October 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
This marks the 5th Year Anniversary of the Cyprus Research Fund and the 3rd Anniversary of the Cyprus Research Fund Lecture Series.
So, I am happy to announce that this year’s speaker will be colleague and collaborator Kostis Kourelis. Kostis will speak on “Byzantium and the Avant Garde: American Excavations at Corinth, ca. 1930″. His talk will tell the unlikely story of how the excavation of Byzantine remains at Corinth, Greece influenced avant garde movements in mid-20th century America.
The talk will be in the elegant East Asia Room at the Chester Fritz Library on November 14 at 4 pm. There will be a reception sponsored by the Department of History immediately following the talk.
So if you are in the area, please come to this talk! Kostis is one of the most accomplished and dynamic of a new generation of polymaths who can speak with confidence and expertise on topics from modern art to ancient archaeology. (And a fellow blogger.)
October 12, 2011 § 5 Comments
The distribution of Byzantine sites in Corinth’s immediate hinterland is poorly known. No Byzantine monuments exist in the Isthmia valley immediately to the east of the City of Corinth in contrast to the numerous Byzantine churches discovered during the early phases of excavation of the city center or the cluster of standing churches around the village of Sophiko to the south. The absence of any standing Byzantine remains might be an accident of preservation. It could also suggest that the immediate hinterland of Corinth had few nucleated settlements like monasteries and villages. It seems possible that Byzantine Corinthians lived in the city of Corinth, the village of Kenchreai, and perhaps a settlement centered on the eastern part of the Hexamilion wall near the long-abandoned Panhellenic sanctuary at Isthmia.
Over the past week or so, I’ve been working on analyzing the distribution of Byzantine pottery discovered during the work of the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey. In the chronological scheme used by the survey, material from the Byzantine period was divided into two periods: Early Medieval (700-1200) and Late Medieval (1200-1500). In the map below, the red triangles are the Early Medieval artifacts and the green are Late Medieval.
There are four main areas in the fertile plain east of the city of Corinth that show Early and Late Medieval ceramic material. One area may be associated with a now-destroyed church dedicated to Ag. Paraskevi. In a series of fields disturbed by plowing and recent construction, there is a complex and extensive assemblage of Early and Late Medieval material as well as a significant assemblage of Late Roman material. The assemblage included relatively common glazed finewares from the Early and Middle Byzantine period as well as table wares and utility wares. Some 2 km northwest of the Ay. Paraskevi assemblage, appears another cluster of pottery perhaps associated with ecclesiastical architecture. In a 100 square meter amidst architecture fragments suggesting monumental Christian architecture appear another similar scatter of Byzantine material which featured fineware, kitchen wares, utility vessels from both the Early and Late Medieval periods. As similar small assemblage appears on the steep slopes to the northwest of the Late Roman harbor of Kenchreai. In these units, another 200 square meter area produced a small scatter of Medieval material including finewares and utility wares. Finally, a deeply ploughed field at the base of Mt. Oneion measuring about 350 square meters produced an assembalge of Early Medieval and Late Medieval fine and ultility wares as well as a few sherds from the Venentian and Ottoman periods. Like the other scatters, this assemblage shows both Early and Late Medieval pottery with both table ware and utility wares.
The remarkable thing about these four little clusters of Byzantine pottery is how different the distribution was from period of earlier and later periods. This is the same map showing Late Roman pottery.
This is a textbook example of a continuous carpet of artifacts and is typical of the Late Roman period throughout Greece. (For some critical comments on this see David Pettegrew’s “The Busy Countryside of Late Roman Corinth,” Hesperia 76 (2007), 743-784 for a PDF go here).
What is also remarkable is how different the distribution is from that of later periods. The distribution of material from the Ottoman/Venetian period (1500-1800) for example does not overlap entirely with material from the Byzantine period.
It is only in the Early Modern period (1800-1960) where later material becomes an important component of the Byzantine sites, but this seems to be associated with a general expansion of activity in the Corinthian countryside. (For a more extensive discussion of this see T. E. Gregory, “Contrasting Impressions of Land Use in Early Modern Greece: The Eastern Corinthia and Kythera,” Hesperia Supplement 40 (2007), 173-198.)
