Call for Papers: Archaeology and Social Justice

I was pretty excited to see the theme of this year’s Joukowsky Institute of Archaeology and the Ancient World workshop: archaeology and social justice. Here’s a link to the call for papers or, if you’re too lazy to click on a link, you can read it below!

It would be very cool to see something at this conference on the archaeology of care or even the recent discussion about the value of punk archaeology as an ethical critique. 

So check out the call for papers below: 

State of the Field 2018: Archaeology and Social Justice

Friday, March 2 – Saturday, March 3, 2018
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Brown University’s Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World will host a workshop called State of the Field 2018: Archaeology and Social Justice on March 2-3, 2018. The workshop will be the culmination of two years of discussion on this theme, and is also intended to raise new issues, ask new questions, and encourage ongoing dialogue. Our gathering builds on a tradition of “State of the Field” workshops hosted by the Joukowsky Institute to reflect upon trends in archaeological work, each year focusing our discussion on issues impacting an area of particular interest to our faculty and students. While previous versions have dealt with a country or region of archaeological significance, this year’s event will focus on archaeology’s relationship to ongoing movements for social justice.

Within the context of archaeology, we conceive of social justice as pertaining to issues of privilege and opportunity that affect the makeup of scholars in the field, efforts among archaeologists to engage with the public and with broader social and political discussions, and the degree to which archaeological scholarship and pedagogy intersect with or impact these issues. It also refers to the asymmetries of power and structural inequalities in society at large. This choice of topic has been inspired by recent global social and political concerns, responses from universities and academia that seek to address issues of representation and access, and, most importantly, grassroots movements for social justice.

This workshop thus seeks to engage primarily with the role of archaeology in contemporary social justice movements, while insisting that discussions of diversity in the past can inform experience in the present. We welcome papers that explore the relationship between archaeology and the present political climate, with the intention of addressing the challenges currently facing the field of archaeology and the academy more broadly. We also seek to engage in conversations about the biases and structural problems that make archaeology more accessible to some than to others, in order to help the discipline reach a broader and more inclusive public.

The workshop will include four sessions, each addressing issues of the relationship of archaeology to ongoing struggles for social justice and/or the role of archaeology in those struggles. Rather than predefining the content of these sessions, we intend to shape them with contributions from this call for papers; we wish to offer an open space for discussion of the following, and other, relevant issues:

· The materiality and temporality of current social issues
· Disciplinary decolonization
· Archaeology’s role in discussions of “diversity and inclusion”
· Identity and inequality in the past and present
· Structural and practical access to archaeology and the academy
· Activism and engagement within archaeology
· Archaeology in/of social justice movements
· Archaeology’s relationship to white nationalism
· Archaeology in moments of crisis

To submit a proposal for a paper of approximately 20 minutes, please send an abstract of 350 words or less to by October 1, 2017.

For questions about this CFP, or about the conference, please see our conference website or email

How Do Books Work?

I’ve been thinking a good bit about how books work lately for three reasons.

First, sometime this fall, North Dakota State University Press will publish a small tourist guide to the Bakken that I wrote with Bret Weber. Almost as soon as the manuscript went to NDSU, I began to think about producing a revised edition that expanded and complicated our description of the landscape. Tourist guides are interesting books because they have a tendency both to situated everything in the very narrow present of the visitor and to unfold the diachronic history of a place. As a result, they are both prone to obsolescence as well as interesting contributions to the very landscape they seek to produce. Anyone who has traveled with a 19th century Baedeker’s guide in hand knows the uncanny experience of seeing a historical landscape presented from a point in the past. For a century-old guide, this is endearing, for a guide that is just a year old, it’s annoying. I’d like to update my guide so that it better reflects the present realities in the Bakken while at the same time preserving the 2015 version of the text. 

More than that, I want to expand my discussion of the Bakken to bring it into sync with current conversations on petroculture, petrostates, local history, “prairie environmental history,” and the slow flurry of recent work on the Bakken. The challenge is how do I expand this book without compromising its essential integrity and creating a “frankenbook” that tries to do too many things all at once. 

Adding to this challenge, the book is going to be published as paper only. So any additions to the book will have to not only move between a cohesive text and a range of expanded content, but also between paper and, presumably, non-paper. As a start, I have a website.

