Informal Practices and Space in the Bakken

This weekend I read another selection from the Kostis Kourelis Book Club: V. Mukhija and A. Loukaitou-Sideris eds., The Informal American City: Beyond Food Trucks and Day Labor. MIT 2014. The book is packed with astute observations on practices that shape the informal (as opposed to formal, regulated, and standardized) life of American cities. These range from gardens in vacant lots, perpetual yard sales, hidden apartments, and spaces beyond the reach or interest of formal zoning policies. 

The book got fueled my excitement about housing practices in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota which is rife with informal practices motivated as much by the absence of regulation (or personnel to enforce existing regulations) as the need to adapt existing institutions, spaces, and places to the needs of a dynamic workforce.

Over the past 2 years, I have been working on a team that is documenting workforce housing in the Bakken. I have been particularly romanced by the architectural invention that takes place at what we call Type 2 camps. These camps typically consist of RVs and trailers arranged in lots with power, water, and sewage. The informality of these spaces comes from the ad hoc efforts to winterize the units, the techniques done to articulate spatial boundaries, and, most dramatically, the architectural additions designed to expand the space of the RVs and to make them more suitable for longterm habitation.

Peter Ward’s contribution to this volume, “Reproduction of Informality in Low-Income, Self Help Housing Communities,” caught my attention and opened up some new questions about life in Type 2 camps. Ward’s article looks at colonias and “informal homestead subdivisions” in the US. These are subdivisions which often lack utilities but are sold to low-income individuals and families at low prices and with irregular financing arrangements. They are typically associated with Hispanic communities in the borderlands between the US and Mexico, they also appear throughout the US at the periphery of cities where underdeveloped land is inexpensive and unskilled labor opportunities exist. While these settlements differ from our workforce housing camps because the residents actually own their land, they are similar because the residents typically engage in all sorts of informal architecture ranging from shacks built from plywood to RVs and mobile homes. In most cases, these practices represent an effort to gradually develop their property and housing with limited resources. The use of blue tarp, scrap wood, pallets, and other material that could be rearranged and reused for other purposes ensured that the investment was both modest and the structure itself served as a kind of provisional discard conserving useful material for other projects as needs change.   

Ward’s rather quick discussion of these forms of informal vernacular got me to wonder how certain practices – like the construction of mudrooms and other plywood and scrap wood additions – move around the country. Perhaps it is borderland colonias that developed this important, sustained tradition of ad hoc, vernacular architecture, and it moved northward to the Bakken following the route of oil patch workers from the Texas oil fields to those elsewhere in the US. 

During our last trip to the Bakken, we talked with the new management of one of our study sites, and they explained that they were trying to standardize and “clean up” the spectacular array of mudrooms present at their site. They argue that the large mudrooms are safety hazards and often act as extensions to the RVs to accommodate more people than they are designed to accommodate. During our visit, we noticed an abandoned mudroom that was set up for just this purpose. Note the use of blue tarp, the sale price of $1000, and the bed. There were two rooms in this mudroom both set up for sleeping.




On the one hand, we suspect an actual concern for safety in the camp as plywood mudrooms can represent a real fire hazard especially when they feature irregular wiring, are heated with gas heaters, and have inadequate insulation and ventilation. On the other hand, it is in the best interest of the camp to reduce the number of residents per unit. This not only increases the amount of rent collected per resident, but also lowers population density of the camp taking pressure off the basic infrastructure (trash removal, water, electric, parking et c.) and making keeping order in the camp easier. It was a useful reminder that safety, order, and regularity are not incompatible with profitability. The formal American city, like the formal man camp in the Bakken, is not without economic motives. 

Three Calls for Papers: Slow, Public, and Craft

If you just managed to submit your abstract for the Archaeological Institute of America’s Annual Meeting and still have some energy before classes start in earnest, then I have a few possible, last minute calls for papers to fill up the idle hours.

The great thing about these opportunities is that they all look to a shorter form of writing (6000 words or less!) and position themselves in the relatively uncharted (academic) territory of creative non-fiction and less formal, professional writing. 