This very preliminary analysis of the Byzantine material from EKAS resonates with recent studies of the Byzantine countryside in the Nemea Valley immediately to the south. (For this see E. Athanassopoulos, “ Landscape Archaeology in the Medieval Countryside: Settlement and Abandonment in the Nemea Region,” IJHA 14 (2010), 255-270.) Athanassopoulos suggested that the 12th and 13th century landscape of the Nemea valley clustered on arable land or on the lower slopes of valley sides (258). Moreover, the sites tended to represent small and medium scale agricultural production (261).
It is also important to realize that my brief analysis here is preliminary. Sanders has established the basic unreliability of most existing typologies and chronologies for pottery of this period as well as difficulties identifying artifacts datable to the Medieval period in general. A the same time, it is nevertheless striking that such pronounced clusters of Byzantine material would appear in the Corinthian landscape. More importantly, these clusters appear largely independent of the continuous carpet of Late Roman finds and the clusters of post-Byzantine material published by Gregory and, earlier, analyzed by Caraher.
October 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I want to send a special congratulations to David Pettegrew on the one year anniversary of his blog Corinthian Matters. David’s blog regular features interesting and timely pieces, good documentary photography, and, often, original translations of works important (or overlooked) in the study of the Early Christian and Late Antique Corinthia.
In his most recent post, he looks ahead to the next phase of life for his blog. He has not only invited scholars interested in the Corinthia to contribute to his blogging efforts, but also articulated a set of objectives for his effort. These objectives seek to promote the study of Corinth and the dissemination of Corinth related scholarship. This is a perfect example of the utility that an academic blog can provide for the scholarly and “lay” community.
On of the most inspiring thing about David’s blogging effort is its explicitly external focus. In other words, his blog is not a reflection of his own scholarly interests (per se), but meant to be a contribution to the scholarly, educational, and even religious or spiritual interests of others. This puts this blog is rather stark contrast to many web based initiatives which tend to focus on the idiosyncratic interests of the authors and are grounded in the assumption that these interests will coincide with a group of readers among the almost infinite audiences available on the web. David’s blog seems far more intent on tapping into and contributing to an existing conversation that extends far beyond the hyper-fragmented audiences of the internet. The range of popular and scholarly audiences interested in the Corinthia makes it an ideal match for a thoughtful blog.
The decision to focus his blog on a specific external audience, of course, has made it possible for David to open the doors to external contributors. I’ve been invited to add content from time to time – in fact, as I write this I’m cross-posting my blog post from yesterday to Corinthian Matters and I’ll probably make it a point to cross-post any Corinthian related content to David’s blog. If other bloggers take advantage of David’s interest in collaborating, Corinthian Matters has a chance to succeed where other group focusing on various aspects of the ancient world blog have fallen short. In fact, David’s blog hints at the increasingly blurry line between a self-published blog and a collectively published magazine or journal. The potential is there.
My blog, in contrast, remains a far more selfish endeavor. In fact, part of my blog’s purpose is to attempt to find the links between my various, disparate research interests. If my blog ever does succeed in finding these links, the interest to anyone other than the author will likely be voyeuristic rather than scholarly. In this way, my blog follows on a long tradition of early blogs (think: Justin Hall’s Links from the Underground or Jorn Barger’s Robot Wisdom) which were idiosyncratic collections of links or live, public journals.
Perhaps David’s blog is the future of the internet publications as the forms and practices of the traditional media have come to colonize more and more fully the world of instant self-publishing. The resulting form is a hybrid situated at the explicit intersection of authorial interests and public demand.
October 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
When most of us think of the Byzantine body today, we image the ethereal bodies that grace the walls of painted churches, the emaciated bodies of the Byzantine ascetic, or even the body of the emperor or bishop. At the same time, there has been valued work in the last few years focusing on the bodies of ordinary individuals. Buried bodies have come to dot the landscape and new works on the poor, travel, labor, and domestic space in the Byzantine centuries have come to locate the body outside of the theoretically fertile ground of the church and crown and return it to the dirt and dust of everyday life. Recently, I’ve made an effort to reflect on the role of the Byzantine body in the architecture of domination and everyday forms of resistance. In short, the body continues to find a place in almost all parts of the study of Byzantine society.