My second project is along similar lines and focuses on Corinth Excavation Archaeological Manual. This book as it currently stands is a technical manual, but from the start a group of folks wanted to expand it into something a bit more dynamic, historical, and discursive. Because it’s an open document, anyone could take a swing at marking it up, but we have had this idea that we might invite a group of contributors to comment on the manual from various methodological, historical, and archaeological perspectives. We’d set up the manuscript in and invite contributors.

Here the challenge is not so much how to create a platform for conversation, but how to extract the conversations and repackage it in an archivable and persistent format, and perhaps even as paper.

Finally, and the most challenging project, is a serialized publication of a series of limestone and terra-cotta figurines from an archaeological site on Cyprus. The plan initially was to publish a pilot of a few dozen 3D objects and catalogue entries, but it seems like that we’ll expand that. As a result, we are trying to figure out how to publish a catalogue and analysis as a serial way that preserves but the integrity of presentation. 

This project is in its early stages and has lots of details to work out, but these three projects together are pushing me to rethink how books work to create knowledge both on a granular level (e.g. how do you cross-reference objects in a serialized publication? And how do you control for subtle shifts in interpretation across various iterations of the book and exercise version control?) and on the conceptual level (e.g. books remain a kind of standard for scholarly achievement in many disciplines because they represent the mastery of a particular topic or body of evidence or argument. Do open books that evolve through time explicitly subvert that kind of standard?).

These ideas and issues will continue to percolate in my head over the next few months, so please stay tuned!

Fixing the Future: Kim Stanley Robinson and Corey Doctorow

On my flights and down moments this summer I read Corey Doctorow’s new novel Walkaway and Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York: 2140. Both novels are set in the near future and both offer perspectives that are equal parts horrifying and exciting, but the most exciting thing to me is that both novels recognize housing as a crucial challenge and opportunity in the future. This piqued my interest because of my work in the Bakken oil patch which focused on workforce housing. When I started that project, I had no idea, really, how crucial housing issues were in the public discourse (despite Bret Weber’s insistence that I should get that), but works like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted (2016) and Peter Marcuse’s and David Madden’s In Defense of Housing (2016) really crystalized some of these ideas in my head. 

Doctorow and, more significantly, Robinson, recognized that housing will be a crucial issue in the near future. For Doctorow, walkaways are people who have abandoned the conventional (or “default”) world of massive wealth disparities, pervasive surveillance, and precarious employment, and literally walked away into the less densely populated and governed interior. In this space, walkaways set up their own utopian community based on radical egalitarianism, abundance, and, of course, free housing. As one might expect from someone like Corey Doctorow, the world of the walkaways is essential a physical version of Wikipedia where participants contribute what they know, what they can, and what want to the literal and physical code of their DIY society. The fabric of housing, for example, rested upon a forked version of the United Nations Commission for Refugees housing model which apparently disseminated open-source on a futuristic version of the web. Doctorow set the openness of this model for housing – and walkaway society – against the rampant capitalism of the mega-rich who seek to license and commodify human experiences.  

For Robinson, housing took a more central role. His novel is set in New York city after a series of catastrophic sea level changes have transformed it into a “SuperVenice” of interlaced canals and structurally compromised buildings. Amidst this chaotic cityscape stood a series of “SuperScrapers” that were largely warehouses for the wealth of the super wealthy. Average New Yorkers, in contrast, we crammed into communal living spaces in buildings that remains structurally sound or reduced to squatting among the collapsing ruins of the compromised buildings. When the city was struck by an hurricane that brought with a devastating storm surge, post-apocalyptic winds, and rain, the city’s housing stock was further condensed and riots broke out as the population sought to claw back housing from the wealthy who saw it as a commodity. Without getting into too much detail, Robinson saw housing as the linch-pin to the global economic order and a general strike that targeted the willingness of people to repay their personal debts destabilized global finance.

Both Robinson and Doctorow recognize that housing stands at the intersection of capitalism (and particularly the financial strategies of the super wealthy) and the human experience. Our need for housing is fundamental and tied to all sort of crucial developmental indicators from academic success to life expectancy. They cleverly set housing as the central point of conflict in the  battle against the growing disparity in priorities, values, and wealth between the super wealthy and the ordinary individual.

