Survey Method and the Modern Landscape

A few weeks ago, I posted on the problem of “managing the modern landscape in intensive survey.” This week, my conceptual musings actually require operational decisions. By the end of the week, we’ll be surveying around an abandoned modern settlement in the Western Argolid.

The site is beautiful, relatively secluded settlement established by transhumant herders probably in the late 19th or early 20th century. There are a gaggle of traditional Balkan-style long houses which are generally divided into two spaces: one for the animals and one for the people. There are corbeled ovens, leaning sheds, alonia (threshing floors), and mandres (animal pens). The site is surrounded by fields and the houses themselves form an uneven scatter across the lower and middle slopes of a narrow valley. 

The project directors and survey team leaders visited the site yesterday afternoon during a gentle rain shower and thought about how to approach the complexity of the modern period site, the abundance of artifacts, and the relationship between houses and other features in the landscape.

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The site offers a few challenges.

1. Artifact Distribution. Over the past 12 hours, we have discussed endlessly how to deal with the dense scatters of artifacts associated with the abandoned houses. These scatters consist primarily of roof tiles, but since each house may have as many as 3,000 tiles, there is a real opportunity to blow out our ceramics team and storage facilities for very little new information.

So how do we go about documenting the scatter of tiles surrounding these houses? If we simply survey the houses as part of our traditional 2000 sq m survey units, the unit will show a density influence largely by the scatter of material associated with the immediate vicinity of the house. This approach will not represent the “reality on the ground” in the most effective way. 

If we attempt to isolate the artifact scatters associated with the houses in the area by excluding them from larger survey units or make them the center of small units focused on the artifact scatters, we have introduced a rather unconventional method to the area and risk producing data that is not necessarily consistent with the data that we’ve collected from elsewhere in the survey area.

We are stuck between the rock of needing to manage modern abundance and the hard place of treating all material from our survey area with a consistent method.   

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2. Architecture. We also need to think about how we are going to document the houses at the site. The houses preserve hints of a wide range of archaeological processes, modifications, and uses. David Pettegrew and I considered many of these same issues in our work to document the site of Lakka Skoutara in the southeastern Corinthia. It’ll be a great opportunity to encourage students to look closely at a building in the landscape and to consider how material transitions from its primary context to an archaeological context. At the same time, we’ll need to provide some consistent guidance to ensure that the students, team leaders, and directors document the buildings in a consistent way while also being able to describe each building with as much detail and nuance as possible.

We need to figure out whether it is worth doing some illustrations of the houses or should we rely on photographs to capture details that might elude textual descriptions. I generally favor taking the time to illustrate the houses because it forces the documenter to slow down and notice small details that might not appear as clearly through the photographer’s view finder. At the same time, there will be a need for efficiency so we will almost certainly have to document the houses in as efficient way as possible.

3. Features. The final issue is that houses stand in relation to other features and these clusters of features need to be identified and documented. Like documenting architecture, we need to decide whether to produce illustrations that capture significant detail, rely on textual descriptions, or create a set of maps that emphasize particular spatial relationships. 

We need to proceed efficiently and capture data at a scale that is relevant for the kinds of arguments that we intend to make. In an ideal world, we could collect “all the data,” we fortunately occupy a world where “all the data” is not a realistic or helpful goal.

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Photo Friday in the Western Argolid: Cars and Trash Edition

This week was hot. As a result, I was not my usual photographic self. 

It was THIS HOT.

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Despite that, I mapped (that’s not me; actually I wander around offering astute commentary and our amazing team of graduate students map).

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Checked out some neat cars in the field.

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The highlight of the week was a sudden rain shower on Thursday that imparted olive trees with a golden-green glow. I tried (rather unsuccessfully) to photograph it.

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I also had the good luck of discovering a spectacular modern trash dump in a ravine that was later cut by an erosional event. The trash dated to the late 1990s or early 2000s. The dating was done by Machal Gradoz, our project soccer expert (as well as a fine archaeologist) who identified an image of David Beckham on a Pepsi can and dated the uniform, basic information on the can, and hair to the turn of the century.

