Archaeology of Home

As I’ve just arrived on Cyprus, I’m thinking about home. 

This last week, I had the pleasure of giving a short tour of our 19th century home to a group of graduate students in my colleague’s, Cindy Prescott, material culture seminar. I took a little time to prepare a list of things that I’d talk about when taking students through an actual house. 

P1090003

Here’s the list:

1. Local History. One of the lovely things about our house is that it dates to the mid to late 1880s. The rail road comes to Grand Forks in 1887 connecting the community with the more settled and commercial east. As a result, our house has little of the prefabricated character of many homes in Grand Forks from the 1890s and early 20th century. As homeowners, of course, we pay the price since every window is a different size and the house lacks the charming, if ubiquitous catalogue woodwork of many more modest homes of a decade or two, but as historians we enjoy that our home likely dates to right around the arrival of the railroad to our community and the changes in local domesticated architecture associated with easy access to catalogues and prefabricated forms.

We also recognize that our house is on the southern edge of town when it was built. While we’re now comfortably surrounded by neighbors who built along the grid of streets established in the 1890s, the steeply pitched roof of our house and its unusual form sets it apart from the more common four-squares that surround us. 

2. Architectural Stratigraphy. There is only a little evidence for the architectural stratigraphy of our house because it underwent relatively few additions and modifications in its 120+ year history. This is a great challenge for students used to expecting dramatic changes in the form of houses and pushed them to notice subtle things gaps in the hardwood floors or how continuous siding  obscured the discontinuous construction of a small garage in the back of the house. In fact, we can argue that the garage has three clear phases: original garage, a small extension, which was then (maybe in the 1950s) covered with asbestos siding. 

3. Type Fossils. In archaeology we’re always looking for type fossils that can give us absolute-ish dates to the relative phases preserved in stratigraphy. In my house, we noticed an iron, in-grain, face-pinched, cut nail that provided a date for the only major edition to the house’s basic shape. These nails usually date to the late 19th century and probably date the edition to the first decade and a half of the home’s life and is probably contemporary with the arrival of indoor plumbing.

4. Social History. In America, houses are getting bigger and rooms are getting bigger. These facts obviously relate to the history of the home as a place for family relations. Our late 19th century home continues to show evidence of small rooms, for example, despite the decision in the 1950s to remove the wall between the front parlor and the formal dining room. These small rooms reflected the divisions between the space for formal display and places for domestic work. As that division broke down and social roles changes, spaces in the house changed and are clearly visible in the architecture. While our house will never have a “great room,” there was clearly an interest in creating a more open living space and less an interest in formal, functional divisions.

We also got excited to discover that the garage was extended, probably in the 1950s when cars got bigger, but not enough to accommodate the larger cars of the 1960s and 1970s. At some point in the 1970s an additional two car garage was built, and amusingly enough it has proven too small for my 10 year old pick ‘em up truck. So as houses have gotten bigger so have cars.

5. Excavations. All this has made me more and more interested in conducting a small scale excavation in my backyard. The house sits at the cusp of a number of developments historically in the southern part of downtown Grand Forks ranging from plumbing to construction practices. As I’ve said, the excavation will be remove the remains of a sand box from the backyard, but if I’m going to dig that out, I might as well go a bit deeper just to see if we can find any cultural deposits that shed light on the history of the house. 

Before we do that though, I want to go through the excavation reports from after the 1997 flood in Grand Forks. Apparently, there is a wealth of grey paper reports on excavations in Grand Forks. Without having seen them, I have this naive optimism that they could be the basis for a little article on the archaeology of a modern small town.

Books and Libraries

Over the last month or so, the fate and future of the Mighty Chester Fritz Library has been the topic of much discussion on the beautiful campus of the University of North Dakota. 

One of the great things about having a relatively long running blog is that I have some ready-made made content from the archive about libraries. You can read my thoughts here, and a response here, and my response to that response here.

IMG 3132

If you’re in North Dakota, I would also urge you to check out Micah Bloom’s exhibit titled Codex at the North Dakota Museum of Art (and more here). Without giving too much away, the exhibit is a collection of books collected after the Souris River flood that ravaged Minot, North Dakota in 2011. Bloom has arranged with archaeological precision. The exhibit calls on us to question the nature of books as objects by looking at them in a range of contexts from a clinical lab-like installation to a book cemetery. The answers that the exhibit provides are not neat and tidy, but range from the sentimental absurdity of the book cemetery to overly detached and clinical space of the laboratory. The death of books is strangely moving, but also reassuring. The disappearance of the codex, like the scroll before it, will not mark the end of civilization.

