Corinthian Matters in Corinth

Corinthian Matters will be on its (mostly) annual tour to the Corinthia three weeks from now (May 26-June 2). I will only be in the Corinthia for a week this year because I have to get back for a digital proficiency workshop in early June, but that still allows seven full days of Corinthiaka goodness. If you will be around and have the time to get together, shoot me an email.

I’ll be working on several projects while in the region with a number of good collaborators and friends:

1. Drone Photography and EKAS: Since 2017, I have been working with Professor Albert Sarvis, a geospatial technologist at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, to capture low-altitude drone photographs of parts of the Isthmus surveyed by the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey in 1998-2002.  Our work is designed to contribute to a longer-term goal of publishing the EKAS data sets, and to understand the large-scale transformations of the Isthmus between antiquity and the present such as canal construction and the trans-Isthmus fortification walls. This will mark our second season of drone photography.

2. Washingtonia: I have teamed up with Kostis Kourelis (Franklin & Marshall College) and others to study the vanished settlement of Washingtonia, somewhere in the vicinity of the village of Examilia. This colony of refugees of the Greek War of Independence was founded in 1829 by American philhellene and philanthropist Samuel Gridley Howe with clearly great prospects in mind. Last year, my students from Messiah College carefully studied Howe’s letters and journal entries to discern the location of the village and nature of settlement.  I’ll be visiting Examilia this summer to learn what I can but also have a history student at Messiah who will be conducting archival research in Boston to try to dig up some new documents.

3. Lakka Skoutara. Toward the end of my time in the Corinthia, I’ll have the privilege of connecting with Bill Caraher before he heads to the Argolid. We’re going to head to an abandoned village of Lakka Skoutara between Korphos and Sophiko and document this abandoned village one final time. We’ve studied formation processes at the settlement for some 20 years now and we’ll be submitting our article to a forthcoming collection with the Digital Press on abandoned villages. We may also capture drone photographs of the village.

4. Kodratos. I’ve been working this year with Jonathan Werthmuller, a graduating senior at Messiah College, to produce an English translation of the 17th century Latin life of St. Kodratos by Jesuit scholar Reinhold Dehnig, based on a Greek original by the 14th century historian Nicephorus Gregoras. We’ve worked from both the Latin and the Greek as part of a semester-long project. It’s been a blast, and I hope to visit again the church of Kodratos in Corinth, which features prominently in the vita.

 

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.

liberationsydneyherald2.

The Doll Heads of the Eastern Korinthia Survey

I no longer remember who found the first doll head in the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey but the discovery brought the unique artifact type to the attention of all. Now it may be that the doll heads were simply denser in the territory we were surveying that season–the Isthmus east of Hexamilia, after all, has substantial modern dumps–but I suspect it was also a case of that documented phenomenon that surveyors find what they are trained to notice. In any case, the summer of 2001 was the season that walkers increasingly discovered, collected, and conversed about Corinthian doll heads.

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There were two things that especially bewildered surveyors about the doll heads. First, the bodies were nearly always missing. It is true that we did find entire plastic play figures in the field such as this torso (left) of the batman figure discovered in 2000, which followed one field team around in their treks through the landscape. But baby dolls (almost) never came with their bodies–the converse of that pattern that Roman statues are so consistently missing their heads.

Second, the dollheads seemed to come in every imaginable shape and size. There were big-head dolls with red hair, small dolls with petite faces and long foreheads, small-headed dolls with Medusa-like hair expressing surprise, and flat-faced sun-darkened dolls without hair.

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If we had discovered these dolls in 1999, there might have been some attempt to collect, analyze, and chronotype them. That was the first year of the survey, and the project initially intended to record in a somewhat systematic way all the modern objects of the landscape. That was a novel idea, which proved impractical on the first day of survey when surveyors noted that plastic Loutraki water bottles (and other modern trash) was found in every unit of the survey territory. Modern ceramic material, not all material, became the principal signature of the modern period in EKAS. There is no reason, however, in principle, that the doll heads could not have been incorporated into our database of finds using our standard taxonomy for describing and typing artifacts. I’m imagining something like this

DollheadsCT

And it certainly would have been interesting to see the distribution of these objects in respect to modern settlement patterns.

