The History of the Church at Koutsopetria

I have focused the last couple of weeks on finishing up a the first draft of our report on excavations at Koutsopetria on CyprusI posted something on the architecture of the Early Christian basilica excavated at the site last week. This week, I figured I might post something on the history of the building from an archaeological perspective. Next week, as an optimistic preview, I’ll have completed something on the artifacts.

The history below is unfortunately short on absolute dates and some nuance, but I think there is enough evidence to support our argument that the building endured a series of interventions over its relatively short life.

Here’s a plan of the remains set against a 5 m grid:

Scan310 cropped

Here’s a brief history of the building:

Unpacking the history of this site remains challenging as it involves integrating two different excavation methods over three campaigns of excavation. Nevertheless, the work at this site does provide a useful insight into the complex history of Late Antique ecclesiastical architecture on the island and cautions us against arguments that view the architectural history of the island as punctuated by catastrophic events rather than developing over the course of a number of small-scale interventions that combine to constitute the life of a building.

Room 1 and environs appears to have been constructed at some point after the final quarter of the 5th century based on the highly disturbed fills beneath the packed earth floor in Phase 1 in EU13. The fill levels present in EU13 reveal the long history of the occupation at Koutsopetria with artifacts from Cypro-Classical period to Late Antiquity. The flecks of Roman period wall painting associated with the Phase 1 floor in EU12 indicate that the Roman period occupation of the site involved fine quality wall painting consistent with domestic spaces. The small sherds of earlier material from the collapse levels of Room 1 likewise preserve a scrappy material record for the occupation of the history of the site during the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods.

The excavation did not produce a conclusive date for the building of Room 1 other than some time later than the last quarter of the 5 th century. This is not inconsistent with the 6 th century date of many Early Christian basilicas on the island, although few of these buildings are dated on the basis of stratigraphy and the distinct arrangement of the central nave of the basilica at Koutsopetria occurs throughout what appear to be 5 th and 6 th century churches on Cyprus. Evidence from the excavations indicate that Room 1 was modified after its initial construction at least once with the walling up of windows, the replastering of the double arch, and repairs to the tops of the walls and the roof. The presence of 7th-century African Red Slip plate near the floor of Room 1, later forms of Cyprus Red Slip and Phocaean Ware, and a coin of Heracleios indicates that the modification took place before the7 th century when the room was presumably abandoned.

Initial publications of the site suggested that it was destroyed by Arab Raids and while it is impossible to rule out that a catastrophic event like an attack caused the room’s final demise, it appears more likely that abandonment of Room 1 took place in stages. Phases 3 and 4 in EU12 and EU13 represent repairs to the basilica. In EU12, a fragment of a small lugged basin found associated with the construction of a spur wall that buttressed the west wall of Room 1 joined with a fragment of the same basin found associated with the tumble of the double arch and buried well beneath the collapse of the room. This would indicate that the basin was either on the floor of Room 1 or from the second story. While the exact circumstances that led to this vessel being deposited in separate contexts are unclear, it indicates the building remained standing at the time when the spur wall was built and the damaged vessel were present on the floor of the room along with artifacts of a mid-7th century date. It is appealing to imagine that this interval allowed for the removal of the gypsum floor paving and the graffito of a ship on the central pillar of the double arch.

A later phase of repair, defined in EU12 as Phase 4 included numerous Late Roman rooftiles of the kind associated with Room 1, although not necessarily from that buildings, as well as Late Roman artifacts including a sherd of 7th c Cypriot Red Slip. This repair phase is perhaps contemporary with the reuse of a still-plastered wall fragment in EU13 in a later wall. While it is possible to construct a loose, relative chronology for these two phases of repair, their absolute date appears to be essentially contemporary with the latest phases of use in Room 1 suggesting that the room encountered a series of interventions over a short period in the 7th century. These modifications served either to repair the structure or to shore it up while marble revetment, floor tiles, roof tiles and other valuable parts of the room were removed for use elsewhere. A similar pattern of salvage seems to have taken place at the church at Kourion after it suffered significant damage in a seismic event (Megaw 2007, 134-135). It is tempting to imagine the fragments of Dhiorios type cooking pot rims found to the north of Room 1 to be the remains of a late-7th or early 8th century salvaging operation set up, like at Kourion, in the atrium of the damaged building.

The Church at Koutsopetria

Over the last few weeks I’ve returned to writing up our excavation results from our project at Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus. This site, for people new to this blog, is in the southeastern corner of the island some 10 km east of the modern Larnaka (or ancient Kition). The site was a coastal town during the Roman and Late Roman periods and featured an Early Christian basilica.

