous and wide-ranging debate among the PKAP staff.  Tim Cornell’s and Robin Osborne’s perspectives were particularly thought provoking.

Here’s a link to the meeting’s site with embedded videos.

It’s at least suggested viewing for any graduate students in ancient history.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. readers.  And thanks to everyone all the same for making my blogging hobby seem worthwhile!

What you thought I wouldn't post today for some reason?

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Just a bit more on Post-Classical Athens

September 16, 2009 5 comments

I blogged a bit last month about the Post-Classical Acropolis (in the context, first, of the controversy surrounding Constantine Costa-Gavras film for the new Acropolis Museum and then about A. Kaldellis new book on the Post-Classical Parthenon).  That writing and reading (and the suggestion of Kaldellis) led me to A. Loukaki's Living Ruins, Value Conflicts.  It's a very thoughtful exploration of the complex interplay of issues surrounding the preservation, restoration, and reconstruction (anastylosis) and the various values associated with these processes in a Greek context.  In particular, Loukaki explores not just the intellectual roots of heritage management decisions, but the political and, to a lesser extent, economic processes as well.  Her chapter on the Central Archaeological Council (CAC) of Greece is worth reading as a stand alone chapter.  And his final chapter, a case study of the Athenian Acropolis, is fascinating.

I've read many, many, books on the Athenian Acropolis and environs over the past 10 years (and not nearly as many as I could have read).  As an Associate Member and, later, junior faculty at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, I've visited the "sacred rock" many times as well listening to both student and professional explanations of the architecture, rituals, and efforts to preserve and reconstruct the buildings there. Despite this background (and I am not claiming by any means to be an expert, just an interested observer), I learned more about the Acropolis from Loukaki's short chapter than from almost any other recent work. 

As per usual, I won't attempt a formal or comprehensive review (although I will be very interested in seeing how this book is received).  Instead, I'll highlight three area where I particular appreciated his discussion of the Acropolis:

1) She does a nice job in putting the Plaka in context.  Any visitor to Athens — even for professional reasons — is inevitably drawn at some point the Plaka.  Clinging to the northern slopes of the Acropolis, this picturesque neighborhood is the center of the Athenian tourist industry.  I suppose that I've always been aware of the various policies that sought alternately to preserve the Plaka as a picture of Old Athens or reclaim it for the study of the ancient ruins that lay beneath the tourist tavernas and souvenir shops.  Loukaki does a good job laying out the various shifts in policy and places the gentrification of the Plaka over the past 15 years in an administrative context.

2) The center of Athens is under constant construction.  Syntagma, Makryanni, Monasteraki Square, Psiri, the vicinity of the Kerameikos, and Gazi are particular hives of recent activity.  The chaotic nature of downtown Athens, however, has potential to make even a careful observer of the urban form doubt any real plan or comprehensive vision to the bustle (other than the standard sprucing up of Athens most commonly associated with 2004 Olympics).  Loukaki outlines the plan behind these renovations (p. 280-282) both on a practical level and on an aesthetic and ideological level.  The goal is to produce a "open museum that unites the most important archaeological sites of the historical centre of the city."  I suspect that my failure to perceive such a plan is tied to my practice of make surgical strikes into the city center to look at specific monuments or museums rather than engaging the area as a unified whole.  In fact, my mental map of the area is so flawed that I regularly resort to maps or Google Earth when I need to describe the physical relationship between, say, the Roman Agora and the Kerameikos or the Library of Hadrian and the Ilissos basilica.  So, Loukaki's explanation and critique of the plan to unify the ancient sites in the city center runs counter to my experiences in Athens, but at the same time provides me with new mental map, complete with new boundaries and paths, to superimpose on what has become familiar space.

3) pikionis_acropolisPavementThe landscape of the Acropolis. While my time at the American School taught me about R. Griswold's plans to landscape the Agora in the 1950s, I was not particularly familiar with the details and shamefully knew nothing of D. Pikionis work to landscape the Acropolis, Philopappos, and Pnix areas.  The work of the latter, frankly, blew my mind.  Loukakis' discussion of Pikionis pavements (p. 270-274) which drew upon ancient, Byzantine, and Modern(ist) influences floored me.  How could I have walked these sites for so long and not noticed the pavement?  In fact, I had to pilfer the interwebs just to find photographs (and these do not do the pavement justice).  


