This summer, Dimitri Nakassis, Scott Gallimore, and I along with a some remarkable graduate students continued to work our way through the data from the Western Argolid Regional Project. Yesterday, Dimitri published a little blog post that expressed a good bit of our frustration with interpreting our data. In some ways, his post expresses some of the same ideas that I tried to work through with “Slow Archaeology.” Analyzing survey data is hard.
For WARP, the challenge stems, in part, from the quantity of data that we produced as well as the fit between what we anticipated (and how this shaped our data collection processes) and what we found on the ground. There is always some risk that the tension between how we collected data and the structure of our databases may obscure the historical and archaeological processes that led to the distribution of material across our survey area. For example, we know that certain areas in our survey produced very few artifacts, but it’s so far been hard to determine whether this reflects an ancient reality (i.e. limited activities), natural processes (e.g. erosion or other depositional events), or a modern field conditions (i.e. surface visibility, plowing, imported soils, et c.). In this situation, we have tried to understand the combination of variables that characterizes low-density artifact scatters in a generalizable way without undermining the possibility that low-density scatters are produced through a wide range of processes. Difficulties of this kind are not unique to our project or survey archaeology, but are fundamental to any effort that takes into account formation processes.
I’ve also read Anthony Kaldellis’s new translation of Ioannis Polemis edition of the Life of Peter of Argos in their Saints of Ninth- and Tenth-Century Greece. One of my favorite stories involves the battle between Argos and Nauplion over the body of St. Peter of Argos. It think there’s a lesson in this for all of us (I’m not sure what that lesson is):
Life of Peter of Argos, Chapter 14
Then a quarrel broke out between the citizens of Argos and those of Nauplion, as the latter wanted to carry the blessed relic into their own town and transfer it to Nauplion. They even drew weapons, but their rush was checked by the multitude of inhabitants of Argos. So they yielded unwillingly and failed in their purpose.