This past month, C. Bourbou,B.T. Fuller, S. J. Garvie-Lok, and M. P. Richards, have continued this trend by offering some important observations on the diet of Greek Byzantine populations from the 6th-15th centuries (“Reconstructing the Diets of Greek Byzantine Populations (6th-15th centuries AD) Using Carbon and Nitrogen Stable Isotope Ratios,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, preprint). While I won’t pretend for a moment that I understand the science involved in analyzing carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the body, I do grasp that the ratio between these two isotopes in human remains can reveal significant information regarding local diets. Bourbou et al. have analyzed the remains of Byzantine bodies from all across Greece including the Corinthia (Nemea, Corinth, and Isthmia), Crete, Northern Greece, and the Peloponnesus. Many of the bodies that this team studied came from burials around churches making the parallel between the Byzantine body in art and the Byzantine body in the flesh all the more obvious. The work of this team complements recent efforts to determine the diet of Byzantium through the study of ceramic vessels, and this represents another effort to move from the sublime bodies of Byzantine art and texts to the mundane bodies of everyday life.
Fish farms near Vayia in the Corinthia
The work of Bourbou et al. confirms many of the standard reading of the Byzantine diet. They find ample evidence for the prominence of the Mediterranean triad of grain, olive oil, and grapes in wine. At the same time, their studies suggested the importance of dairy products or perhaps meat in the Byzantine diet. While it is not possible at present to distinguish between animal products like milk and cheese and meat itself, the evidence from stable isotope analysis leaves open he possibility that meat appeared consistently in Medieval cuisine .
The most interesting aspect of their study, however, involves the presence of fish on the Byzantine table. In Medieval Western Europe, scholars have long noted an increase in the consumption of fish in the 11th and 12th centuries. Some have associated this increase with the promotion of fasting and other dietary restriction by the Church in these centuries. In the east, however, the presence of fish in the diet of ancient and Medieval Greeks has been less conclusive. Bourbou et al., however, have suggested in their study that Byzantine (and Late Antique) Greeks may have consumed a good bit of fish. It is particularly interesting to note that bodies from Kenchreai dating to the 1st – 3rd centuries and the fortress at Isthmia from the 4th-8th centuries in the Corinthia showed the ratio of isotopes related to the consumption of fish. These sites must have taken advantage of the long coastline of the Corinthia to harvest fish on a significant scale (just as they do today). Elsewhere in Greece, however, these scholars argue that the consumption of fish during the Byzantine centuries likely relates to religious restrictions on diets that prohibited the consumption of meat on particular feast days and over important stretches of Orthodox religious calendar (as well as improved fishing techniques).
With this study, then, the Byzantine body comes full circle. The body of the emaciated saint and the august body of the bishop represent just another form of the fish-fueled bodies found in Byzantine burials. Just as the routine of the liturgical year would have shaped the movement of individuals through the landscape of the village, countryside, and town, so the diets of the religious calendar left its traces in the very bones of the Byzantine.
October 5, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I have finally finished the edits on my paper “The Ambivalent Landscape of Early Christian Corinth: The Archaeology of Place, Theology, and Politics in a Late Antique City.” The editors of the volume in which it will appear made some excellent suggestions on how I could improve the paper that went far beyond rounding some jagged corners.
As a happy result, this draft is improved over earlier drafts of the paper. In particular, I cut out some of the more overtly theoretical posturing in my introduction and embedded (buried?) that in footnotes throughout the text. I have a tendency in my introductions to spend too much time positioning myself amidst the theoretical literature. This tends to delay the start of my argument and dilute my efforts to establish the relationship between my specific arguments and those by other scholars in my field.
I have also added a slightly more substantive discussion of Justinian’s theological work – particularly his treatise on the Three Chapters which E. Schwartz suggested might have appeared in the context of a virtually unknown synod of Eastern Illyricum in the mid-540s. This synod, apparently, may have served to articulate the concern among bishops in the previously loyal sees of Eastern Illyricum (i.e. Greek speaking sees) to Justinian’s efforts to establish a compromise with the Monophysite bishops of the East.