More importantly, than just the pavements Loukaki's articulates Pikionis effort to unify the sites around the Acropolis in a way that accentuated their modern, ancient, and natural settings.  He sought to lead the visitor to the sites in a way that played on the visual dominance of the Acropolis by presenting it from a variety of perspectives.  This worked to accentuate the fragmented nature of archaeology (and reality evoking cubist notions of perspective (p. 274)) while at the same time unifying the archaeological and natural to reinforce the sanctity of the Acropolis.  Loukakis describes Pikionis efforts "yet his landscape seems eternal, as if it were there from time immemorial.  Still he manages to remain coherent in a modern, not post-modern way, because of his approach to historical time: he respects its flow and continuity, and enhances them wisely, not arbitrarily."

I've blogged in the past about the modern character of the Acropolis, and now I wonder how much of that perspective on the monumental core of the city of Athens derived in part from my naive engagement with Pikionis' landscape.

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The Mysterious Theft of a Column Capital from Olympia

September 9, 2009 4 comments

This weekend, apparently, someone stole a column capital from the Early Christian basilica at the site of Ancient Olympia (in Greece).  This alarming theft has led to the suspension of the local ephor (the official in charge of antiquities for the region) and made the national and international pressI’ve visited the site of Olympia and checked out this church many, many times.  The press has not made clear which capital was stolen from the building and whether this was an ancient capital used as spolia in the building or an Early Christian capital (this short article makes it seem like it is a 6th century column capital).  I do not recall any particularly dramatic column capitals from the building — to be perfectly honest — although the church is known for its abundant architectural sculpture which was presumably carved from the vast quantity of marble available from the ancient site itself. 

The interesting (and perhaps ironic) thing about this story is that the Early Christian church is built into the so-called Workshop of Phidias.  This is an ancient structure (the visible brick superstructure, from what I understand is 3rd century A.D., but it may have been built on earlier foundations) built to the same dimensions of the cella of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  The excavators apparently found in the area molds for terracota antefixes and other evidence for construction so the building is thought to have been where the sculptor Phidias created his famous statue of Olympian Zeus.  Because of these ancient associations, its proximity to the most prominent ancient ruins on the site (it is right outside the ancient Altis), and its well-preserved condition, the basilica in the Workshop of Phidias is among the most visible and visited Early Christian churches in the Peloponnesus (note my clever humor in this post).  Its visibility alone would make its assemblage of architectural sculpture particularly well-known, and its presence within the well-maintained and heavily visited tourist site of Olympia makes this church also particularly accessible to the casual tourist.  Most Early Christian basilicas in Greece remain off the beaten path, protected by rusty and collapsing fences, overgrown and neglected.  Like the Workshop of Phidias basilica, many of these less-visible churches preserve both ancient and Early Christian architectural sculpture.  While I obviously do not condone the theft of antiquities, it’s difficult to imagine a less suitable Early Christian basilica to loot than the Workshop of Phidias basilica. 

OlympiaCitationsOf course, the presence of the church within the site of Olympia certainly adds prestige to the material within the church whether it was re-used or carved new.  Moreover, for a real connoisseur the site represents one of the more important sites for the Early Christian period in the Peloponnesus.  While much of the Late Antique settlement on the site itself was removed during the 19th century excavation, scholars — particularly the late Thomas Völling — have made important strides in cobbling together the fragmentary record of the hastily excavated Late Antique phases and combining with important, relatively recent discoveries like the extensive “Slavic” cemetery excavated during the construction of the new museum at the site in the 1970s.   For the 4th-6th century, the church seems to have been at the center of a substantial settlement which included several larger houses and a maze of smaller houses.  The church would have been important for the folks who lived at the site of Olympia in the Early Christian period, but it hard to imagine that the looter of the column capital knew that.

For more information on Early Christian Olympia, here’s a handout that I created a few years back when asked to talk about the Early Christian phase at the site and in the right sidebar I’ve included some citations to the church at the Workshop of Phidias for the truly ambitious.

It will be interesting to follow this story develop.  The suspension of the local archaeological representative suggests that something more has happened here than the press has reported.  I’ll keep an eye on the press and  David Gill’s blog Looting Matters over the next few weeks to see if more comes out.

Update 1: This brief note (Archaeologist’s Horde) has transformed the column capital from 6th c. A.D. to 6th c. B.C.  That’s a big difference!

