Four diverse quick hits! Something for everyone!
- Kostis Kourelis (see: New Books: Peripatetic History) encouraged me to read R. Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost. It's a brilliant little book combining the spirit of Simone Weil with the lyrics of the Clash. Her chapter entitled Abandon is particularly compelling. She weaves together themes of personal loss, the image of the abandoned city (and an abandoned hospital), and the unconscious mind: "The city is built to resemble a conscious mind, a network that can calculate, administrate, manufacture. Ruins become the unconscious of a city, its memory, unknown, darkness, lost lands, and in this truly bring it to life." (p. 89) This certainly brings into focus the importance of dreams in archaeology; the excavation is part of the process of bringing the unconscious to the fore, reifying it, and coming to terms with the details that lead to its disappearance from our conscious mind.
- My blog has apparently created a buzz. The word in the halls of the American School is that someone did not like this blog post: Inside Looking In: A Wondering about the American School of Classical Studies. I don't know who or exactly why, except the floors whispered that it was perhaps related to this line: "It seems hard to imagine that the social experiences of each cohort here at the school, which in their intensity can approach a kind of hazing (hearing a talk about an Archaic temple in a steady rain!!), would have no impact on how the various interrelated disciplines (archaeology, philology, history, art history) developed." In any event, I have been quite open in my critique of the American School (you can find these posts here), but in general, I have am positive in my overall assessment of the institution and its programs. So, the buzz is good, and I am glad folks are reading my blog and discussing the points that I bring up, but I'd like to learn more. It's exciting to see such a venerable institution that supports and encourages a robust and critical culture.
- I've just finished reading Maria Iacovou's article in the November 2007 volume of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) entitled "Site Size Estimates and the Diversity Factor in Late Cypriot Settlement Histories," 1-23. In it she critiques some of the methods commonly employed to determine the size of Late Cypriot (LC) sites and the implications of these estimates in how we understand the settlement hierarchy in the LC period. She rightly stresses that function is a crucial variable in determining the relationship between site size and the relationships between settlements on the island. She notes for example that the site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos where we have conducted fieldwork:
"The site commands a superb view of the sea and the fertile plain but, geographically speaking, there is no possibility that it had wells. Its founders, then, did not choose it to set up a long-loved and prosperous urban center. They obviously had another, specific objective in mind. In fact, the houses -- estimated as at least 200 units -- were built along the edges of the plateau, forming a continuous outer wall which has been described as "the fortification wall" The space within could have been, for all we know, completely free of house structures.
The 27 ha of the plateau should not, then, be interpreted as 27 ha of built-up space; nor should they be compared naively to the "small" size of the urban fabric of Enkomi or Ay. Demetrios. Far from being similar, they are very different types of settlement." (p. 11)
He observations are interesting and touch upon some of the basic research questions that we hope to test this summer (see Another Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project Update). As for site size, Dave Pettegrew and I have been working on a very similar project, albeit for a later period. In particular, we have focused on how intensive pedestrian survey defines "large sites" and determining how these methods have influenced our understanding of places in the archaeological landscape. In fact, we submitted and had rejected an article that dealt with a very similar topic. Here's the abstract:
"The study of large sites has been vital to Mediterranean archaeological survey for some thirty years. In regional environments where palace complexes, urban centers, and sizable primary and secondary settlements are ubiquitous, large-site survey has emerged as a key component of research design. Despite a scholarship recognizing large-site survey as a distinct facet of landscape archaeology, there has been relatively little scholarship addressing the relationship between intensive method, data production, analysis, and archaeological interpretation. This article provides a synthetic overview of major problems and issues in surveying and interpreting large sites in the Eastern Mediterranean and offers two case studies from Corinth, Greece, and Larnaca, Cyprus, that offer new directions in understanding extensive surface scatters at the archaeological and historical level. The paper advocates large-site survey as a fundamental vehicle for exploring the concept “site”—constructed in the encounter between archaeological fieldwork, the artifactual landscape, and the desire to produce discursively meaningful interpretations of the Mediterranean past."
- I received an email just this morning from Dr. Stephen Robinson, the son of Elwyn B. Robinson who was a longtime professor in the Department of History at the University of North Dakota and the author of The History of North Dakota. He introduced himself and was kind enough to send along a copy of a touching memoir that his father Elwyn Robinson composed on the death of his wife Eva in 1984, Remembrances of Eva Foster Robinson (1903-1984) and photograph.