20 Years of Field Work: What I’ve Learned

On my flight home from Greece last week I got to thinking about archaeological field work and what I learned over my 20 years in the field. I think most of what I learned has had more too do with how to be an effective academic (and colleague) and less to do with any particular period or class of objects or buildings.

So here’s my list: 

1. Collaboration. The biggest thing that I’ve learned from doing field archaeology is the absolute necessity (and extraordinary privilege) of collaboration both in the field and on all aspects of a project. It’s not that I ever doubted this, but field work really drove home that point that most knowledge in my field (and probably in all fields) comes as part of a long conversation with colleagues and a familiarity born of the shared experience of practice.

My understanding of the collaborative experiences of fieldwork has seeped into almost everything I do. The Digital Press is a collaborative press, my work on the North Dakota Man Camp Project is essential a collective (although we still portion out the writing and “credit,” there is real reason to imagine every work from this project as the product of our collective), and my future plans to produce a introduction to Early Christian archaeology is a collaboration as well.

2. Budgeting. One the most basic skills that I’ve learned (painfully in many cases) is how to budget money and time on an archaeological project. The basic limiting factors in most academic excavations are time and money, and both require careful budgeting. Fortunately, for the last 20 years, I’ve worked with people who have more or less managed our budget on a day-to-day basis (and we avoided overruns  with the exception of maybe one year). 

For better or for worse, I’ve generally had significant influence over how we budget our time. While I’d never claim to have avoided the two most basic mistakes in all archaeological time management – running a team ragged and not budgeting enough flexibility into a schedule to accommodate discoveries – I think our teams have worked at a relatively steady and productive clip while still being humane in our treatment of field teams and staff. The longer I’ve done archaeology, the less I can wrap my head around these projects that work 10 or 12 hour days in the field or chew through their staff with brutal daily schedules and unrealistic expectations of efficiency. I can understand when projects work below idling bulldozers or under obligations to host countries or communities, but for most my, purely-academic projects, I have come to internalize the need to couple tightly available resources, research questions, and basic humanity (especially as I get older and start to physically break down). 

3. Flexibility. In most parts of my life, I’m totally dependent on a schedule. It might be a crazy schedule or a schedule that only exists in my own head, but it’s a schedule. Schedules don’t work very well on archaeological projects. Someone forgets their boots. Someone else gets stung by a wasp. Someone else finds a cool site that the field directors have to see despite it being lunch time. The best finds are always recovered on the last day. 

As someone who depends on a schedule to produce order in an otherwise chaotic world, archaeology has taught me that I have to be flexible in my daily schedule, in data collection, in my ability to understand and process information, and in my approach to producing meaningful results. I think that this is slowly spilling into my life outside of field archaeology and allowing me to spend less time expecting the world to conform to my schedule and categories.  

4. Patience. A close friend of mine once told me when I was becoming impatient at the pace of fieldwork that “there is always more archaeology.” While I still bristle at the need to approach fieldwork and writing patiently, I recognize – more and more each year – that archaeology takes time. I’m slowly learning (see what I did there) that slow archaeology is more than just being patient in the field and taking the time to understand not only what we are studying, but how we are studying it, but it also involves recognizing that all the archaeology can’t be done at once.

Writing takes time. Reading takes time. Thinking takes time. Revising takes time. Tidying up datasets takes time. Preparing illustrations takes time. And just because I’m frantic to do something and get something done doesn’t mean that everyone else will be. I constantly have to remind myself that every collaborator is also collaborating (er…cheating on me?) with other people on other projects that also demand our time.   

5. Collegiality. Finally, academia offers space for all kinds of marginal personalities and difficult people. I think I probably rank among them. But on a field project you have to at least try to rein in your personal crazy to get along with other people and pursue common goals. I’m not going to say that I’ve always been successful doing that, but I think working closely with other people has made me more aware of my social quirks and better able to manage collegial behavior. I still have work to do, but field archaeology has certainly helped me become a more collegial person. 

20 Years of Mediterranean Archaeology

This year marked my 20th field season doing archaeology of some description in the Mediterranean. From field walking in the Corinthia and Kythera to running a project in Cyprus, hunkering down in dusty storerooms, and documenting mountain-top forts, I’ve been tremendously lucky to work with amazing people, make lifelong friends (and partners!), and think critically about the history and material culture of the Mediterranean world in situ

Today is my last day here in Greece and I’m at the airport at 5 am waiting for my flight. I’m eager to get home, but I’m also feeling nostalgic. For some reason I always feel like this might well be my last summer being able to do this kind of work.

