Adventures in Podcasting: David Pettegrew, the Isthmus, and Corinthian Awesomeness

It was really exciting to have David Pettegrew come and hang out on the Caraheard Podcast earlier this month. For those who don’t know David, he is one of oldest professional collaborators and friends and our careers have become inexorably linked starting with the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey (EKAS) and continuing through the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project and co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Archaeology.

For those who don’t know, David Pettegrew teaches at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Years ago now, he came to the University of North Dakota to deliver the Cyprus Research Fund Talk titled “Setting the Stage for St. Paul’s Corinth: How an Isthmus determined the character of a Roman city”.

He’s a colleague of Jon Frey and worked at Isthmia where we overlapped with Ömür Harmanşah. David, Richard, and I are all students of Tim Gregory and worked at the Panhellenic Sanctuary at Isthmia.

We mention Tim’s publication of the Hexamilion Wall and Fortress at Isthmia, Kenchreai (and the work of Joe Rife and Sebastian Heath).

We mention the Nemea Valley Archaeological Project (and we’d be remiss not to include a link to  Effie Athanassopoulos’s newest book: NVAP II: Landscape Archaeology and the Medieval Countryside),

We also mention John Bintliff and Anthony Snodgrass’s work in Boeotia and the Kea survey project which continues to attract scholarly attention.

If you want to know where the Kraneion basilica is. It’s here. It’s much more fun than reading about it in James Wiseman’s classic book The Land of the Ancient Corinthians

If you want to know what Cromna is or was, you have to start with this article.

We talk about Jay Noller and our methods at the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey. To understand the folly of our ways (or our sneaky genius) start by reading this.

If you don’t know what slow archaeology is by now, you better ask someone.

We mention a bunch of other projects including WARP (Western Argolid Regional Project), our work on Ano Vayia as well as Tom Tartaron’s, the fort that I published with Tim Gregory on Oneion, and David’s famous “combed ware” article. For more EKAS related bibliography check out David’s bibliography at Corinthian Matters (but the link seems broken!).

Here’s a link to Pettegrew’s book, The Isthmus of Corinth: Crossroads of the Mediterranean World from University of Michigan press.

9780472119844

 

Richard thinks a book is old school if it uses footnotes. He’s post-citational.

Here’s David’s work on the Diolkos of Corinth, and here’s a rigorously researched ethno-archaeological reenactment of moving a ship over land.

We briefly mention Bill’s work on the the Justinianic Isthmus.

Finally, here’s a link to David’s fantastic Digital Harrisburg project.

Ceramics from Koutsopetria in Context

Last week, I asked for an extension on a blog post on the ceramics from the site of Pyla-Koutsopetri on Cyprus. My generous readers granted my the extension and, believe, I hope that you’ll find that you’ve been rewarded for your wait.

This is the final section in the first effort to prepare a draft of our work at the site of Koutsopetria in Cyprus which we excavated in 2009 and Dr. Maria Hadjicosti excavated in the 1990s. This excavation produced a significant assemblage of ceramic material that could be compared to a similar assemblage of material produced through intensive pedestrian survey of the plain. This comparison allowed us both to consider the excavated area in a larger context, but also to speak to the relationship between material below the plow zone and material on the surface.  

My earlier posts focused on the architecture and history of the site, so here is what we can say about the pottery: 

Despite being dominated by a Late Roman period building, the excavations at Koutsoeptria produced a robust assemblage of ceramics that speak to the long history of activity at this site. In this way, the excavation produced an assemblage that provides us with a useful comparative perspective on the data collected from the intensive pedestrian survey of this area and published in 2014. Among the most persistent critiques of intensive survey is that the relationship of the objects on the surface and those outside the plow-zone remains ambiguous hindering our ability to make functional arguments on the basis of artifact scatters (e.g. Sanders 2004). The formation processes and depositional history of assemblages in long-lived, multi-period sites set amid active and dynamic landscapes compound this further. At Koutsopetria excavations revealed how the persistence of residual material used in construction and floor packing, the cutting into earlier layers by later building and activity at the site, and hint at the effects of erosion and plow smear across the site created a diachronic surface assemblage. At the same time, the excavated assemblage revealed complexity that our sampling of the surface did not recognize. This complexity allows us to add meaningful detail both to our understanding of our survey assemblage and to an emerging ceramic signature present at historical period sites in the eastern part of the island.

Our discussion of the assemblage from Koutsopetria excavations relies upon two different excavation teams who sampled and analyzed ceramics based on two different strategies. During the 2009 excavations, we collected and analyzed all ceramics that were not tiles and sampled the tiles by type and extant part. It is unclear whether and how the excavation in the 1990s sampled artifacts from excavated contexts, but after excluding roof tiles from the samples, the excavation produced approximately the same number of artifacts (in 2009 we collected 3063 whereas in the 1990s they collected 3127) but much more artifacts by weight (2009 = 27778 and 1990s=82879) suggesting a more selective method of collecting ceramic material for analysis focusing on larger, presumably more diagnostic artifacts. Despite the disparity between the character of the two assemblages and the way in which they were produced, they are remarkably similar. From 2009, 68% of our material could only be assigned to the broadest possible category: Ancient Historic; from the 1990s this category of material was amounted to 59% of the assemblage by count.