Finally, I revised how I used the word “landscape” throughout this draft. Writing mainly for archaeologists these-a-days, I have become accustomed to a certain amount of ambiguity surrounding the word landscape which typically refers to the place of human experience. As a result, landscapes can be vast (as some human experiences are best understood on the regional level) or incredibly small. Historians, theologians, and others, however, are not quite forgiving of this ambiguous – and jargony – definition. Fair enough. I found I could eliminate about 70% of my uses of the word in this paper and replace it with the word “region” or equivalents.
Otherwise, my changes were mostly cosmetic including tightening up parts of my argument and making the entire paper flow more logically.
October 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It was pretty exciting to see David Pettegrew’s long-previewed work on the diolkos of Corinth appear this weekend in the American Journal of Archaeology (“The Diolkos of Corinth,” AJA 115 (2011), 549-574). I was fortunate enough to hear versions of his argument both here at the University of North Dakota and at a conference on Corinth at the University of Texas in the early autumn.
Pettegrew argues that our long-held idea of the diolkos as a major thoroughfare across the Corinthian Isthmus is mistaken. Since the 19th century, the diolkos has stood as a stone paved road that allowed enterprising Corinthians to move ships and their cargos across the isthmus from the Corinthian to the Saronic Gulf. Pettegrew showed that the literary accounts of the efforts to move vessels across the Isthmus mostly described heroic events rather than everyday occurrences. Moreover, he noted that the effort and risk required to move even modest sized vessels across the Isthmus would have made the practice economically unfeasible. Finally, he showed that there was little evidence for regular traffic in ceramics across the Isthmus. The assemblages produced at sites to the west and east of the Isthmus corridor appear be rather different particularly in the Roman period with eastern wares (like Eastern Sigillata A and B) appearing far more frequently in the East and Western Sigillatas appearing far more frequently to the west of the Isthmus.
I do wonder, however, whether the idea of moving ships across the Isthmus as a way to move goods is somewhat a red herring. It occurred to me that for a coasting merchant (or caboteur) the ship itself might always exceed the value of an individual cargo. In fact, if the way a caboteur made a living is by constantly moving many small cargos along the coast. If we follow recent thinking on the ancient economy which emphasized the highly fragmented nature of local production (dictated by micro-climates and micro-regions), there might be times when it was advantageous to move a smaller coasting vessel from one gulf to the other across the Isthmus in order to take advantage of shifts in production or markets. A merchant in Corinth could have maintained familiarity with both markets and their regional nature (as Pettegrew demonstrated in his discussion of the different distribution of fine wares and transport vessels) might have allowed them to function quite autonomously from one another. For example, a disaster, like an earthquake in the Gulf of Corinth might have disrupted economic activities there to such an extent that an enterprising merchant might take his vessel and move to the Saronic until the regional economy equalized again. For this kind of flexibility to economically viable, all we need to do is imagine that moving a ship across the Isthmus was less expensive than purchasing a new vessel in the opposite Gulf (and that a coasting merchant would have the capital to take advantage of such an opportunity). Furthermore, seeing the occasional movement of small vessels from one Gulf to the other would not undermine Pettegrew’s main point that the massive movement of large military vessels from one gulf to the other was a heroic stratagem based on the scale of the portage alone.
Pettegrew’s article represents more than just a dismantling of the Diolkos myth. He strikes another blow against our heroic view of the past where remarkable feats of engineering were everyday occurrences. In fact, Pettegrew points out that something as accepted as moving ships across the Isthmus would have been a tremendously expensive, taxing, and dangerous operation. The amount of manpower required to move vessels on a regular basis would have been mind boggling (or mind-bottling).