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The dump was stratified indicating more than one depositional event. The size of the dump, however, suggests that it probably did not represent the primary dump of a village, but was perhaps the dump for one of the small communities in the area. The location of the dump on both sides of the ravine indicates that the dump was cut by the ravine. 

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Travelers Accounts and Formation Processes

I thoroughly enjoyed a recent article in the Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies by my fellow WARP staffer Scott Gallimore: “‘The Saddest of Ruins’: Travelers’ Accounts as Evidence for Formation Processes at Hierapytna, Crete.” Scott considers travelers accounts of ancient Hierapyta on Crete, the site of his dissertation research, as evidence for archaeological formation processes. 

This is a cool project for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it provides a useful archaeological and intellectual context for early travelers’ accounts of the ancient landscape. Traditionally, scholars have recognized the value of these account and often bring them into their consideration of a region as something of a bridge between antiquity and the modern era. Many early travelers, particularly those explicitly interested in antiquities like Cyriac of Ancona or the much later William Martin Leake provide a faint echo of our own archaeological interests and archaeologists have often borrowed their perspectives (critically, of course) as a way to see landscapes radically changed my industrialization, mechanization, and other transformations of the modern world. At their best, scholars have sought to understand the various perspectives that these “early” travelers and porto-archaeologists brought to their seeing and writing; at their worst, scholars have seen earlier travelers as another source of “data” to be mined in an effort to reconstruct some kind of authentic ancient past. 

Scott’s article offers a different approach to how ancient travelers can and should be used. They represent a guide to understanding time and process in the long gap between the creation of ancient buildings and our work to reconstruct and recognize archaeological remains. In particular, Scott is clever in noting how travelers often tend to recognize short-term transformations to the local scene ranging from earthquakes, attacks, or changes in political or economic regimes. They are less savvy when it comes to understanding long-term change, but this is actually better for archaeologists. Many early travelers present static, rusticated, and ruined backdrop against which they set their moralizing views. The curious thing is, as Scott shows quite cleverly, this backdrop provides points along a continuum that actually subvert the travelers intentions by revealing more gradual but no less significant processes so crucial in the production of modern archaeological sites. 

In other words, the tension between the short-term catastrophes and the enduring ruins in the earlier travelers provides an intellectual framework for formation processes that tend to oscillate between moments of dramatic collapse and long periods of gradual deterioration. Whether this is universally true, is open to debate, but there is definitely enough anecdotal evidence for archaeologists to be familiar with this kind of tension: walls will continue to stand as long as the building has a roof, but when the roof fails, the walls will absorb water into their matrix and erode much more quickly.

Once you finish enjoying Scott’s article, be sure to check out the rest of this issue which includes a series of articles on the archaeological challenges associated with the division of Cyprus. Some good perspectives offered here. I’ll write up something on these 

Ruins and Memories

A few weeks ago I posted a short piece on Bjørnar Olsen’s and Þóra Pétursdóttir’s,Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past. That was a warm up to a long book review which I have now drafted.

It was a bit tricky to review an almost 500 page book with 25 contributors. And it was relatively difficult to post this blog while being rammed by the Mighty Milo and his stuffed elephant. Finally, have I mentioned that it’s cold here? Today it’s -17 F and falling (don’t worry, it’s a dry cold and it only feels like -33). 

Somehow I managed, so here it is with complementary typos!

Review of Bjørnar Olsen; Þóra Pétursdóttir, Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past. Routledge 2014.

The last decade has seen a rise in the use of archaeology to interrogate the contemporary world. The publication of Harrison and Schofield’s After Modernity in 2010 and the the awkwardly-titled Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Contemporary World in 2013 will likely mark watersheds in applying archaeological methods to contemporary situations. The volume edited by Olsen and Pétursdóttir continues along these lines and offers much to consider even for archaeologists focusing on eras more distant from our own.