By the end of the 2002 season, the doll heads had begun to have strange effects on the field teams. The dolls followed the teams around which means that someone must have collected them. Understand that archaeological survey encourages somewhat different interpersonal interactions than does, say, an excavation trench. Excavation allows for sustained conversation over long periods in a small space. In survey, walkers are spaced 20-40 feet apart and stare at the ground the whole time; conversation is shorter, banter is common. I think it was in this context that the doll heads — ghastly in their disembodied states, scarred by plowing, and corroded by the elements — became part of the running dialogue of the season and entered our discussion about archaeological survey.

Were the doll heads of the Eastern Korinthia “background noise” with an unclear relationship to the modern sites of the region? “Off-site” trash that originated from nearby settlements and was spread on fields through deliberate manuring? Toys dropped by children who accompanied their parents to the field during agricultural season? Or ritually deposited apotropaic objects designed to ward off negative spirits?

The doll heads also became part of an end-of-season plot to sabotage another field team’s near perfect record of collecting the fewest number of rocks (the ceramics teams kept tallies of which field teams mistakenly collected the most number of non-artifacts). At the end of season survey pottery, a presentation revealed how the doll heads carried out the attack and destroyed the good reputation of an archaeological team.

ekas_dollheads5ekas_dollheads6 ekas_dollheads7ekas_dollheads10ekas_dollheads8 ekas_dollheads9

Thanks to my EKAS colleague Tom Tartaron for jarring this repressed memory by requesting the extraction of these priceless photos from deep within the EKAS digital archives.

2015 Publications in Corinthian Studies: Medieval-Modern Periods

This fourth installment in a series of bibliographic reports for 2015 focuses on post-antique bibliography. Download the report as PDF here:

The first three 2015 Bibliographic Reports:

Photo by David Pettegrew, June 3, 2014
Photo by David Pettegrew, June 3, 2014

The Long Lent

The liturgical season of Lent begins today in the western Christian churches. If you don’t know what this is, Lent is a penitential season of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving that culminates in the celebration of Easter / Pascha. As far as liturgical seasons go, it’s a pretty old one that had emerged clearly by the council of Nicaea in AD 325, and perhaps earlier in some form. Today it is universally celebrated by different Christian denominations (even the anabaptist and brethren in Christ college where I teach usually serves up an Ash Wednesday service to students). Sometimes eastern and western calendars are closely aligned so that Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians are celebrating the season (nearly) simultaneously. This year, these traditions have conspired against each other to produce about the greatest timespan possible between the celebration of western Easter (March 27) and Orthodox Pascha (May 1). This means that between eastern and western calendars, Christians will be in a lenten penitential season for nearly three months this year. And that’s a whole lot of Lent.

This liturgical season intersects in a number of ways with Corinthian studies.  The New Testament letters of 1 and WinterSkyCentralPA2 Corinthians, with all their discussion of repentance, salvation, the memorial of the last supper, and resurrection, among others, have made good material for for the lenten cycle of scripture readings (even this morning, at an Ash Wednesday mass, I heard 2 Corinthians 5.20-6.2). And the Corinthian saint Leonidas and his companions were martyred and are celebrated during Pascha/Easter (Sneak peak for next year: Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants will be celebrating Easter / Pascha the same day and on April 16, the feast day of Leonidas and companions. I’m working now with some Latin students at Messiah to prepare a little translation of the relevant passages about those saints from the Acta Sanctorum)

So it only seems appropriate that I re-launch my weekly series on resources and books for reading and understanding 1 and 2 Corinthians, early Christian communities, and religion in Roman Corinth. Yes, I planned to do this two years ago but wasn’t on my game. In fact, I’m pretty bad at delivering any series consistently. But I have a little more time this semester, and will aim to deliver a Wednesday series.

