Friday, March 16, 2012

Monuments have no voice - They must have yours, Book Sale Deadline Approaching, Free Offprints, Re-Constructing Ancient Landscapes

On Wednesday, the Association of Greek Archaeologists which represents the 950 Greek archaeologists who work for the Hellenic Archaeological Service of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism held a press conference (see: to publicize the launch of their campaign, “Monuments have no voice, They must have yours”. This is an attempt to rally widespread support to oppose the proposed reduction in their numbers in the Service and in the Ministry as a whole by 30-50%. This is more “house cleaning” of the Greek government that is required by the recently signed Second Memorandum with the infamous Troika/IMF. The threat to the government’s sacrosanct obligation to protect and to preserve the country’s cultural heritage for posterity is very real if these cuts indeed go through. The crisis in the Service and in Greek archaeology, in general, is more collateral damage from the hyper-austerity that has been imposed on the country over the past two years. Last week there was a conference organized by another independent group here, the Union of Archaeologists of Greece. My paper at “Archaeological Research and the Management of Archaeological Materials” discussed the implications and the opportunities of such a “new reality” for the Hellenic Archaeological Service and for Greek archaeology.

The Association of Greek Archaeologists is seeking the active support of individuals and organizations throughout the world to demand that this rich and varied cultural heritage is not sacrificed on the altar of expediency. You can find out more about their campaign from their Facebook page with attractive posters that you can download and share. Don’t be silent!! Speak up immediately for Greece’s monuments!!!

The end of the CIG Book Sale is approaching
Don’t be the last one at the archaeological site to have made a bid for a book or three that are missing from your archaeological library and available now from CIG! The books that are for sale can be scrutinized at: The instructions for making your bid are simple and time is running out. You have until Saturday, March 31st!

Free Offprints Available
In the process of cataloguing and organizing our Library’s ‘Offprint Collection” we have identified over 150 duplicates. These are available now, without charge, on a first come, first take basis. Come and give these treasures of scholarship a new home in your library.

Book of the Blog
The use of digital technologies to visualize aspects of the past has been the subject, directly or indirectly, of many of the volumes reviewed for this feature of the Blog (see, for example, Even the case studies focusing on the construction and interpretation of ancient landscapes have only summarized how this is done and what types of data sets are required to start this arduous process. Often a clear conceptual/theoretical framework for this research is either inadequately articulated or is missing altogether.

The pioneering work of Sofia Pescarin and her mentor/supervisor Maurizio Forte, first at the Supercomputer Centre at the University of Bologna, then at the Virtual Heritage Lab at CNR-ITABC in Rome, and now at the University of California – Merced, have resulted in a holistic approach to such efforts in Virtual Archaeology. In Pescarin’s Reconstructing Ancient Landscapes (Archaeolingua, Series Minor 28, Budapest, 2009) she details how one can “reconstruct” virtual ecosystems that are reproductions of past realities based on five conceptualizations of the “landscape”. They are, “archaeological landscapes” or the present landscape with the distribution of data sets relating to past settlement and exploitation; “mapscape” or the interpretive landscape which we imagine exists; “pastscape” or what could have been there at some point in the past; “mindscape” or how we think that past populations perceived the landscape; and “webscape” or the networks and relations in the “digital pipeline” for sharing the results of this research. With this as the foundation she describes systematically how one can proceed. At each stage there are ample references to similar efforts in GIS-oriented and virtual reality-oriented projects focusing on the past. The latter is mostly driven by computer scientists, architects interested in landscapes and the computer-game industry. The former is the realm of archaeologists, geographers, ecologists and historians.

In Chapters 3 (“Archaeological Landscape Reconstruction: Mapping the Space’) and 4 (“Potential Landscape Reconstruction”) she takes the reader through the numerous steps required, from Data Acquisition to Data Post-processing to landscape reconstruction and visualization. The technical details are explained and the means to do this are outlined with both equivalent commercial and open source tools indicated. There are numerous color illustrations and ample tables and charts. The illustrative examples are mostly drawn from research in the Roman and Medieval worlds of the Italian peninsula. The means available to disseminate the results via the internet are explored in Chapter 7. The links that she provides here are a treasure-trove of what is out there. Appendix A features five case studies with differing approaches to the construction of the past landscapes, archaeological sites, building complexes and cities.

The volume demonstrates clearly that the construction of ancient landscapes is not for the technically-challenged or the impatient archaeologist. It is not, however, beyond the scope and expertise of a well-organized cadre of researchers with a long-term vision for their collaborative investigations. In doing these constructions one is surely stimulated constantly to ask perceptive and complex questions that could drive future research. Our Library has a solid collection of books and volumes that can serve as the foundation for the formulation of such ancient landscape construction research.

David Rupp

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