The excavated area produced two discernible groups of pre-Roman material. There was a small assemblage of ceramics of Iron Age, Cypro-Archaic-Classical, and Cypro-Classical date which included coarse, medium coarse, and fine wares. These made up only a small percentage (far less than <1% by both number and weight) of the material from the excavated area and coincided with a similarly small number of artifacts associated with this period from the survey area generally. Most of this material is in secondary context and the fragments are quite small. The material likely entered into an excavated area from either Classical period activities along the base of the Vigla height where the survey documented a small concentration of Cypro-Classical age pottery perhaps from near an earlier findspot of the large, inscribed Cypro-Classical to Hellenistic period settling basin dedicated to Apollo Karaiates (Hadjisavvas 1993: 75–76, 83). Another possible location for Iron Age material is the site on the nearby Kazamas ridge or the earlier phases of activity at the fortified site of Vigla which may have been quarried for building material. During the Hellenistic period, the coastal plain saw greater activity, and this is reflected in the residual pottery from the Koutsopetria assemblage. Unlike Iron Age material which tended to be small fragments of fine wares, the material dated to either the Hellenistic period or one of the broader, related periods (Hellenistic-Early Roman or Hellenistic-Roman) tended to be larger and represent a more functionally diverse assemblage with the full range of coarse and medium coarse utility wares, amphora, kitchen wares, and fine ware. Of particular note was the long-lived (Archaic-Hellenistic) basket-handled amphora that appeared in excavated contexts and appeared both on Vigla as well as on the coastal plain. The link between these vessels and settling basin may hint at the importance of olive oil production in the area. The fine ware present was evenly split between Black-Glaze (21) and Color Coated wares (23), and this followed closely the division in the Hellenistic fine ware assemblage from the survey area suggesting that these may reflect the supply to the area during this period. The excavated assemblages did not produce kitchen or medium coarse wares that appeared in the survey although these artifacts did not appear in the immediate vicinity of the excavated area. The broader Hellenistic-Early Roman period, however, did produce a more robust assemblage. The challenge with more broadly dated material is that they tend to straddle the overlap between the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The Hellenistic-Roman and Hellenistic-Early Roman assemblage from Koutsopetria made up just over 5% of the total assemblage from Koutsopetria. The assemblage is diverse and includes coarse and medium coarse utility wares, amphora, kitchen, and fine wares. The comprehensive character of this assemblage is consistent with finds from the survey area, but likely reflects the slow spread of settlement on the coastal plain over the course of the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. Material from these long periods includes long-lived Rhodian type amphora, cooking pots, and fine wares types that persisted even Eastern and Cypriot Sigillatas replaced color-coated wares on local tables.

During the Early Roman period, the diversity and quantity of material from the site expands and this parallels neatly the expansion of material from this period in the survey area. The most significant distinction between the assemblage produced from excavation and survey does not appear to the be presence of Early Roman and Roman material, but the assemblage produced from excavation proved significantly more diverse. The excavated assemblage produced no examples of cooking pots or utility wares save a handful of Koan-type amphora, which were likely produced on the island. Some of this is the result of certain artifact types being shifted into broader categories. For example Rhodian amphoras which we identified as predominantly Early Roman in the survey, were dated Hellenistic-Early Roman in the excavation. The appears to be also the case for kitchen wares which were more commonly dated to the broader Roman, Hellenistic-Roman, or Hellenistic-Early Roman periods. As a result, fine ware represented the Early Roman period in the excavation. The most striking difference between the survey assembalge and the excavation assemblage is that Cypriot Sigillata comprised 28% (n=21) of the Early Roman fine wares from the survey, but only 4% (n=3) from the excavation. Other Early Roman fine wares – largely less diagnostic fragment of red slips – consisted of 27% of Early Roman fine wares from the survey (including a fragment of Arretine ware and Eastern Sigillata B) and 55% from the excavation. The remaining sherds were the common Eastern Sigillata A, but the excavation revealed six subforms (Form 19, 37, 38, 44, 65, and a lagynos) whereas the survey only produced a single recognizable subtype Atlante Form 4. It is worth noting that the 2009 excavations produced a small piece of Roman glazed pottery likely dating to the Early Roman period, but quite unusual and without parallel at sites in the region. The absence of Cypriot Sigillata from the excavation is consistent with relatively rarity of this type of Early Roman fine ware. At the nearby site of Panayia-Ematousa, near the modern village of Aradipou, Cypriot Sigillata accounted for only 8.8% of the total fine ware from the site. The absence of CS from the western part of the island may reflect the flow of ceramic materials from east to west with Eastern Sigillata entering the eastern part of the island from Levantine ports and CS circulating from the western production area. The majority of this material appears in secondary contexts, particularly in floor packing or fills, that reflect early patterns of activity in the area.

The broadly defined Roman period at Koutsopetria captures some of the transition from Early to Late Roman activity at the site. Like many places on Cyprus, the 3rd and 4th centuries are poorly represented in both the survey and excavation assemblage at Koutsopetria. The excavation, for example, produced no “pinched-handled” amphoras or forms of CRS or ARS with well-established 3rd-4th century dates. . There are a number of long-lived types of pottery that appear in the broadly dated Roman assemblage that might hint at at “middle Roman” activity at the site. For example, there are African Red Slip sherds that can be assigned to no specific type which makes it impossible to exclude the possibility of early forms existing at Koutsopetria, but no specific evidence for those early forms appeared. Among the range of undiagnostic coarse and medium coarse wares in Roman fabrics, the presence of a small number of long-lived micaceous water jars (Middle Roman 3 amphora) which appear from 1st to 6th century AD offer a glimpse of the middle Roman centuries. The presence of Roman lamps and cooking wares make clear that the coastal plain of Koustopetria was a settlement during the Roman period.