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Performing the Margins: Punk and Place

September 7, 2009 2 comments

Cross-posted to Punk Archaeology

Even as Kostis was conjuring his posts on Pink Floyd at Pompeii and the Scorpions at Mytilene, another iconic locus of punk rock magic is reaching the end of its life.  The Uptown Bar & Cafe in Minneapolis is apparently slated to close sometime this year.  Its octogenarian owner, Frank Toonen, is looking to sell the bar to secure the financial future for his family (a noble cause, if there ever was one).  The bar hosted virtually every major punk(ish) rock band to come out of Minneapolis (Soul Asylum, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü) and ranked as a local CBGBs or Max's Kansas City.  Ironically, the bar will be torn down for a three story retail space as the Uptown neighborhood continues a process of re-gentrification (for a nice history of the neighborhood).

To be honest, I've never been to the Uptown Bar & Cafe (nor Uptown, for that matter), but the story of the Uptown Bar & Cafe caught my eye in the context of our ongoing conversation about punk and place.  Many of the most storied punk establishments established themselves in seemingly marginal urban spaces made available by white flight and the post-war growth of suburbs and now confront the reopening of the urban center to economic development which in many ways challenged both economic opportunities made available by the marginal status of various neighborhoods and urban locales as well as the gritty and explicitly anti-suburban ascetic that punk cultivated. The creative risks exploited by punk rockers as they returned to the urban center from the security of suburban "garage" demanded an authenticity of the punk experience that cannot be maintained when surrounded by boutique shopping spots and chain clothing retailers who seemingly revel in the make-believe character of the consumer experience.

The authenticity of the urban experience is not just a hallmark of punk music. Today, it is seen most visibly in hip-hop music where credibility is tied a performer's ability to maintain their ties to economically and socially marginalized segments of urban areas.  (As hip-hop has globalized, it has shown that the performance of authenticity has transferred from marginalized areas within the American city to marginalized areas of the globe.  Take, for example, the Somali-Canadian rapper K'naan who mocks the urban posturing of North American rappers by contrasting their claims and experiences to his upbringing in Somalia). 

Common's song "The Corner" is a another great meditation on the space of performance in contemporary hip-hop.  The song juxtaposes Common's lyrics about his experiences on "the corner" with nostalgia tinged lyrics of the radical spoken-word poetry collective "The Last Poets" who note:

…The corner was our Rock of Gibraltar, our Stonehenge
Our Taj Mahal, our monument…

Of course, in hip-hop the corner invokes more than just an urban space associated with drug dealing, informal social gatherings, and, perhaps more properly, the performance of dozens between rappers that formed the basis for the combative aspects of modern hip-hop music.  The corner invokes the crossroads which was an iconic symbol in American Blues music.  Most famously, the crossroads was where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent.

Crossroads represent both central places where diverse paths cross, but also liminal sites where clearly-defined spheres of control and authority break-down or lapse entirely.  It is not surprising, for example, that Oedipus met the Sphinx at a crossroads (see: S. I Johnston, "Crossroads," ZPE 88 (1991)217-24) .

To return, then to punk and place, the impending loss of the Uptown Cafe & Bar (and other punk landmarks) stands out as the return of marginal spaces to the control of the center.  In many cities in the US, this has manifested itself as reclaiming the marginalized zone of an urban core neglected in the post-war migration to the suburbs for the commercial, capitalist, gentrified space of the new suburban centers (i.e. let's make the cities look like we imagined them when we built those surrogate cities: suburban shopping malls).

To bring my archaeological interests more fully into the conversation, I'll just point out that for the last 7 years I've been working with the team of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project to study a community situated at a crossroads along the coast of southeastern Cyprus.  Peripheral to the main centers of power on the island, there is reason to think that the ancient community situated in what is now the coast zone of the village of Pyla (another liminal space!) served as a local crossroads community.  David Pettegrew's work at a similar site in the Eastern Corinthia commonly referred to as "Cromna" is another example of a crossroads community.  These liminal spaces situated neither clearly within an urban core or in the romanticized space of the rural periphery defy categorization.  The complexity and density of the artifact assemblages found in these areas press to the limit methods devised to document more dispersed kinds of activity in the countryside.  At the same time, the absence of a built up center with known, monumental architecture, makes it challenging to justify large scale, systematic excavation.

The marginal status of crossroads places have made them a kind of improvisational space for archaeological fieldwork.  In this way, they echo the marginal spaces of desiccated, post-war, urban core which became the places of punk performance, or the ill-defined and marginal space of the corner which became a zone dominated by ancient and modern sphinxes.   Punk archaeology revels in the marginal, ambiguous, ambivalent and, in many ways, dangerous spaces that only become central through the ephemeral performance.