Very little of the church was excavated either during the initial seasons of excavation in the 1990s under the direction of Dr. Maria Hadjicosti or during our brief campaign in 2009. The main focus of this work was a small, if well appointed annex room that probably extended from the south or western wall of the atrium of the church. In 1999, excavations at the site revealed the central apse of the basilica. The apse is wide and relatively shallow and features the transverse passage on its southern side that runs between the south nave colonnade and the western wall of the church.

PKAP2 Hajicosti Excavations scan310 2

This transverse passage is relatively distinctive among churches on Cyprus appearing predominantly among buildings in the neighborhood of Salamis and the Karpas Peninsula. Megaw suggested that the church of Ay. Philon served as a kind of prototype for the buildings in this area, and as you can see in the image borrowed from Richard Maguire’s 2012 dissertation (as are the rest in this blog post), has a similarly shallow and wide apse and transverse passages between the main apse and the two, smaller, lateral apses.

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf page 688 of 827

It may be that the builders of the relatively compact church at Ay. Philon modeled their building on the much larger pilgrimage church of Ay. Epiphanios at Salamis which shared the wide, shallow apse and the transverse passages. Both buildings likely date to the 5th century with the church of Ay. Epiphanios dated through a textual reference and Ay. Philon based on its stylistic affinities.  

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf page 775 of 827

Later buildings in the area, like the Panayia at Aphendrika carry on the tradition into the 6th century (at least according to the conventional date associated wth this building).

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf page 657 of 827

The regional distribution of churches of this type is intriguing. They appear on the Karpas and around Salamis and then across the northern coast of Cyprus including at Lambousa and as far west as Soloi.

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf page 808 of 827

This corpus of buildings seems to be significantly different from the churches across the more densely-settled southern coast of the island where polygonal apses are more common and the churches lack the transverse passages between the central apse and the flanking spaces.

In our survey monograph, we argue that the site of Kousopetria was situated at an important route of travel through the area. The inland road linking the coast of Larnaka Bay to the city of Salamis joined the coast at our site in both antiquity and the modern period. We argue that the remains of an Iron Age sanctuary at or near our site likely reflected the regions liminal state on the political boundary between Salamis and Kition. The presence of a late Cypro-Classical fortification at Vigla reinforced the  Obviously such political boundaries faded to unimportance during the Hellenistic and Roman period when the island became part of a single imperial state, but it remains possible that these buildings preserve echoes of these borders carved into the landscape through persistent patterns of movement between major urban centers. It may be that the church at Koutsopetria represented the southern most reach of the bishop of Salamis or even just the influence of such significant buildings as the pilgrimage church at Ay. Epiphanios. 

ASOR Wrap Up

My apologies for missing a few days on the old blog last week, but I was pretty busy at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to as many panels as I would have liked, but it was a productive meeting none the less.

So here are five things that happened (to me; after all, it’s my blog!) at ASOR:

1. Object Biography. The final workshop in a three year series of panels on object biography was a hoot (or as one of the panel’s organizers said “a bag of worms”), even if my paper was cautiously received. The papers were fun and the conversation was pleasantly edgy. Whatever the utility of object biography, the panels demonstrated an overwhelming desire for some kind of authentic engagement with things. It may be that object biography is flawed because most of us don’t think of objects as having life. At the same time, one wonders whether the recent interest in object agency especially among archaeologists, reflects our experiences struggling with objects that appear to have greater and greater autonomy from our wishes, desires, and intentions. In other words, maybe the idea of an object having a biography – a birth, a youth, an adulthood, and a death – is simply a matter of degrees from the idea that objects are agents. The former, however, seems contrived not because as we expand our notions of agency from individuals to things we are simultaneously diluting the very concept of being alive.

2. Welcoming our new digital overlords. I was amazed by the number of variety of panels on digital tools in archaeology at this year’s ASOR. Maybe it’s been like this for the last few years, but our fascination with the potential of digital archaeology was on full display starting with the plenary address by Sarah Parcak and continuing through many of the posters and papers. I was particularly pleased that the most recent book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future, received a share of the attention. In fact, co-editor Jody Gordon recorded his paper and answered some questions for ASOR and this will likely be posted in the next week or so. I’ll put up a link to his paper and the interviews when they become available. 