Olsen’s and Pétursdóttir’s volume represents the outcome of a four-year Norwegian Research Council grant titled Ruin Memories and focused on cultivating a cross-disciplinary dialogue on modern ruins in heritage practices and scholarly discourse. The 25 papers divide into an introduction and five sections: Things, Ethics, and Heritage; Material Memory; Ruins, Art, Attraction; Abandonment; and Archaeologies of the Recent Past. As such, there is a slight bias toward recent work in northern European countries, but none of the contributions to this volume are location specific. The papers address issues of memory, material agency, modernity and ruins through approaches ranging from the theoretically and conceptually challenging to the poetic and descriptive.

Much of theoretical work in this book continues recent work focused on a critical examination of “things” and agency. Heidegger’s various considerations of things, particularly his well-known “tool analysis” from Being and Time, informs the introduction as well as a Andersson’s two contributions and Pétursdóttir reflections on abandonment. Introna’s valuable essay, “Ethics and Flesh” does the most to leverage the duality between tools “present-at-hand” and those “ready-to-hand” to provide a way of understanding the absent presence of ruins, the agency of things, and the philosophical foundations for a ethical and symmetrical archaeology. Heidegger’s recognition that things exist outside of the human world is foundational to understanding agency in Bruno Latour’s actor-network-theory. The myriad recent archaeological publications that have adopted versions of Latour’s ideas to argue for the material agency of archaeological objects, and many of the contributions to this book continue to expand and develop these ideas. The complex processes involved in the decay of abandoned and ruined buildings offers a vivid way to consider the agency of objects. Moreover, the discussions of agency and ethics in these conceptually demanding contributions offer suitably complicated frameworks for understanding issues of preservation, conservation, and heritage surrounding ruined monuments of the modern era.

More striking, if somehow less substantial contributions to this volume are those that approach modern ruins through less conventional modes of archaeological description. A. Gonzalez-Ruibal’s poetic engagement with archaeological and human remains from the Spanish Civil War was both haunting and thought-provoking commemoration of events and individuals for whom politics has overwritten their heroism. H.B. Bjerck’s archaeological investigation of his recently deceased father’s things connected memory to objects in a viscerally engaging way. A. Á. Sigurðsson poems and N. Elíasson photographs offer a penetrating perspectives on abandoned farms on Iceland. E. Andreassen and D. Bailey approach the activities of a modern Norwegian port and historical memory in the Balkans respectively through visual media with almost no text. Bailey offers a series of chapter headings (“Chapter 1: Art,” “Chapter 2: Built Environment,” “Chapter 3: Mortuary Records,” et c.) with mixed media images that juxtapose archaeological tools – particularly a Munsell soil color chart – with photos of modern and ancient artifacts, sites, and situations. Andreassen’s work is less literal; it shows the closing of some kind of machine at the port of Trondheim in 8 photographs. While the goal of Andreassen’s work remains obscure, the efforts to approach the archaeological discourse through poetry, reflection, and visual media even when less than successful complements the probing tone of the book and the contemporary archaeology project. Applying archaeological approaches to the contemporary world both demonstrates the limits of our archaeological methods and conventions and presents new opportunities.

The remaining contributions to the book present more conventional approaches to the archaeology of our recent past. Several papers treated the archaeology of the World War II: J. F. Jensen and T. Krause documented the remains of German weather camps in Greenland; M. Persson presented the work of her excavations at refugee camps in Sweden; G. Moshenska reflected on children and play among boom site in World War II Britain; and B. Olsen and C. Wittmore detailed their excavations at a POW camp in far north Norway. These contributions revealed that archaeological investigation of sites and events can reveal omitted or occlude details even when documentary and ethnographic evidence exists. The archaeology of modern urban spaces, Cold War installations, industrial ruins, and contemporary conflict zones forges clear links between things, places, and memories. These papers, however, neither appeal to a uniform social memory nor do they dictate a clear course of action for a critical care of contemporary archaeological heritage.

