Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Of Sandwiches and Lions...

[written Tuesday 13 December 2011]

Wow the past three months have gone by so quickly I can’t believe I leave for Canada in two days! As the CIG’s fall intern and the first of what I am sure will be many great Wilfrid Laurier University interns to come, I have had an amazing experience the past three months. As a Classical Archaeology student at Laurier the availability of this internship was a dream come true. Not only did I get to experience life at CIG but I was also able to attend numerous lectures, study in the library of the British School at Athens and visit sites and museums. It was rewarding to visit the sites and see the remains of the material I have spent numerous hours slaving away on for research papers in the past three years.

My work at CIG has revolved around the library and accessioning and cataloguing of donation books and creating an inventory for CIG’s upcoming book sale. In addition to my library duties I had the pleasure of being caterer and hostess at the four fall events held at CIG. Thanks to these events I now have insurmountable knowledge in egg salad sandwich making, and do I ever make a good sandwich!

During my stay here I have done a lot more than sit in the library all day. I have attended a number of fascinating lectures (and some less fascinating), celebrated my 21st birthday, attended Modern Greek classes, played darts at the Red Lion and of course eaten a lot of pita gyros. Needless to say, an archaeology student could never come to Greece without visiting a site or two as well! My interest in Classical Archaeology lies in the Bronze Age and the Mycenaeans and therefore I set of one day on the most epic journey and day of my life. My trip to Mycenae was spectacular! Going at the end of November meant very few tourists and almost no whistle blowing employees. This allowed me the freedom to wander, climb, run, and jump across the citadel and surrounding area. The most exciting moments were sitting atop the relieving triangle of the Treasury of Atreus and adventuring into some random chamber tombs Indiana Jones style.

In the past three months I have made so many great friends and did not expect to be so sad to leave them all behind. Luckily for them I doubt this will be the last time they see my smiling face. I can’t wait to return to dig some more holes soon and am now off to my last darts night at the Red Lion for a while.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night,

Haley MacEachern
Wilfrid Laurier University intern

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Recess, Farewell Haley and Investigating Neolithic Middens in Turkey

While it is not so far looking like Christmas here in Athens, in terms of the weather at least, the holidays are upon us. That means that the Institute will close for a two week recess starting Friday afternoon, the 16th. Jonathan is heading back to his family hearth in Yorkshire and I, along with my family, are heading to the United States to attend the AIA meetings in Philadelphia. We’ll resume operation on Monday, January 2nd. So Kales Yiortes apo mas!!!

Farewell and Thank You lunch: with Chris Stewart, Haley MacEachern, David Rupp, Jonathan Tomlinson
All good things have to come to an end. And for Haley MacEachern, our undergraduate intern this fall from Wilfrid Laurier University her three month sojourn in Athens at the Institute ended yesterday. It was great having her with us. She accomplished many things in our Library and for the preparations for our second much anticipated book sale which will start in January. The next issue of this blog will feature her as the guest blogger! There you will learn all about her experiences and impressions. S’efkharisto para poli Haley!!!

Book of the Blog
A number of the books and monographs featured in my mini-reviews have discussed in some fashion the collection of different kinds of ecofactual remains from the archaeological record as well as the anthropogenic and natural formation processes that created them. The purpose of archaeological research is not simply to have data sets. One of the primary goals is the reconstruction of the human activities which utilized the organic and inorganic remains as well as the discard practices that created middens by the deposition of these residues. Middens are frequently a treasure-trove of ash, charred seeds and fruit pips, phytoliths, animal bones, animal dung and human coprolites. These materials inform us on plant resource use, diet, subsistence practices, fuel use and environmental conditions with high temporal resolution.

The excavations in the 1990s at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in southern Turkey, under the general direction of Ian Hodder, have approached the data recovery processes and data analyses from many innovative approaches. In her monograph, DailyActivities, Diet and Resource Use at Neolithic Çatalhöyük. Microstratigraphic and biomolecular evidence from middens (BAR International Series 2232, Oxford, 2011), Lisa-Marie Shillito presents what a very-fine grained examination of the thin stratigraphic layers and the features of a midden in situ or as blocks removed from the matrix can reveal. Normal recovery techniques focused on the recovery of macro-remains destroy the matrix in the process and then mixes the materials from the different layers during sieving and flotation.

Before proceding with the case study based on selected middens at Çatalhöyük she contextualized her work in terms of the overall study of middens, the potential information such investigations might reveal, the methods of inquiry and analytical techniques utilized and the research questions that she will address.

Samples were taken from the micromorphology of the midden deposits and thin sections were made. A careful examination of these provided evidence of organic and inorganic inclusions, phytoliths, internal structure and post-depositional alterations. The biomolecular analysis of the organic residues focused on plant sterols and bile acids as faecal biomarkers from the coprolites. These investigations used Fourier Transform Infra-Red Spectroscopy (FT-IR), SRS Micro X-Ray Detraction (XRD) and Scanning Electron Microscopy and Energy Dispersive X-Ray (SEM-EDX) analysis. These presentations with their illustrative materials require a basic knowledge of organic chemistry and the analytical approaches used.