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More Lakka Skoutara

The site of Lakka Skoutara was initially documented in 2001 as part of an extensive survey of the area between the harbor village of Korphos and the village of Sophiko. The goal of this extensive survey was to discover the pre-modern route between the two settlements and the work determined that it ran through the site of Lakka Skoutara. In addition, the extensive survey identified a significant scatter of ancient and modern ceramics as well as the presence of several houses, agricultural installations, and a 20th century church building associated with the modern route through the rugged interior of the Saronic coastline.  (For more on Lakka Skoutara, see the index below)

The next year, the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey conducted a proper intensive survey in the area as a follow up to the extensive survey in 2001. Since there were limited resources and time available for the survey, the team decided to sample three transects across the landscape. These transects would followed basic geomorphological divisions in the basin by capturing some part of the slopes of the Lakka, the alluvial fans that produced rocky soil throughout the northern section of the basin, and the more-stable and less rocky red soils that marked the basin floor. This method was loosely consistent with the geomorphological division of units practiced throughout the EKAS survey area and allowed us to control for the significance and in a coarse way, the chronology of various erosional processes. The units were also positioned to capture areas immediately surrounding six of the houses which represented various states of abandonment. This sampling method produced 92 units in three groups with an average unit size of 2335 sq meters and a total area of 2.1 ha.

The EKAS team walked each unit at a 10 meter spacing with each fieldwalker counting every artifact that appeared 1 m to each side of their swath. This procedure sampled 20% of the area of each unit for density. The variation of artifacts present in each unit was sampled according to the chronotype system in which field walkers collected one example of each unique type of artifact. The ceramics team analyzed these artifacts in the field and the results were keyed into an Access database which was linked to a GIS database.

The units surveyed at Lakka Skoutara produced an artifact density of around 2200 artifacts per ha (walked), which is considerably higher than density of approximately 1500 sherds per ha produced by the units in the main survey transect on the Isthmus, but still below the 3000 sherds per ha often considered to be the benchmark for site density in the Eastern Mediterranean. There were, however, 25 units in Lakka Skoutara, with a total area of approximately a hectare which exceeded the 3000 artifacts per hectare standard for site density.

During the course of the survey, the field team designated one area of the site as a Localized Cultural Anomaly (LOCA) owing to the high quantity of Final Neolithic material concentrated at the conjunction of six moderate-density units with varying qualities of surface visibility. In these areas, the team conducted a more intensive form of artifact collection. The teams selected a 20m x 20 m square in each DU of the LOCA and performed a total ChronoType collection in that square. One example of each type of artifact was collected from each of the four squares to produce a complete sample of every type of ceramic present. The squares were located relatively close to one another, since the FN-EH material was not randomly distributed throughout each DU, but rather clustered together. Consequently, the LOCA collection units were concentrated in an effort to capture the area with the highest artifact concentration. GPS coordinates were taken at the SW corner of each LOCA collection square providing a fixed point from which to map the units.

Artifact Distribution

The standard (or Discovery Unit (DU)) and local collection survey produced 926 artifacts in 625 batches. The periods represented in this assemblage of artifacts produced in these survey units represented over 6000 years of human occupation from the Final Neolithic period to the modern day.

Examining the assemblage produced by our standard (DU) chronotype survey shows that 33 periods appear in the survey. Since the chronotype system provides both broad and narrow periods, many of these 33 periods are overlapping. For example, a query for Medieval pottery brings up pottery that is certainly Medieval as well as material that our ceramicists could only date to a broad range of time which could include the Medieval period. There are many ways to deal with this kind of data and to represent it.  Aoristic analysis can take into account the different degrees of precision in our dating of the artifacts and consequently provides one representative way to show the chronological distribution of artifacts across the basin. This kind of representative analysis assumes that an artifact has an equal chance of appearing during any year across its entire span of possible dates and weights the total assemblage of artifacts that might appear in a given time span accordingly. So if an artifact is dated to the Late Roman period with a date from between 400 and 700 A.D., the artifact has a 1/300 chance of appear in each year. While it is important to emphasize that this is simply a model for the chronological distribution of ceramics, it is a useful way to represent the relative quantity of material datable to a particular period of time.  Since most artifacts (although certainly not all!) are most accurately datable to the century, that is the scale that I have chosen for the two graphs included here. As chart 1 shows, there is activity at the site for nearly the entire historical period with a sharp increase in activity in the most recent century.

Chart 1

The results of this kind of analysis, then can be compared to the spatial distribution of material across the unit.  For a survey of this read this post.

Lakka Skoutara Index:

Lakka Skoutara: The Survey
The Houses of Lakka Skoutara
Provisional Discard
Construction in the Corinthia

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Big Sky

Big sky.

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