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Introducing Micah Bloom’s Codex

Traditionally, academic publishers fulfill several key steps in moving a manuscript to publication. Once they receive the manuscript, they coordinate peer review, offer editorial and even content suggestions, and perform copy edits, layout pages, and, most importantly, produce the final publication (before distributing and marketing this product from which they take a cut).

In other words, the publication process is creative, generative, and adds value, but also tends to be distinct from the process that generated the manuscript. In other words, a wall exists between author and publisher that helps establish publishing as separate from writing and to justify the role of publisher as playing an economically independent role in the process of knowledge creation. To be clear: this system works and has worked well for over a century. 

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In some cases, this wall is good, like when an author relies on a publisher to manage peer review or copy editing. In other cases, the wall is awkward like when the book is not just the end result of the author’s creative process or the vessel that allows the hard work of the manuscript to become manifest. When the book in totality is the product of a single creative vision that extends from the content of the book to its physical form, publishing draws upon earlier traditions of craft where authors and publishers were often interchangeable.

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This past year, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota has been working with Micah Bloom to bring his remarkable book, Codex, to a wider audience. The original version of the book was designed to complement an installation that focused on the destruction of books by the Minot flood of 2011. It featured a series of remarkable photographs of the aftermath of the flood that critically engaged how we consider the destruction of books as both intimate objects and disposable commodities. We worked with Micah to add nine critical essays that engage the books and his art in new ways. Micah then produced a book about books that integrated the new essays with his photographs in a unified design.

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We prepared 20, numbered, signed print versions that we will circulate to local institutions through the generous support of the North Dakota Humanities Council. We’re also going to release the book digitally under a CC-BY-ND license this fall. And because you can never have enough books in enough ways, we’re also going to produce a trade paperback for folks who want the experience of the paper book at a low price.

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It was thrilling to receive photographs of the book this week! Be sure to stay tuned for more on this project.

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Codex Final REAL COVER

The Seventh Century

Just a short post for today. Over the last few weeks here in the Western Argolid, Scott Gallimore, Guy Sanders, and I have talked a good bit about the seventh century A.D. The three of us are working with Sarah James to publish an assemblage of seventh century material from the Helleniko pyramid near Myloi in the Western Argolid (initially published by Louis Lord in 1938) as well as a growing body of seventh century material from the Western Argolid Regional Project (WARP).

When I was working on my dissertation in the late-1990s and early 21st century, the number of seventh century monuments in Greece was tiny, and they were mostly ignored or considered with skepticism. 

Over the past decade, the number of 7th century sites has slowly increased. Some of these sites appear to be associated with political, military, or economic disruptions (like the Andritsa Cave and the Tunnel at Nemea), but sites like the island the island of Dokos and the the tower at Helleniko suggest that the seventh century assemblages represented more than just cowering communities in a time of disruption. There seems to be an emerging 7th century landscape that show some signs of continuity with the previous two centuries in contact between regions, persistent prosperity, and the beginnings of change in both material culture and settlement structure. There are hints at ethnic change as well. On WARP, our ceramicist, Scott Gallimore, are piecing together a dynamic and diverse 7th century landscape that defies simple categorization as refuges or farmsteads or even settlements.  

So over the next few years, I’m going to spend some time working through the evidence for 7th century change in Greece with my colleagues on WARP.  

Some Punk Archaeology

I was pretty excited to read Lorna-Jane Richardson’s recent critique of punk archaeology in World Archaeology. Not only was it a thoughtful engagement with the ideas at the core of punk archaeology, but with viability and sustainability of punk archaeology as an approach.

She and I probably disagree more than we agree on whether a punk approach to archaeology has any benefit, but ultimately we recognize similar problems within the discipline of archaeology (and society) and articulate – ultimately – similar solutions. She argued that the most salient aspects of punk archaeology already exist in various forms of participatory practice in archaeology and rebranding them under the term “punk archaeology” amounts to little more than a “navel-gazing need for sub-cultural self-identification.” 