IMG 3122

Don’t get me wrong, I love books. In fact, I love books enough to have spent most of my adult life reading them, writing them, and most recently publishing them. At the same time, I can relate to Bloom’s ambivalence toward books as objects. As we barrel through the so-called “Digital Age,” people have begun to see books as endangered objects and begun to venerate them not only as a convenient form for the transmission of knowledge, but as sacred objects whose very physicality (touch, smell, and even sound) infuses them special authority. 

IMG 3128

Some of the ideas explored in Bloom’s exhibit parallel those that Richard Rothaus and I discussed in our podcast last month in the context of looting and destruction of antiquities in Syria. The sight of destroyed antiquities rouses even the most clinical archaeologist from their well-ordered laboratory and forces them to engage with objects on an emotional level.

The conversation about the future of the library has caused a similar kind of emotional response from faculty, students, and the administration. Our library, like the books destroyed by the Souris River flood, is an ambivalent place. It is not strong enough (in the humanities at least) to be a research library, but is too large and too traditional to be seen as simply an undergraduate library. Moreover, the library is dated. It has the stuffiness of a traditional research library and lacks the amenities common to most campus main libraries. We don’t have a coffee shop, climbing wall, many group study spaces, or the laid back environment that has transformed libraries into the new student union. Our library wants desperately to be a serious place set apart from the frivolous needs of the ephemeral undergraduate student, but this seriousness is a front largely designed to encourage students, faculty, and visitors to take knowledge seriously. 

The Might Chester Fritz should not try to hard to be a serious place. It is not a research library, but it has value for campus as a place to gather and as a source of access to a world knowledge set apart not by its appearance in sacred codices, but by copyright restrictions, hyper-abundance, and complex search algorithms. The library of the 21st century (which is still the future here in North Dakota) will encourage students and faculty to wrest knowledge from this complex network of sources, combine it in new ways, and break old limits on how knowledge containers are used, disseminated, and preserved. 

In short, the library of the future has to be a place of PLAY. It must be a place where students and faculty feel comfortable transgressing the staid mores and serious comportment of traditional knowledge preservation and dissemination. If that means that the old, solid walls of the library must give way to campus wide access or that shelves of scarcely read volumes must give way to collaborative study areas, climbing walls, and coffee shops, then back up the moving trucks, applaud the contractors, and contact Micah Bloom to document and study the remains of Library As Book House. 

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

With the field season right around the corner and a stack of ornery, unfinished projects staring at me, the last thing I needed was a string of days in the mid-70s with low humidity and a very eager dog. But, despite my best efforts, I can’t control the weather or the dog, so my productivity this week ground to an awkward halt as I took in some vigorous rounds of late afternoon “ram ball,” “ram elephant,” and “ram gross and wet rawhide” with the yellow dog.

I did, however, manage to set aside a bit of time to make a list of quick hits and varia. I’d like to humbly recommend listening to our most recent podcast as well!

IMG 3115An Aerial View of Milo

Adventures in Podcasting 9: What’s in your bag?

In this week’s episode, Bill asks Richard “what’s in your pack”, and we discuss equipment, and then we transition to “what’s in your truck.”  We transition to stories of the legendary Ohio State University at Isthmia Van, and discuss the archaeology of stuff field archaeologists leave behind.

We have two inspirations for this week’s podcast.  ASOR series has a fun series: “What’s in your dig bag.” And Bristol carried out the most amazing archaeology of a van project:  The Van/InTransit.   Be sure to watch the van movie.  And some van blogging.

