A Couple of Thoughts on the ASOR Annual Meeting

Institutions, particularly academic institutions, are slow to change. In most cases, this is a good thing. After all, universities and colleges are responsible for both their existing programs and students, and the degrees conferred to past students, the often long careers of faculty and staff, and the gifts of donors, loyalty of alumni, and responsibilities to communities. Professional organizations like the ASOR, or the American Schools of Oriental Research, are also prone to incremental changes rather than quick pivots and abrupt reorientations and tend to see the historical legacy of their organization on equal footing with its current relevance. Generally speaking, the organization of these institutions makes change difficult as well with complex bylaws, multiple committees, and various checks that prevent decision-making without general consensus. 

While in many ways the reluctance to change quickly is a good thing. For example, many academic organizations rely on a diverse portfolio of stakeholders for funding and lack a robust financial safety net. A misstep could lead not simply to a dilution of their historic mission, but to real financial and existential problems.

There were two big decisions that took center stage at the ASOR annual meeting. First, we continue to discuss the long-term relationship with the Society of Biblical Literature meeting which generally overlaps with ASOR and occurs in the same city. Since the American Academy of Religion annual meeting now also coincides with SBL and ASOR, it has become difficult for ASOR to find suitable accommodations in the same city. As a result, ASOR has to decide whether it needs to change when and where it holds its meetings. There are real practical implications to this since about a fifth of ASOR members also are SBL members and participate in both meetings.

This also has opened a conversation about how to make the meetings more accommodating to graduate students, contingent faculty, avocational scholars, and recent Ph.Ds who often have fewer resources and time to attend meetings. The cost of airfare, for example, was a concern especially if ASOR moved to a “second tier” city. At the same time, the cost and quality of accommodations were a concern in cities that tend to be airport hubs. Some fretted also about having to pick between ASOR and SBL and about the impact on the range and quality of papers at both conferences if they were to go their separate ways. 

While this might appear to be a largely practical matter of cost and convenience, it also has an intellectual component. Over the past 20 years, ASOR has changed and come to embrace more than the archaeology of the Levant and “Biblical” concerns, periods, and problems. A divorce from SBL would likely continue, if not accelerate, this trend and contribute to the ongoing transformation of ASOR members, its conference, and publications.

The other major conversation at the conference was about ASOR’s name: the American Schools of Oriental Research. They hosted a workshop on this topic at their annual meeting, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend. Fortunately, the issue was a constant topic of conversation throughout the meeting. The context for this name change is that the term “Oriental” is closely associated with colonialist practice as scholars like Edward Said has taught us. The concept of the “Orient” from which the name of organization (and countless others) derives carries with it a dense network of racial, cultural, political, and even economic associations that developed from the various branches of continental “Oriental studies” that defined and supported colonial practices. 

The persistence of the term “Oriental” in the ASOR name is a historical artifact laden with baggage that directly impacts the intellectual mission of our organization. We simply cannot be both “oriental” and post-colonial, for example. We can’t preach that we respect and value our colleagues and communities in Cyprus, Turkey, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt or anywhere else that ASOR affiliated scholars work, while also officially recognizing Orientalism in our name. It’s intellectually inconsistent and politically incongruous. 

The name has to change and there appears to be broad consensus on this point. A new name for ASOR, however, will certainly be the greater challenge. On the one hand, renaming ASOR will not eliminate the Orientalist past (and, frankly, present) of the organization, but it will de-emphasize its impact on our future. On the other hand, so much of our discipline of archaeology (and history) is grounded in the same intellectual and political moments that produced Orientalism (for example, the Enlightenment), if we can even consider Orientalism and archaeology to be genuinely separate things. Rebranding ASOR will show intent to challenge basic assumptions about archaeological ways of thinking, traditions, methods, and practices, but the job itself is far from over. If incremental changes within the disciplines that make up ASOR have led us to this point, then we have to hope that they’re part of a longer trajectory that bends toward practices that are more inclusive, dynamic, and liberating. 

American Schools of Oriental Research Annual Meeting

The American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting starts tomorrow in Denver, Colorado. Generally speaking, I’m too socially awkward and introverted to enjoy these big meetings very much. They’re long and tiring for me and I dislike travel.

At the same time, over the past five years, I’ve come to feel more and more part of the ASOR community through my service on the Program Committee, the Committee on Publication, and as an academic trustee of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI). Despite my normal apprehension, I know that the meetings will be interesting and panels will remind me of why I became a student of the ancient Mediterranean.