Slow. Feel free to circulate this to your creative non-fiction types who are not archaeologists. The call is for a special edition of North Dakota Quarterly that I’m editing with Rebecca Rozelle-Stone of our department of philosophy and religion. We’re looking for thoughtful, interesting, and critical perspectives on the “slow movement” as well as fiction. I’m working on a more systematic and cohesive version of my slow archaeology screed. The contributions should be no longer than 6,000 words and will be peer-reviewed. This is due October 1!

Public. The Joukowsky Institute at Brown is hosting a competition for accessible archaeological writing and inviting everyone in the world to contribute an entry. The goal of the contest is to highlight high quality archaeological writing that nevertheless preserves the complexity and excitement associated with the archaeological process. The papers should be between 5000 and 6000 words and are due September 1. There is also a prize of $5000 for the best paper and that paper and the eight runners-up will be published. I can’t help but thinking that this is the kind of competition that should be crowd sourced. All the contributions should be made public and some kind of voting system should be put in place (perhaps like the system put in place for SXSW panels). After all, it seems like this kind of competition should be judged by someone other than the faculty and students from the Joukowsky who have generally focused on academic writing! 

Craft. Like last fall, I’m hosting a series of blog posts (short(ish) articles  on “Archaeology and Craft” here on my blog. With some luck and coordination, I hope to crosspost them over at Then Dig. The plan is to get them out as a short volume within a year via the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. The contributions can be any length, but since they start on a blog, I generally nudge folks to keep them under 5000 words. Of course, we can always split longer posts into two or more parts. Drop me an email if you want to contribute. I have a few contributions already, but I like to have five or six before I start to post them regularly. 

I just realized this weekend that I’m officially under contract as of August 15, so I need to start to get focused on my official sabbatical “to do” list (and a post on that will be forthcoming). Hopefully these opportunities will give you productive distractions as the grind of semester looms!

Other Castles Near Parga

Today we depart from lovely Parga and our views of its scenic, if entirely inadequate harbor, lovely rooms, delicious tavernas, and Scandenwegian tourist bustle. Over the last few days we have spiced up our vigorous routine of sitting very still and reading quietly with some visits to important local castles. 

Our main interest were those forts built or rebuilt by Ali Pasha. (At first, I had hoped to read the 15,000 word epic poem the Alipashiad dedicated to his feats while relaxiating on my sun-drenched balcony. Leake provides a summary of some of the text, and Sathas provides the full text and it’s available here.) Ali Pasha was peripatetic during his rule in Epirus regularly traveling from one part of his despotate to the next, quelling rebellions and instilling fearful respect in his subjects. To facilitate this, he built a series of castles with well appointed quarters to house himself and his retinue.  

Overlooking Parga and the base for his near continuous pressure on the town was his fortress in the village of Anthousa or Agia. Despite being designed by Italian military architects, was primarily a show-piece with an imposing exterior, but rather thin walls. It’s position overlooking the fortified town of Parga did effectively communicate the impending threat of Ali Pasha. We can all think about Foucault’s panopticon here, and the power of being seen. It stands just outside of the territory of Parga and was built in 1814 as Ali Pasha worked to negotiate the occupation of the town.


View from the Anthousa castle to Parga:


The castle is still maintains its basic form: a platform for guns with stands to 6 m in height and two courtyards. The courtyards provide access to a various quarters from a garrison and Ali Pasha’s retinue. 

The main gate:



Gun port atop the main rectangular platform:


One of the courtyards:


Groin-vaulted space beneath the main platform:


The exterior walls have vaulted passageways beneath the platforms compromising the thickness of the walls:


After wandering Anthousa castle for a bit and wanting more, we headed up to Margariti castle. This castle has good 16th century credentials when it was built by the Ottomans in 1549 before being taken by the Venetians in the aftermath of Lepanto in 1571. By 1573, the castle returned to Ottoman control.  The castle controlled the passes from the region of Souli where a group of families and villages of Christian Albanians remained largely independent from Ottoman control, to the coast near Parga. The castle was rebuilt by Ali Pasha and stood between the independent Souliotes and the Parga. 

