Friday, September 14, 2018

Survey says you not even close: the Western Argolid Regional Project, 2018

This year’s season was the second of our two planned study seasons, and so we returned to our usual summer digs in Myloi with a small team of faculty and graduate students. Our main priority was the study of the tens of thousands of artifacts that we collected in the field, housed in our αποθήκη (storage facility) in Argos. Sarah James and Scott Gallimore, the other directors of our project, organized a team composed of themselves, Grace Erny, Joseph Frankl, Alyssa Friedman, Melanie Godsey, Machal Gradoz, and Ginny Miglierina, joined by a number of visiting scholars: Daniel Pullen, for his expertise in prehistoric pottery, Guy Sanders, for Medieval and post-Medieval pottery, and Kim Shelton, for Mycenaean pottery. We were also joined by Christina Kolb, who illustrated pottery, and Susan Caraher, who helped us with artifact photography. [Figure 1: In the foreground Melanie Godsey (left) and Machal Gradoz (right) sort pottery; Alyssa Friedman, Scott Gallimore, and Guy Sanders work in the background.]

The αποθήκη team focused on reexamining artifacts from areas of interest, refining our identification of materials of all periods, and cataloguing artifacts of various types and from different parts of our survey area.  In the previous year, we had focused on material associated with 14 areas that we had preliminarily identified as “sites” – which we used not as a technical term, but rather as a kind of shorthand for large clusters of dense units – and pulled representative artifacts from each of them for cataloguing. This work continued in 2018, with a focus on two types of material: first, those that we hadn’t examined from the previous year, and second, objects that we initially assigned to the broadest chronological categories. There were big changes to our understanding, thanks especially to our visiting scholars, who helped us to refine our identifications of material from the Late Bronze, Medieval, and Ottoman periods.

The other main goal of the study season had to do with our data. Here, Bill Caraher, Rachel Fernandez, and I were the main participants, assisted by the other members of the project. Some of our work involved going out into our survey area to revisit areas of interest and to ensure that our documentation was sufficiently rich for our preliminary and final publications. [Figure 2: Rachel Fernandez (center) and Bill Caraher (left) at Palaiokastraki.]

We mainly worked on our digital data, however, in part to help guide the team working in our storage facility and in part to advance our analysis of the survey as a whole. Bill and Rachel prepared our survey data for publication, and worked on ways to analyze and visualize artifacts of the same (or similar) date that cluster in the landscape. We found, for instance, that 50 meter buffers around each unit with material of a particular date allowed us to identify clusters that could act as starting points for more detailed analyses. [Figure 3: Clusters of Archaic material (in blue) in the western part of our survey area.]

We also continued to work on the modern period. Ioanna Antoniadou returned to continue her invaluable ethnographic work, conducting interviews and consulting local archives. Kostis Kourelis visited us for a couple of days, helped us to interpret some recently-abandoned modern houses in our survey area, and consulted on how to document the modern villages on the edges of our survey.  [Figure 4: Kostis Kourelis illustrates an abandoned 20th century house at Chelmis.]

All in all, it was an amazingly productive summer. We effectively finished analyzing the artifacts from the survey, thanks to a lot of hard work by a large and dedicated team, and readied our field data for publication. Closely working with this evidence has made us question many of our past narratives for the region, and encouraged us to come up with better interpretations for what we are finding. Yet for all of the incredible work that we did this summer, so much more remains to be done (hence the title of this post). In this coming winter, we’ll need to continue to work closely with our digital data and, most importantly, begin to write our contributions for the project’s publication. Fortunately all of this year’s efforts will give us a very solid foundation to build on!

Dimitri Nakassis
Professor, University of Colorado Boulder; co-director, Western Argolid Regional Project

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