It is interesting that the archaeologists who perpetuated this idea in the 19th century (and I am painting with broad brushstrokes here) hailed themselves from age of heroic industry. In some ways, they represented the same world and nation building fantasies that produced the Corinth Canal (1881-1893) (as well as the Transcontinental Railroad, the Panama Railroad (and eventually the Panama Canal), et c.). Picturing the ancient world through such heroic eyes would have aligned the ancient and the modern in a way that confirmed the place of ancient Greece as the foundation of the contemporary age. It goes without saying that archaeology not only perpetuated imperialism and globalization, but worked to normalize these views of the world through the study of the past. As the economic foundations of our own age receive increasingly vigorous critique (see: Occupy Wall Street), it makes sense that we critique views of the past grounded in the same imperialist and capitalist expectations.
September 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of Betsy Robinson’s new book Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia. This was particularly exciting to me because I’ve been using Betsy’s 2001 University of Pennsylvania dissertation for years as a detailed guide of the culture of water in the city of Corinth. With the publication of this book, her dissertation has received a fantastic complement. The new book explores the history of the Peirene fountain and its excavations. On a personal note, it evoked fantastic memories of my first trips to Corinth (as a bleary-eyed M.A. student) when I reveled in the fountain on a hot summer day and, later, explored various other ancient water channels around the Corinthia.
Robinson’s work stands atop the detailed documentation of Peirene produced in the published and unpublished manuscripts of Burt Hodge Hill. In fact, the detailed documentation produced in Corinth I.6 by Hill absolved Robinson of some of the incredibly tedious (but valuable) descriptions so often associated with the careful discussion of an archaeological site. Freed from these responsibilities, Robinson was able to examine the place of this important fountain not only in Corinthian history, but in the history of Hellenistic and Roman architecture and in the history of the Corinth. After a brief description of the spring and its springhouse, she reviewed the ancient (and some Medieval) testimonia and made a persuasive case for the importance of Peirene to both local and Mediterranean-wide understandings of Corinthian identity. More than just a list, this chapter contextualized her book by making it clear that Peirene was not just another ancient spring, but an especially important in art and text alike. This chapter satisfies critics who might have questions the significance of the Peirene fountain outside the narrow realm of Corinthian scholarship.
The next two chapters, return Peirene to its Corinthian context by exploring the labors that contributed to the fountain’s excavation and maintenance. In many ways, these chapters form an interesting pendant to Robinson’s treatment of the testimonia. On the one hand, she is pains to argue that the fountain is significant because the ancient texts regard it as almost synonymous with the city of “well-watered Corinth”. On the other hand, she presents the early excavators of the fountain in a clearly heroic light. Bert Hodge Hill, in particular, receives equal parts apologia for his lack of publications and praise for his tireless efforts to document the fountain and protect the drinking water of the village of Corinth. A maze of channels and pipes emanating from Peirene continued to provide the water supply for the village in the first half of the 20th century and it was particularly critical that archaeological work on the fountain did nothing to disrupt the flow of water to fields, homes, and fountains in the area. In an era where archaeologists are becoming increasingly aware of the colonialists nature of their work, this chapter serves as an interesting case-study for the kinds of symbiotic relationship that developed between the archaeologists and the communities in which they worked during the early days of American archaeology in Greece.
The celebration of Hill’s achievements took on a distinctly “American School” like cast to me. While these chapters are well argued and lack any element of encomium, they nevertheless fuse the archaeologist – in this case Hill – to the archaeological undertaking. Methods, research questions, objects and discursive concerns fade into the background before the overwhelming force of individual personalities. Negotiating a terrain strewn with larger than life figures – Hill, Blegen, Broneer, Williams, Shear, Robinson, et al. – means contending with their personalities, legacies, and place in the intricate history of American School politics. (And it is difficult not to hear echoes of contemporary discussions in Robinson’s discussion of Hill.) While it may be similar in other parts of the world, the heroic stature of American excavators in Greece makes almost all work at long-established sites at least as much about the excavators as about the actual archaeological material itself.