The castle is overgrown but nevertheless imposing with the west wall standing to over 10 m in height.



The interior was too overgrown to really understand, but it looked like a standard plan of Ali Pasha built castles with an open courtyard and several vaulted areas beneath a platform for guns:



The views over the wide valley leading out of the Souli are stunning though:



There were also more purple flowers:




For the last few days Susie and I have been hanging out in Parga on the Ionian coast. We have a picturesque view from our little balcony and have enjoyed decent food and cool relatively quiet nights. The few days of rest and relaxation from a hectic year has given me some free time to think about the complex history of this little community and to visit a few of the local castles that speak to the tense and sometimes violent history of this region.


Our room is situated just below the massive fortification walls at Parga itself. The main body of this castle 19th century in date. Parga was a Venetian possession from the early 15th century and allied itself with the nearby Ionian islands. The infamous Ali Pasha was responsible for the most impressive parts of these fortifications, but the lower parts of the walls date to 16th century, perhaps after the Ottoman sack of 1571 (although some parts might be earlier), with additions throughout the 18th and into the 19th century. The city itself clings to rather steep slopes leading to two mediocre anchorages. The better of the two harbors is small and protected by a series of small islands.


It was perhaps used in Roman times, but was not deep or large enough for ships in the 16th, 17th, or 18th century. The main town stood on a bulbous headland projecting between the anchorages and surrounded by cliffs reinforced by fortifications.

The Lion of St. Mark above the gate to the Parga citadel:


The year 1571 should, of course, ring a bell for any historian of Mediterranean history as the date of the Battle of Lepanto which led to the momentary destruction of the Ottoman fleet in response to the Venetian surrender of Cyprus. Parga, being a coastal possession of Venice was particularly vulnerable as hostilities between Venice and the Ottoman state escalated over the final third of the 16th century. This, then, is the context for the initial fortification of the citadel at Parga. 


The vulnerability of this community, however, provided ample opportunities for the town to invest in fortifications and make strategic alliances with various Mediterranean powers. The town was a Venetian possession on the mainland until the defeat of the Republic by the French in 1797, when it followed the Ionian Islands under French control. By1800, however, the city became independent although under the protection of the Ottomans and the Russians. This preserved the community against the acquisitive practices of Ali Pasha whose sought to capture the town from first French, and Russo-Ottoman control. The treaty of Tilsit in 1807 led the Russians to depart the Ionian Islands and Parga (which they only occupied in a symbolic way) and opened the door to the return of the French who garrisoned Parga against the ambitions of Ali Pasha. This state of affairs persisted until 1814, when Ali Pasha occupied the town of Agia on the border of Parga and forced the French to withdraw. Parga then fell under the protection of the British who had occupied the Ionian Islands and had forces at both Paxos and Corfu. Needless to say, the raising of the British flag over the fortress of Parga gave Ali Pasha pause. He continued to fortify his positions on the borders of the city – at both Agia and further north at Magariti to remind the Parghini of his very proximate (and erratic) threat.

IMG 1384

The city fell under Ottoman control when it was left out of the Treaty of Paris which granted the Ionian islands to the British. The community at Parga asked both the British for clarification and, as an insurance policy against the independent ambition of Ali Pasha, sent emissaries to the Ottoman state. Neither worked and the city was granted to Ali Pasha in the name of the Ottoman state through an agreement with Britain. For the next century, Parga would remain under Turkish authority. 


For more on this check out Bosset’s 19th century account of the history of Parga, Leake’s nearly contemporary discussion (based largely on an earlier Greek work), or Allan Brooks’ more recent discussion of the fortifications here and throughout region.

Cyprus Research Fund Lecture Tomorrow: Archaeologies of Décor by Dr. Sarah Lepinski

Despite dueling blizzards here and on the east coast, the Cyprus Research Fund Lecture appears to be on schedule (more or less) to go off as planned tomorrow.

We got a snazzy write-up on the campus news feed and we have a snazzy flyer:

CyprusResearchFund2014 pdf

For those of you in the neighborhood, you need to brave the cold and come  and check out the talk at 4 pm tomorrow in the East Asia Room of the Mighty Chester Fritz Library.