3. CAARI has a new director. I am a member of the board of trustee of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute and after almost 7 years of dedicated service, Andrew McCarthy, is stepping down to pursue new adventures. In his place, the CAARI board approved the appointment of Lindy Crewe, a prehistorian who has worked on the island for many years and has a reputation for being a thoughtful scholar and an elite excavator. You can get a sense for her accomplishments on her academia.edu page. It was a good choice and I look forward to her leadership at an institution that has contributed significantly to my work on this island and my career.

4. Digital Publishing and ASOR. As readers of this blog know, I’ve been working with Scott Moore to produce a digital version of Pyla-Koutsopetria I: The Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coastal Town. Since we published our data with Open Context, we produced an unofficial digital edition that allows a reader to move from the text to our published data throughout. We learned at ASOR that we’ve been given approval to release a linked digital copy of the book (as a beta) this spring once we work some bugs out. The goal is to present this beta-draft for some feedback and to prepare a revised digital edition at a later date. 

We also discussed the possibility of preparing PKAP II as a digital release with links throughout to our excavation data in Open Context. There are number of technical and cultural challenges to overcome, but hopefully we can propose a series of steps toward making the Archaeological Report Series a significant outlet for innovative digital archaeological publications.

5. The ASOR Meeting Program. I serve on the ASOR program committee and one of the most interesting conversations in recent years in that committee concerns the number of times people can officially appear in the annual meeting. This year, we decided (and it was a mistake) to only list the first author (or presenter) in the schedule section of the program book and to list coauthors in the abstract section. The reasons for this are complex and involve both aesthetics (and a concern for clutter in the schedule) as well as a concern that some members of ASOR are appearing “too frequently” in the program. Most academic meetings have some kind of policy limiting the number of times someone can appear in the program designed to promote diversity in the program and to ensure that scholars of all ranks can participate. At ASOR we have fiddled with this policy numerous times over the last few years and not quite settled on a universally accepted formula.

To me this is interesting because it considers both the meetings, but more importantly, the academic program as a lens through which we can understand and shape the field. Limiting the number of times someone can appear in the program will promote the the appearance of diversity, but it leaves open the possibility that the program does not actually reflect the work of writing the paper. At the same time, appearances can change reality and making the program appear more diverse might actually change the nature of field.  

Data, Digital Archaeology, and Publishing

To short things this morning related to digital archaeology. 

First, abstracts were due last night for the Society of American Archaeology Annual Meeting next spring, so there was the predictable flurry of activity. I generally don’t do much with the SAA conference, but this year there was some interest in a panel on digital archaeology, I’ll contribute to a paper with Erin Walcek Averett, Derek Counts, and Jody Gordon.

Here’s our abstract: 

“From Trench to Tablet: Field Recording, Interpreting, and Publishing in the Age of Digital Archaeology”

Since the arrival of robust mobile tablet devices in 2010, archaeological documentation has increasingly become born-digital. The adoption of digital tools and practices has not gone unnoticed, with reactions ranging from enthusiastic acceptance to outright skepticism. Significantly, scholars are beginning to offer more critical and reflexive views of the issues surrounding the use of mobile devices in archaeological fieldwork, interpretation, and dissemination. The ability to disseminate digital data directly from connected devices to a global audience threatens to destabilize traditional standards of archaeological documentation practices, which, in part, used media to define the stages of knowledge production: handmade, paper documents defined the provisional character of field documentation, and the printed, bound, publication marked definitive results. Digital media blurs these distinctions by making trench side data indistinguishable from its final form. By drawing on examples from current archaeological publication schemes, this paper will show how new digital tools and techniques can highlight the potential for mobile computing in archaeology, but also demonstrate how these new methods will challenge and transform institutions that shape archaeological knowledge.

~

On a related note, please check out the recently announced Open Context & Carleton Prize for Archaeological Visualization. Shawn Graham, one of the prizes co-sponsors, posted a snazzy video introduction to the prize. And like any good prize, it has some money behind it!

More importantly (and selfishly!), my survey project on Cyprus, the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeology Project, has data in Open Context that could be used for this prize. While we have been working to connect this data to our published monograph in preparation for a Digital Edition, we’d love to have someone approach the data from another perspective and for an innovative visualization of our data (especially in conjunction with other similar datasets in Open Context) to inform the analysis in our traditional paper book. 

Go check it out!

 

Pyla-Koustopetria Archaeology Project: Churning On

This blog began – back in 2005 or whenever – to share news from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project with our various friends, supporters, and colleagues. Since that time, I’ve written well over 100 posts on various PKAP related topics both on this blog and in the archive. It’s a bit sobering to realize that I haven’t posted about PKAP for so long, but since David Pettegrew, Scott Moore, and I have spent the last few weeks working on PKAP related materials, it seems like a fine time for an update.