For scholars more familiar with publications of old world sites and studies, the relative scarcity of formal description, catalogues, and architectural and archaeological illustration common to publications involving the archaeological of the contemporary world might appear surprising. Some of this can be explained by the nature of the book which was intended to interrogate the confluence of ruins and memories in the modern era rather than provide formal documentation for particular modern sites. Nevertheless, only a few papers foregrounded the results of excavation with even trench designations or photographs. Discussions of methodology, so common in archaeological publications over the last four decades, were largely absent with the exception of T. Webmoor’s discussion of the use of video to document an abandoned building on Stanford’s campus. No papers built interpretations upon quantitative or other data driven approaches or detailed the use of scientific techniques in either the conservation or discovery of modern sites.

While it is always inadvisable to review a book based on what it lacks, this critique is perhaps justified for a book that focuses so significantly on absences. The abandonment of techniques associated with longstanding disciplinary practices as well as the New Archaeology in the 1970s represents an effort to distinguish the tool used to document modernity from our deep disciplinary commitments to archaeology as a modern discourse.

Memory of Hittite Monuments in Asia Minor

At the end of the year, I think we’re supposed to reflect on the past and celebrate avoided mistakes, seized opportunities, and events that shaped our lives. While we do that, I’d also direct you to Felipe Rojas’ and Valeria Sergueenkova’s article in the most recent Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology: “Traces of Tarhuntas: Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Interaction with Hittite Monuments.” The article reminds us that the study of memory in Mediterranean archaeology was not just a passing moment at the start of the 21st century (I was aboard the memory wagon with “Constructing Memories: Hagiography, Church Architecture, and the Religious Landscape of Byzantine Greece: The Case of St. Theodore of Kythera”… I need to get this article manuscript posted somewhere) can rest assured that meaningful scholarship on memory continues to appear.

Rojas’ and Sergueenkova’s article looks at the memory of Hittite monuments in Asia Minor throughout Greek, Roman, and into Byzantine antiquity. They give these Bronze Age and Iron Age realia  particular significance in the construction of changing community identities through time. For example, the massive, monolithic, and abandoned Fasillar statue of the Hittite storm god found abandoned near its quarry appears to have become the center of various Roman activities from commemorative shrine to a young man who died unmarried to Roman games probably associated with a small settlement. Elsewhere reliefs inscribed in rock outcrops became focal points of both Hellenistic and Byzantine religious attention and evidence for ritual activity. Rojas and Sergueenkova do a nice job avoiding simplistic arguments for religious syncretism or for something intrinsically significant in the monumental landscape, but rather argue that these monuments contributed to a periodic discourse faintly evident in preserved texts. The textual conversations surrounding the Bronze and Iron Age monuments tended to focus on the relationship between these sites and the origins of existing communities and as such they were absorbed into the remarkably persistent tradition of Classical learning. Of course, the evidence for interactions that occurred beyond the rather restricted purview of ancient texts  – as evidenced, for example, in the small Roman shrine at Fasillar – suggest that the textual evidence is part of wider tradition. 

It’s hard to do archaeological fieldwork without wondering about memory and Sue Alcock’s work on this topic has cast a long and productive shadow over how we think about ancient pasts. For example, this summer we visited one of the numerous Late Classical block houses in the Argolid including the famous Pyramid at Hellinkon which was noted by Pausanias and re-used for various purposes well into Late Antiquity. The Pyrgouthi Tower in the Berate valley must have been a prominent local landmark from its construction in the Hellenistic period through its use as a Late Antique house some eight centuries later. 

At my site on Cyprus of Pyla-Koutsopetria, it was impossible not to feel the tension between the Bronze Age site of Kokkinokremos and the later site of Vigla and Koutsopetria. Kokkinokremos was interesting to us because the site has traditionally been regarded as having a single period occupation during the Late Bronze Age. Later activity in the larger area concentrated several hundred meters to the west. Intensive survey, however, revealed that there was activity at the site as early as the Iron Age and continuing into the Late Roman period. While it would be easy to dismiss this material as evidence for quarrying stones from the substantial walls around this prominent coastal height, it is at least as intriguing to consider why the site was not reoccupied in the Iron Age and preference shown for the hill of Vigla nearby. Perhaps memory of the Bronze Age site of Kokkinokremos functioned more like pagan sanctuaries in Greece rather than Hittite monuments in Asia Minor. The presence of the past at Kokkinokremos discouraged resettlement and repelled activity rather than attracting it.