Since Richard had a chance to talk about what’s in his field bag, I thought I’d add my bag’s contents here. (I did a version of this a few years ago with my more serious bag). I’m a survey archaeologist who works in the Mediterranean so my bag tends to be a bit less comprehensive than Richard:

  1. GPS unit. After my long-serving Gecko was stolen, I’ve upgraded to a Garmin Oregon 600. In the Western Argolid, we upload aerial photographs to the Oregon 600. 
  2. A couple cameras: My main field camera is the Panasonic GX-1 with a good lens. The days of carrying heavy, more delicate DSLR in the field are more or less over for all but the most determined archaeologists.  I’ll also carry a Cannon ELPH 135 which cost about $80 on Amazon.
  3. Rite-in-the-Rain notebook. I used the No. 374.
  4. Zebra pens. I insist on using Zebra pens pronounced as in this R-rated video or as in the name Debra. 
  5. A cheap Suunto compass.
  6. A “click-click-click” meter stick.
  7. A north arrow.
  8.  iPhone 6. 
  9. Copy of my permit.
  10. Snacks!

A Special Request to Isthmia Alumni:  Please send us your white van stories!  Seriously –  we want to write this history and we need your input.  Fire drills in the village of damned!  Squirting Bill and Dave with the windshield wipers!  Fire!  Mountain road turn arounds!  Trips to Epidavros!   richard.rothaus at gmail.com.

[It’s a busy week in ND, with Bill prepping for a field season and Richard doing suit-wearing type activities at the State Capital, so consider this a keyword list, not prose].

High points include:

Bill prompting Richard to keep the episode moving along.

Richard explains his “dig bag” and backpack contents.

Bill refers to Richard’s bag as a “stable entity”

Whirl-pak bags (Richard lied – he doesn’t use 5 mil).

Richard explains his technique to label photos with a white board, and Bill asks a critical question.

Bill discusses the importance of tags and how to get them right.

Richard mocks North American archaeologists

Bill and Richard discuss why notebooks and pencils.

Soil Knife, and the less useful obnoxious Ka-Bar.

Richard shares a grave desecration anecdote.  Bonus:  “A Local Mecca For Research” tells about those crazy days of Mille Lacs research.

Bill discusses why Richard really should carry pin flags.

Panty wipes, horsey tape, super glue, aspirin, steroids and first aid kits for real archaeologists.

Umbrellas!

Compass clinometers.

Bill points out the “black turtleneck” principle (no, not that “black turtleneck”).

We discuss that archaeology of field vehicles and what archaeologists leave behind.

Richard and Bill tell the secret tales of abusing the generosity of the OSU Isthmia excavation vehicles, and learning how to be self-sufficient archaeological grownups.

Bill explains how city design impacts the location of bus stations and hotels through amusing stories.

Bill and Richard talk about how travel difficulties and how they make partnerships strained.

Driving through fires!

Secrets of owning a vehicle as a foreigner immersed in a Byzantine bureaucracy.With actual lead seals!

Bribes?

Toward the end we tell THE CARBURETOR STORY and THE STOLEN BACKPACK stories.  They are epic.

Dimitri Nakassis on wandering and why he likes archaeology.

We conclude discussing why real archaeologists drive manly trucks.

****************************************************

Episode Postscript:  Richard had an on-air epiphany when he realizes he did something terrible to Bill, and that event hardly registered in his memory.  Listen to get the story, but here is some additional information Paige Rothaus provides: The event occurred the year the Gypsies asked us how to use a passport to get to America.  That means this was the year Richard was doing a great deal of work at Lechaion and he befriended the young men at the Gypsy camp so that he could leave his equipment around and not have it “disappear.”  By the way, Romani is a better term than “Gypsies”, but no one understands what you are saying if you use “Romani”.)

*****************************************************

The opening track on the podcast is 80-R’s Pacific Rim.You can listen to it in its entirely here.

*****************************************************

clipboard

Richard’s Equipment List

gen632_1

The front of the OSU Isthmia van, with a very young Bill Caraher and backpack (which probably he doesn’t have anymore [Bill note: actually that’s the replacement backpack, which I do still use!]), and David Pettegrew with backpack (and very handy belly pouch) and, um, a fine staff member.

CS&RRatwork

The back of the OSU Isthmia Van, with Richard Rothaus and Carol Stein planning some awesome discovery.  Also – notice the tool belt.  For many years I was a tool belt and canteen guy.  That works when you have minions to carry things for you. Richard once left his pack on the wrong side of a mountain and everyone got an extra 2 hrs in the van to remedy the error.  After that, a minion was assigned to “always know where Richard’s bag is.”

people35

The OSU Van with Sam Fee, Nathan Meyer, Dan Pullen, and, um, a fine staff member.  This is after the van caught on fire.  Again.  A “Call for help if this van bursts into flame” sticker has just been attached.