Following Dimitri Nakassis’s lead, I ran the abstract book through Voyant tools (h/t to Shawn Graham for this idea!) and made the word cloud below from this dataset

BillCaraher 2018 Nov 10

I also pulled from the online program book the various panels on Cyprus this year. Nancy Serwint in the chair of the Cyprus sessions and they look good and filled with the usual suspects! I’m particularly intrigued to get an update from the folks at the Makounta-Voules Archaeological Project, which shared our hotel at Polis this last summer, and Tom Davis’s ongoing work at Kourion. Our paper, I’m moderately excited about our paper, which is at 4:50 on Friday. It is super empirical and descriptive, but has an interesting interpretative twist at the end. Come and check it out (or check back here tomorrow and read it!).

Friday, November 16th

6B. Archaeology of Cyprus I Evergreen B

Theme: The Archaeology of Cyprus sessions focus on archaeological, art historical, and material culture investigation and assessment covering the broad spectrum of Cypriot studies from prehistory to the modern period. 

CHAIR: Nancy Serwint (Arizona State University)

PRESENTERS: 10:40 Alan Simmons (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), “Sailing Neanderthals: Early Mediterranean Voyagers and the Role of Cyprus in Perspective” (20 min.)

11:05 Kathryn Grossman (North Carolina State University), Tate Paulette (North Carolina State University), Andrew McCarthy (University of Edinburgh), and Lisa Graham (University of Edinburgh), “Pre-urban Trajectories on the Northwest Coast of Cyprus: The First Two Seasons of the Makounta-Voules Archaeological Project” (20 min.)

11:30 Lindy Crewe (Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute), “Kissonerga-Skalia Bronze Age Settlement Excavation” (20 min.)

11:55 Christine Johnston (Western Washington University), “Import Distribution and Network Integration in Bronze Age Cyprus” (20 min.)

12:20 Ellis Monahan (Cornell University), “A History of Violence? A Reassessment of the Evidence for Internecine Conflict in Bronze Age Cyprus” (20 min.)

7B. Archaeology of Cyprus II Evergreen B

PRESENTERS: 2:00 Zuzana Chovanec (Institute of Archaeology, Slovak Academy of Sciences), “The Symbolic Landscape of Prehistoric Bronze Age Cyprus as Represented in Figural Representation in Ritual Vessels: A New Interpretation” (20 min.)

2:25 Thierry Petit (Université Laval), “The First ‘Ruler’s Dwelling’ in Cyprus? A Pre-Palatial Building on the Acropolis of Amathus” (20 min.)

2:50 Nassos Papalexandrou (University of Texas at Austin), “Tomb 79 Salamis, Cyprus: The Griffin Cauldron in Its Local, Near Eastern, and Mediterranean Context” (20 min.)

3:15 Georgia Bonny Bazemore (Eastern Washington University), “Aphrodite Aside: The Sanctuary of the Male Deity and the Religion of the Ancient Paphian Kingdom” (20 min.)

3:40 Laura Gagne (Carleton University), “Silencing the God Who Speaks: The Destruction of the Sanctuary at Lingrin tou Digheni”’ (20 min.)

8B. Archaeology of Cyprus III Evergreen B


4:20 Introduction (5 min.) 4:25 Nancy Serwint (Arizona State University), “The Terracotta Corpus from Marion/Arsinoe: How a Coroplast Thinks” (20 min.)

4:50 R. Scott Moore (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) and William Caraher (University of North Dakota), “A Small Production Site at Polis” (20 min.)

5:15 Lucas Grimsley (Southwestern Theological Seminary), Laura Swantek (Arizona State University), Thomas Davis (Southwestern Theological Seminary), Christopher Davey (University of Melbourne), and William Weir (University of Cincinnati), “Kourion Urban Space Project: 2018 Season Preliminary Results” (20 min.)

5:40 Ann-Marie Knoblauch (Virginia Tech), “Cypriot Antiquities, Cesnola, and American Cultural Identity in 1880s New York” (20 min.) 

An Abstract for 12th IEMA Conference: Critical Archaeology in the Digital Age

I’m behind with everything including finishing my abstract for the 12th annual IEMA Conference at the University of Buffalo. The conference is titled: Critical Archaeology in the Digital Age and from the looks of the preliminary program, it should be fantastic! 

My paper will be an effort to weave together my evolving thoughts on publishing and my interest in how digital approaches to both fieldwork and data dissemination are challenging the fundamental paradigms that shape how archaeology is practiced. Hopefully, some of my stuttering and stammering paper for the European Journal of Archaeology staggers its way into this paper.

Collaborative Digital Publishing in Archaeology: Data, Workflows, and Books in the Age of Logistics

Historically, the culmination of archaeological work was a final report or definitive monograph. In fact, publication has become an ethical imperative for our discipline and major excavations became known as much by their neatly arranged series of publications as monumental remains. For most of the 20th century, the expertise, care, and funds necessary to produce these publications represented a separate phase of knowledge making shaped by its own technical, economic, and practical limits.