Unfortunately, there is too much college footballing on today to give this any further thought today. Have a happy new year celebration. I hope all my dedicated readers have a chance to cherish good memories and find strength and hope in the bad ones. 

Images from the Bakken

I don’t usually just post pictures (oh, wait, I guess I do), but I thought I would today as I recover from a few days of Bakken adventures.

An abandoned man camp near Tioga:

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Another near Wheelock, ND:

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An abandoned “dry” camp:

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Pallets:

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I know we shouldn’t call them “man camps”:

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Communal space:

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Work and flares:

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Another reminder that we’re not the first newcomers on the northern plains:

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The Persistent Memory of a Soviet Mining Town

I was pretty excited to finally get my hands on E. Andreassen, H.B. Bjerck, and B. Olson’s Persistent Memories: Pyramiden, a Soviet Mining Town in the High Arctic (Trondheim 2010). This book is an archaeological essay that combines haunting photography with reflective text to provide the reader with an intimate portrait of the Soviet mining town of Pyramiden. The town was abandoned for close to a decade after the Russian company that established the settlement after World War II closed the mine in the late 1990s. The team of Norwegian archaeologists and a photographer arrived in 2006 nearly a decade after the last permanent resident had departed.

Despite the town’s completely modern history, the archaeologists understood that there were very few traditional documentary records of life in the town and arrived to document its state. In a relatively short essay, the authors bring the town back to life through careful attention to the remains. 

There are a few ways in which the author’s research intersects with our work in the man camps of Bakken oil patch in western North Dakota.

1. Non-Places. The authors consider the status of Pyramiden as a non-place. The formal plan, the cookie cutter residences, and the position of the town as a heterotopia (a realized utopian space), created a settlement that has few distinct features outside of the global standard of a hypermodern “Sovietness”. Moreover, the provisional and short term character of any community created by the inhabitants created few opportunities for the inhabitants to fuse their identity to the character of the location. It maybe that the radical isolation of the site and the absence of longterm human settlement in the area necessitated the status of the Pyramiden as a non-place. It may have also been both formal and informal policies designed to enforce uniformity among the workers and managers at the site that robbed the place of the distinct character associated with “place-ness”. 

2. Housing and Homes (and Class). While the authors suggest that Pyramiden was a non-place, they nevertheless recognized efforts workers in the mine to personalize their spaces. In fact, there seems to have been greater signs of individualization among workers than those of the mangers and elites. Not only did workers decorate their apartments with symbols of global consumer culture, but they also customized their spaces with improvised shelves, art, and furnishings. In contrast, the larger and more comfortable apartments of the management classes showed less signs of customization and efforts to establish individual identities. Perhaps managers stayed less time at Pyramiden or had greater pressure to conform to a homogenized standards or corporate expectations, as the authors suggest.

In the North Dakota man camps, we noticed a similar characteristic between workers who lived in RV parks and those who lived in the standardized man-camps provided by the larger corporations. The former group tends to work in industries peripheral, but vital to the main work in the oil patch (truck repair, truck driving, equipment cleaning, and various contract services). The latter work in the core industries associated with jobs on drilling or fracking rigs or with large contractors that provide large scale services to the companies in the patch. The former tend to be independent or quasi-independent contractors, whereas the latter are company men. A similar division in how various groups individualized their living space occurred in the early days of the Texas boom.

3. Margins. One thing about Pyramiden is clear: it is situated in an intensely marginal environment. Perched at the foot of the Arctic Mt. Pyramiden and surrounded by glaciers and the sea, the town was visited only once a year by a supply ship. A helipad provided the only other physical link to the outside work. The need for an entirely self-sufficient community and the remains left behind demonstrate the close link between the expense of bringing material to the Arctic and the value of removing the remains.