The Late Roman period is the most abundant from both the survey and excavation. The utility wares and amphoras from the excavated contexts are largely identical to those found in the survey. Late Roman 1 amphoras are predictably common in both contexts. The excavation also produced a small number (n=10) of Late Roman 2 amphora from the Aegean and Palestinian amphora (n=2 [check this]). The assemblage produced a significant quantity of kitchen ware sherds including a small number of rather late Dhiorios ware cooking pots that are likely the latest artifacts from the excavation and have comparanda from the survey of the coastal plain. As with most other periods, the fine ware from the Late Roman period provides the best opportunity to reflect on the diversity of material from our site. The two dominant categories of Late Roman fine ware were African Red Slip and Cypriot Red Slip with the former accounting for 48% of the Late Roman fine wares by count and 38% by weight and the latter being 44% by count and 53% by weight. The remaining 10% is made up of Phocaean ware and other rather less diagnostic Late Roman fine ware. It is notable that African Red Slip is significantly better represented in the excavated assemblage than in the survey assemblage. In the survey, ARS accounted for 17.4% of the Roman period fine ware whereas CRS accounted for 42.5% of the same total. The diversity of the two assemblages, however, speaks to their fundamental similarity. There are no ARS forms present in the excavated material that were not also present in the survey with ARS Forms 61, 67, and 105 appearing in both contexts. Likewise the CRS forms reflect the more common types CRS9 and CRS11 as well as the less common CRS8. Phocaean ware appeared in two forms PWH 10 and 5 and the very common PHW 3 was largely absent with only 1 possible example of that form. The presence of substantial quantities of African Red Slip pottery in the excavation assemblage supports two general impression from our survey. First, our local Late Roman fine ware assemblage was dominated by African Red Slip and Cypriot Red Slip suggesting that the site had ties both to regional production centers and Mediterranean wide trade networks. The small quantities of PHW in the excavated area does little to challenge the distribution of this type of pottery at the base of Mavrospilos and Kokkinokremos along the Late Roman coastline and coastal road. We have argued elsewhere that this concentration may mark the presence of warehouses associated with the site’s role as a emporion (Caraher et al. 2014, 295).

There is no compelling evidence for post-Roman material from the site aside from 2 fragments of early modern roof tiles. This is consistent with the distribution of the small quantities of later material in the survey which tend to be concentrated in units adjacent to the small Ottoman/Venetian coastal battery some 300 m to the east of the excavated area. The two tiles are likely the result of plow smearing, local road building, or even intruded during the excavation process rather than a reflecting evidence for a distinct later activity at the site. While it remains possible that some of the assemblage datable to nothing more narrow than Ancient Historic could include later material, it seems more likely that post-Roman activity on the coastal plain was limited and did not directly involve the collapsed church building.

Climate and Religion in the Late Roman Mediterranean

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading about in the recent work on the climate history, climate change, and the Anthropocene. I’ve been sucked into John Brooke’s massive work, Climate Change and the Course of Global History: A Rough Journey (Cambridge 2014) and spent altogether too much time surfing the footnotes. To simplify a very complex and nuanced book, Brooke argues that large-scale climate change has had a direct impact on the development of human culture. In particular, he argues that “the structure of human history is distinctly “Gouldian”/punctuational, with long periods of relative stability (stasis) interrupted by well- de ned breaks best understood as episodic (not necessarily cyclical) global climate crises – Dark Ages, perhaps – increasingly augmented and surpassed by the eruption of epidemic disease and destructive warfare.” In other words, he human populations, culture, and society as stable and resilient. As a result, change has tended to come when particularly disruptive natural events (in contrast to the slow pressures of, say, population growth) push populations to adapt quickly. Not every natural catastrophe had this impact on human societies, but many did.

Last week, David Pettegrew took the first mighty swing at the introduction to our Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Archaeology.  He traced the history of Early Christian archaeology and left us looking ahead to a section on the future of the study of Christian material culture. One of the issues that Brooke’s book has pushed me to consider – as well as recent works (such as the admitted problematic works like Ronnie Ellenblum’s The Collapse of the Eastern Mediterranean: Climate Change and Decline of the East 950-1072 (Cambridge 2012)) – is the role of natural disaster in the rise of Christianity. There is a growing body of evidence that Late Antiquity saw a series of closely clustered natural disasters that ranged from earthquakes and the onsets of plagues to the end of the so-called “Classical Optimum” which was characterized by relatively stable climates and warmer temperatures and the start of 400 year period of greater climate variability. For Brooke and others (most notably Michael McCormick), nature has an impact on the transformations marking the end of the ancient world.

Notable among these changes was the rise of Christianity in the Mediterranean. It is difficult to deny the rate of cultural change that took place over the Late Antique centuries. For example, the accelerated growth of Christianity during Late Antiquity (i.e. after, say, 300) paralleled changes in pagan beliefs. In fact, many of the these changes took place side-by-side and created wonderfully diverse examples of pagan-Christian syncretism. This is not to suggest that either Christianity or paganism was stable and unchanging during its previous centuries. In fact, the internal organization of Christianity from its earliest days in cities around the Eastern Mediterranean adapted to persist in a politically hostile environment which included periodically intense persecutions often triggered by local natural (or social) disasters. The ability for Christianity to survive and adapt to attacks by communities who saw Christians as disrupting social cohesion or the relationship between the community and the divine, almost certain served it well as plagues, climate change, and political and military challenges beset the region.