PEOPLE22

The OSU Van slumming.

98_7_543

The Grey Escort!  With Tom Tartaron, who apparently just spray painted Συν[ασπισμός] on a rock.  Συνασπισμός is one the many Greek political parties.

P0000646

The OSU van with Ed Reinhardt, um, a fine McMaster Student, Amber Demorett, Lee Anderson, Ben Rothaus and Richard Rothaus.  We are tieing metal tubes onto the van so Dr. Reinhardt can do vibracoring in one of the Korinthian marshes.

P0002788

Oh no!  Greece is on fire and Richard needs to get to the airport, or ice cream, or something.

truck

Richard ‘s Truck

Bill’s Truck

Some Notes on Recording a Podcast

It’s been about three months since Richard Rothaus and I started recording the Caraheard podcast. Tomorrow, we’ll release our tenth episode. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things about podcasting and about our audience, and I thought it would be fun to share some of what we learned after just a few months worth of effort.

1. Production. So far, we’ve been pretty pleased with our production process and the final results. We both use Blue Yeti microphones which seem to do a great job picking up our voices and not all the ambient noise in our home studios (except, of course, for Milo’s editorializing). Pop guards definitely help, and I think that, if we continue to do this, some kind of microphone boom arm (which might involve upgrading our microphones) will also help isolate the microphones from my tendency to thump my desk while recording.

Richard and I mostly record over Skype with each of us recording both sides of the conversation because I’ve discovered that it is possible to forget to hit the record button on my end… Recently, though we’ve had the chance to record face to face into a single microphone. This involves the listener hearing more of the studio space (think 1950s jazz) and we might be looking to figure out how to record into two microphones and mixing our recordings to produce a clearer recording.

For mixing, both Richard and I are becoming increasingly at ease with Adobe Audition CC, although I will admit that I’m not entirely what the various file transformations do, and it appears to be a suitable platform for podcast production with a pretty modest learning curve. 

2. Distribution. We’re using SoundCloud to host our podcasts through their podcasting beta application which makes an RSS feed available for other applications including iTunes. So far, this works pretty well. I get updates from Overcast on my iPhone whenever we post a new podcast. 

The only downside of this set up is that we don’t know how many people are listening to our podcast except through the statistics provided by the SoundCloud page. From that page, we know that each podcast has had about 50 listens with a couple of our more popular, and older, podcasts getting closer to 100. To me this is an acceptable listener base especially when we add in a handful of listeners from iTunes.

It also strikes me as likely that podcasts have a “longer tail” than most blog posts and our podcasts will continue to get a few listens per week for the next few months. In fact, looking over the intriguing corpus of ASOR podcasts, it seems like there is a clear correlation between the age of the podcast the number of listens. 

3. Guests and Remote Recording. Next week, I depart for Greece and Cyprus and leave Richard Rothaus alone with the podcast. (I’m frankly terrified.) Since my internet connection is not always the most stable, so we probably won’t do much in the way of live recording. In the place of that, I will take a little recorder with me to do some field recordings for the podcast, while Richard will work to have guests come onto the podcast to fill in for me. 

One challenge with using guests is that Richard and I both have pretty decent recording set ups, but our guests may not. Moreover, Richard and I both have worked out how to record both sides of the conversation and to split the conversation to improve recording quality. So bringing guests and recording remotely onto the show will push us to manage sound quality and levels from a range of locations, technologies, and participants. 

4. Format. One of the most consistent comments made by listeners is that our podcast is too long and too unstructured. That’s fine with us.

The goal of our podcast is to capture the informal academic conversations that have such an important impact of the more formal disciplinary knowledge. This means our chats will be rambling and our arguments – such as they are – anecdotal. If people find it too tedious and unstructured for their tastes, that’s fine; they can read our articles or read the blog). We’ll be satisfied with a smaller audience who enjoys the more unstructured engagement on archaeological topics.  

few podcasters whom I enjoy have made similar argument about podcasts and noted that they are only popular among a small, but typically committed audience. Because podcasts involve a greater commitment of time on the part of the listener and because it is difficult to break them into bite-size fragments for circulation or occasional consumption, podcasts will always be a kind of acquired taste. It is telling, for example, that podcasts rarely go viral. 