In the Discussion section Shillito pulls it all together. She reconstructs how middens were formed from the debris, discards and residues of various activities, mainly food processing, preparation and cooking, fuel use, dwelling cleaning and craft activities. Animals defecated on them and human excrement (revealing food consumption) was dumped there. The cyclical and/or seasonal nature of these activities can also be inferred. From this one can deduce subsistence strategies, diet and resource exploitation practices. She concludes with the limitations of the present state of such research and comments on what improvements there could be in future investigations of similar material.

The extensive graphs, tables, charts, diagrams, flowcharts, and section drawings are essential for the understanding of her discussions. While the B/W photographs vary in quality and intelligibility the numerous color images of the stratification details and the thin sections are excellent. The Bibliography is adequate for the discussions.

If you are what you eat, then middens and latrines are where archaeologists will discover the unvarnished details of this. This thin but fascinating case study is an excellent way to learn how investigations such as these can expand your understanding of the foodways of a population beyond what the material culture and architectural remains suggest.

Eftyxismenes o Kainourios Xronos!
David Rupp

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Christmas Bazaar and the Ethnicity of the Sea Peoples

Living in Athens provides for many opportunities to pursue various archaeological and related topics. One of the many roles I have taken on as a result is to serve as the President of the Friends of the Historical Archive of the Hellenic Archaeological Service. This Syllogos was founded at the beginning of the year to allow individuals interested in archaeology, archival research, philanthropy and meeting like-minded people to get together for fellowship and to help support the activities and needs of the National Archive.

The National Archive is located in a restored industrial building at Psaramylingou 22, a short street parallel to Peiraios, in the Kerameikos area. It contains the Archives of the Hellenic Archaeological Service since its inception in 1834. Besides the spacious archive storage area, there is a paper, drawing and photograph conservation laboratory, offices, a large display space for exhibitions of the documents, photographs and plans as well as a small lecture area.

On Friday, December 16th (19:30-22:30) and Saturday, 17th (10:00-16:00) the Friends will hold their first Christmas Bazaar for the Archive. At Psaramylingou 22 there will be a book sale (Greek and English, fiction, thrillers/mysteries, archaeological), baked goods, raffles, interesting items and knitted scarves, caps and wrist warmers by my wife Metaxia Tsipopoulou (Director Emerita, National Archive of Monuments). In honour of the occasion she will have a retrospective exhibition of her many knitting talents over the past 30 years.

One of the Friends’ fund raising efforts is a 2012 calendar that honours the first 100 years of the Archive. The images on the calendar are significant documents related to the advance of the archaeology of Greece between 1834 and 1934 with the signatures of famous archaeologists and politicians. This will be on sale at the Bazaar too! Truly a collector’s item!!!

I look forward to seeing you on the 16th or the 17th, so save the dates!!! All of the proceeds from the Bazaar will go to the Friends' ongoing support of the Archive and its needs. You can also sign up as a member of the Friends.

Book of the Blog
Ethnicity, like gender and social personae, is constructed by individuals and groups within the context of a given society at a given point in time. Generally this is done in reaction to the activities of other individual and groups. It is not immutable and its indiciae vary over time. The fluidity of ethnicity makes its delineation in the past a difficult, moving target. Even with available historical source materials this is not easy. In the protohistoric and prehistoric periods the challenges of determining the ethnicity of a particular population based primarily on material culture assemblages are nearly insurmountable.

A Dutch cultural anthropologist specializing in ethnicity in the Mediterranean Bronze Age, Wim M.J. van Binsbergen, and his doctoral candidate historian who studied the Sea Peoples, Fred C. Woudhuizen, have co-authored a synthetic work entitled, Ethnicity in Mediterranean Protohistory (BAR International Series 2256, Oxford, 2011). Their aim is to identify the ethnicity of the so-called Sea Peoples from an interdisciplinary approach. All possible sources of evidence are marshalled together to probe and to attack the breadth and depth of this perennial topic. These include myth, literary texts, historical sources, all manner of inscriptions, linguistics, settlement patterns, artifact distribution patterns, art, nautical design and religion.

Van Binsbergen attempts to provide in Part I a usable methodological approach for this study as well as a theory of ethnicity applicable to the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean basin. The latter, he claims, has been resisted by other scholars who prefer a “common-sense approach”. Thus, these scholars arbitrarily impose their abstract ideas on the material that they analyze. In contrast to this “etic” approach he argues in favour of “constructs [that] largely reflect (‘emically’) the concepts and interpretations which the historical actors themselves utilized in their time and place” (p. 61).

In Part II Woudhuizen presents his case study on the ethnicity of the Sea Peoples based on wide-ranging historical, archaeological and linguistic evidence. For him the ethnonyms of the Sea Peoples lie at the heart of the discussion. Van Binsbergen replies in Part III with his own shorter case study on the same topic with some different conclusions. In the final Part IV the two authors attempt to resolve their differences (which they cannot in many respects) and to counter assumed criticisms and alternative interpretations that will be put forward by other scholars. As to the ethnic origins of the various Sea People cohorts Woudhuizen sees them coming from nine different small core areas stretching from Sardinia to the southern Levant. Van Binsbergen, on the other hand, postulates two large core areas (with larger peripheries), one centered in the Nile valley, the Sinai and the southern Levant and the other in Anatolia. These correspond to the “core statial area of Egypt and Hatti”. In this way five of Woudhuizen’s provenances are covered by the two van Binsbergen areas.