The challenge for an archaeology of Early Christianity remains identifying evidence for the interaction of Christianity and climate change in specific instances. 

Announcing Picking the President

It is my pleasure to announce the publication of Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College edited by Eric Burin by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.

This The Digital Press’s first effort at a “quick book” that draws together essay from over a dozen authors on the Electoral College. Some were published before and some were written for this book. We combined these essays with historical documents and hope that they provide a platform for thoughtful engagement. The entire project took less than a month from start to finish owing largely to the hard work of my colleague and the book’s editor Eric Burin and the willingness of the contributors to move quickly over the winter break! It was a real rush to get the entire book together this quickly and aside from a few little glitches – like the first page of the table of contents on an even numbered page (which will be ironed out before the book is printed on paper). 

We also collaborated with North Dakota Quarterly to extend the reach of the Digital Press to new readers and a new audience, pushing the book out late yesterday afternoon on the NDQ website

Finally, working on this book was such a welcome respite from winter writing grind. I’ve spent the last few weeks hacking through a long term writing project, and the rush of producing a book in a deeply collaborative way was exactly the tonic that saved me from a total implosion into my own mind. 

Picking the President Cover

Here’s the blurb:

Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. Edited by Eric Burin

The 2016 presidential election has sparked an unprecedented interest in the Electoral College. In response to Donald Trump winning the presidency despite losing the popular vote, numerous individuals have weighed in with letters-to-the-editor, op-eds, blog posts, videos, and the like, and thanks to the revolution in digital communications, these items have reached an exceptionally wide audience. In short, never before have so many people had so much to say about the Electoral College.

To facilitate and expand the conversation, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College offers brief essays that examine the Electoral College from different disciplinary perspectives, including philosophy, mathematics, political science, history, and pedagogy. Along the way, the essays address a variety of questions about the Electoral College: Why was it created? How has it changed over time? Who benefits from it? Is it just? How will future demographic patterns affect it? Should we alter or abolish the Electoral College, and if so, what should replace it? In exploring these matters, Picking the President enhances our understanding of one of America’s most high-profile, momentous issues.

With contributions by Eric Burin, Brad Austin, Bill Caraher, Allen C. Guelzo and James H. Hulme, Mark Stephen Jendrysik, Donald F. Johnson, Benjamin J. Kassow, Andrew Meyer, Cynthia Culver Prescott, Timothy Prescott, Patrick Rael, Andrew Shankman, Manisha Sinha, Mark Trahant, and Jack Weinstein.

~

As you all know, the Digital Press relies on friends and supporters to get our books into the hands of interested readers. We think this book brings together over a dozen short essays and significant historical document in an effort to understand in a more nuanced way the history and arguments for and against the Electoral College in the immediate context of the 2016 presidential election. We also hope that this book will find its way into classrooms both on campus and beyond. It’s concise form, open access status, perspective and provocative essays, and the inclusion of historical documents make a platform for informed discussion.

Here’s a link to the book: https://thedigitalpress.org/picking-the-president/

Here’s (my version of the) official press release for the book:

Announcing the Newest Title from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota:
Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. Edited by Eric Burin. 

No matter where one stands in American politics, the 2016 presidential elections were momentous. After a long and contentious campaign, it seemed somehow fitting that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and Donald Trump won the electoral vote. This touched off another round in the long running debate over the role of the Electoral College in American presidential elections.

The wide range of views on the Electoral College in the state and national media prompted Prof. Eric Burin of the Department of History to team up with North Dakota Quarterly and the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota to publish Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. This volume brings together scholars from across campus, the state, and the US to discuss the history and the future of the Electoral College.

For Prof. Burin, “the Electoral College may be the most momentous and contentious feature of American life. It determines who will be president, the most powerful office in the world. The stakes couldn’t be higher.  That’s why people feel so strongly about it.  That’s also why we need to study it so carefully.”

While all the contributors prepared their essays in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, their perspectives span from the world of antiquity to Early Modern Europe, 19th century America, and the present day. Drawing on disciplines as diverse as math, philosophy, communications, and political science, Burin notes: “Picking the President aims to enrich the public conservation about the Electoral College. The book’s collection of brief, engaging, and insightful essays are not intended to be the final word on the Electoral College. Rather, the goal is to make our discussions on the subject even more wide-ranging, thoughtful, and rewarding.”

The book also includes a series of important documents in the history of the Electoral College including both well-known texts like Article II of the U.S. Constitution which established the Electoral College and documents that might be less familiar to the general public like James Madison’s correspondence with John Hillhouse and George Hay on the issue.

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota leverages a new ecosystem of digital publishing tools, social media distribution, and print-on-demand printing to produce high quality digital publication.  These digital tools allow the Digital Press to bringing together scholars from campus, the state, and the nation to engage thoughtfully in a conversation of immediate relevance. Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Debbie Storrs remarks: “The scholars in this volume represent multiple perspectives and demonstrate in their responsiveness and urgency an innovative deployment, made possible by digital technology and committed scholarship, of disciplinary expertise to engage public discussion, democracy and citizenship. The continued relevance of the liberal arts is revealed in the thoughtful analysis of the Electoral College by scholars.”

The book is available as a free download here.