For those of you on the East Coast, recovering from sinus surgery, or in Denver for the ice hockeying contests, you can listen to the LIVE feed of the talk right here.

Settlement on Cyprus in the 7th and 8th Centuries

Over the next two months, I’ve been asked to write an essay on settlement in 7th and 8th century Cyprus. My work at Polis-Chrysochous and at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria puts me in a good position to think broadly of this transitional period with two specific points of reference.

The coastal site of Pyla-Koutsopetria appears to go into steep decline after the middle of the 7th century coinciding, it would seem, increased activity of the Arab fleet in middle decades of the 7th. During the 5th-7th century, there is every indication that the site was prosperous coastal emporium. The almost complete absence of material dating to the 8th or 9th centuries would seem to indicate that the site no long constituted a substantial locus of settlement on the south coast of the island. Of course, it is possible that the population simply moved to the east or west of our survey area or declined as the small embayment present infilled or larger economic demand for the agricultural produce in the area declined. In other words, we have no evidence that the decline of the site related directly to the activity of the Arab fleet.

Polis-Chrysochous, or ancient Arsinoe, appears to have had a different history. On the one hand, there is some evidence that life at the site was disrupted in the mid-7th century including damage to at least one of the two prominent churches revealed through excavation. On the other hand, the church was modified extensively in the mid-7th century with architecturally sophisticated additions that did more than just restore the building to its earlier state. In fact, the addition of a narthex, a portico along the church’s south wall, and a barrel vaulted roof produced a building that echoed the design of well-known basilicas elsewhere on the island. The massive deposit of rubble and pottery associated with these modification establishes beyond a doubt a terminus post quem of the mid-7th century.

Using these two sites as points of reference, I think I can address the six major issues that influence how we talk about the 7th and 8th century on Cyprus in general and that directly impact what we can say about settlement.

1. Methods and Evidence: Survey, Excavation, Architecture, and Texts

First, there is the reality that our textual sources are problematic and fragmentary deriving from a range of genres, historiographic perspectives, and languages. They do not present a cohesive picture of the island provide much insight into larger issues of settlement. In fact, some sources suggest that the population of the island was nearly all sold into slavery and removed (e.g. the Soli inscription) whereas other inscriptions seem to indicate that the island remained reasonably prosperous despite Arab incursions. Archaeological evidence likewise follows this confusing pattern with excavated sites showing greater signs of continuity with 6th century activities than the landscape revealed by intensive survey. Architecture is even more revealing with several well-know churches preserving decoration datable to the 7th and 8th century. In the end, textual and archaeological evidence leave us with two different, mutually exclusive stories for this period of transition.

2. Ceramic chronology.

Part of the issue is the difficult nature of 7th and 8th century ceramics. Despite the significant amount of scholarship from the past decade that has pushed the date of well-know fine wares and transport amphora from the comfortable confines of the 6th century into the wild margins of the 8th, there has been little large scale reassessment of ceramic assemblages on the island. We have continued to note how individual “type fossils” like Late Roman 1 amphora or Cypriot Red Slip forms could date later than originally thought, but we have only begun to use this knowledge to imagine 7th or 8th century assemblages on the island (outside a few, well-known examples like the pottery workshops at Dhiorios or Marcus Rautman’s identification of hand-made pottery at Kopetria). Until the redating of major wares informs the visibility of locally produced or “common” wares on Cyprus, the 7th and 8th centuries will continue to be rather difficult to identify in surface survey and in more modest contexts where imported or fine ceramics are absent.

3. Definition and Diversity in Settlement

Whatever the shortcomings of the current state of our knowledge about the 7th and 8th century, it is clear that something changed in the nature of settlement on the island. The “crowded countryside” of Late Antique Cyprus gave way to a much less clearly occupied landscape. At the same time, there appears to have been changes to the urban landscape with activities at sites like Kourion showing dramatic reductions in scope and prosperity whereas at sites like Polis, Paphos, and Salamis-Constantia showing signs of continued settlement and the continued functioning of some urban institutions like the church, civic government, and markets.