The (Almost) Abandoned Village of Lakka Skoutara

Last Friday, the Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology in Greece Interest Group co-sponsored a colloquium in two sessions at the Archaeological Institute of America on the theme of “Deserted Villages.” The first session was devoted to the subject of villages before abandonment and included papers on “The ‘Dead Villages’ of Northern Syria” (Anna M. Sitz), “Village Desertion and Settlement Patterns in the Early Medieval Fayum, Egypt” (Brendan Haug), “Abandoned ‘Palaiomaniatika’ from Ottoman Defters, Aerial Survey, and Field Reconnaissance” (Rebecca M. Seifried), “The Deserted Village of Anavatos on the Island of Chios, Greece” (Olga Vassi), and “Routes and Abandoned Villages in the Western Argolid” (Dimitri Nakassis, William Caraher, Sarah James, and Scott Gallimore). The second session was devoted to villages during and after abandonment, and included papers

As Deb Brown’s and Kostis Kourelis’ abstract for the second session describes,

Each paper thoughtfully considers abandonment and post-abandonment histories traced through years of documentation and investigation of structures and settlements that were abandoned or partially abandoned in the 19th and 20th centuries. Each case study includes evidence from historical documents, photographs, and oral histories to offer a more nuanced understanding of the reasons for abandonment, behaviors associated with deserted villages and rural structures, and significance of deserted villages in cultural landscapes. The combined papers contribute new material for understanding protracted abandonment and postabandonment processes and have significant implications for archaeologists’ interpretation of landscapes, settlements, buildings, and assemblages.

I wasn’t able to attend but heard from friends that the colloquium was successful, and that the double session was audio recorded and will be released soon via the internet. I myself co-wrote a paper with friend and colleague Bill Caraher on Lakka Skoutara, an almost deserted (almost) village of the southern Corinthia. Bill and I have visited the little valley of LS about six different summers over the last fifteen years, together with collaborators Tim Gregory and Lita Tzortzopoulou-Gregory. A few years ago, we presented a paper about LS at the Modern Greek Studies Association biennial conference, and we’ve put together a substantial draft of an article to submit somewhere sometime soon. In Friday’s paper, we tried to show some good pictures of the slow abandonment of this settlement that began, arguably in the 1960s (!), and continues to this day. There are as many signs of life in this abandoned valley as there are signs of death.

Some images from our paper Friday. If you’re interested in seeing more, Bill has posted 620 photos via the archival platform Omeka. Here are some of images from Friday.

Below, Mr. Perras and donkey pose in front of Perras’ long house, still standing last we checked. Mr. Perras commutes frequently to visit the country house from the nearby village of Sophiko. Note the storage of an older set of tiles (provisional discard) in front of the house.

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The valley of Lakka Skoutara is just east of Sophiko and north of Korphos in the southeast Corinthia.

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We have counted 18 houses, house foundations, or storage buildings in the valley, plus a little church. There are numerous little agricultural valleys in the Corinthia and Argolid, which attracted seasonal or permanent habitation in the 19th and 20th century. LS was mostly seasonally inhabited except during the hard times such as World War II when settlement was more permanent.

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The table below shows that most of the houses correspond to the Balkan-style “long house” type.

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Many of the buildings today (or at least in 2012, when we were last there) look like this. They have lost their roofs and are quickly collapsing. When the former owner saw his house like this in 2005, he was moved to tears (he had not visited the house in years). This house also shows the mixed style of the later 20th century, which included traditional fieldstone construction combined with concrete cinderblocks. The feature in front of the house is a large cistern.

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Another image of collapse. Archaeological site in formation.

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The interior of another house which still stands and functions for seasonal work reveals a basin and provisional discard (tiles).

