Some Bits and Bobs from my Summer of Fieldwork

Survey archaeology offers plenty of good opportunities to  walk around thinking about stuff, but the hectic pace of the survey season makes it hard to articulate anything in a complex way. Instead, I have lots of fragments of ideas that have floated through my mind over the last 7 weeks on the Western Argolid Regional Project (WARP).

Here are a few random thoughts.

1. Aqueducts. One of the known features in our survey area is a Roman period aqueduct. This isn’t a new discovery, but it has been cool to examine the route of the aqueduct through our survey area in some detail. While the construction of the aqueduct is interesting in and of itself, what’s more fun to think about is how this Roman period structure shaped the ancient landscape of the Western Argolid. The aqueduct brought water from springs to the northwest of our survey area down the Inachos valley to Argos itself.

The aqueduct entered our survey area about half way down the Inachos valley and it runs more or less parallel with the river. As a result settlements settlements down stream from where the aqueduct entered the river valley could have tapped the aqueduct for water (whether they did or not is an open question), whereas settlements further up the Ianochus valley, before the joining of the aqueduct would not. 

The visual impact of the aqueduct through the landscape would have connected communities along the lower reach of the Inachos more visibly with Argos than those further up the valley. This would not have been a simple matter of proximity, as we might expect communities along the aqueduct’s route outside (our survey area and) the Inachos valley would have also recognized this feature as a clear connection between their community and the Argos as a major regional center in antiquity.

Water was not the only thing moving along the aqueduct, of course. It would have likely required regular maintenance, for example, which would have been probably coordinated at Argos. Moreover, the aqueduct would have probably required a certain amount of policing as well to prevent water from being siphoned off as it wended its way through the valleys and passes to the city. The aqueduct stood as both a visual and practical link of the countryside to the city in the Roman period.   

2. Data, Writing, and Work. As I wandered the countryside looking at the ground with the Western Argolid Regional Project, many of my colleagues were working hard on revising their contributions to a book that my press is publishing based on the Mobilizing the Past conference held in 2015. These papers got me thinking, once again, about how we do archaeological work and produce archaeological knowledge.

It was pretty easy for me to think about our work this summer as a kind of data collecting. We focused on documenting the landscape and gathering data on the basis of a more or less rigorous method (actually quite rigorous, but we also knew when to adjust it to different circumstances). At some point toward the end of the season we began to talk about the various publications that we envisioned from this project, and used that to help us prioritize our field work. 

It got me thinking about whether archaeological projects struggle to publish, in part, because we think so much of field work as “data collection” rather than part of the writing process. In fact, it’s really difficult to find time to write arguments and narratives during the field season which is driven more by the need to do things best accomplished when we are “in the field” than thinking about what we’re going to do when we leave the field. I wonder how much our priorities get blurred by being in the field. In other words, I wonder how much our being in a place make it hard for us to think about the ultimate outcome of our work. Is the simple act of being in the field and immersed in the moment and the place inimical to our ability to think about our work as words on the page?

3. The Bakken. I’ve started to put together a little website for my little book that is slated to come out his fall in the NDSU Press Heritage Guide Series. I haven’t added much content, but I’m thinking of using the site as a place to write marginalia on my book, update sections, and even develop more thoroughly arguments and observations that I’ve had a chance to think about more carefully since I’ve submitted the final manuscript. 

My publisher is pretty adamant that I not put too much of my work online, but hopefully I can find ways to talk around the book without giving too much away. I have this idea that I can develop the website to build out in a more expansive and academic way from my initial body of observations. We’ll see.

4. Puppies. For years I’ve rolled my eyes at students bringing ratty, dirty street animals home from Greece, but somehow this year, I’ve found myself attached to a puppy who left – probably to die or be saved – outside our apartments this year. A few trips to the vet, some vaccinations, paperwork, and about eight phone calls to my airline, and he’s going to be on his way to a new home on the northern plains. He’s already pretty attached to his neon-green bag and to me (I think). Hopefully the flights are smooth and he’s patient with our travel.

His name is Argie, which is short for Argos, and he already wants to do what he’s told to do and party like it’s 2016.  

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