5. Endings and Beginnings. So Richard… has become our typical sign lede for each podcast – although we’re excited to introduce a new introduction prepared by Richard this week! 

Endings, on the other hand, are trickier. Sometimes, Richard and I seem to agree that the conversation has reached a useful end. Other times, I feel like we’ve wrested the good from a chat and want to wrap up and Richard has “just one more thing” and I’m sure Richard has felt the same way. Since we usually record from different locations, and we don’t have a backchannel throughout the podcast, we have to rely on a shared sense of timing. I expect we’ll get better at this with time, but for now, wrapping up a podcast remains a challenging thing to do. 

For all the readers of this blog who have become listeners of the podcast, thanks!!

Summer Reading List

My summer reading list is a catastrophe this year. It’s too long, too diverse, and too saddled with obligations to be fun. Plus, I have work to do for most of the summer so no clear down time set aside to enjoy reading.

Oh well. 

Here’s my summer 2014, 2013, and 2011 reading lists.

Archaeological Theory and the Contemporary World

(One of my favorite archaeology stories (see this week’s podcast) is when David Pettegrew brought (seemingly) two-thirds of his comprehensive exam reading list with him to Greece to read during our two field seasons. Of course, this was the year that the project’s Ford Escort died and we had to take three or four buses from Ancient Corinth to Neapolis in Laconia to take a ferry to Kythera. We had to overnight in Sparti and this involved walking, uphill, from the bus station to our hotel near the acropolis. David had to carry approximately 250 pounds of books across the city of Sparti on what must have been the hottest day of the year! I remember looking back at him lugging his bag and thinking, “I’m never going to take a stack of books with me to read in the field…”) 

 Benjamin Alberti, Andrew Meirion Jones, and Joshua Pollard, eds. Archaeology After Interpretation: Returning Materials to Archaeological Theory. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, Calif. 2013. 

Robert Chapman and Alison Wylie, Material Evidence: Learning from Archaeological Practice. Routledge, New York 2015.

Chris Fowler. The Emergent Past: A Relational Realist Archaeology of Early Bronze Age Mortuary Practices. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2013.

Andrew M. Martin. Archaeology Beyond Postmodernity: A Science of the Social (Archaeology in Society Series).  AltaMira Press, Lanham, Maryland 2013. 

William L. Rathje, Michael Shanks, and Christopher Witmore, eds. Archaeology in the Making: Conversations Through a Discipline. Routledge, London and New York 2013.

Ancient History and Archaeology

(One great thing about keeping up in the scholarship on Late Roman Greece and Cyprus is that it moves pretty slowly. There are a few books each year or two that are absolutely MUST READS and a gaggle of dissertations and a swarm of articles. Rebecca Sweetman’s book is a must read. The downside of this is that to understand Late Roman Greece, I find myself having to read a bunch of books from other regions. Mostly this is really fun, but every now and then the enormity of the scholarly output overwhelms me…)

Rebecca J. Sweetman, The Mosaics of Modern Crete: Art, Archaeology, and Social Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2013.

Jonathan Conant, Staying Roman: Conquest and Identity in Africa and the Mediterranean, 439-700. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2012.

For Flights and Fun

(My wife got me a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday so I can read a bit more comfortably on flights and in poorly lit Cypriot and Greek hotel rooms!)

Werner Herzog and Paul Cronin, Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed. Faber and Faber, London 2014.

Neal Stephenson, The Seveneves: A Novel. William Morrow, New York 2015.

Thomas Pynchon, The Bleeding Edge. The Penguin Press, New York 2013.

Paul Kastenellos, Antonina: A Byzantine Slut. Apuleius Books, Garrison, NY 2012.

Poetry

(Follow the link!)

James Bradley Wells, Kazantzakis Guide to Greece

In Praise of Parking

Over the last few years, parking problems have plagued my home town of Grand Forks. The most recent uproar has focused on demolishing a blighted building and a few homes to provide additional parking for the local high school, but the problem with parking is larger than this one case. Any discussion of the new library is dominated by conversations about parking. So, over the weekend I sought to put parking in a historical and practical perspective in a letter to the editor. As per usual, my letter to the editor soon was too long to publish in the local paper, so I thought I might include it all here.