In the 21st century, digital practices are transforming both archaeological practices in the field and the concept publication. The fragmentation of archaeological knowledge as digital data produces portable, sharable, remixable, and transformable publications that are less stable and less definitive than their predecessors in print. As a result, while final publications continue to appear, they are joined by published data of various kinds – from GPS and total station coordinates to digitally generated point clouds, photographs and videos, and XRF results. Project are also more invested than ever in creating unique ways to understand, interpret, and engage their site. These collaborations have eroded the conceptual and disciplinary barriers between field work, analysis and publication. It is possible, for example, to publish from the trenchside or survey unit and to create definitive digital publications that are modular and open to revision. The growing permeability between the processes of field work, analysis, and publishing, has both the potential to transform the concept of publication in archaeology (as well as across the humanities) and marks the rise of a new intellectual model for the production of knowledge. If 20th century archaeology followed the linear logic of the assembly line and culminated in the final publication, 21st century archaeology draws on the disperse efficiency sought in the contemporary focus on logistics. Logistics, with its emphasis on streamlining the movement of goods, data, and people, offers a useful, if problematic paradigm, for a discipline increasingly committed to finding new ways to make archaeological knowledge accessible and usable to a broader constituency. 

Thoughts on the #DATAM conference

I was blown away by the quality and diversity of conversations at last week’s DATAM conference at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU.

The papers at the conference reminded me of the tremendous range of digital tools at use by my colleagues who study the Ancient world that allowed their students to organize, analyze, map, play, and animate the ancient world.

Five things:

1. Real World Experiences. One of the key aspect of this conference is that the participants and the audience members were willing to share their experiences in using digital tools. Folks at the conference drew from across the digital (and digital humanities) ecosystem and discussed frankly the results of applying these tools in their classes. Sebastian Heath showed how students placed elephants at Ostia, Eric Poehler discussed his use of vertiginous first person videos, Sandra Blakey worked with students to populate a video games with proxenoi and pirates, and Sarah Bond mapped readings of ancient Rome. The frankness of these discussions motivated me to continue to experiment with digital approaches and opened my eyes to new tools.

2. Student Directed Learning. So much of what the conference participants did was not scripted by the instructors but student directed. Instructors presented digital tools, experiences, and goals, but students framed questions, figured how to work with the tools, and presented their results. Marie-Claire Beaulieu and Anthony Bucci encouraged students to ask questions of datasets and create workflows to answer them. Lisl Walsh worked with a class to consider word frequency in Seneca in a statistical way. While there was nothing distinctly digital about student directed learning, it was hard to avoid the feeling that digital tools offered students at least the feeling of greater control over how they created knowledge, and this seems to have been empowering to students.

3. Empathy and Democracy. One of the more compelling observations made is that the use of digital tools in the classroom exposed students to their democratizing potential. Sarah Bond emphasized how digital humanities can affect empathy in participants in these projects and serve as a significant counterweight to narrow and illiberal perspectives on both the past and present. The projects that she developed in her classes used digital technology (as well as analog tools) to contemporary University of Iowa students to an earlier time on they campus were both accessible to anyone with basic digital skills and inspiring. 

4. Politics of the Digital. The final session of the day featured two papers that looked at the politics of digital tools and the digital classroom. These ranged from the kinds of narratives that digital tools (as they currently exist) allow in our classroom to the danger of seeing sources as “data.” I added my usual screed in which I called my class a “late capital and neoliberal disaster.” You can read my paper here.

5. The Goal of the Digital and the Goal of Classics. The most interesting conversation of the day occurred at the end of the conference when we began to unpack the relationship between digital tools, digital practices, and the goals of Classics. Several participants set the role of Classics in a digital world against its unique place in the academy. On the one hand, the lack of a neat connection to a singular method (or even methodology) makes it hard to place Classics within a modern university organized around discipline grounded in particular (if often ill-defined) methods. On the other hand, Classics would appear to be a model for a post-disciplinary (and perhaps post-departmental) university organized around particular problems, periods, or issues. This latter scenario might appear forward looking and appealing to the current climate of university politics, but is also risky for a field like Classics that has historically been risk averse. 

The role of digital tools – in the classroom as well as in the field of Classics – offers ways for Classics to redefine itself as both forward looking, dynamic, and engaged with technological and social changes. At the same time, this move involves certain risks both to how the field sees itself and to how it fits into the modern university. These risks involve change for the field and change will involve new opportunities for students and faculty who position themselves to take advantage of the changing landscape of higher education as well as new dangers for vulnerable individuals who don’t, won’t, or can’t adapt. 