The second half of the book summarizes, clarifies, and expands the history of the Peirene fountain. As someone primarily interested in the later history of the city of Corinth, I was particularly gratified to see the Triconch Court moved to the 4th-5th century adding to the impressive quantity of Late Antique urban works in the city. Robinson’s hint at parallels between the construction style of the Triconch court and the Hexamilion suggests a 5th century building boom that complemented the later 6th century renovation of the Corinthia’s built environment. I was also excited to imagine the “outlooker screen”, which Robinson dates to the later 5th or 6th century, as a component of the 6th century building boom in the city. One thing that I would have been interested in understanding is the relationship between the later modifications to Pierene and the work done at the “nymphaion” down on the Lechaion road near the great early Christian basilica. I wonder whether the outlooker screen which Robinson notes evoked the design of ionic impost capitals echoed the colonnaded aspect and ionic impost capitals used at the Lechaion nymphaion?
The only disappointment from this second half of the book comes from the difficulty in linking the work of the heroic Hill with the specific archaeological and chronological issues studied in the second half of the book. In a number of places, Hill stalls the submission of his final manuscript to resolve specific problems with his understanding of Peirene. While Robinson takes on a number of the pressing issues in the study of the fountain, she does not necessarily connect these issues with Hill’s labors. Perhaps the problems encountered by Hill were, indeed, unresolvable even after 80 additional years of thought or maybe Hill was simply stalling (as someone who struggles to complete long writing tasks, I can sympathize with Hill’s struggle to complete and submit his manuscript). On the other hand, separating the story of the fountain’s excavation from the story of the fountain as an archaeological artifact allows for the vague feeling that these two stories could somehow exist independently. Even at the very end of Robinson’s section two, when the fountains creeps its way into the modern era the waters of the fountains feeding Ottoman fountains remains apart from the first modern excavators. The end of the story of Peirene appears before the heroic Hill and company arrive on the scene to exhume her remains.
The book is the second in a new series, Ancient Art and Architecture in Context, published by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Needless to say, it is lavishly produced with flawless editing. At the same time, it was interesting to reflect on the fate of Bert Hodge Hill’s Peirene manuscript against the backdrop of the American School’s publication process. Various directors of the American School pushed Hill relentlessly to release his manuscript for publication. In fact, the work stalled for over 20 years at the page proof stage. Today, the pressure almost certainly comes in the opposite direction with authors desperate to see their research come to light through the American School (and other presses as well). For many junior faculty the pressures to publish far outweigh the rewards of a well-produced and “scientifically accurate” text.
August 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
My post today is a modest contribution to some work that Kostis Kourelis is doing over at his blog. On Monday, he offered a brief post on Byzantine roof construction. My colleagues and I at the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project have been thinking a good bit about roof construction also.
Our interests in roofs derives from our study of a 6th century A.D. annex room associated with an early Christian basilica. It seems clear that the room was two storeys and had a heavy roof covered with thick, flat, “Kopetra” type tiles. The second floor had collapsed into the first and there is no evidence for whether the room had an internal support. We did, however, find some large plaster fragments that we have associate with the tops of the walls.
The most interesting fragment (and please excuse my sketch) looks like this:
The chunk of plaster preserves the impression of the beam that ran along the top of the wall. It also had the impression of the perpendicular rafter which sat atop the beam. On the top of the piece of plaster we discovered the impressions of reeds or small sticks. This must have been the layer of rushes, beanstalks or rushes described in the 4th century B.C. inscription cited in Kostis’ post. The tiles would have sat atop the reeds preserved in the plaster impression.
The plaster impression preserve some evidence for the construction process. It would seem that the wall beam and rafters were set into place and the gap between the rafters was filled with plaster (or a kind of mortar) immediately before the reeds were put in place atop of the rafters. The plaster or mortar would have had to be still wet for the small reeds to make an imprint. In effect, this piece of plaster preserves the roof as it was being built. This makes some sense, I suppose, because it ensured a strong seal between the roof and the wall to prevent water from entering the wall and weakening the rather humble used to bond the stones.
David Pettegrew and I have documented a series of roofs at the opposite end of their life cycle at the early to mid 20th century rural site of Lakka Skoutara in the Corinthia (follow this link to an archive of over 600 photographs taken over 10 years at the site).
The roof of House 5 showed no evidence of the mud-and-reed layer between the tiles and roof structure although it is possible that this layer eroded away quite quickly as the roof deteriorated. The roof of house 5 appears to have been supported by some well-cut timber that set atop walls reinforced with cinder block suggesting that a fairly recent date of construction.