J74701 Pyla Koutsopetria 1993 Ar I

We are working to prepare a complete draft of the excavations at the site. The PKAP team conducted three seasons of targeted excavation at the sites of Pyla-Vigla, Pyla-Koutsopetria, and (in a rather strange situation) at Pyla-Kokkinokremos. We are working to publish the results of our work at Pyla-Vigla and Pyla-Koutsopetria and the description of the stratigraphy and phases associated with our work is largely done. Pyla-Vigla is a Hellenistic fortified site with three very clear phases. Koutsopetria is an Early Christian basilica. 

We are also working to publish the results from two earlier campaigns of excavation at the site of Koutsopetria by Maria Hadjicosti and the Department of Antiquities in 1993 and 1999. During these campaigns an annex room (Room 1) and part of the apse of the basilica were exposed. This is a more complicated project since we do not have the excavation notebooks (if they ever existed) for the project, but have a record of inventoried finds and the context pottery from the various excavated context. Ordinarily this would be a massive challenge for anyone trying to reconstruct the stratigraphy and phases of the building, but we had two advantages. First, we had David Pettegrew’s meticulous patience and willingness to solve archaeological problems. He went through the all of the records that we do have – mainly elevations and horizontal grid coordinates. – and created a series of plausible levels and passes. The other advantage was that the excavations mostly removed collapse and encountered only very small lenses that can be associated with the site’s pre-collapse abandonment. Complementing David’s work is analysis of ceramic artifacts by R. Scott Moore and the analysis of the painted plaster, molded gypsum, and various architectural fragments by Sarah Lepinski. 

For my part, I’ve taken David’s careful analysis and combined it with the Scott Moore and Sarah Lepinski’s work to produce a narrative of the building excavated over 20 years ago. The results so far have been intriguing. Here are a few little things:

1. Abandonment. It seems almost certain that Room 1 was largely abandoned at the time of collapse, but the absence of material later than the first half of the 7th-century suggests that it wasn’t abandoned for very long. The presence of several almost complete artifacts – including an African Red Slip 105 plate – on the floor of Room 1 hint that some material remained scattered about the space. Graffiti incised on architectural features perhaps indicates that the room had acquired a more casual function toward the end of its life.

2. Collapse. Room 1 appears to have collapsed to the south. Roof tiles appear immediately above the floor on the southern third of the room suggesting that the roof and the second story slid fell onto the floor perhaps as the south wall of the room fell to the south. The northern part of the room has more debris above the floor and fewer tiles made it to the floor level, likewise suggesting that the north wall collapsed into the room toward the south pushing the roof into the southern part of the room.

3. Residual Sherds. One of the coolest things about the levels excavated in 1993 is that they produced not only some relatively well-preserved Late Roman artifacts, but also a significant quantity of earlier material. Most of this earlier material – including easily identifiable Early Roman and Hellenistic fine wares – appears only as tiny sherds, typically smaller than 10 grams in weight. It would appear that most of this earlier material came from the coarse mortar used in the walls of Room 1 and in the packing associated with the floor of the second story. As we appreciated this residual assemblage of pottery deriving from various construction contexts in the building, we got to wonder about the scatter of Early Roman and Hellenistic pottery identified in the survey of the region and how much of that material might come from similarly residual contexts.

There is obviously much more that we can say about the excavations and as we pull together the finds, the phases, and the architecture. So stay tuned!

Publishing PKAP

One of the things that my friends and I said when we ran the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project is that we would publish promptly. We took that part of our responsibility as archaeologists seriously and produced our first volume documenting our intensive pedestrian survey work at the site as soon as we could. In fact, we excluded the results of our excavation from our first volume with the plans to publish a second volume. This made sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that our excavations were small, the assemblages were relatively more complex to understand, and the number of moving parts (including a retired collaborator!) remained relatively high. The result has been a series of delays and we’re now about 4 years adrift of our last excavation season, have new projects afoot, and are looking ahead to new fieldwork and writing opportunities.

Yesterday, Scott Moore, David Pettegrew, and I had a general meeting about the publication status of PKAP II. We reckon we’re 80% done with the manuscript. The core of the book is the analysis of the stratigraphy and the catalogue of finds with brief sections on our excavation methods and the history of excavation at the site.