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The next three images show how quickly these abandoned houses can change. The first one shows a house with a full set of tiles in 2004, and the second and third show the house robbed of tiles by 2005. Very few of the houses had significant artifact assemblages associated with them. Most were depleted of material during or after abandonment.

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Another good sequence of collapse. The still standing building was being reused as an animal pen the first time we visited the valley. It then began to collapse.
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Collapse continued and worsened by 2009.
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But today, it’s still in use by an area shephered, who makes use of the well associated with the house.
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If the audio for these sessions should go up in the next month or so, I’ll post a link.

 

 

Target Corinth Canal

This new book by Platon Alexiades is the first of its kind to narrate the important role of the Corinth Canal in Allied and Axis operations during World War II. Target Corinth Canal: 1940-1944 (Pen and Sword, 2015) offers a narrative of the canal’s central place in the logistics of supply and control between 1940 and 1944. I tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy via interlibrary loan, so have had to rely on the publisher page, Google and WorldCat to reconstruct the contents. Here is the book description from the publisher page:

 

Target Corinth Canal 1940–1944During the Second World War the Corinth Canal assumed an importance disproportionate to its size. It was the focus of numerous special Allied operations to prevent oil from the Black Sea reaching Italy, to delay the invasion of Crete and severing the vital German supply lines to Rommel’s Army in North Africa. German airborne forces occupied the Canal to cut off the ANZAC retreat and Hitler needed the Canal kept open to maintain control of the Aegean Sea. Were this lost, he feared Turkey entering the War on the Allied side. Target Corinth Canal unearths a treasure trove of facts on the little known operations by SOE and other special force units. Heroes such as Mike Cumberlege emerge from the pages of this splendid work of military history.”

 

The table of contents suggests a play-by-play political and military narrative:
Chapter 1: Greece and the Corinth Canal
Chapter 2: The navy and the Mediterranean 1940
Chapter 3: Soe in Greece
Chapter 4: The Corinth Canal and the dodecanese islands;
Chapter 5: The British intervention in Greece;
Chapter 6: First attempt;
Chapter 7: The Canal is Seized;
Chapter 8: Retreat and Recriminations;
Chapter 9: The Royal Air Force Attempts;
Chapter 10: Clandestine Work for Mi9;
Chapter 11: The Greek Resistance;
Chapter 12: The Corinth Canal and the Battle of el Alamein;
Chapter 13: new plans: Thurgoland and Locksmith
Chapter 14: operation LOCKSMITH
Chapter 15: Capture;
Chapter 16: double-Cross Attempt;
Chapter 17: Apollo and the don Stott episode;
Chapter 18: last Attempt: The Germans;
Chapter 19: Sachsenhausen;
Chapter 20: Fate and Justice;
Chapter 21: Conclusion; epilogue;
Appendix A: Abbreviations, pseudonyms and Codenames;
Appendix B: personalities;
Appendix C: Traffic in Corinth Canal from 16 May to 22 June 1941;
Appendix d: Traffic in Corinth Canal from June 1942 to 7 August 1942;
Appendix e: Use of the Corinth Canal by U-boats;
Appendix F: The Cairo questionnaire concerning the Corinth Canal
Appendix G: Schemes proposed by Major Tsigantes
Appendix h: limpets and naval Sabotage in the Second World War;
Appendix i: Ships sunk or damaged by Soe and Greek saboteurs;
Appendix J: The Kiel Canal

 

I will be interested to see how well the author has discussed the canal within a regional framework. Diana Wright, for example, published two posts presenting Australian and New Zealand accounts from April 1941 (here and here), which highlighting the Isthmus as a bridge for the Anzac retreat from Athens through the Peloponnese, and, then, later, a German prisoner of war camp. In the Eastern Korinthia Survey, we documented quite a few German gun emplacements and bunkers across the ridges and capes of the Corinthian Isthmus that give a sense of the German investments. The images below were taken at Akra Sophia not far from the canal.