What is missing from our understanding of settlement on the island is the link between these urban sites and the countryside. Elsewhere in the Byzantine world, the emergence of villages and village economies characterized the change in settlement pattern during this period. Urban areas saw contraction and fortification. Thus far there is little evidence for these phenomena on Cyprus suggesting that the primary organization of settlement and rural production functioned along different lines. Perhaps the intensely urbanized character of Roman and Late Roman Cyprus continued to shape the organization of settlement and rural activities in the Early Byzantine period. Perhaps new institutions like monasteries exerted a stronger influence on Cyprus than elsewhere.

It may also be that the massive disruptions to the population of Cyprus brought about by the Arab raids, captive taking expeditions, and forced migrations, transformed the otherwise persistent landscape of the countryside into one characterized by short term and contingent settlement as a response to the rapidly changing demographic situation. We know that short term settlements tend to be less visible in the countryside than long term habitation. So perhaps the issue of rural settlement on Cyprus is one of visibility rather than presence.

4. Trade, Connectivity, and the Local Production

Contextualizing much of the conversation about 7th and 8th century Cyprus is the nature of economic activity in the Eastern Mediterranean during these centuries. As scholars have begun to recognize that the political and military events in this period disrupted trade as much as caused it to decline, new models for understanding the Early Byzantine economy have emphasized the change in character as well as change in scale. If the Cypriot economy and settlement in the 6th century felt the influence of the annona trade between Egypt and Constantinople (e.g. the settlement at Peyia in southwest Cyprus being warehousing site) and the administrative reorganization that funneled the agricultural produce of Cyprus to the needs of the army at the frontiers (perhaps leading to the prosperity of the sites at Dreamer’s Bay and Pyla-Koutsopetria), then the economy and settlement of the 7th and 8th century perhaps responded to the more fluid and changing opportunities and political situation of those centuries. For example, the changing needs and power of the central government in Constantinople may have spurred the decline of sites that emerged in response to the command economy of Late Antiquity.

If the unsettled economic and political circumstances of the 7th and 8th century, may have led to more dynamic responses from Cypriots who looked to limit risk and maximize opportunities in more contingent ways. In other words, if we accept the possibility that rural settlement was less visible during these centuries (rather than absent), it may be that short-term settlement in a “contingent countryside” reflects a more situational approach to a more dynamic economy.

5. Administrative Structures: Church and State

The persistence of certain institutions on Cyprus – namely the church and the political and social apparatus of the Byzantine state – demonstrate that despite the the large scale disruptions to the Late Roman world, certain aspect of life continued on Cyprus relatively unchanged. Recent work on lead seals from Cyprus show that the ecclesiastical, administrative, and aristocratic hierarchies continued to function on the island. These structures demonstrate the persistence of official ties to the capital and to the underlying legal and social institutions that would maintain, say, the prestige of local aristocrats or the position of the church as an economic engine in the community.

So, if the contingent countryside reflects the instability of Mediterranean politics and economy, then the persistence of some activity in urban centers demonstrates the ongoing presence of traditional elites attempting to continue to perform their traditional function in particular dynamic environment. The reconstruction of churches at Soli, Paphos, Polis, and elsewhere suggest that the church continued to be able to marshal and deploy economic resources from communities. The reconstruction of aqueducts and perhaps some civic buildings at Salamis-Constantia shows that certain civic functions continued, albeit on a more modest scale. Finally, the apparent abandonment of the site Kourion may reflect the intervention of community leaders to relocate key institutions and salvage existing resources from the site.

6. Events: Invasions, Forced Migrations, and Settlements.

Finally, events have long shaped the master narrative of the decline in the Roman Mediterranean. The Arab raids of the middle decades of the 7th century, the loss of Egypt and Syria, and the so-called “condominium period” have long shaped our understanding of settlement, demography, and economy on the island.  On the one hand, it is impossible not to see things like a substantial Arab fleet patrolling the waters off the island’s coast or the fundamental transformation of the large-scale economic unity of the Eastern Mediterranean impacting events on Cyprus. In fact, it would naive to somehow argue that these events did not impact life on the island.