The roof of House 3 shows a similar construction style with the use of more rustic rafters. The mud plaster interior walls stood until early in this century (2001), but deteriorated rapidly after the roof collapsed.
House 14 was the only house in the settlement that preserved the mud-and-reed packing between the tiles and the rafters. This photograph is from 2001 and the packing remains barely visible. By 2009, the entire roof had collapsed and evidence for the mud layer under the roof tiles was lost.
The temptation to recycle the precious roof tiles even in our century manifest itself in the roof of our house 2. The first photo is from 2001 and the second from 2002.
August 22, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The new semester begins tonight at 5 pm (or something). This is my first semester with tenure which I officially received on August 15. It felt a lot like my team winning the World Series (which I have experienced) or the Super Bowl. I woke up the next day expecting things to be or feel different and then was disappointed when they were the same. My coffee tasted the same, the sky looked the same, my office did not become larger or smaller.
And my teaching and research loads did not change either. So here’s my fall semester:
1. Two old classes. I’m teaching two classes that I’ve taught every semester for the past four years. I love the routine, the opportunity to tweak the classes minutely and judge the results the next semester, the battle with boredom of going through the same material each semester (which I liken to acedia, a kind of monastic boredom), and the chance to compare students in very similar situations. And I often think of it as a kind of cricket match (as I watch Sachin Tendulkar in what is likely his last at bat in England). The patience to do the same thing over and over, but also the flexibility to adjust to variables and changes. The two classes are: History 101: Western Civilization I (online) and History 240: The Historians Craft, which is the required course for our majors.
2. A new class. I am also teaching a new class of sorts. I am teaching a digital and public history practicum. This course will focus on developing a boutique-y collection of digital artifacts to celebrate the Chester Fritz Library’s 50th Anniversary (The Fritz @ 50: 1961 to 2011). I have a class of four diligent but inexperienced graduate students, some good allies in the Department of Special Collections, a Gigapan, a brilliant tech advisor, and a bunch of good will. Like my effort in the Spring, our goal is to produce a small, well-curated digital exhibit, for the library using off the shelf components as much as possible.
3. Got Papers? I have somehow committed to four (?) conference papers this fall and winter. I have no idea how this happened. I’ve posted a rough draft of the first one here already. I’ll be giving “Liminal Time and Liminal Space in the Middle Byzantine Hagiography of Greece and the Aegean” at the International Anchoritic Society Conference here in Grand Forks. At the American Schools of Oriental Research Conference, I’ll be (co-)authoring a paper on our ongoing work at the site of Pyla-Vigla on Cyprus. (I might also be involved in a paper on my work on Polis at this conference, although this is not at all clear). Finally, in January I’ll be giving a paper with David Pettegrew at the Archaeological Institute of America’s Annual Meeting titled “Producing Peasants in the Corinthian Countryside“. This paper will draw on our decade old survey data from around the Corinthia. (To make my life easier, I’ve decided not to actually attend ASOR or the AIA.)
4. Publication Projects. I also have four ongoing publication projects. The first and most pressing one is to shape my paper, “The Ambivalent Landscape of Christian Corinth” from the Corinth in Contrast Conference into publication shape. I’ve received really good feedback from the editors of a volume that will come from this conference, and now I need to take it all in. I also need to push into final form my short encyclopedia article on Early Christian Baptisteries. I’ve also (more or less) committed to writing up a piece on post-colonialism in Byzantine Archaeology. This will develop from a paper I wrote years ago, with every intent of publishing, and gave at a working seminar at the Gennadius Library in Greece. The last publication project involves the results of our survey on Cyprus. We have finally decided to publish the results of the survey aspects of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Survey separate from the results of our excavations at the site. We have a completed draft of this manuscript more or less prepared and have submitted a book proposal to the American Schools of Oriental Research Archaeological Reports Series.
5. And the other stuff:
- Did I mention that we’re moving?
- I continue to tilt at windmills in an effort to document an early 20th century church here in Grand Forks. We have a verbal agreement with an architect to illustrate the building.