And will be available at the end of the month as a low-cost paperback on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

Book Making Day: Picking the President

Today is book making day, and, as anyone who has ever worked with The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota knows, this is my favorite day. Today, I’m going to put the finishing touches on Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College, edited by Eric Burin

It’s an exciting project for a number of reasons. First, it’s timely and is a good read! It brings together a nice combination of new works and previously published articles on the Electoral College. It is also well-balanced between UND contributors and contributors of national status, and I think the perspectives offered reflect a range of perspectives. I’m not sure the book is comprehensive, in terms of views on the Electoral College, but I think there is plenty of room for a reader to challenge the perspectives offered in the book and come to their own conclusions on its role in the American republic.

I enjoyed working closely with a colleague in the Department of History to produce something that, with any luck, should offer both our department and the University of North Dakota some visibility at a time when the fate of higher education in the state is being actively debated. 

Finally, and most importantly, this is the first time The Digital Press produced a “quick book.” That is a book length treatment of an issue of pressing and historic significance. Generally speaking conventional academic publishing is a slow process. Publishers queue books up for production and design, copy-editing, correspondence, printing, and distribution all take place on a carefully managed schedule of deadlines. The Digital Press is a very, very small and as a result, we have great flexibility. We also work so closely with our authors and contributors who almost all appreciated the pressing deadlines (particularly the editor of this book, Eric Burin) and got things done on time and to spec.

So stay tuned! With any luck, this book will appear in the next 12 hours.

Here’s a little sneak peek.

 

Picking the President Jan 8 Draft

 

Picking the President Jan 8 DraftTOC

Picking the President Jan 8 DraftTOC2

Picking the President Jan 8 DraftTOC3

Picking the President Jan 8 WRC

Graduate Education

I always forget how hectic the start of the semester is. This semester, I feel particularly caught out. I have a book that I’m publishing to appear this week (!!), another book – that I’m co-authoring – staggering out of the bleak winter writing season, a teaching overload, and the usual onslaught of early-semester meetings. 

There is one meeting in which I’m particularly interested. It is with a new “field officer” from the graduate school who is acting as a graduate ambassador. He is also the director of graduate studies for English. We’re going to chat generally about the state of graduate education at UND with particular attention to what’s going on in the humanities. For the last couple of years, I’ve been director of graduate studies in the department of history and while our program is healthy and thriving, I think that graduate education in the humanities nationally has challenges and realistic conversations on campus can at least prepare students to enter a world where an education in the liberal arts and humanities is no long prized as the hallmark of an educated individual and a priority among those seeking to guard the welfare of the republic.

So, as I thought about this meeting on the way onto campus, I came up with three or four things that maybe could frame our conversation:

1. Creating Advocates. Without eschewing our own responsibility to advocate for our students, we could do things that help our graduate students become advocates for their disciplines not only on campus here, but more broadly. To do this, students have to understand more clearly the culture of higher education in the US, the institutional structures that shape their university experience, and how to use their new positions as “consumer of educational products” to push for change on campus that benefits their futures (especially if they plan to go on into academia) as well as the future students.

2. Disciplinarity. We’re in an interesting time for the disciplines. On the one hand, disciplinary integrity is now needed more than ever to protect the autonomy of academic departments, fields of study, methods, and branches knowledge. At the same time, we are being pushed – not just by malevolent forces – into thinking outside the disciplinary box. In fact, we interdisciplinary thinking is a hallmark of a careful thinking in the humanities. For students to grasp interdisciplinary thinking and its potential, however, they need to have both a secure understanding of their own disciplines (and that is best achieved at the department level) and regular contact with folks from outside their disciplines. To do this we have to make it easier for students to interact in an academic setting with folks outside their disciplines.

3. Hands-on Experiences. One of the greatest challenges we face in our two-year master’s program is finding ways to give students hands-on experiences without undermining the rigor of their academic training. For example, we would love it for students to gain work experience at a local museum, in an archive, or with work publishing at a press or an academic journal. These could be developed as internships – for credit – or as part of their graduate teaching assistantships. The former involves asking our students to do work for nothing, whereas the later involves an infusion of funding either from UND or from collaborating institutions.

4. Collaboration across Institutions. We live on an island here in Grand Forks, ND in the primordial lake Agassiz. We’re surrounded by pitch black farmland and connected to other centers in the state by narrow ribbons of highway. These other centers are islands too and many of these islands have college campuses. The Department of History already collaborates with North Dakota State University in offering a joint Ph.D. in History, and I don’t see why this kind of collaboration might not be expanded to bring more isolated, but engaged minds together. And this doesn’t just mean collaboration with institutions of higher education. There are numerous cultural institutions across the state – North Dakota Humanities Council, The State Historical Society, The State Library, et c. – that could offer meaningful collaborations with the various islands across the state.   

4. Culture, Not Contract. One of the changes that I’d love to see on campus is less attention given to the contractual aspects of higher education – paper work, programs, deadlines, requirements, et c. – and more given to the cultural aspects of graduate education on our campus here. For example, it remains difficult to convince students to meet less formally or to attend invited speakers or to forge meaningful academic contacts across campus. These kind of informal activities take place when there is a healthy academic and intellectual culture on campus and when programs are seen as opportunities to engage with big and difficult questions rather routes to degrees.

Ceramics from Koutsopetria

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on getting a preliminary draft completed for our publication of the excavations at Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus. This work involved two campaigns in the 1990s by Maria Hadjicosti and her team and a single season of targeted excavation by a team from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project.