On the other hand, punctuating the history of the island with these events undermines any understanding that sees Cypriot society as dynamic agents in their own history. By shifting our attention to patterns of activity on the island and prioritizing them in our analysis, we open the door to appreciating the strategies that communities and institutions used to adapt to changing times. It provides more than simply an answer to tired questions of “continuity and change” (that largely reside within a discourse of development toward nationalism) and allows us to focus our attention of the mechanisms that produced the seductive patterns that have meant so much to our understanding of the modern world.

Sixth Annual Cyprus Research Fund Lecture: Dr. Sarah Lepinski on the Archaeologies of Décor

It is really exciting to announce (finally) Dr. Sarah Lepinski as the 6th Annual Cyprus Research Fund Lecture. As readers of this blog know, she is one of my oldest friends and most steadfast collaborators. We have worked together in Cyprus and I am sure that she kept me from making many grievous mistakes of archaeological process and interpretation. I have also admired her work in the Corinthia from the other side of the village. 

Her talk is titled the Archaeologies of Décor: Interiors in the Roman East and it will (in her words): “will explore the artistic techniques, materials, and iconographies in the paintings and show how these paintings reflected both long-standing artistic traditions in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as extensive commercial, cultural, and intellectual exchange with other centers throughout the Roman world.”

With new examples of Roman period wall painting coming to light around Corinth almost monthly, this talk is both topical and interesting. So mark January 23, 2014 (probably at 4 pm) on your calendar. I’ll have the location on campus and online sorted out soon!

CyprusResearchFund2014 pdf

3D Reconstruction of the Renaissance Bastion of the Langenbrücker Gate in Lemgo (Germany)

This is the eleventh in a series of posts exploring 3D modeling in Mediterranean and European archaeology. For more in this series click here. We hope these papers will start a discussion either in the comments of the blog or on Twitter using the #3DMedArch hashtag.

Guido Nockemann, Freelance Archaeologist, AMD Nockemann,

In the beginning of the 16th century up until the Thirty Years War, the city of Lemgo was turned into a Renaissance fortress with a rampart, trench and bastions – unfortunately it was never finished. The southern entrance to the city was a bastion bathed by the river Bega with an associated gate construction with rampart and outer bailey on the city side (fig. 1).

Pic 1 LennepstichFigure 1: The Langenbrücker gate on a copperplate print of Elias and Henry van Lennep, about 1663

During archaeological excavations from 2009 to 2011 in preparation for constructions of the Langenbrücker Gate, remains of a Renaissance bastion were uncovered. They uncovered the massive counter bearings of the former bridge, wall remains of the outer bailey, torwange, curbstones of the gate, remains of the foundation of the gate tower of the bastion, wall fragments of the northern part of the bastion and parts of the side walls (fig. 2 and fig. 3).


Figure 2: Southern abutment of the bridge and wall remains of the bastion (picture: Guido Nockemann)

Pic 3 WiderlagerFigure 3: Northern abutment of the bridge (picture: Guido Nockemann)

To present the results of the excavation to the public in a better way a 3D reconstruction of the southwestern part of the town fortification of Lemgo was established. It is based on the archaeological finds of the excavation as well as on historic plans and records (fig. 4). The point of time presented is around 1646, the end of the Thirty Years War, because the majority of data comes from that period. The archaeological evidence, however, is problematic due to consistent constructions for over hundreds of years and the historic tradition is inconsistent. Historic drawings of the city are often idealized and do not necessary correspond to reality. Different illustrators at different points in time drew, to some extend, very different views of the city e.g. in roofing, variation and size of towers. Information from historic records and city maps were taken into consideration in establishing the model.

Pic 4 StadtansichtFigure 4: Detail of a cityscape of the city of Lemgo south, 1 Half of the 18th century

A scale floor plan was used as a base for the 3D model considering every data accessible. If there was more than one possibility to solve a problem of detailing, the most likely one was taken. Historic photographs of parts of the town fortification, still existing in the 19th century, were a huge help.