Having traveled extensively in the region and nationally, I can say with confidence that downtown Grand Forks is on the verge of what many call the “Yogi Bera Paradox” (or the Yogi Beradox for short): downtown is so crowded that nobody goes there any more. Just this last week, my wife and had to walk almost three blocks in the blustering spring wind to get to dinner at a local restaurant. By the time we arrived at our destination we looked like figures in Arthur Rothstein‘s famous dust bowl photographs. For a town looking to the future, we can do better.

Farmer walking in dust storm Cimarron County Oklahoma2A common sight in downtown Grand Forks.

I think its important to remember the important place of parking in our nation’s history. Parking lots represent part of the proud legacy of the Greatest Generation, won on the beaches of Normandy, the jungles of the South Pacific, and the crowded, dirty streets of Wartime Europe. When the proud veterans of WWII arrived back in the US, they refused to huddle in the crowded, depression era cities, but pushed out into vast underutilized farmland surrounding the decaying urban cores and boldly carved out new suburbs, strip malls, and office complexes with ample parking for all Americans who could afford it. For many, the tragedy of WWII and the absence of convenient parking in European cities were closely related phenomena, and these shaped the post-war American landscape.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Cold War was won in parking lots. While Soviet Russians literally shuffled through the bleak winter of communist rule with only rare opportunities to putter about in pathetic Lada crapwagons looking for parking outside shops with empty shelves, Americans owned the roads in state-of-the-art vehicles the proudly carried us from our attached garages to the parking lots of abundant suburban shops, sports stadia, and big box stores. Parking lots stood proudly at the center of our national consciousness. The Pentagon, for example, stood as much as monument for American freedom and national power as a monument for convenient parking and access. The Pentagon’s parking lots connected the center of the military-industrial complex to the sprawling suburbs of Northern Virginia that Andrew Friedman has termed America’s “covert capital.” It is hardly a surprise that the famous Vietnam Era protests at the Pentagon took place in the well-known “mall entrance” parking lot. During the Cold War, parking lots were quite literally the theater of both power and protest.

For those of us who came of age during the Cold War in suburban comfort, parking lots were places of wonder. Empty on weekends, parking lots easily became athletic fields for football and basketball and playground for our bikes and skateboarding exhibitions. The tension between the marginal locations of parking lots and their central utility made them places for teenagers and young adults to socialize in unstructured ways after school or on weekends. This traditional of tailgating in parking lots before the big game or before a major concert embrace the liminal status of the parking lot as a place where society could tolerate slight transgressions. Teenagers indulged in underage drinking, experimented with the ole wacky weed, and canoodled under the dim lights of parking lots across the US. Younger kids could only be fascinated by the archaeological remains left strewn about in the parking lots which became provenience for our collections of bottle caps, beer cans, crack vials, hypodermic needles, and loose change. As we became adults, parking lots offered a chance to display our victories in the contests of capitalism. The bigger, newer, fancier car, the best parking spot, and the overflowing trunk of gifts at the holiday season are hallmarks of the American experience.

Returning to Grand Forks, it is clear that the city must invest in downtown parking not just for convenience, but as a bulwark protecting the American way of life. I can easily identify several lots downtown which could serve this purpose. The blighted, empty lot at Demers and 4th street seems ripe for conversion to street level parking. Further east, the strange bandstand and stylized paddle wheel in the park at the corner of Demers and 3rd st. could also serve as street level when not in use for other events. The bizarre and tragic little “Cream of Wheat” park with its dilapidated clock and neglected landscaping could also become urban parking and combined with the blighted lot to its southeast. Without much effort a collection of parking lots developed from blighted, neglected, or underutilized areas of downtown could quickly be arranged to serve as a core of an interconnected parking network serving the entire community and setting the central business district apart from outlying residential areas.

Parking in Grand ForksA quick glance at a Google Earth map reveals a half-dozen under-utilized and blighted spaces for parking in Grand Forks.