The biggest challenge facing us is working on the conclusions. In PKAP I we offered some conclusions that located the Pyla-Koutsopetria micro-region in the larger context of the island of Cyprus and then the Eastern Mediterranean. Our excavations produced a more concentrated assemblage of material that speaks to the history of two small sites: an Early Christian basilica on the coastal plain and a Hellenistic fortified site on the on the plateau of Vigla. The assemblages of material from these sites offers important insights into the Early Hellenistic period and Late Antiquity on the island. Our goal in the conclusion is to write tiny histories of these sites that bring together the excavated assemblages with our survey data, with other assemblages across the island, and with larger narratives of sites (as opposed to regions) on the island.

To get to this point, though, we need to wrangle data, wrangle texts, and most importantly, wrangle people. As we lurch toward having our manuscript complete, we need to arrange the moving parts committed by various scholars. More on this as our manuscript finally takes shape.

Atlanta and ASOR 2015

I had a great week attending the 2015 American Schools of Oriental Research conference in Atlanta. The panels that I managed to attend were interesting and crowded, the committees to which I was obliged were productive, and impromptu meetings with friends, colleagues, and strangers were fun and useful.

I even learned some things. So in the interest in bringing order to a complicated few days, here’s a little list summarizing my encounter with the 2015 ASOR meeting: 

1. Bathrooms. I don’t, generally, spend much time reflecting on bathroom design, but at a conference fueled by coffee and endless pitchers of water in every room, regular visits to the bathroom punctuated my day at steady intervals. The men’s room that I visited most regularly had a small vestibule (around 3 m in length) between the door to the hallway and the door to the bathroom proper. Through this second door was a doglegged passage of 7-8 m in length featuring a bank of four or five sinks. The standard bathroom fixtures were set further into the bathroom around a partition wall.

This arrangement may sound typical, but it means that a visitor to the facilities moves through about 10 m of passage between entering the space from the external hallway and encountering the most important features of the bathroom. This space was genuinely liminal for the visitor and preyed directly upon our common, human anxieties associated with moving from the public space of the hallway to the gender-defined space of the bathroom. Is this really the men’s room? Am I in the wrong place? 10 meters is a significant distance to travel “betwixt and between,” and made every trip to the facilities involve some design-induced angst.

2. Nice Cars and Traffic. This was my first time in Atlanta outside of an unplanned night in an airport hotel after some botched travel arrangements a few years back. A few friends with Georgia roots tried to explain to me the urban landscape of the city which seemed to me to be an East Coast version of West Coast urban sprawl and truly a fitting anchor for Gibson’s Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis

The one thing that Atlanta is famous for is traffic (and streets named Peachtree). I was enchanted (see below) by the bustling traffic of Atlanta’s byways and trip to from Buckhead to the Cabbagetown neighborhood for dinner took us on vibrant and traffic-filled highways through Downtown and Midtown.

IMG 4085

The spectacular array of exotic and imported cars on the roads of Buckhead and on Atlanta’s highways reminded me that I truly live in “Pontiac and Plymouth Country (TM)” and created a moving montage of social and economic display. While eating lunch at a little burger place, I watched no fewer than three Bentleys roll by and was shocked to realize that Mercedes only sells S-Class cars to Atlanta residents.

3. ASOR and CAARI and The Digital. There were sustained and productive conversations about “The Digital” both on the ASOR committee on publications and at the board of trustees meeting of CAARI (the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute). The former is embracing the need to at least experiment with open-access digital publishing and linked data and the latter is starting to think more critically about its web site as more than just a billboard for the institutes existence. I’m increasingly optimistic that Pyla-Koutsopetria I: Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coastal Town will appear next year as a digital, fully linked, revised edition and Pyla-Koutsopetria II: Excavations at an Ancient Coastal Town will be born as a linked digital book in 2017. 

As for CAARI, there’s much work to do, but we’ve made some progress. Moving the CAARI site from a hand-coded page to a WordPress template would make updating the site easier and facilitate links with social media. The conversations at the trustees meeting also suggested that people are increasingly interested in using the website for… something. It may be that the website emerges as a place to solicit contributions or to market scholarship opportunities or even to publish old photographs of Cyprus. It’s clear that the board is not quite sure how to align the web with CAARI’s broader mission.

As I sat there listening to the conversation (and the many generational protests), I started to think that CAARI could use the web to disseminate scholarship perhaps in conjunction with the re-opening of the expanded library. A digital occasional paper series modeled on the ISAW Papers series might anchor the CAARI web presence in a familiar medium – scholarly publication, celebrate the benefit of the new library by linking CAARI with academic production, and provide a new outlet for publications on Cyprus now that the Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus is on sabbatical.