While the last two posts focused on the architecture and then the history of the site, the final part of this will focus on the ceramics. The only problem is that today is probably the last writing day of the great winter writing season, and I am not done writing that section yet.

And to make things more complicated, my partner in crime, David Pettegrew has started work on the introduction to our Oxford Handbook to Early Christian Archaeology. They’re having some kind of faculty write-in this week and he’s working away on that introduction. In solidarity, I’ll spend today writing the final parts of the first draft of our work at Koutsopetria. As a bit of motivation, I’ll post it when I’m done here!

So, stay tuned!

…. uh oh… still not done and it’s after 4 pm… maybe I can have a one day extension on this? 

An Archaeology of Care in the Bakken Oil Patch

This past week my colleague Richard Rothaus presented a paper for the North Dakota Man Camp project on a session dedicated to “An Archaeology of Care” at the Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Meeting in Ft. Worth, Texas. We’re still working through the idea, but each iteration and conversation gets us closer to distinguishing the concept from the range of similar frameworks already at play in archaeology (e.g. ethical archaeology, public archaeology, et c.) and weaving together a recognizable body of theory and practice.   

By all accounts, the paper and the panel went well, and Richard graciously allowed me to share the final draft of the paper here (although I’ve found that the final draft of a paper for Richard may only have a passing resemblance to what he presents at the conference!): 

An Archaeology of Care in the Bakken Oil Patch (North Dakota, USA)

A Paper Presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology
January 2017
Ft. Worth, Texas  

Richard Rothaus (North Dakota University System)
William Caraher (University of North Dakota)
Bret Weber (University of North Dakota)

I think I coined the term of “archaeology of care” impromptu during a podcast. I was searching for a descriptor of archaeological practice that intersects with living people in a way that they find positive and relevant; an archaeological practice that leaves subjects feeling valued and worthy of study, not gawked at, not as descendants of lost or vanishing lifeways. In this sense, “archaeology of care” is a contribution to conversations emphasizing the production of a more ethical archaeology that avoids the occasional anti-humanistic tendencies of the discipline. Such projects have surfaced across a wide range of both theoretical perspective and practices with particularly productive developments around community archaeology, indigenous archaeology, and public archaeology. These developments look to create common ground between archeologists and the communities in which they work, and to find shared values in archaeological practice and knowledge.

[SLIDE 3]

For the University of North Dakota Mancamp Project, an archaeology of care emerged at the intersection of archaeology of the contemporary world and historical research in the Bakken oil patch. We began the project as citizens of North Dakota using an academic toolkit to response to the massive influx of population that came with the Bakken unconventional shale play. In this context, our archaeology of care developed two-fold: first, by regular and sustained interactions with the residents of the Bakken living amidst the material culture that we were studying and second, by immersing ourselves in research that, out of the myriad of possible questions, chose some relevant to the lifeways of the residents of this region. We were valued in the field because we came not to fix anything, but rather to understand what was happening. 

[SLIDE 4]. 

As we travelled, invariably residents of the workforce housing sites inquired about our work. During these informal interactions with the residents of the Bakke, we became aware that our research interest in the lives of these people constituted a meaningful form of interaction for all parties. The residents of the area appreciated that scholars from the regional university considered their experiences worthy of study.  Investigators and residents recognized a shared understanding of the significance of the boom historically, and this revealed an intersection of our research goals with the experiences of individuals. The Man Camp project was an archaeology of care not just because we treated individuals with respect and involved them, but more deeply, because our academic approach to lifeways, economics, and material culture eschewed ironic and counterintuitive hypothesis building and instead found significant overlap with the experiences and expectations of residents of the Bakken.

[SLIDE 5]

While we would express it in different ways, the members of the academic North Dakota Man Camp Project and the residents of the region share many of the same concerns and expectations for how a range of social actors conceptualized the labor of the boom.  Central to these overlapping sensibilities is the issue of agency: while the vast majority of workers viewed themselves as free agents making rational choices, the reality was far more varied.  Many of the workers in the Bakken are trained professionals for whom life in crew camps and long periods of absence from home are common parts of their trade.  Distinct from that population are the large numbers of individuals who lost jobs or otherwise had their lives disrupted by the Great Recession.  There is a continuum stretching from those for whom the erratic boom/bust cycle is a regular part of their careers, to those for whom seeking employment in the oil patch was the best, worst option available during a period of great social and economic unsettlement.  Our presence and interest in the lives of the workers and residents of the Bakken oil patch is part of a totalizing discourse of the modern world. We appeared not as omniscient outsiders looking in, ready to pass judgment or solve the problems of others, but as co-residents of a world created, crafted, and interpreted by corporate and extractive industries. In distinction to certain expressions of indigenous archaeology or public archaeology, the archaeology of care subverts the paradigm that construes archaeological outreach or collaboration as between disciplinary archaeologists and “others”.

 [SLIDE 6]

The Bakken Oil Boom, and the influx of temporary labor into the Bakken in the aftermath of the “Great Recession” of 2007-2009 reflects global trends that Saskia Sassen has summarized as expulsions (2014). Displaced from their homes on account of the mortgage crisis, untethered from the historical fixity of middle-class life, caught up in dynamics of just-in-time manufacturing and contingent labor, and buffeted by the increased speed of an industrial boom-bust cycle, many of the migrant Bakken workers manifest the deterritorialized politics and the overlapping economy of the 21st-century world. The Bakken reflects the expulsions that shape a disrupted world and the tense emergence of new forms of settlement designed to accommodate and normalize the experience of the migrant, the refugee, the modern worker, and in some real ways the archaeologist and the academic. Archaeology is still developing the tools to understand what Cresswell has termed diasporic public spheres, a form without the arbitration of the nation-state, where “no place is privileged, no place is better than another, as from no place the horizon is nearer than from any other” (Cresswell 2006). Short-term settlement and movement in the landscape trace faint lines in the archaeological record and form a basis for the shared significance of the Bakken boom to archaeologists documenting the ephemeral and workers seeking a place within the unsettled modern world.