More (Corinthian) Perspective on the Greek Crisis

Corinthian Matters | A Resource for the Study of the Corinthia, Greece<!–

More local perspective from the Corinthia. This piece in today’s issue of The Irish Times considers the effects of the current uncertainties about the currency and economy on one of the farmers’ markets in New Corinth.

The amount of produce left on her stall by midday meant it was easy to understand why Piga Siachra wasn’t happy after a bad day’s trade at a farmers market in Corinth, a city about an hour from Athens.

“Today was terrible. Sales are down 50 per cent on last week alone. We saw all our usual customers but everyone is buying less,” said Siachra, a woman in her 70s who, as a widow, dresses in black as tradition in rural Greece.

Soon, she and Periklis Roukis, a neighbour who has been helping out in recent months, would have to pack up the honey melon, long and round courgettes, bunches of untopped carrots, herbs and various other vegetables – all certified organic – and return home….

You can read the rest here.

Travels among the New Greek Ruins

In the lead-up to the Greek referendum on Sunday, Corinth made a solid showing in news articles, blogs, and commentary. The Guardian called the Corinthia a weather vane of Greek politics and a predictor for the outcome of the referendum, and archaeologist Stephen Miller suggested polling the customers of a local bar in Nemea to gage public opinion on the matter. MSN UK painted the Corinth Canal as a metaphor for the feeling of division in Greece (which, as the vote showed, was less divided on the European Commission agreement than initial polls predicted). Then there was a range of articles that interviewed Corinthians from different villages – to get some perspective outside of the Athens metropolitan area.

This piece (“How Greece Got to No”) yesterday in The Wall Street Journal caught my attention. Christopher Bakken reviews a new book by James Angelos on how the Greek crisis has affected ordinary people and why a “No” vote was so significant. Here’s a taste of the article:

As a Greek-American boy, James Angelos spent summers in his grandmother’s village in Greece. That village was Corinth, which he remembers as a “humble and largely agrarian” backwater that also happened to be situated across the road from the ruins of an ancient city. Push back the soil from any patch of Greek land and you’re likely to reveal something. Mr. Angelos’s timely book, “The Full Catastrophe,” does just that in famous and less well-known sites across the country.

Mr. Angelos, a former Journal correspondent, travels through Greece as a journalist first, and a native son second, to conduct a mostly unpleasant archaeology….

Mr. Angelos’s book allows us to see how these problems play out, sometimes farcically, in the lives of actual people.

Read the rest of the essay here.

Two other interesting pieces caught my eye :

Ten Unexpected Stories of Corinthian Archaeology, 2014

Cozied up at a country house near Granville, Ohio, my family ushered in the new year watching Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future II. This movie was a blast from the past. Released in 1989, I was a 15 year old skateboard punk when the film came out, and I distinctly recall conversations with friends about the (im)possibilities of the “hoverboard” – a wheel-less skateboard that floats on air (one of my friends claimed to have ridden one). In the second movie in the series, Doc Brown and Marty McFly travel 30 years into the strange future of 2015 with flying cars, hoverboards, automatic shoelaces, video conferencing, drones, accurate weather forecasts, and biometric scanners. This visit to 2015 causes a disruption of the space time continuum when the antagonist Biff Tannen borrows the time machine, visits his youthful self in 1955, and creates a new dystopian past and present (which alters the future 2015, of course), which resolves itself ultimately in the year 1885. No doubt Back to the Future II will be a hit this year: there are already a number of stories and videos like this one from the Washington Post, which compare the 2015 depicted in the film with the 2015 of our day.

Some of the stories of Corinthian Archaeology in 2014 remind me a bit of the strange world that the 1985 Marty McFly encounters when he travels 30 years into the future. There’s a kind of improbable, unexpected, or futuristic ring to them from the perspective of classical archaeology practiced a generation ago. How many archaeologists working in the Corinthia in, say, 1984, imagined that the following news stories would comprise the major archaeological events of 2014? If our time traveling archaeologist of 1984 had visited the year 2014 and stolen some tools and returned to the past, imagine the mayhem this would have created for the space time continuum.