In short, the persistence of Pyramiden and its arrangement as a “non-place” is at least partially a product of its marginal location and the expense of transporting the aspects of consumer culture that we deploy in a range of distinct ways to mark our modern identities. There are general parallels between the location of Pyraminden and the marginal position of the man camps in western North Dakota. The creation of a new society ex nihilo and the tenuous physical connections with the core demands a particular kind of engagement with the environment.

4. Provisional Discard. Distinct discard practices often characterize communities in marginal environment or situated at the periphery. One of the most significant features of the community at Pyramiden is the absence of substantial dump. As the Russian managers of the community explained, the inhabitants reused and repurposed as much of the material as possible and material that could not be repurposed or consumed completely rarely came to the site. Food scraps were fed to pigs, left over paint or solvents needed for one project were used in others, and workshops and apartments were filled with recycled and repurposed tools and equipment.

 The man camps of North Dakota show a similar assemblage of recycled and repurposed material – from the ubiquitous shipping pallet to piles of pvc pipe left behind by departing RVs for the next residents of a camp. Like the residents of Pyramiden, the inhabitants of short-term settlements in the Bakken oil patch tend to travel light and find new uses for objects that might be cast aside closer to the core. 

5. Formation Processes. The greatest disappointment in reading this book was its relative lack of attention to formation processes. The site as a ruin or as a haunting reminder of the earlier activities and lives takes center stage whereas the post abandonment processes that created the site for archaeologists and photographer become interference or, at worst, the romantic residue of a life in ruins.

This is a missed opportunity, to my mind, as our modern world (filled with non-places) so rarely decays slowly in the face of nature without massive human intervention. Pyramiden is a place where its abrupt abandonment has left it exposed to nature in a way so rare in our modern world. More could be made of the processes that transformed the settlement since its abandonment and how man-made materials situate themselves in their environment.

You can check out some of the book on Google Books or – even cooler in some ways – on Google Maps!  

Man Camps in May: Some More Observations

This past week I spent a few days scouting in the Bakken in advance of the North Dakota Man Camp Project’s first field season of the summer at the end of the month. He will be going out to the Bakken to administer a survey on behalf of another agency. This agency asked that we administer the survey on the basis of our camp typology and was open to adding some questions to the survey to help with our research. (For the uninitiated, we argue that there are three types of camps, cleverly named Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3).

We hope to also do some interviews, and Kyle Cassidy will once again join the team to do some more photography of the characters and landscapes of the Bakken. This is a bit nerve wracking for me because I’ll be in Cyprus while Bret is heading up our research team, but I think we’re on the same page technically and conceptually.

This past week’s trip was the first I made since writing the first draft of an article on our work. There is something about writing that makes my observations all the more tangible and real. So it felt some addition pressure to check on some of the observations that I made in the article on our trip this week.    

1. Camps and Abandonment. One of my favorite arguments (which I think was initially offered by Richard Rothaus) was that Type 3 camps might leave the greatest signature in the landscape because they are the least integrated with the modern methods of trash disposal and have the least investment in any particular place. The short duration of many Type 3 encampments would obviously moderate the accumulation of substantial quantities of discard, but the circumstances of their abandonment could have a more significant impact on the materials left behind. I’ve written about this before here.

We revisited the Type 2/Type 3 camp that we initially documented in August 2012 and returned to in February 2013. This camp had been abruptly abandoned in the winter of 2013 and there was a significant assemblage left behind. When we returned to this camp this week, we discovered that the most conspicuous trash was removed from the site. Plastic silverware, beer cans (Coors Light), bottle caps (Corona), fragments of broken styrofoam, pieces of a small grill, and a few other objects. The cement brick fire pit that was still visible in February. was disassembled and moved to another location near some other RVs in the area leaving only the ash deposit from the past fires behind.