The conversations started at the #Datam conference will linger in my mind for a long time, and I hope they’ll continue as we work to publish a little volume based on the papers at the conference through The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota

Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient Mediterranean

I’m off to New York this morning to give a paper at the Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient Mediterranean conference at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. I’m also hoping to convince the participants (and hopefully some of the other folks who are doing using digital approaches to teach the ancient world) to publish a little book of the paper with The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. The hashtag is #DATAM and since the usual ancient world twitteroti will be in attendance, I suspect the twitter stream will be vibrant. Who knows, I might even flex my twitter fingers a bit.    

Conference Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient Mediterranean  Institute for the Study of the Ancient World 2018 10 25 05 57 48

If you follow the link above, you’ll see that there are some pretty interesting papers. For my part, I’ll be presenting on my use of the Scale-Up Classroom at UND to bridge digital divides. My paper is here.

Long time followers of the ole bloggeroo, will recognize that this paper is a version of a larger and more buttoned-down paper that I wrote in 2013-2014 on my experiences teaching in UND’s Scale-Up room. I still would like to send this out somewhere, but right now, it’s a pretty low priority!


Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient Mediterranean: Dissecting Digital Divides

Next month, I’m giving a paper at a conference called “Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient Mediterranean” and hosted by NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. It’s title is “Dissecting Digital Divides: Teaching, Writing, and Making Knowledge of the Mediterranean Past.”

Right now, I only have a title and the dread feeling that I really have nothing significant to say about digital approaches to teaching the Ancient Mediterranean. 

I do, of course, have a little swarm of unrelated ideas and a strong yearning to be the kind of senior professor who can give a paper on three of four random things to a rapt audience. (Rather than feeling like an undergraduate who is trying to recycle the same three ideas that I’ve had since 2004 into another paper and hoping that nobody notices!).

So here are my ideas.

1. Digital Divide. There’s been a good bit of scholarship on the digital divide in secondary and higher education. The digital divide, in its most basic form, argues that a significant divide exists between those who use and have access to digital technologies and those who do not. This divide usually mapped along social, economic, and regional lines. Rural states, like North Dakota, tend to fall on one side of the digital divide especially when access to broadband internet is concerned, but I’d also argue —at least anecdotally— that students at UND are generally less technologically savvy and comfortable in digital environments than their more affluent and more suburban counterparts elsewhere in the U.S. 

I need to get data for this, but just observing my classes over the last few semesters, I continue to be struck by the significant number of students for whom technology is not a constant companion. Many of my students do not bring their laptops to class regularly, for example. In a recent field project that involved using mobile phones to take video, a number of students had such outdated phones that they could not accommodate more than short video clips; one student had a flip phone. While it was easy enough to negotiate the different access to technology, it remains clear that the digital divide—in terms of hardware—remains firmly in place. (A recently updated “smart classroom” with a series of small group work stations relies on students to use their own laptops too access the large, shared monitor. This seems like an optimistic implementation of technology.)   

Access to the right hardware, however, is only part of the digital divide. Over the last decade of teaching at UND, it has become clear to me that something as simple as a broken hyperlink or a pdf document oriented the wrong way, represents a significant barrier to accessing information. A significant group of students lack the standard tool kit of web “work arounds” that range from savvy web searches to negotiating the standard elements of user interfaces across multiple software. Even something as simple as using a mobile device as a quick and dirty scanner or looking for an article on Academia.edu or institutional repositories that they can’t access at UND remains on the fringes of their practice (even when such approaches are modeled in class).     

In my larger Scale-Up style class where groups of 9 work together to produce text, it was pretty apparent that even relatively simply digital interfaces – like editable Wikis or shared documents in Google or Microsoft 365 – caused myriad small scale obstacles that frustrated students and complicated group work. 

2. Prosumer and Consumers. My experience teaching at UND has suggested that access to hardware and familiarity with software (and these often go hand-in-hand) sketches one level of the digital divide and contributes to the existence of the “second level digital divide.” The second level divide maps the difference between individuals who are consumers of digital material on the web and those who are so-called “prosumers” of digital and web-based content. I contend that this second level divide is far more problematic that the first level divide for implementing digital approaches to teaching and, as a result, I have dedicated more time to cultivating prosumer culture among my students and demonstrating how digital tools facilitate certain kinds of collective knowledge making.

I will admit that my general approach is a naive one. I continue to have a certain amount of faith that the last unfettered wilds of the internet hold out a glimmer of hope for a society that is far more likely to be shackled, monitored, and manipulated by technology than liberated by it. I want my students to understand the power of Wikipedia, the ecosystem that produced the growing number of open educational resources and good quality open access software, and the potential, if not unproblematic character, of maker culture, and be prepared to contribute to it. 