Since it’s that time of year to compile lists of the greatest archaeological finds of 2014 (see, for example, this one from ASOR and this one from Archaeology magazine), it seemed fitting for Corinthian Matters to publish a ranking of the top ten unexpected stories of 2014. None of the stories below focus on new archaeological discoveries of 2014, which will not appear in journals anyway for at least several years, and none focus on new scholarship that made a splash last year, although your friends at Corinthian Matters are busily updating the Zotero library as we speak and will unleash a slew of new articles and books in the next couple of weeks. The stories below, rather, relate to the archaeological practice of Mediterranean archaeology, and are ranked not by their overall intellectual ramifications or importance per se – although many of them have already had an impact on archaeological knowledge – but according to their shock value – the “Great Scott!” of Doc Brown – from the vantage point of the past. Focusing on archaeological practice, I have had to exclude some pretty awesome stories like daredevil Red Bull pilot Peter Beneyei flying through the Corinth Canal twirling and whirling and plunging and looping. All the same, the ranking in its own way provides some view of the shifting landscape of archaeological practice today, especially as technology has crept into archaeological craft. Now I respect that you might arrange this list in a different order, or might substitute one story for another but here’s the AUTHORITATIVE list of Corinthian archaeology stories (where “Corinthian archaeology” is archaeology that has something to do wi5h the Corinthia).

10. Zigzag Art Discovered in the Panayia Field in Corinth

This story was certainly unexpected. It was one of the most widely circulated but least significant stories of the year which has to be included because it hit so many archaeological channels. The short piece from Live Science highlighted “Zigzag Art” on Geometric vessels from a sarcophagus of Corinth dating to the early 8th century BC. Zigzags are great, but are not overly impressive on Geometric vases (zigzags carved by early humans on 500,000 year old shells, on the other hand, are pretty cool). The author missed the major story – outlined in this recent report in Hesperia – about the early technological achievements of the Corinthian population. Still, the Panayia field excavations got some fine media attention. That the archaeological work reported in the Hesperia article and news piece was carried out a decade ago shows how long it can take for archaeological knowledge to reach the public and why it’s hard to put together a top ten list of discoveries of Corinthian archaeology in 2014. We may not know for many more years the full significance of what archaeologists documented last year.

9. The World’s Largest Solar Boat Arrives in Corinth

Ms-Turanor-PlanetSolar-departs-Monaco-27-September-2010-Photo-courtesy-of-PlanetSolarThis one also I didn’t see coming, but like the zigzags, got a lot of press. In July, the world’s largest solar-powered boat, “Tûranor PlanetSolar,” visited the port of New Corinth for several days and then sailed through the Canal. Operated by researchers from the Swiss School of Archaeology and the Greek Ministry of Culture, the catamaran was on an archaeological enterprise to the Argolid to conduct an underwater survey in search of a putative prehistoric settlement near Franchthi Cave. The boat was equipped with geophysical survey equipment that would map the seabed. The scale of the solar ship, as well as the technology employed for underwater survey, make this story worthy of report even though the archaeological work fell well outside the realm of the Corinthia. I never did hear what they discovered. See also coverage at  this site.

8. Good Luck for the Eutychia Mosaic at Corinth

Screenshot (23)In August, the ASCSA announced plans to restore the Eutychia mosaic through a generous donation. The organization provided this update in October. The restoration of a mosaic is not improbable per se from the vantage point of 1984 (conservation work was taking place at the great monochrome mosaic at Isthmia in the 1980s), but was nonetheless unexpected, and deserves to make the list given its significance for Corinthian archaeology and the publicity of the process (see no. 2 below). The Eutychia mosaic was originally uncovered in excavations of the South Stoa in the 1930s and has in recent decades been enclosed in a dark room off limits to visitors in the southeastern corner of the forum in Corinth. It’s that mosaic you can never really make out when you peer through the fence surrounding it. Since Broneer’s excavation, the mosaic has been interpreted as part of the office of agonothetes: the mosaic show a victorious athlete with a goddess holding a shield inscribed with eutychia, or “Good Luck.” It’s great that Betsey Robinson’s recent article in Hesperia publicized the need for restoration work, and also cool that that the work was recorded with video and publically released in tandem with the conservation.