Any ambitious far ranging synthesis inevitably leaves out material (in this case the detailed archaeological evidence for the movements and the settlement attempts of the Sea Peoples) and emphasizes aspects that reflect the author’s primary research interests (in this case theoretical discussions as well as myth and linguistic evidence). Many aspects of this volume are stimulating and/or provocative. Others are irrelevant and misleading. The extensive bibliography reflects these points. The numerous greyscale maps, drawings, charts, tables and reconstructions help the reader to visualize and to organize the myriad of datasets presented.

If you are interested in the question of ethnicity in the area of the Mediterranean basin between the 14th and the 10th centuries BC, regardless of your interest or not in the Sea Peoples, you should delve into this complex volume.

David W. Rupp

Friday, December 2, 2011

An Art Exhibition Opening plus the new Canadian Ambassador in Person and G.I.S.ing Boeotian Landscapes

"Sad Lawyer" by Chris Stewart
This coming Wednesday evening starting at 7:30 pm, our annual event for the Athens Association of Friends of CIG to start the holiday season has evolved into something very special. Our hardworking volunteer, Chris Stewart, is an artist and a photographer in his real day job. For our event he has mounted in the Library an exhibition of his work entitled, “Senses”. To open the exhibition he will speak on his artistic vision.

HE Robert Peck with longtime CIG supporter Ian Vorres
Not stopping at that, the new Ambassador of Canada to the Hellenic Republic, Robert Peck, will be present to meet fellow Canadians and to listen to your ideas on how he can work to improve Hellenic-Canadian relations, both here in Greece and back in the True White North!

With all of these exciting extras, do not fear that the traditional elements of this gathering will be forgotten! Yes, Virginia, Jonathan’s mulled wine and ample amounts of kourambiedes and melomakarona will be there too. So please join us for good companionship and cheer, to put aside for a moment the bleak financial situation that has engulfed us.

Book of the Blog
With John Fossey’s generous donation of books and monographs to the Library earlier this year, many of them related to his long-standing research interests in Boeotia, we added Boeotian Studies as one of the areas of specialization for the Library. To augment that collection, one of our most recent purchases focuses not simply on Boeotia but also on GIS-based analyses, another one of the Library’s specialties.

The volume in question is by Emeri Farinetti and it is entitled, Boeotian Landscapes. A GIS-based study for the reconstruction and interpretation of the archaeological datasets of ancient Boeotia (BAR International Series 2195, Oxford, 2011). Dr. Farinetti has turned her doctoral dissertation for the University of Leiden, under the supervision of Prof. John Bintliff, into a stimulating exploration of how GIS can serve both as a platform for storing and organizing geographical based datasets and the analysis, reconstruction and interpretation of them. For those not familiar with the purpose, the potential and the power of using GIS to examine settlement patterns and resource exploitation at the regional level Chapter I and Concluding Remarks is an excellent way to start. Chapter II.1-2 presents succinctly the physical landscape of Boeotia and the state of archaeological research there. It should be added here that this region has been surveyed in the past twenty years by a number of sophisticated pedestrian surveys, including CIG’s Eastern Boeotia Archaeological Project. Using the concept of chora or the territory of an ancient polis the remainder of the chapter is divided into 14 separate sub-regions, most corresponding to ancient poleis. The topographical setting, boundaries, physical land units, resources and the archaeological record of each are summarized with ample maps, tables and graphs. Of particular interest is the relationship of known archaeological and historical sites to the modern road network as a discovery factor. She then proceeds to analyzing these datasets in terms of settlements, burial areas, cult places/religious areas, forts and fortifications and other unspecified activities. For each territory she has created a multicolored classified surface map representing the cost-weighted distances (30 minutes and longer walking ranges) for the known 1st and 2nd order settlements from the Geometric through Ottoman periods.

In Chapter II.4 Farinetti pulls together all of these disparate analyses of the landscape as viewed from a revised settlement chamber (or chora) approach, the German Landeskunde tradition, the Community area theory and the taskscape concept. Here she discusses the settlement patterns of ancient Boeotia from the perspective of the 1st order settlements, most of which were the location of a polis and settlement over as long period. The second order settlements, towns and larger villages, were occupied for shorter periods. Again these presentations come with ample maps, charts, and tables subdivided by chronological periods and themes. Appendix I, organized by the 14 sub-regions, contains summaries of the archaeological evidence on which her analyses are based. A CD-ROM contains two more appendices – one (II) with the geographical sub-regions of Boeotia and the other (III) is a list of units of archaeological evidence. The Bibliography is extensive and up-to-date.

Such an approach could and should be used for the other regions of the Aegean basin. Our Library has more GIS-based case studies from the Mediterranean basin as well as the methods of archaeological survey and the results for perusal.

David Rupp