The key thing, to my mind, is to revamp the website with a strategy (and goals) in mind. We have work to do!

4. Slow Archaeology. I was thrilled to hear the term “slow archaeology” appear in several papers at ASOR and even more thrilled to realize that some of these mentions were not directed at my work but indicative of parallel work with the same ideas. Eric Kansa’s work on “slow data” distinguishes the deliberate and careful work of publishing, linking, and using published archaeological data from the compliance based “data dump” and suggests that a “slow” approach to data publishing will both yield far more important results and require a change in attitudes among archaeologists, institutions, and funding agencies.

Independent of my work, Ömür Harmansah has explored the intersection of archaeology and development, neoliberalism, and the modern academy to suggest that, today, almost all archaeology is salvage archaeology pushed by an array of pressures inherent to late capitalism. As an antidote to this trend, he has proposed approaches that embrace an intentional engagement with complex landscapes including a kind of “slow survey” that attempts to resist practices associated with the commodification of archaeological space, objects, and heritage in the name of documentation.

I’m exited to explore more of his ideas with him and think there is real potential for a clearly-defined slow archaeology to offer substantive critique to the discipline.  

5. Objects and Enchantment. I participated in a panel on object biography where folks used the word “enchantment” more than I’ve ever encountered at an academic meeting. The papers were good and generally well-received, although I detected a consistent skepticism that object biography represents a  productive way forward for understanding of the place of objects within the broader archaeological project.

My paper was met with skepticism including a comment that my approach to archaeology (and digital artifacts) would cause children to go running from the discipline whereas the opportunity to handle an excavated object would lead to enchantment. This may be the case, although I suspect children and students these days have a greater willingness to be enchanted by digital objects than our generation does.

Despite that critique, my time at the ASOR annual meeting was enchanting, exhausting, and though provoking. I’m looking forward to next year and following up some of the conversations that I had over the course of the meeting.  

Lessons from a Sabbatiquoll

Despite my effort to keep a balanced perspective on sabbatiquoll, I slowly but surely lost my mind as the end of the my year of freedom, rest, and recovery approaches.

1024px Dasyurus maculatus

So, I’ve learned five lessons and these largely echo the lessons that I learned (and tried to avoid) last time I took a year of leave. I guess I’m incapable of learning.

1. Time, time, time. Over the last 80 days, I diligently used Nick Feltron‘s Reporter app on my mobile phone to document what I did with my days. Reporter asked me approximately 4 times a day (a mode of 5) what I was doing. I would then answer a simple survey that would provide data for analysis.

The most simple question it asks is whether I’m working or not. I answered yes 64% of the time. Since I generally was awake at least 14 hours a day (conservatively), I reckon I was working about 8 hours a day, maybe a bit more. That means that I worked around 60 hours per week. 

2. Write, write, write. Of that 60 hours per week, I wrote about 65% of the time. I spent the rest of the time editing, reading, and in meetings which all account for over 5% of my work time. In hindsight, I probably spent too much time writing and not enough time reading (6.6% of my working time) especially as I look at a stack of unread books for the summer field season, but it was a conscious decision to get as much writing done as possible and load up my folders full of written text for the long, dark time between the end of this sabbatical and the next. 

3. Alone, so alone. I was alone 60% of the time this year, and 32% of the time I was with my wife. That leaves 8% of my time with other people. While I’m not particularly bothered by being alone, I did come to find it a bit oppressive. I suspect the main reason that I was alone so often is that I rarely left the house. I spent 80% of my time in my house and 37% of that time in my home office (29% downstairs in our family room and 12% in the kitchen or workout room). This coincides well with my leisure time activities. 34% of my leisure time was spent eating or drinking primarily in the evening in the kitchen and another 30% of my leisure was spent watching television. 16% of my time was spent on walks either in the workout room on the treadmill or with the mighty Milo-dog. I counted time with Milo as being alone.