On the other hand, I also understand that most aspects of prosumer culture have been coopted by the usual suspects of capitalism, exploitation, sexism, racism, and technological solutionism. By producing new knowledge, creative works, and tools, we are also likely to be producing profits for transnational corporations who are as comfortable limiting access to our own work as they are preventing us from foment even very small revolutions that cannot be monetized. As the kids say: “the revolution will now be monetized.”   

I still have hope, though, and at very least I want to work to undermine still-persistent attitudes that certain incredibly exploitative industries (like textbook publishing) represent a meaningful source of authority in the time of Wikipedia. 

3. The Other Digital Divide. History students obsess over and are baffled by the distinction between primary and secondary sources. For students of the ancient Mediterranean, their consternation is understandable and useful in unpacking the relative uselessness of this distinction among practicing historians. A source is a source and only primary or secondary in relation to its use. 

Practicing archaeologists sometimes find ourselves in the same bind, of course. The divide between “data” and “interpretation,” for example, coincides with the primary and secondary source divide among historians. The persistence of terms like “raw data” (which I think is enjoying a well-deserved retirement from use) reveals an understanding of archaeological knowledge making the divides data from interpretation. It seems to me that digital data makes this divide all the more convenient in part because the data itself appears so distinct from interpretative texts, and partly because digging down into the data represents a useful play on the modernist assumption that excavation (literally or metaphorically) provides access to a view of the past less encumbered by present interpretation. While intellectually, we may understand this divide as naive—as generations of archaeologists who celebrate reflexivity and methodology has taught us, we nevertheless tend to lean on the distinction between data and interpretation to frame our conversations. Endless references to archaeological data populate academic conferences, publications, and, I suspect, our teaching. For students who continue to want to see “facts” as the antidote to “fake news,” the transparent use of data appears to be a compelling ontological tonic for their epistemological anxiety. 

To my mind, this digital divide is every bit a pernicious as the other digital divides described in this post. In fact, it might be more dangerous in the era of “Big Data” than the other digital divides because it tends to see data as holding a particular kind of fundamental and inescapable authority in how it describes the world.  

4. Prosumption Critique. For the last 5 years, I’ve taught a large, Introduction to Western Civilization class at the University of North Dakota in a Scale-Up style classroom. The class generally enrolled 150-180 students and the room was set up for them to sit around round, 9-person tables. Each table had three laptops connected to a monitor and also came with a whiteboard and a microphone for the students to play with when bored. A central teaching station allowed me to observe most of the groups and to project content from the tables onto four large projection screens in the corners of the room.

The design of the room encouraged students work together and at least in theory sought to mitigate the hardware aspects of the digital divide by ensuring that at least three students had access to a laptop. In the most common implementations of this design, a student or students worked as the scribe for the table on a provided laptop or students worked in smaller groups, three to a laptop, sometimes installed with appropriate software for the task at hand. While I did not formally leverage the practical aspects of three-laptop design, it did work to mitigate the uneven access to technology among my students.

The class sought to mitigate the “second level digital divide” by encouraging students too critically work as prosumers of educational content. In practice, this involved having the students write a Western Civilization textbook with each table working on a series of chapters that would come together at the end fo the class as a completed book. This task encouraged students to recognize the value of their own voice, critical abilities, and their ability (and maybe even responsibility) to produce their own historical narratives and analysis. It also subverts some of the economic and political power of textbook publishers, although, I do ask them to buy a used copy of an older version of a textbook as a model.

Finally, the students start with more or less a blank document. I do not provide an approved list of primary or secondary sources or even offer much in the way of a critical guide to navigating the internet. Most students get that journal articles are “better” than random webpages (of uncertain authorship and content), that Wikipedia is a good place to glean chronology, geography, and additional sources, and that historical arguments are only as good as the sources they identify to build their arguments. If they can’t find good evidence for an argument, then no amount of rhetorical savvy is likely to make it compelling.


At the same time, this approach de-emphasizes the idea that there is a body of data “out there” ready for consumption, analysis, and interpretation. Instead, it encourages the students to see the body of useful evidence and data as the product of their research questions and priorities. The “raw material” of history is not something that is “mined” for knowledge, but something that’s built up as evidence FOR arguments about the past. 

In an era where relational data is literally being treated and traded as a commodity, it is hardly surprising that we envision knowledge making as a kind of extractive industry (and, here, I’m thinking of a paper that I recall my colleague Sheila Liming giving a few years back on the metaphor of “data mining” and “text mining”) rather than, say, performative or generative. It seems to me that encouraging students to be critical and conscientious prosumers of historical knowledge offers a little space to push back on both the economic and intellectual (or at very least metaphorical or rhetorical) underpinnings of our digital world.     