[SLIDE 7]

The North Dakota Man Camp Project identified 50 workforce housing sites in the Bakken region of North Dakota for systematic investigation. Our research sites were visited regularly over a four-year period and documented through video, photography, sketches, and text descriptions. We complemented the material culture documentation with oral interview. The open-ended sampling method captured not just the stories of workers, but also of spouses and children, of camp managers, and even long-term residents of Western North Dakota. People were almost always eager to share their stories, and seemed to quickly comprehend the intention of the study: they told their unique tales about lives lived during this specific historical moment of resource extraction. Despite the hardships, people were generally optimistic, dogged, even indomitable.

[SLIDE 8]

The interviews captured a thick description of life in temporary worker housing. Beyond basic demographic data, interview subjects were always asked where they came from, how long they had been in the patch, what brought them there, and what sort of work and fortunes they had found or failed to find. They were also asked about where ‘home’ was. After responses that were often emphatic (home is here in the Bakken! Or home is back where I make mortgage payments), follow-up questions generally provided interview subjects with an opportunity to produce more nuanced and complicated descriptions of what they meant by home.

[SLIDE 9]

To deal with the variations among the mancamps in the region, we developed a typology of three classes of camps, all of which are defined by the level of formal organization visible to outsiders and which reflect both historical and contemporary understandings by residents of the camps and their surrounding communities. The ethos, but maybe not the reality, of the Bakken Boom was not that of a worker ending up at the predestined factory job, but the cowboy-entrepreneur, fully cognizant of his own commodification and choosing his own path. These are the denizens of the 21st-century “wage earner’s frontier.” For many the choice of where to live was part of a rational decision to join the boom. For many others, life was ‘hell’ and living in the man camps was an unfortunate but necessary sacrifice, and one that disproportionately consumed a large portion of their earnings. Nonetheless, interviewees had commonly not only thought about this, they could articulate it, and our interest in their choices and articulations was a large part of the archaeology of care.

[SLIDE 10]

The type I camps, run by large providers, are the most highly organized both externally and internally, and inhabited primarily by skilled employees of the major oil companies. An individual lives in a type I camp by virtue of employment arrangement, although it must be noted that the choice to live there is almost always optional. The Type I camps typify the depersonalized non-place, and outside visitors frequently describe them as “sterile” and “prisons”.  The camps are organized as identical living spaces arranged either axially or on a grid. The function of the camps is defined by the interchangeability of parts and people. The profitability of the housing arrangement for the provider depends on its modularity, mobility, and temporal flexibility; the camp can move to where it is needed, when it is needed, and changes are easy as all parts are the same.

[SLIDE 11]

Typically, type I inhabitants are individuals who come in for 21 day stints, working 12 or more hours a day in hard and dangerous working conditions. They are physically and temporally committed exclusively to work during their stay, and thus have minimum need for living space beyond eating, bathing, and sleeping. The Type I camps are a non-place, and the workers are in a window of non-life with no sense of community and certainly no political involvement in the area or processes where they earn their living. They do not personalize their living space, because their life is not here, it is elsewhere, and it is the flow back to their real-world that punctuates time. So it is not that these are people who do not care about domestic space (although there are some such folks among them); rather the Type I camps are inhabited by people who have organized their life around the optimized, maximally efficient deployment of their labor. While we found people in Type I camps who were nonplussed by the arrangements, and reasonably happy to accumulating capital to spend at their other place, we also found other people who had turned themselves ‘off’ to become temporary cogs, waiting to return to actual lives—lives that were ‘generally’ disrupted in damaging ways.

[SLIDE 12]

Type III camps are at the opposite end of spectrum: ephemeral, chaotic places that primarily existed in the earlier days of the boom. Like the Type I camps, the organization of the Type III camps reflects the labor of those within them. The Type III camps are inhabited by semi-skilled people who had wandered to the Bakken to find jobs and careers outside of the orderly movement of skilled labor. Where the Type I camps are uniform and undifferentiated, the Type III camps were individualized conglomerations of tents, trailers, shipping containers, and piles of stuff left in shelter belts. The Type I camps were ephemeral at the discretion of the company, the Type III camps are ephemeral at the discretion of the individuals or local law enforcement. At Type III camps, individuals piece together an extralegal existence that they fully expect to be temporary. The individualization does not, for the most part, represent an intent to define personality and space, but rather an ad hoc, highly independent period of existence.

[SLIDE 13]

Type II camps are akin to RV parks. These camps, like much that one sees in the patch, are often owned by outside interests, investment groups who have sometimes never set foot in North Dakota. Within the camps, housing units are often individually owned trailers, situated in ways that most closely replicate the sense of community found in working-class suburbs. As a result, units that are only meant for temporary living have increasingly become near permanent housing structures operating independent of building and safety codes. The Type II camps occupied most of our time and effort, because within these we were able to see the complexity of individual organization and choices. Such complexity certainly was contained in Type I and III camps as well, but there it was obscured by uniformity or chaos.