IMG 2809

4. Preloading my next two years. I promised myself that I would get things done over sabbatical, but I did not promise that I’d finish things. I was really hard to move a number of projects along without wrapping any of them up (well, except this one). I think I succeeded in keeping my eyes on my next couple of years when I’ll return to teaching full time (or at least university life full time!), and setting up a slate of projects that I can finish while occupied by other responsibilities. 

a. Learning Layout. I spent a good bit time over sabbatical learning how to layout books using Adobe InDesign. I was able to work on some manuscripts without interruption and learn techniques to streamline the production of books. This will allow me to keep my little press moving forward next year. 

b. Digital and Analogue for PKAP. I made steady progress working on preparing a digital copy of PKAP I and am working on getting support from ASOR. We also made a good start on finishing the work with PKAP II. We will need to do some data normalizing over the next 6 months and some editing and revising on the manuscript, but much of it is complete. 

c. Man Camp Projects. Several significant parts of the North Dakota Man Camp Project have moved forward including an edited volume with Kyle Conway, a book proposal for the Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch, a roughed out edited version of our interviews (Voices of the Bakken), some outreach, and an almost completed manuscript for submission to Historical Archaeology (or someplace similar). All of these projects will require attention in the fall, but most of them have significant momentum.

d. Polis-Chrysochous. Unfortunately, my work at Polis-Chrysochous became the awkward step-child of my scholarly attention. I did not move it forward as much as I would have liked this year, but I did get some preliminary commitments to publishing both the notebook data and the finds data in digital forms. Plus, we have a manuscript for an article that is in pretty decent shape (I think) and will help us guide our 3-week summer study season and will set up some work for next year.

5. Service. As an academic, I tend to be pretty self-involved. My projects trump almost everything else in terms of setting priorities and absorbing energy. Over sabbatical, however, I allowed myself a bit more mission creep. I committed myself to several new, and hopefully productive, service projects that range from stepping up my commitment to institutions that mean something to my various communities – like the American Schools of Oriental Research and the North Dakota Humanities Council – and taking on some new responsibilities with North Dakota Quarterly and (pending a vote) the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute. A colleague of mine here at the University of North Dakota and I discussed how rewarding it has been to work within our scholarly communities in ways that advanced the work of others as well as our own. I took that conversation to heart and want to continue to seek out opportunities to build communities with shared academic interests and goals.

Beyond the Book

This post will seem pretty ordinary to anyone who has thought critically about the digital humanities or digital archaeology over the past few years, but since I’m up, it’s early, and I’m thinking, I thought I’d post it anyway.

Last fall, my co-editors and I saw our first book appear from our work at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria. About six months earlier we had published the data from our site on Open Context. Unfortunately, since the book only appeared in paper, there was no way to connect the PKAP I volume and the Pyla-Koutsopetria book. The great thing about being an author, though, is getting page proofs (although the worst thing is having to read through them one. last. time.) Page proofs are usually just .pdfs of the final draft of the book, but they’re also a bit of a blank canvass. They provide the author or authors with all the value of layout and copy-editing (provided by the press) but also flexibility modify the content. 

So, I began to go through the catalogue section of the volume and insert links connecting the various objects in the catalogue to the entries in Open Context. 

For example:

94.29. Rim (fig. 4.10, reproduced at 1:2). Diam.
= uncertain, PH = 0.020, PL = 0.035, Th. (rim)
= 0.006, Th. (body) = 0.005. Medium-grained,
yellowish-red fabric (5YR 4/6) that is poorly fired
with a discolored gray exterior and a discolored
dark gray slip (10YR 4/1 to 7.5YR 4/4) on the ex-
terior. Fabric contains rare, sparkly inclusions.

With one click in Open Context, you can move back to the survey unit where the object originated, Unit 94; and another click allows you to see photos of the artifact here, here, here, here, and here

More recent updates to the Open Context database will expand the links throughout the volume. My edition of the book will be much better, more dynamic, and potentially more accurate than the paper original.

Pretty cool, right?

The problem is, how do I circulate this modified version of the book. Technically, I do not own the copy of the book that I’m modifying so I can’t really circulate it. So what I have is a private circulation book that has significantly added value on an “Unofficial Digital Edition.”

ARS 21  PKAP Text  Unoffical Digital Edition SQRpsd

So I got to thinking about my press and dynamic books. I know this is old turf for people thinking about the future of the book, but I have a current project at my press that will initially have only a very limited circulation. Bret Weber and I have been working to layout a collection of interview transcription from our work on the North Dakota Man Camp Project, which the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota will publish. The book is tentatively titled: Voices of the Bakken, and some time soon I’ll produce a snazzy cover for it (soon as in, um, today; see below).

There are two issues. First is that we need to sort out the organization of the interviews and decide whether we might obscure the identities of some of our informants (although we don’t have to according to our IRB paperwork) or contextualize certain aspects of our interviews more thoroughly. 