A more ambitious city administration could recognize that the words “park” and “parking” share a similar root and have a special place within the history of urban development. I can imagine an interconnected network of parking lots would forming a “parking belt” around the city that represents an updating of the venerable, but outmoded “green belts” of early modern cities. Prior to the widespread adoption of motor cars, European cities frequently had “green belts” surrounding their urban core. Some have observed that these “green belts” have roots in Biblical town plans: “the Lord said to Moses, ‘Command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in from the inheritance the Israelites will possess. And give them pasturelands around the towns. … The pasturelands around the towns that you give the Levites will extend out fifteen hundred feet from the town wall.’” (Numbers 25:1-2, 4). In more modern times, such belts served both practical and ideological purposes. They functioned to protect housing values in the city by limited sprawl, to provide places for recreation, and to control the flow of traffic into and out of the urban core. In the 21st century city, this parking belt would provide practical access to parking for visitors to downtown, it would allow for more ambitious and higher density development of the urban core, and it would provide places for American capitalist expression and unstructured recreation. Moreover, in an era where American cities are under constant threat of terrorist attacks, the parking belt could also serve as a place for first responders to gather in the event of attack as well as a defensive cordon around the city. 

Grand Forks would do well to consider God’s command to Moses in their contemporary planning, the practical necessity for parking in a 21st century context, as well as the historical role that parking has played in making this country great. The construction of a continuous “parking belt” around Grand Forks would almost certainly become a source of pride for the community and an opportunity to embrace the important role that parking has played in making us Americans.

ANZAC Day

Today (in Australia and New Zealand, and tomorrow in the US and Europe) is the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) landing at Gallipoli in 1915 with the goal of capturing Constantinople from the Ottoman Empire. The Gallipoli campaign proved to be as bloody as any in the Great War with forces from Australia and New Zealand losing over 10,000 men. More than that, however, the troops from Australia and New Zealand brought to their respective homelands a sense of national pride as the “Knights of Gallipoli” won widespread admiration. British journalist Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett famously remarked:

“There has been no finer feat in this war than this sudden landing in the dark and storming the heights, and, above all, holding on while the reinforcements were landing. These raw colonial troops, in these desperate hours, proved worthy to fight side by side with the heroes of Mons, the Aisne, Ypres and Neuve Chapelle.”

Reports like this reached Australia and New Zealand by the end of April (here’s a editorial printed in the Sydney Morning Herald from April 30, 1915) and from 1916, April 25th was commemorated in Australia and New Zealand as ANZAC day.

ANZAC Day at Manly 1922ANZAC Day 1922, Manly, Queensland (via The Wikipedias)

Here’s a page about it from the Australian War Memorial and here’s a guide provided by the government of New Zealand.

The Gallipoli Campaign was significant for Turkey as well with Mustafa Kemal led the resistance to the allied landing. Kemal emerged from the War as Atatürk, the leader of the new Turkish nation. Recognizing the significance of the Gallipoli campaign for Turkish, Australians, and New Zealanders alike, he commemorated the soldiers who died there in a speech in 1934: 

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

My Australian wife and I usually listen to one of various versions of Eric Bogle’s insanely depressing “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” which must rank among the most powerful anti-war songs of the Vietnam Era. I prefer the Pogues version:

“The young people ask what are they marching for, and I ask myself the same question”

Punk Archaeology Project Update

It’s been just over 200 days since The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota published their inaugural volume: Punk Archaeology

Since that time, the book has been cited twice. Once in Koji Mizoguchi, “A Future of Archaeology,” Antiquity 89 (2015), p. 20: “”Moreover, we should not be too bothered by the existence of ‘established’ media and the media hierarchy. High- quality e-books (e.g. Caraher et al. 2014)…”

And once by Sara Perry in her contribution to the Alison Wylie and Robert Chapman, Material Evidence: Learning from Archaeological Practice. (Routledge 2015): “Crafting Knowledge with (Digital) Visual Media in Archaeology”.

The book has been downloaded well over 1000 times (and likely about twice that) via my blog and viewed over 5000 times on Scribd. The blog post dedicated to the book has been viewed 3,800 times. The book is available for purchase on Amazon, but we’ve only sold around 50 copies

According to Shawn Graham and Ed Summers, the link for Punk Archaeology was the second most tweeted link from this past week’s Society for American Archaeology meeting, and this has accounted for about 5% of the book’s total downloads. 

