Mobilizing the Past

When we decided to bring iPads to Cyprus for use in the 2012 excavation season of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, we knew we were migrating into a new and uncertain digital future of archaeological research. My own initial encounters with the archaeological process (excavating prehistoric rockshelters and hilltop enclosures in southern Ohio) had involved recording notes in paper notebooks the old fashioned way. And when I crossed the pond and participated in archaeological surveys and excavations in Greece and Cyprus, there was lots of paper in forms, notebooks, instruction manuals, and end-of-season reports.

Our experience using mobile devices for collecting material in Cyprus gave us a sense of how fieldwork could be streamlined with digital media but also taught us not to give up on paper altogether (you can read a summary of our experiences here). In fact, we collected our data that year with both iPads and paper in the fear that some catastrophic data loss might send us back to the U.S. with nothing to show for our work.

Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, Cyprus, June 1, 2012. Photo by David Pettegrew
A student uses an iPad to record data in the excavation of a Hellenistic site. From the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, Cyprus, June 1, 2012. Photo by David Pettegrew.

This new volume edited by Erin Averett, Jody Gordon, and Derek Counts and published by the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is a welcome contribution to the scholarship surrounding digital archaeology. This major publication compiles contributions from leading practitioners in the field in a discussion about how mobile technologies (broadly defined) intersect with and affect archaeological practices.  With 20 articles that total 556 pages of text, the volume publishes a workshop at Wentworth Institute of Technology in early 2015 that was funded by an NEH Digital Humanities Startup Grant. Most importantly, the volume takes a critical and reflective (rather than utopian) view on mobile approaches in archaeology today. Here’s the book description:

Mobilizing the Past is a collection of 20 articles that explore the use and impact of mobile digital technology in archaeological field practice. The detailed case studies present in this volume range from drones in the Andes to iPads at Pompeii, digital workflows in the American Southwest, and examples of how bespoke, DIY, and commercial software provide solutions and craft novel challenges for field archaeologists. The range of projects and contexts ensures that Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future is far more than a state-of-the-field manual or technical handbook. Instead, the contributors embrace the growing spirit of critique present in digital archaeology. This critical edge, backed by real projects, systems, and experiences, gives the book lasting value as both a glimpse into present practices as well as the anxieties and enthusiasm associated with the most recent generation of mobile digital tools….

While there are only a few references to Corinthian matters in the volume per se, you’ll see in the list of contributors a number of long-term contributors to Corinthian scholarship. And the work is certainly relevant to the various movements in the digital Corinthia which we have discussed here at Corinthian Matters.

If you’re interested, you can download the full volume or individual chapters at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.

Fields, Sherds, and Scholars

It’s been all teaching for me since late August as I manage courses at Messiah College in Latin, Ancient Civilizations, and Historical Archaeology (including a little field component). But fall break is here at last which gives me a little reprieve to catch up on grading, stain the fence, and pass along a few of the goodies that have gathered in my inbox. (Next semester should be lighter which gives me some hope that I’ll return to a more regular output of Corinthiaka.)

For now, I pass along this circular for a conference titled, “Fields, Sherds and Scholars: Recording and interpreting survey ceramics,” which the Dutch Institute of Athens will host from February 24-25. Interpreting ceramic scatters is foundational to regional pedestrian survey, the most established method for reconstructing the ancient countryside, yet remains poorly understood. The deadline for submitting 200-word abstracts is Oct. 24. For information about submission, see this PDF circular.

Survey ceramics have always been convenient chronological markers of archaeological surveys, enabling us to recognize and date survey sites. Although landscape archaeology has now been going on for more than half a century and the amount of sherds collected in these projects is overwhelming, the interpretative value of the ceramic material is rarely exploited. What do the dots on the map actually represent and how did people use and shape the landscape?

This conference will also address sampling, recording and publication strategies that would best serve the interpretation of survey ceramics. Of course these depend on the research questions we have in mind, but to some extent the material itself dictates opportunities and limitations. The dataset is shaped by the choices what field data to record, which material to collect and how to record and publish. These strategic choices determine our research possibilities and the comparative value of project results.

We are pleased to invite you to contribute to this conference within the frame of these two topics:
• Sampling, recording and publication strategies
• Interpretative potential for survey ceramics

Greece’s Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities Celebrates 40 Years

This short piece from the Greek Reporter caught my attention earlier this week. It includes a brief overview of a celebration of work of the ephoreia and includes mention of Lechaion. Here’s the opening and relevant section on Lechaion (read the full piece here):

“Greece’s Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities on Friday celebrated 40 years of documenting and protecting the country’s rich underwater heritage….Angeliki Simosi, head of the ephorate, gave an overview of the numerous projects across Greece in the past two years, which include expeditions in cooperation with foreign institutes at famous shipwrecks and sites, such as the Britannic — Titanic’s sister ship, off Kea island, as well as new discoveries…At Lechaion, ancient Corinth’s partially submerged harbor town, ongoing underwater excavations revealed the infrastructure of more than a thousand years of flourishing maritime trade.”



The Liberation of Corinth, October 10, 1944

Seventy-two years ago today, the city of Corinth was liberated from German occupation. Freelance journalist (and Corinthia resident) Damian Mac Con Uladh has done a little investigative work and posted to his blog an original news story (from the Sydney Morning Herald), footage of the liberation, and commentary. That story from the Sydney Morning Herald details the celebrations over the German withdrawal and a trip from Corinth to Patras to spread the word about the liberation. Damian’s post calls attention to the important role of 96-year old Mois Yussourum in resistance work in the Corinthia and liberation. Read the full story here.


Swim the Corinth Canal

Add this to your list of things to do the next time you go to the Corinthia in September: Swim the Corinth Canal. According to this little blurb in ekathimerini, last week’s Swim the Canal event marked the first time the canal had been used for a swim race since its construction in 1893. No wonder: this year’s swim covered 6 kilometers. The organization webpage, Swim the Canal, notes that it was supposed to take at least 1 hour of swimming and as many as 4 hours. Not sure how many racer’s participated in this year’s event, but the pictures show quite a crowd.


I like that the organizers have appealed to the history of the canal and the Isthmus at their webpage.


So, swimming the canal takes its places alongside all the other athletic events and adventure sports at the Isthmus–you can read about some of those here. And you can be assured you’ll have another chance to swim the canal — it’s not likely that “the biggest swimming event in Greece” will be a one-time event.