Five Quick Reactions to the 2018 European Association of Archaeologists Meeting

I just got home from the 2018 European Association of Archaeologists annual meeting in Barcelona and was really impressed by my experience. Since, I’m still shaking off jet leg and racing to play catch up with my classes and other responsibilities, I’ll keep my comments here pretty short and impressionistic, but hopefully I’ll have to space to post something more involved later in the week.

1. So Many Panels. The EAAs were literally the opposite of the old joke that the food is bad and the portions are too small. The panels were good and there were so many of them. It was impossible to get anything more than a taste of the conference with panels stretching for four, five, or six hours, huge numbers of overlapping panels, and panels that might appeal to the same audience being held at the same time (e.g. a panel on Early Medieval transitions in the archaeology of Europe at the same time as a panel on Medieval archaeology more generally). At times people had to scoot between two panels in which they were participating or to see papers.

To be clear, this isn’t a complaint, after all there’s a limit to how a conference can organize over 1000 papers in over a 3-day event, but it’s important to recognize that any observation on the conference will only represent a small sampling of panels at the event.

2. Socially Conscious Archaeology. The theme of the conference was “Reflɘctiᴎg Futuᴙɘs”(weirdly, there are no flipped lowercase versions of Latin “n” or “r” in unicode), and, if I came away with one impression, it’s that the future of archaeology is socially engaged with pressing problems facing the world. I was particularly impressed that papers the dealt with the challenges of climate change, political pressures, and neoliberalism generally avoided the “c-word” (crisis) and preferred a sober, practical, systematic, and disciplinary approach to problems facing the future of the past. 

In fact, I sort of wanted a bit more urgency at times, but I also appreciated that so much of my desire for the urgent (OUTRAGE) demonstrates my own addiction to the excitement offered by our hyperactive media cycles and “theory of the day” approaches to problem solving and knowledge making in the humanities. What the EAAs showed me is that concepts like anarchism, decolonization, indigeneity, and public engagement have deep roots in archaeological work in the present that could produce a strong, relevant discipline for the future.     

3. Heritage, Contract, and Academic Archaeology. Maybe I’m more used to attending the ASOR or AIA annual meeting than, say, the SAAs, but I was particularly struck my the interaction between heritage and museum professionals, contract archaeologists, and academic archaeologists at the EAAs. In my panel on transhuman archaeologies, several of the heritage archaeologists deftly applied the more conceptual and academic papers to their own sites in the discussion periods. In a panel on climate change, heritage managers, contract, and academic archaeologists shared their work in documenting and preserving sites made vulnerable by coastal erosion and other climate change driven environmental concerns. 

It was really energizing and challenging as an academic archaeologist thinking in terms ontologies and epistemologies mediated largely by academic practice, to get pressed earnestly by folks involved in contract work and teaching contract archaeologists as to how what I’m saying is relevant to their work and students. This wasn’t done in a dismissive or confrontational way but as a genuinely intellectual challenge to my work and it was very much appreciated.   

4. More Bakken than Byzantine. I joked with my colleagues the week before going to the conference that every once in a while I remember that I’m a Europeanist and should attend conferences on the Continent and engage with my colleagues in Europe in a face-to-face way. What was funny though is that I found myself reflecting on my work as an Americanist far more regularly than my work in Cyprus or Greece throughout the conference. The sessions that I attended on time, climate change, and digital technologies had stronger grounding in “historical” or “world” archaeology than the work that I do when wearing my “Classical Archaeologist” hat (safety first, kids!) in Europe.

In the future, I’d like to present my work in the Bakken to the EAA audience as much to engage more thoughtfully with the social impact of my work as to grasp the role of heritage management and memory in ephemeral modern landscapes.

5. Barcelona Backdrop. Finally, Barcelona was a genuinely inspired place to hold a conference on Reflɘctiᴎg Futuᴙɘs in archaeology. The city provides a master class not only on past futures visible in the Modernisme movement as well as museums dedicated to Picasso and Miró, but also a legacy of radicalism, industrialism, post-nationalism, and neoliberalism as well. A visit to Gaudí’s unfinished Sagrada Família is a literal reminder of modernism as an unfinished and deeply ambiguous project which juxtaposes profound, religious truth and rebar protruding through roughly finished concrete spires. 

Just to make this point more clearly the conference itself was situated at the edge of Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic where the Medieval plan of the city is best preserved and tourists and pickpockets jostle with each other down this tree-line and commodified thoroughfare. We were a short walk from Richard Meier’s well-known Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (a museum that famously opened without a collection!) whose glass and white walls reminded us of the fraught character of transparency and cosmopolitan ambivalence in the 21st century.