In constrast, the second book from the press, Visions of Substance: 3D Imaging in Mediterranean Archaeology. (2015) has about 100 downloads over the past 100 days and 1200 views on Scrbd. The webpage has been viewed about 270 times. My hope is that this book becomes a bit more popular in the fall when it could be a useful, accessible, (and free) addition to a Mediterranean archaeology class. 

Overall, I’m pleased with the performance of the first two books from The Digital Press! If you haven’t checked either book out, please do!

Slow Archaeology, Publishing, and Collaboration

Yesterday, Brett Ommen released, as a kind of epilogue, a podcast made up of recordings of Joel Jonientz, him, me, and Mike Wittgraf. In my little section of the podcast, I talk about what collaboration meant to a guy like Joel as an artist who was willing to work with folks in the humanities.

At the same time, I’ve been working on revising an updated version of “Slow Archaeology” article before I head to the Mediterranean this summer. In my revisions to that paper, I try to put a bit more emphasis on the social organization of archaeological work and how modern archaeological practices, including the growing use of digital tools, has tended to reinforce longstanding social divisions. For example, digital tools have tended to exaggerate the role of  field teams – excavator and field walkers – as data collectors capable of (and obligated to) producing detailed, “pure data” that project directors analyze later. In fact, the view of the archaeological process as fundamentally destructive has pushed archaeologists to place ever more emphasis on the efficient extraction of information from the field. In fact, at the Mobilizing the Past Conference, a comment I made about whether we were perhaps focusing too much on efficient data collection was met with a stern reminder that as archaeologists we need to collect as much information from the field as possible to compensate for our destruction of archaeological contexts. As Gavin Lucas (and others) have rightly critiqued the idea that a site can be reconstructed from the documents that archaeologists produce during excavation and that this reconstruction will somehow reveal the processes that produced the site. Lucas offers the useful observation that this view of excavation frames it as the opposite of construction. Construction begins with plans and ends with a finished building. Excavation starts with a completed context and finishes with a plan view. The archaeological builders of these backward buildings tend to occupy the same role in archaeology as manual labor does in construction. Excavators engage in the dirty, physical phase of the (de)construction process (at least in the traditional view of archaeological practice and knowledge production) and, as a result, occupy a subordinate social position to the trench supervisor (the contractor) and the project director (perhaps the architect). To be clear, I’m not saying that I agree with this or even the idea that excavation is destructive (which implies a finality to this event rather than a stage in a continuum of formation process), but our interpretative assumptions contribute the social organization of archaeological practice. 

Slow Archaeology emphasizes field practices as the proper space for archaeological interpretation. Collecting data is not distinct from analysis and interpretation and any practice that segregates data collection from analysis in the name of efficient and exhaustive recording is guilty of the neglecting the primary context for archaeological knowledge production: the trowel’s edge or the survey unit. 

Now, back to Joel. Joel was willing to collaborate with anyone who could pique his imagination, but he was totally unwilling to subordinate his role in the creative process. So, if he created a poster for your event, he became part of the event. He viewed collaboration as an intensely democratic process and while he was willing to accept critique, he demanded that his views carry weight and that everyone around the table have a voice. 

In many ways, I’ve tried to carry on his perspectives in the development of our Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. I’ve taken to calling it a cooperative publisher which breaks down the barriers between the author, the editor, and publisher. Rather than the author standing apart as content creator and the rest of the publishing process being regarded as subordinate (and maybe even a bit subservient) to the process of authoring content. This not only reinforces a social division between the intellectual work of writing and the (traditionally) manual work of layout and typesetting, but also supports a system that uses this increasingly outmoded division to limit the circulation of intellectual work and to extract value from its production. This is not to say that traditional publishers and editors do not add value to scholarly work, but rather to ask whether this division of academic labor is worth the cost.

Joel saw collaboration as a continuum of practices rather than a division. As a result, the value of collaboration was not generated by those who engaged in one part of the process negotiating their cut of the final results from the those who engaged in another part. Collaboration obligates and entitles every participant (and certainly someone as skilled and assertive as Joel) to both their share and to the final product. This, of course, requires a tremendous amount of trust and a willingness compromise. I hope that I can continue to develop the willingness to trust my collaborators and to find ways to compromise for the greater good.