There are few places where I sensed that we might have been talking past each other a bit, and as a very preliminary response to her article, I offer the following observations:

1. Punk Archaeology in Context. One thing that didn’t come through in her response to punk archaeology was that whatever academic or theoretical formulations existed for punk archaeology, the project had a very personal element to it. The participants – Andrew Reinhard, Kostis Kourelis and the various other contributors to the volume – had thought about the overlap of archaeological work and punk music. In this sense, the project was, indeed, solipcistic (at worst) and personal (at best). Maybe we were thinking about archaeology wrong, but it still was how were were thinking about it.

Richardson also seems to have overlooked that many of the key participants in punk archaeology worked in Mediterranean archaeology which, as a rule, occupies a more straight-laced and conservative place in World Archaeology. While participatory practice has occurred in Mediterranean archaeology (see, for example, some of Yannis Hamilakis’s work), it is hardly part of the dominant discourse or method. In fact, some practices that are widely accepted on the global stage, like intensive pedestrian survey and even historical archaeology (Kourelis is a Byzantinist; Caraher a survey archaeologist), have only in the 21st century become part of the mainstream of Mediterranean archaeology (which isn’t to say that there weren’t many significant intensive survey projects or a healthy Byzantine archaeology in the Mediterranean). As a result, our need for “sub cultural identification” was, indeed, “naval gazing,” but also the result of a disciplinary culture that tended to marginalize certain methods, periods, and practices. This coincidence with our interest in punk rock created the basis for our exploration of “punk archaeology.” Whatever the larger methodological and “untheorized” foundations that our association with punk offered, it was, at the end of the day, a reflection of our personal and disciplinary experiences.    

2. Punk, Slow, and Craft. I am skeptical of her claim that “punk archaeology” places “the agenda, content and practice of participatory and collaborative projects in the hands of the non-professionals” and views DIY practices as part of an “an outright rejection of the structures of archaeological authority and knowledge gatekeeping.” While Richardson was clearly concerned with potential impact of this approach on heritage archaeology in the U.K. and professional practice, I’d like to imagine a punk archaeology that does not see the professional/non-professional dichotomy as the primary nexus in which DIY practices occur.

I like to think that I developed this aspect of punk archaeology a bit more thoroughly in my exploration of craft and “slow archaeology.” Whatever the flaws in my thinking about slow practices in archaeology (and people have been quick to point them out), I think archaeological practice even on the professional level is a mixture of archaeological methods incubated within a disciplinary context and tightly controlled as standards, and practices that are not distinctly archaeological but nevertheless shape the kind of knowledge we produce. For example, stratigraphic excavation is a professional, disciplinary method, and punk archaeology is not calling for a disruptive, DIY, experimental approach to this foundational method (just as punk rock music, with some exceptions, maintained the basic structures of songs). On the other hand, punk archaeology is interested in challenging and playing with certain strands of archaeological practice like our growing obsession with 3D models and remote sensing, and injecting the spirit of low-fi and craft into those approaches to documenting the past. These strands of archaeological practice tend to be advanced in name of efficiency, accuracy, precision, and technology in a professional context that is both relatively uncritical and reflective of priorities that are not universal within the discipline. In this context, DIY approaches challenge the technological solutionism within professional practices. In some ways, these DIY (or to use Ivan Illich’s useful term: more convivial) practices draw not only unprofessional traditions, but pre-professional traditions within archaeology and remind us that no matter how much we “streamline workflows” a part of archaeology will “never be modern.” This space between professional standards, innovation, pre-professional practices, and the pressures of modernity (and super modernity) leave plenty of room for DIY and other ad hoc practices that connect professional archaeology with both the public and its own preprofessional past.       

3. Punk Publishing. I was a bit bothered by Richardson’s characterization of punk publishing efforts. While her critiques of the web are fair, and I might even understand her fears of archiving, I will strongly contend that digital publishing has transformed the way in which knowledge is communicated and whether this rises to the level of democratization or not, I’m not entirely sure, but the internet, for all of its liabilities, has transformed the world.

At the same time, there are standards for publishing on the web, archaeologists recognize the potential for ephemera to shape the discipline, and archival practices have emerged over the last decade to ensure that digital artifacts, like the book Punk Archaeology, are preserved. This is an old complaint that seems to equate short-term, spontaneous, and low-budget punk archaeology projects with naive approaches to producing useful archaeological analysis. 