The University of North Dakota’s Writers Conference

The first week after spring break every year (well, at least for the last 49 years), is the University of North Dakota’s Writers Conference. It’s an annual gathering of writers and readers from around the world and around the state.

This year’s theme is “Truth and Lies” which seems both intriguing and contemporary. The features authors include Molly McCully Brown, Nicholas Galanin, David Grann, Marlon James, Lauren Markham, and Ocean Vuong who offer readings, speak on panels, and show films that inspire and excite them.  

Undwc18 11x17 layers new nd

The complete schedule is here.

This year, there will be a parallel event called the Grand Challenges Information Symposium. It features panels that intersect in some way with the Grand Challenges articulated by the visionary president of the University of North Dakota. Two editorial board members, David Haeselin and Eric Burin, and yours truly will be at a panel on Wednesday, March 21, from 2-2:45 in the Lecture Bowl of the Memorial Union to talk about the future of publishing. 

So if you’re in the region, please plan to attend the Writers Conference and our panel at the Grand Challenges Information Symposium! 

Cyprus Papers and Posters at the American Schools of Oriental Research Annual Meeting

The 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research happens this week in Boston. You can check out the schedule and program here.

For your convenience and interest, I’ve compiled a list of the papers and posters with explicit reference to Cyprus in their titles. As you can see there are four panels dedicated this year to Cypriot topics and a number of other papers, posters, and digital demonstrations scattered throughout the three-day conference.

Do check them out if you’re in Boston! 

Thursday, November 16

1F Archaeology of the Ancient Near East: Bronze and
Iron Ages 1

9:05 Igor Kreimerman (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), “Destructions at the End of the Late Bronze Age: A Comparison between the Northern Levant, the Southern Levant, and Cyprus” (15 min.)

Friday, November 17

5A Landscapes of Settlement in the Ancient Near East
Harbor 1

9:25 Georgia Andreou (Cornell University), “The River Valley as a Study Unit and Conceptual Boundary in Settlement Studies: The Case of South-Central Cyprus” (15 min.)

5E Archaeology of Cyprus I

CHAIRS: Nancy Serwint (Arizona State University) and Walter Crist
(Arizona State University)

8:20 Lindy Crewe (Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute), “Excavating Souskiou-Laona Chalcolithic Cemetery” (20 min.)

8:45 Peter Fischer (University of Gothenburg) and Teresa Bürge (OREA, Austrian Academy of Sciences), “Tombs and Offering Pits at the Late Bronze Age Metropolis of Hala Sultan Tekke, Cyprus: Results from the Excavations in 2016” (20 min.)

9:10 Paula Waiman-Barak (University of Haifa), Anna Georgiadou (University of Cyprus), and Ayelet Gilboa (University of Haifa), “Early Iron Age Cypro-Phoenician Interactions: CyproGeometric Ceramics from Tel Dor and Cyprus, a Study of Ceramic Petrography” (20 min.)

9:35 Giorgos Bourogiannis (Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities [Medelhavsmuseet], Stockholm), ”The Ayia Irini Project at the Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm: New Research on an Old Excavation” (20 min.)

10:00 Andrew McCarthy (University of Edinburgh), Kathryn Grossman (North Carolina State University), Tate Paulette (Brown University), Lisa Graham (University of Edinburgh), Christine Markussen (University of Vienna), “A Transriverine Hellenistic Settlement at Prastio-Mesorotsos, Cyprus” (20 min.)

6E Archaeology of Cyprus II

CHAIRS: Nancy Serwint (Arizona State University) and Walter Crist (Arizona State University)

10:40 Thomas Landvatter (Reed College), “Cremation Practice and Social Meaning in the Ptolemaic East Mediterranean” (15 min.)

11:00 Karolina Rosińska-Balik (Jagiellonian University in Kraków), “Architectural Features of the Agora of Paphos (Cyprus)—Some Remarks” (15 min.)

11:20 Nancy Serwint (Arizona State University), “The Workshops of Ancient Arsinoe” (15 min.

11:40 Pamela Gaber (Lycoming College), “The 2017 Season of the Lycoming College Expedition to Idalion, Cyprus” (15 min.)

12:00 R. Scott Moore (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Brandon Olson (Metropolitan State University of Denver), and William Caraher (University of North Dakota), “The Circulation of Imported Fine Wares on Cyprus in the Roman and Late Roman Periods” (15 min.)

12:20 Ann-Marie Knoblauch (Virginia Tech), “Excavating Cesnola: Public Interest in Archaeological Field Techniques in 1880s New York” (15 min.)