7. Western Argolid Regional Archaeological Project Begins

P1070124As a landscape archaeologist, it’s inevitable that at least one survey project would make this list. Several friends and collaborators from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project and the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey teamed up to launch a new distributional survey in the western Argolid with an acronym – WARP – that competes with any survey project of Greece and Cyprus. I had the good fortune of visiting this beautiful survey territory, the Inachos Valley, in the opening days of the project. Now, this isn’t the Corinthia per se, but the team contained so many Corinthian archaeologists that it seemed right to include the project in the rankings. Plus the project came on strong in the blogsophere with committed bloggers like Bill Caraher and Dimitri Nakassis pumping out interesting social media on a daily basis. The idea of a survey is not that unexpected of course from 1984, when some of the major surveys of Greece were fully in motion. Nonetheless, WARP gives us an example of an efficiently run hyper-intensive survey. As their abstract for a conference paper describes their work, the project surveyed some 5.5 sq km using very intensive distributional survey methods in a single season – greater coverage, that is, than the 4 sq km covered by the Eastern Korinthia Survey over three seasons (although EKAS was beleaguered by permit problems). If WARP is this efficient over the next two seasons, the project may end up one of the most efficient, intensive surveys projects carried out in Greek lands.

6. American School Launches New Maps and Spatial Data

Screenshot (27)It’s hard to know whether our classical archaeologist of 1984 would have imagined how important the GIS revolution would be for archaeologists of the future. The concept and technology for geographic information systems was established by the mid-1980s but commercial GIS software did not become widely available until the 1990s. Today archaeologists cannot live without it. In September, the ASCSA announced the dedication of a page populated with free GIS data, which continues to grow into a one-stop shop for free downloadable files related to Greece and the Peloponnese: digital elevation models, roads and cities, topographic contours, and ready made maps. I got to tour a beta version of this page in late August and had planned to blog the news release but the arrival of a little baby boy in early September changed that. This news certainly deserves a place on the list since it makes a major contribution to many different engagements on Corinthian archaeology. I will soon update the maps section of this site to point to this site.

5. The Lechaion Harbour Project Launches

One of the most exciting stories of the year was the launching of the Lechaion Harbour Project (LHP), a Danish-Greek enterprise designed (according to the project’s Facebook page) “to digitally survey, excavate, study, and publish the submerged archaeological remains of Corinth’s main harbor town Lechaion.” Some of the news outlets wrongly reported that Lechaion’s harbor had been discovered (it had never fully been lost). The real story was the use of such sophisticated equipment to map the underwater remains at Lechaion and – this is important – a systematic archaeological study of the harborworks. The project released a series of updates and mini-reports via its Facebook page about the process of an underwater digital survey through the use of dredges and a “3D parametric sub-bottom profiler” (sounds futuristic?). See this brief report from Archaeology magazine, this longer one from The Greek Reporter, and the original press release.

4. Michigan State University Wins NEH grant for Archaeological Resource Cataloging System

ARCS notebook

This story didn’t circulate as widely as I expected it would, but when the news release comes from was the prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities, you know it’s big. Dr. Jon Frey of Michigan State University was awarded a Digital Humanities Implementation grant on the order of $324,586 to develop and expand a tool called Archaeological Resource Cataloging System (ARCS) for digitizing the excavation notebooks at Isthmia, Nemea, Tauric Chersonesos, and Polis (Cyprus). ARCS is an open-source application for preserving and interacting with excavation notebooks and other field documents. This is a boon not only to Corinthian archaeology but also for smaller archaeological projects that are trying to record and preserve data on limited budgets. It’s also unexpected from our vantage year 1984. For a review of grant awarded, see this post, and Dr. Frey’s comments here.