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We also noted signs of abandoned or declining map camps throughout our study area. We observed a “dry” Type 2 (that is a Type 2 with electricity but no water) that had numerous open lots after being nearly filled in August 2012. We also observed a Type 2 that had been completely abandoned and was strewn with trash, abandoned RVs, fragments of insulation and bit of architecture most notably the plywood mudrooms leaned against the side of many RVs. We would have spent some time documenting this camp, but the gentleman onsite seemed pretty uninterested in having us around. Fortunately, Bret Weber left his business card with the man so if he changed his mind, he can let us know. He was the one of the few unpleasant characters we have encountered in the Bakken.

2. Where are the Type 3 camps? The proximity of the Type 3 camp described above site to a group of new apartment buildings probably accounts for why it was so thoroughly cleaned up. Many Type 3 camps, however, are less conspicuous (and perhaps this is by design as some of them are probably unpermitted or even squatters).  Others are incredibly short term and last only as long as is necessary for a particular activity. The small Type 3 shown below, for example, stood at a construction site, drew power from generators, and had a ports-john nearby.

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The small size, short duration of occupation, and sometimes hidden locations makes Type 3 camps particularly difficult to locate and document. These aspect of Type 3 camps perhaps also makes them significant and suitable for archaeological investigation. 

3. Towns and Workforce Housing. Every time we go out to the Bakken we check out another small town that shows signs of infilling with mobile homes and RVs to serve as workforce housing. Certain patterns of land use in these towns are just beginning to appear. For example, two of our study sites developed around the closed schools in the communities. The available land around schools and the more robust utilities infrastructure probably accounted for this.

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We also noted that old towns provide appealing locations for short-term workforce housing. First, most of western North Dakota is dotted with small towns in various states of decline. The two towns pictured above had populations of 80 and 97 respectively (from over 200 in their boom times). These town are linked to major roads, have utility connects and some (albeit modest) amenities, and land. Moreover, they tend to be out of sight allowing for a kind of unsupervised growth. 

4. Seasonal Rhythm and Discard. The seasonal rhythms of camp life in Type 2 and Type 3 camps are particularly visible. We noted, for example, piles of plywood and foam insulation around the camps as residents de-winterized their units. We could also sometime tell if a RV entered the camp recently based on evidence for winterizing. 

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5. The Next Step. The more we traveled the area over the past year, the more we feel like we have a technical handle of what is going on in terms of the oil boom. This last week, we made our way south to Killdeer and Dickinson, North Dakota and saw much the same kind of development and organization as we saw around Watford City and Tioga. It may be that the time of extensive research is coming to a close and the next step is to document one or two camps at a very high resolution. We’re making plans now for another field trip in August (funding permitting). So, stay tuned.

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Archaeological “Signatures” of Byzantine Churches

This springs Dumbarton Oaks Spring Symposium is titled Byzantine Survey Archaeology: Reflections and Approaches. The symposium will feature speakers covering a range of topics central to discussions about intensive pedestrian survey archaeology in a Byzantine context. My paper is among the last of the symposium and in a session called “Reading the Data/Reading the Future”.

I need to have abstract for my talk which is tentative titled “Looking across Chronological Boundaries”. The goal of the talk will be to bring together some of my work (largely with Tim Gregory and David Pettegrew) that explores post-Byzantine archaeological sites and consider how what we’ve learned in this work can inform out study of Byzantine sites in a survey context. 

Readers of this blog are familiar with my work at the early modern site of Lakka Skoutara in the Eastern Corinthia. Here’s a link to our most recent paper.

You may be less familiar with some of my work with David Pettegrew and Tim Gregory in 2001 on the island of Kythera where we collected surface data from around a series of still standing Byzantine churches. The results told us little about the landscape around these churches during the Byzantine period, but shed some significant light on formation processes around these occasionally used monuments in the Greek countryside. Like our work around the deteriorating houses in Lakka Skoutara, our work around these churches revealed a countryside that was in constant transformation. 

The evidence for the constant transformation of the landscape pushes us to see even the surface record as the product of a series of complex formation processes rather than a palimpsest awaiting our careful gaze to produce a complete but occluded text. The remains in the countryside preserve a complex record of processes.