Overlapping old city maps with archaeological finds showed anomalies which can be explained by the inaccurate measurement methods of that time. If there were not any archaeological evidence for walls or buildings, their position had to be interpolated. While reconstructing the structures above ground, data from records and from drawings of the city could be used. As there are no hints to the materials used for the finishing of the fortification and buildings, no photorealistic textures were used in the model. With a button, the actual archaeological finds can be made visible in the 3D model (figs. 5 and 6).

Pic 5 3D RekonstruktionFigure 5: 3D reconstruction of the bastion and gate system at the Langenbrücker gate (graphic: Morris Viaden – Kleinkino / Medienproduktion)

Pic 6 3D Rekonstruction 2Figure 6: Detail of the 3D reconstruction (graphic: Morris Viaden – Kleinkino / Medienproduktion)

An introductory text is essential for the visitors to explain the basis for the reconstruction was established. The main problem with that is, to a scientist, a 3D model is just one way of interpreting finds, but the general public will take that model for “scientific evidence and truth”. It should be stressed in the description, that the model is just one possible appearance, even if it is a very likely one, of the fortification of the city of Lemgo.


• Guido Nockemann (in press): Die 3D-Rekonstruktion der renaissancezeitlichen Festungsanlage am Langenbrücker Tor in Lemgo, in: Archäologie in Westfalen-Lippe

• Guido Nockemann (2012): Lemgo – Langenbrücker Tor; Ergebnisse der archäologischen Untersuchungen, Kampagnen 2010 / 2011 (Online-Presentation:

• Link to the 3D-Rekonstruktion:

Re-imagining the Basilica at E.F2 at Polis-Chrysochous

Tomorrow I head off to the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. You can check out the full program here (.pdf).

Our panel is at 8:20 AM on Friday morning:

5C City of Gold: Archaeological excavations at Polis Chrysochous, Cyprus

Theme: This session details the exhibition, City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus (Princeton University Art Museum, October 20, 2012–January 20, 2013), about the cities of Marion and Arsinoe that underlie modern-day Polis Chrysochous, and some of the research developed during the period leading up to the exhibition.

CHAIR: Joanna S. Smith (Princeton University), Presiding

8:20 Daniel Kershaw (The Metropolitan Museum of Art),
“Design Process and Evolution for the Exhibition, City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus, in the Princeton University Art Museum from October 20, 2012–January 20, 2013” (20 min.)

8:45 Nikitas Tampakis (Princeton University),
“Digitally Reviving the Buildings of Marion for Museum Display” (20 min.)

9:10 William A. P. Childs (Princeton University),
“Cypriot Aesthetics” (20 min.)

R. Scott Moore (Indiana University of Pennsylvania),
Brandon R. Olson (Boston University)
Tina Najbjerg (Independent Scholar),
“Chasing Arsinoe: A Reassessment of the Hellenistic Period” (20 min.)

William Caraher (University of North Dakota, Grand Forks)
Amy Papalexandrou (The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey),
“Re-imagining the Basilica at E.F2 at Polis Chrysochous” (20 min.)

Of course, I know my dear readers expect a sneak preview of our paper. Our paper is essentially a slightly tweaked and truncated version of the Polis section of my paper delivered at the University of Texas earlier in the fall. (If you must, you can compare it here.) This paper reflects four seasons of tireless work by some very dedicated collaborators (R. Scott Moore, Brandon Olson, and, of course, Amy Papalexandrou) and the enthusiastic support of the project director Joanna Smith and her predecessor Willie Childs. The ideas in this paper are heading toward a 10,000-12,000 word report for publication that summarizes four seasons of work at the South Basilica. Each iteration involves sharpening our ideas just a little bit.


Investigating the West Hall of the Theater at Corinth

When Hesperia arrives with a new Corinth article, it is sort of like Christmas (or maybe Columbus Day) in my household. In this most recent issue (82.3), the former director of Corinth Excavations, Charles Williams, documented his recent excavations in the northern area of the theater. The article sought to integrate the results of recent excavations in the larger discussion of the architecture and archaeology of the theater. The theater was among the first buildings excavated at Corinth and the area had a long history from the 4th c. B.C. to the Byzantine period (at least). Williams’s excavations in the northwestern corner of the site primarily focused on Roman to Late Roman activity there.