3. The American School Launches its Virtual Field Trip App to Corinth

2014-08-25 09.21.32After a fifty year hiatus in publishing edition after revised edition of the official guidebook to Corinth and its museum, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens announced the imminent publication (now in production) of a seventh edition of Ancient Corinth: A Guide to the Site and Museum, plus – and here’s the kicker – a now available digital tour of Ancient Corinth via the Field Trip app available for iPhones and Androids. As I wrote in my review of the product, the Field Trip app enhances and greatly changes the user’s experience of Corinth. Visitors to the site who make use of the app can jump in and out of tour from anywhere on site (freeing them from the linear tour of the old guidebooks) and – really cool – anyone anywhere in the world can “tour” Corinth. This kind of public and digital archaeology product deserves a high rank not only for being unexpected a generation ago but also for making a major contribution to the study of ancient Corinth.

 

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Now, ranking two most unexpected stories of 2014 was a tossup. It could have gone either way, but this is, I think, the right order, if you accept that the last one qualifies.

2. Corinthian Archaeologists Record Excavations of Frankish Quarter with Google Glass

corinth_2014season1026wearableglasses

This one knocked my socks off. In April the ASCSA announced that it was conducting its excavations of the Frankish quarter in Corinth using Google Glass. The excavations of the Frankish quarter marked their own interesting story, but were not surprising in their own right (excavations of the Frankish quarter began at Corinth in the late 80s). Yet the futuristic wearable technology in recording contexts (image left) takes the ASCSA Back to the Future (image right). Not sure that Google Glass will be the wave of the future, but this clearly marked one of the year’s most unexpected stories that expands upon a range of new directions in digital recording systems. As the ASCSA’s final news release describes the experience, “For our purposes, the students used Glass to create an interesting series of FPV (first person view) videos summarizing their excavations at regular intervals. This not only challenged them to present their excavations in a different medium but also forced them to question different audiences and how video might supplement the existing excavation record.” And my favorite quote: “Some [students] also found talking to their glasses disconcerting.” 

Some of these FPV videos are available on Google Plus:

This story certainly would have been number one unexpected story of the year had it not been for an even more bizarre story that narrowly edged it out.

1. Corinthian Archaeologists Excavate Atari Burial Ground in Alamogordo, New Mexico (and launch Punk Archaeology)

Atari-Graveyard-ControllerI really have few words for the winner. It was truly and completely unexpected. Even if our hypothetical archaeologist in 1984 had predicted all of the above, she/he could never have predicted that a group of archaeologists who had spent so much of their careers working in Greece would have been part of an excavation of a landfill in New Mexico to dig up the dump of the worst video game of all time, the 1983 Atari flop, E.T. New Mexico is a long way from the Corinthia, but three members of the archaeological team – Andrew Reinhard, Richard Rothaus, and Bill Caraher – were trained in Corinthian archaeology through ASCSA projects, published on Corinthian materials (in the case of Rothaus and Caraher), and (in the case of Reinhard) oversaw ASCSA publications. Some may disqualify this piece from Corinthian archaeology, but using the logic of association (see no. number 7 above), I think it deserves its place in the ranking. The story appeared in the major news outlets like Archaeology Magazine and CNN, and exploded in the blogosphere, so that even the ASCSA promoted (and has continued to promote) the story on its website. Two fun articles on this Atari dig include this one in Harper’s Magazine about the new punk archaeologists, and this one in The Atlantic by the punk archaeologists. This is not mainstream classical archaeology by any means, but rather “punk archaeology” – whatever that phrase means. Like the other stories outlined above, the run of the punk archaeologists in a New Mexico landfill offers another telling example of the unpredictable practice of archaeology today.