Shoestring budget projects have a growing body of resources available to archive their digital and non-digital material. In fact, I’d argue that shoe-string budget projects like my Digital Press at the University of North Dakota (annual budget of about $0) or the North Dakota Man Camp Project (<$10,000) have played a key role in documenting ephemeral and marginal practices that tend to fall through the cracks of traditional archaeology. In other words, digital tools allow for the documentation and preservation of our ephemeral recent past in ways that analogue tools do not. Punk archaeology embraces this opportunity and the challenges associated with critically engaging these new ways of working that are aware of both the growing reach of “large tech companies” and their role in making our digital heritage legible and accessible. Readers of Richardson’s article will likely find the free download of Punk Archaeology via a Google search or at the Internet Archive, but Richardson’s article is behind a paywall controlled by a large publishing house.

4. Performing Punk Digitally. Richardson’s most troubling critique is that punk archaeology and its participatory ethos is a slippery slope toward reduced funding to archaeological projects and the exploitation of unpaid or inexperienced labor. This is a legitimate concern, but not one unique to punk archaeology, I’d suggest. First, as I have argued above, archaeology continues to have an apprenticeship system where students and junior scholars work with more senior scholars to acquire field skills and regional knowledge. This is less than idea, but it has been part of the discipline (and academia) for nearly a century. Academic credit, publications, and field knowledge cannot and do not pay the rent, keep lights on, or put food on the table, and this is a problem that archaeology – not just punk archaeology – must acknowledge. Second, the problem of unpaid work extend to include the messy world of academic publishing where scholars give uncompensated hours and days of their time in peer review to journals published by for-profit publishers.

For its part, punk archaeology, including the book that coined the phrase, served as a critique of academic practices by being published by and for academics and circulated for free. While I would agree that punk archaeology remains under theorized, I rankle a bit at the assertion that “The punk movement does not seem to have properly thought through the potential political consequences and ethics of unpaid work…” I think punk archaeology has engaged some of those issues and this is demonstrated in the very book that Richardson cited in her article and the work of institutions like The Digital Press to promote archaeological work in a collaborative and collective way.

While punk archaeology has not offered a definitive critique of the exploitative practices present in archaeology and academia more generally, punk practice within archaeology is hardly consistent with what Richardson’s statement: “So, while these projects may in fact be self-reliant and self-funding to an extent, and may also be the exact type of grassroots projects that ‘non-profits, charity organizations, and large foundations don’t want to be bothered with’ (Reinhard, pers. comm..), they are not advancing the understanding of archaeological knowledge within communities or providing open access to information.”

5. Punk Archaeology in Context II. While Richardson and I might differ in how we approach the problem of archaeology in the age of austerity, I think the great value of this article is as a reflection on the complexities facing any approach to archaeology or the humanities in a time of diminished funding.

Punk archaeology offers on approach to the problem through encouraging collaboration and collective action among archaeologists, by supporting and developing new models of archaeological publication (through projects like The Digital Press), by offering critiques of the relationship between archaeological practice and technology (through “slow archaeology”), and by recognizing the role of archaeological work in engaging pressing issues in our communities. The approach that punk archaeology has adopted does not solve the fundamental problem of austerity or the nefarious impact of neoliberal ideologies on academia, of course. I tend to see these pressures as being more than just the disinterested forces present in a fundamentally neutral economic regime, but rather a system designed, at least in part, to undermine values incubated in the humanities and archaeology. Punk archaeology, then, represents a kind of resistance to this larger project rather than a way to accommodate its impact.

Richardson’s willingness to dismiss punk archaeology as a largely uncritical, austerity-influenced, “navel-gazing need for sub-cultural self-identification” is a bummer because I suspect that we’re actually on the same side.

Foto Friday from the Western Argolid

Some photos from my first couple of weeks in the Argolid.

The first photo is taken by Dimitri Nakassis using his fancy Canon EOS 5DS with a 50 mm Zeiss lens. This is me in my natural environment:

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Some provisional discard:

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When your irrigation pipe leaks and you have sheeps to water:

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Sheeps and sheeplets in the Western Argolid:

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A long and winding road:


And as a bonus (they couldn’t stop barking at EVERYTHING, so now they’re practicing being bored):

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