- I’ve been working with some people looking to revitalize the College of Arts and Sciences webpage (ssshhhh… this is the top secret not ready for primetime development page.)
- Teaching Thursday!
- At least one book review.
- Following Formula 1, NASCAR, Cricket, Baseball, the NFL, and College Football.
So it should be a fun semester!!!
August 3, 2011 § 2 Comments
Readers of this blog know that the arrival of a new Hesperia is not quite a good as Christmas, but probably as fun as a close relative returning home after a long trip. (You know the feeling, when you know that there are goodies for you in their bag.)
I was particularly excited to see the final publication of Jen Palinkas’ and James Herbst’s article on the “Roman Road Southeast of the Forum at Corinth“. First off, who’s ever heard of publishing a road. What makes this even more crazy is that the road wasn’t paved! Second, who knew so much could be said about a road. The article runs to close to 50 pages. Hesperia is one of the few places that would let someone publish a 50 page article on a road.
While most of the article is a detailed description of the road surface, road building technologies (including water pipes, curbs, and sidewalks) and the relationship of the road to its surrounding structures. The first surfaces detected in excavation date to between the late 1st c. BC and the mid 1st century AD. The excavators are then able to piece together the development of the road through to the 12th or 13th century A.D.
The detailed description of the relationships between the curbs, the water pipes running beneath the road, and the sidewalks (installed around the mid-2nd century) is particularly interesting. At one point (p. 299) they argue that a water drain pipe was installed by tunneling “under the road surface”. What would that look like to the excavators and how would one know that something was tunneled under a solid surface?
I was also curious about the character of the ceramic assemblages associated with the various levels of the road. We are told that at later levels (phase 5 dating from the late 4th to 12th century) “were distinguished from the road layers of earlier phases by their larger and more frequent pebble and tile inclusions, perhaps a result of waste brought by demolition and ruin of the domus that spilled over into the street.” (p. 307). This got me wondering what the assemblages from earlier phases of the wall looked like? This, of course, could tell us something about how ceramic depositional processes in an urban environment worked. Was the material domestic waste? Or was it (like in later periods, apparently) construction or destruction debris?
Some of the discussion of the sidewalks is pretty fascinating too. The east sidewalk was carefully preserved at its original level whereas the west side rose consistent with the level of the road. When I read this, I immediately began to think of my buddy Eric Poehler’s work on the roads of Pompeii (which Palinkas and Herbst cite elsewhere) and wondered whether the uneven elevation related to the movement of wheeled traffic along the road. If wheeled-traffic tended to stay to one side of the road, then the curb or even the sidewalk would incur regular damage that would require repair and perhaps account for its change in elevation.
The most interesting part of the article for me, is the description of the life cycle of the road in relation to its surroundings. The growth of the urban fabric and the maintenance of the road transformed how someone would encounter and experience the road in the landscape. The earliest levels of the road preserved the surface of the route provided relatively unobstructed view of the surrounding countryside as one approached the city of Corinth. Later level, preserved a road that took the more traditional form of an urban thoroughfare, walled in by the expanding urban sprawl of the city of Corinth. As the city contracted in the 5th century, the unobstructed vistas returned to travelers along the road and the surface fell into increasing disrepair.
I have knee-jerk reaction to any archaeological publication that seems to argue for the material decline in the urban fabric in the 4th-6th century. But I’ll concede that the evidence for the deteriorating condition of this road seem to confirm a view that the urban fabric was undergoing some kind of significant change – at least in this area – after the 4th century. That the road continued to function in some way as late as the 12th and 13th century, however, indicates that local memory and practices continued even as the fabric of the community shifted through time.
(One minor bummer is that this volume of Hesperia seems to have published directly to Jstor. I think this must be a good thing for them as now the archive of older volumes and other American School of Classical Studies at Athens publications and the most recent volumes of Hesperia are together in one place. The downside, is that my institution seemed to have access to Hesperi when it lived on the Atypon Link, but now, it does not seem to have a subscription to Hesperia’s new home. I need to figure this all out, but it’s a bummer either way.)