In tone and form, the article was a throwback to the regular reports on Corinth excavations that appeared almost annually in Hesperia. The amount of detail is fantastic. The references to historical events (Actium, the founding of the colony, et c.) punctuate the archaeological findings throughout the text. The author assumes the significance of the site of Corinth and its monuments. Comparanda are minimal.

The article begins with a remarkable description of the various major Roman phases of the theater. The unlabeled illustrations make connecting the various features in the phase descriptions to the corresponding plan an exercise in architectural identification. Williams updates parts of Scranton’s half-century old study of the major Roman phases of the theater published as Corinth II. For folks interested in the architecture of theaters and the change in their function and arrangement from the Greek to Roman periods, Williams’s short survey of the Roman phases of the Corinth theater is a great case-study. The use of the Corinth theater as both an amphitheater and then as a space suitable for some kind of water battles has always fascinated me. Of particular note are the appearance of myriad buttresses and reconstructions marking out the impact of various earthquakes on the structure of the theater.

The second part of the article examines the work done during the 2011 excavation season. It begins with a discussion of the west analemma of the west parodos of the theater. (That phrase evoked some rainy afternoon standing with the members of the American School’s regular program and looking intently at the theater in some Greek city.) The discovery of this section of analemma helps to establish the shape of the Classical Greek theater that the Hellenistic theater supplanted. Williams then  describes in substantial detail the stratigraphy of the excavations of the west parodos detailing the relationship between drains and various buttresses necessary to support the earthquake wracked structure of the various associated buildings.

Excavations further north revealed more of the West Hall and uncovered more about the complex and curious history of the theater precinct. The West Hall represents a Roman addition to the theater probably dating to the 4th Phase, and its clear relationship to the “backstage” (my term, not Williams’s) are of the theater suggests that it served the actors and chorus. The walls of the hall appear to include blocks recycled from the earlier phase of the Roman theater. Like many of the buildings associated with the theater, it received buttresses at some point in its history perhaps in response to earthquake damage in the late-2nd to early-3rd century A.D. The building has a long history of use starting as a well-appointed structure with marble veneers and ending us as a space for industrial activities by the 3rd century.

One of the strangest and coolest discoveries the rooms abandonment in the 5th century it apparently became a dumping ground for cow bones slaughtered nearby and dumped over the west wall perhaps near the northwest corner. This massive, unstratified, deposit produced over a ton of bones that appeared to be the product of specialized, large scale butchery rather than urban debris.

Excavations in 2011 also revealed more of the “Lesser Plaza” and “North Peristyle Court”. Like the West Hall these spaces were Roman in date; the North Peristyle Court followed both the orientation of the theater and the “Theater Avenue” which followed the line of Roman centuriation. The north wall, I believe, of the North Peristyle eventually formed part of the Late Roman fortification of the city. While the Late Roman fortification of the city remains hard to date, but it might have been in the first half of the 5th century. This would make the bone deposit in the West Hall after the construction of the fortification and provide a bit of urban history for the periphery of the Late Roman city of Corinth. Of course, the wall could also be Justinianic in date, and I tend to prefer a later date for the wall owing to my recent publications suggesting that the emperor may have taken a personal, strategic interest in the loyalty of his Corinthian subjects.

This article was pretty intense. The amount of detail was staggering and involved constantly moving back and forth between more detailed descriptions and the phase descriptions and plans at the front of the article. I kept thinking how this is a model article for advanced undergraduates to use to decipher a building’s history. The article provided more than enough detail for a student to reconstruct a history of the building, but also enough little challenges to separate students who understand architecture and stratigraphic excavation from those who don’t. The final section of the article offered some suggestions for future work setting the stage for students to consider the potential of various courses of action. A short paper assignment arguing in favor of one of Williams’ recommendation for future work would wrap up the assignment nicely.

Crossposted to Corinthian Matters