Second, we are in the process of developing online digital content for this project. Since our dataset is relatively large, we’ll likely publish parts of it over time rather than all at once. So the book will continue to accrue online content as we make more available. At present, though the book is in a private alpha which will probably expand to a private beta before being made available as a public beta sometime before the end of the year. The public version will then get a version number 1.0 that will be updated over time. The book then becomes an entity undergoing continuous development, like a piece of software, until it is formally retired. The final publication of the book, then, is the end of its existence as a living document rather than the start.  

I’m not saying that this will be the cover, but I’m also not saying it won’t be the cover. (Note the Gill Sans for the cover. I really, really wanted to use Cooper Black which to me invoked the 1930s and industry, but it was just too heavy to use in this mock-up.)

Voices of the Bakken 01 01

Narrating Archaeology

This week I started on one of my major sabbatical projects. I began the process of editing and writing the volume dedicated to our excavations at Koutsopetria on Cyprus. This volume will be PKAPII or PKAP2 whichever looks cooler.

The largest part of our volume will be a detailed treatment of our excavations on Vigla, a Hellenistic fortified site on a prominent coastal plateau. We will publish a discussion of our excavation practices, their results, the architecture and fortifications, and, of course, the significant assemblage of Hellenistic material from this site. The volume will also include discussions of the excavations by our team and Maria Hadjicosti at the Early Christian basilica associated from the Late Roman coastal site of Koutsopetria. More on Koutsopetria later because now it’s all Vigla, all the time. 

Over the next few weeks, I plan to spend time revising my colleague’s, David Pettegrew, detailed treatment of the stratigraphy and phasing of our excavations on Vigla. To be fair to David, these treatments represent the hard work of interpreting the various contexts excavated over our three seasons of work, but at present they are presented in outline form with bullet points. His work has made it fairly easy to identify the various contexts that represent the archaeological phases at the site, but tough reading for anyone not committed to wading through copious archaeological details. My job is to simplify his detailed outlines while preserving and bolstering the basic arguments that he made concerning the stratigraphic, architectural, and historical relationships at the site.

Trench from above 6f0a55071ePhoto by Ryan Stander from Topos/Chora

So far, this has been tricky, but rewarding work and it got me thinking once again about how we narrate archaeological results. In particular, I thought about three things:

1. History and Archaeology. History and archaeology tend to narrate differently. For example, David’s descriptions of our trenches begin with the plowzone and then go through all the earlier phases to bedrock. This is a typical form of archaeological narration that follows the work of the excavator moving through basic levels. Historians, however, rarely work from the present to the past when they narrate events (although good detective stories sometimes do work this way). After mulling and reading a good, I decided to invert David’s narration and start with the earliest phases of activity on Vigla and then argue for the series of changes that took place in our trenches. I think that this makes it easier for me to integrate our archaeological observations with our historical arguments later. 

2. Archaeological Description and Published Data. Traditionally, one of the roles of the archaeological monograph served was to make descriptive data available to as wide an audience as possible. Today, however, it is becoming increasingly common for projects to make all their data available online including their notebooks, their finds, their inventoried objects, photographs, and drawings. In this situation the archaeological monograph goes from being the primary location for the presentation of “raw” archaeological data and its interpretation to serving as a conduit between archaeological interpretation and a body of evidence that might be available elsewhere. Our volume will still include plenty of primary evidence for our arguments like an artifact catalogue, specific references to stratigraphic units, some section and trench drawings, and short descriptions of complete assemblage from each unit. At the same time, I think that we should place greater emphasis on the interpretation of this data – including narration – since the reader will have access to a far more complete dataset online.

3. Narration and Reflexivity. The trend toward increasingly relfexive archaeological practice and publication habits has had a significant influence on how I think about both field work and publication. In fact, this blog and its effort toward a reflexive transparency in my thoughts about archaeology, my academic career, and my teaching is a direct outgrowth of my commitment to demystify academic work and life. So, it concerns me as I’ve started to narrate “life history” of the site of Vigla over time that my efforts to convey to make our work conform to a historical or even broadly biographical pattern runs the risk of obscuring a reflexive narration of the archaeologists work. I’m not so naive to think that a reflexive critique is somehow independent from the perils of the narrative form (after all I’ve read Hayden White). The old objectivist in me still worries I’ll obscure the myriad small steps that produce our understanding of the past when I invert the traditional archaeological narrative and supplant it with a historical one.

In the end, I’ll have to trust the reader to drill down into our data and to celebrate the possibility of upsetting or challenging our narrative by engaging with the raw data that our project produced. And maybe simply acknowledging this fact and recognizing the limits of our narrative structure is enough?