7E Archaeology of Cyprus III

CHAIRS: Nancy Serwint (Arizona State University) and Walter Crist
(Arizona State University)


2:00 Katelyn DiBenedetto (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), “The First Permanent Settlers of Cyprus: Pushing the Neolithic Boundaries” (15 min.)

2:20 Walter Crist (Arizona State University), “Changing the Game: Bronze Age Gaming Stones from Cyprus” (15 min.)

2:40 Louise Steel (University of Wales Trinity Saint David), “What Happened in Room 103 at Aredhiou?” (15 min.)

3:00 Kevin Fisher (University of British Columbia), “From Duplex to Courtyard House: Re-assessing Bronze Age Social Change on Cyprus” (15 min.)

3:20 A. Bernard Knapp (University of Glasgow), “Piracy and Pirates in the Prehistoric Mediterranean” (15 min.)

3:40 Joanna S. Smith (University of Pennsylvania), “Facing a Crowd: Dedicatory and Museum Displays of Cypriot Art” (15 min.)

8E Digging “Lustily” into Cypriot Prehistory: Studies in Honor of Stuart Swiny

CHAIRS: Zuzana Chovanec (Tulsa Community College) and Walter Crist (Arizona State University)


4:20 Introduction (5 min.)

4:25 Helena Wylde Swiny (Harvard University), “Why Cyprus?” (15 min.)

4:45 Francesca Chelazzi (University of Glasgow), “Settlement Archaeology in Bronze Age Cyprus: The Pioneering Legacy of Stuart Swiny in the Southwest Forty Years Later” (15 min.)

5:05 Thomas Davis (Tandy Institute for Archaeology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), “The House of the Dancing Bird” (15 min.)

5:25 Laura Swantek (Arizona State University) and William Weir (University of Cincinnati), “A Dig of a ‘Certain Kind’: Stuart Swiny and the Past and Future Potential of Sotira Kaminoudhia” (15 min.)

5:45 Zuzana Chovanec (Tulsa Community College) and Sean M. Rafferty (University at Albany), “A Legacy of Education and Collaboration: Stuart Swiny’s Role in Cypriot Studies at the University at Albany” (15 min.)

6:05 Alan Simmons (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), “Thinking Outside the Hippo: A Personal Tribute to Stuart Swiny” (15 min.)

8A GIS and Remote Sensing in Archaeology 1

5:10 Carrie Fulton (University of Toronto), Andrew Fulton (Independent Scholar), Andrew Viduka (Flinders University), and Sturt Manning (Cornell University), “Using Photogrammetry in Large-area Survey of the Late Bronze Age Anchorage at Maroni-Tsaroukkas, Cyprus” (20 min.)

Saturday, November 18

10D Archaeologists Engaging Global Challenges

11:15 Louise Hitchcock (University of Melbourne), “Aged Tasmanian
Whiskey in Boston Is the New Faience Rhyton in Cyprus: Globalization and Plutocracy, Populism, and Piracy” (25 min.)

10K Maritime Archaeology

11:55 Stella Demesticha (University of Cyprus), “The Cargo of the Mazotos Shipwreck, Cyprus” (20 min.)

12H Archaeology of the Byzantine Near East

5:45 Charles Anthony Stewart (University of St. Thomas), “The Alexander-Heraclius Stele: a Byzantine Sculpture Discovered in Cyprus” (15 min.)


“Evolving Architectural Function in the ‘Earthquake House’ at Kourion, Cyprus” Erin Beatty (Tandy Institute for Archaeology) and Laura Swantek (Arizona State University)

“Against the Grains: The Story of Early Agriculture in Cyprus” Leilani Lucas (University College London; College of Southern Nevada) and Dorian Fuller (University College London)

Digital Archaeology Demos

“The Archaeology of Rural Landscapes: Surface Survey and Magnetic Anomaly Test Excavations at Maroni, Cyprus”

Catherine Kearns (University of Chicago), Peregrine Gerard-Little (Cornell University), Anna Georgiadou (University of Cyprus), and Georgia Andreou (Cornell University)

Final Draft: The Bakken Gaze

Last week, I posted a serialized (actually in process) version of my paper, “The Bakken Gaze: Tourism, Petroculture, and Modern Views of an Industrial Landscape,” for the Northern Great Plains History Conference. On Friday, I tightened it up some and cut some words (although it’s probably still too long). 

The paper explains my interest in using tourism as lens to understand the Bakken oil patch and is written to support the release of a book that Bret Weber and I co-authored titled, The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape and published by NDSU Press this month (!). You can preorder the book now.

Or, better still, you can read, download, or comment on the paper via the Hypothes.is plug in here. Or you can join us at the Northern Great Plains History conference on Thursday from 2-4 at the Ramada Inn in beautiful Grand Forks, North Dakota!