[SLIDE 14]

We were drawn to the Type II camps because of the diversity and visibility of material culture. Type II camps facilitate study of the spaces between the trailers. There we are able to observe individuals adapting material culture manufactured for impermanence into at least a simulacrum of permanence. The hyper-abundance of wooden pallets, insulation, fences, gardens, grills, freezers and miscellanea opened the door to the study of personal, temporal and seasonal variations. We found our window to engage fully in an archaeology of care by not asking about the boom, but by asking the question “how have you chosen to live within a boom.” The answers, alas, do not fit within our time limits, so we refer you to our forthcoming papers in Historical Archaeology and the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology.

[SLIDE 15]

What makes the UND Mancamp project truly an archaeology of care is our relentless focus not on external economic and organizational structures, but on the organizational structures developed by the workers whose time and bodies have been commoditized in a late-capitalist 24/7 globalized extractive industry (Crary 2014). Our shared investment in understanding the modern world has caused us to arrive, to our own surprise, at a somewhat radical intellectual space, and interestingly, while we did not get there by chance, we also did not get there on purpose. Like many of those living and working in the Bakken, our study entered the stream of what British Economist Guy Standing refers to as a global reality of precariousness in which people from across a multitude of racial, educational, and income categories strive to make sense of the present neo-liberal driven uncertainties that disrupt both our social and economic lives.  While superficially our work drew upon many different disciplines to understand what was happening in the Bakken, we discovered that common ground between the workforce in the Bakken and our work as researchers at a micro-level has proved the most beneficial. How interesting that we arrived at an archaeology of care by focusing on the lifeways of commoditized labor, and in turn we found an archaeology that helps us understand ourselves, our neighbors, and the worlds we work in. We are pleased to bring humanistic tools to bear on the changing nature of labor , and our experiences in the Bakken illustrate that many non-academics are surprisingly in agreement (McKenzie Wark).

[SLIDE 16]

 

 

References

Caraher, W., K. Kourellis, R. Rothaus and B. Weber. “The Archaeology of Home in the Bakken Oil Fields.” Historical Archaeology, forthcoming.

Caraher, W., R. Rothaus, B. Weber. “Lessons from the Bakken Oil Patch.” Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, forthcoming.

Crary, Jonathan. 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. Verso, 2014.

Cresswell, Tim. On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World.  Taylor & Francis, 2006.

Sassen, Saskia. Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. Harvard University Press, 2014.

Standing, Guy. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. Bloomsbury Academic, 2011.

Wark, McKenzie. Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene. Verso, 2015.

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

Oh man! It’s cold here!! This is that week in North Dakotaland when the temperatures do not peek above 0 and no one ventures outside for long. But this is ok, because one comes to live in North Dakotaland not to enjoy the great outdoors, but to hunker down by the fire and draw the blinds and read and write and think and listen to music. If you want to be outdoors in the sun, move to Florida or Arizona or someplace like that.

If you’re happy by the fire, then please enjoy these quick hits and varia:

50532785919 4410D23B 4819 4746 8583 03E1337DD646 JPGSo bored.

50533551786 116DF481 1DBA 4EC2 A7C9 66FBD5AA4E32 JPGWake me when winter’s over.

New Year’s Resolution: Trust the Process

I know that New Year’s resolutions are a bit silly and all, and most involve middle aged men and women trudging off to the gym at 6 am for a couple of weeks in January, but I’m not the only academic to indulge in this annual opportunity for personal and professional introspection.

Over the last few years, I’ve had a ton of fun. I have enjoyed working on projects quickly and, frankly, a bit obsessively. I’ve enjoyed the staccato beat of deadlines both self-imposed and external, and the regular appearance of completed projects.

Recently, though, I’ve struggled to get back to or even deal with a few more involved and long term projects. For example, I have only returned the work on a volume documenting our excavations at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria largely because the task of moving it completion seemed a bit overwhelming. I have been reluctant to start John Brooke’s Climate Change and the Course of Global History: A Rough Journey (Cambridge 2014) because it seems too damn long (and I have no idea how Kostis Kourelis convinced me to pony up $20 for Alan Moore’s Jerusalem: A Novel (New York 2016) other than it’s economical $0.017 per page cost!). I have a 100,000 word textbook manuscript that needs sustained attention and an online History 101: Western Civilization class (upon which the book is based) that requires revision, updating, and change and a largely still-born untextbook projectI have 10,000 photographs from the Bakken that a begging for some kind of analysis or, at least, organization. Most of these projects require more than a couple of weeks of sustain attention. I can’t bang them out over a long weekend fueled by excitement and coffee, and they’re unlikely to leave me with a sense of general satisfaction because – other than reading a book cover-to-cover – research doesn’t work like that.

Over the life of this blog, I’ve frequently written about process and even more frequently about slow, but maybe I’m more interested in process and slow and taking my time in theory than in practice. Over the last couple of years, at least, I have paid more and more attention to getting things done and the excitement (and addictive stress) of racing toward a deadline. I love looking at a “to do list” and thinking “how on earth will I get all this happen?” And even when I fail to get through the list or things fall through the cracks or the quality of my work isn’t what I hoped it would be, I have convinced myself that this is no worse than failing at a self-imposed work-out goal or feeling the sting of a favorite team losing a game that I predicted them to win.

Maybe this year, I need to get back to really believing in the process and take the time to nudge these long term projects along.