This weekend, David Pettegrew and I are off to Vancouver, BC to give a paper at the Modern Greek Studies Association conference. Our paper will focus on our work with Tim Gregory and Lita Tzortzopoulou-Gregory at the upland basin of Lakka Skoutara in the southeastern Korinthia. While we have been preparing a proper empirical study with lots of mico-historical detail for a formal archaeological report, David and I decided to take a bit more of a methodological approach to the paper at the MGSA meeting.
We focused on four scales of analysis at the site produced by the various methods that we used to document the material evidence present at Lakka Skoutara. We used diachronic intensive pedestrian survey to document long term changes at the settlement.
We placed the results of this survey work in a broader regional and national context to demonstrate how this material is the evidence for a dynamic set of interconnected local, regional, and national economic and political processes.
We also returned to the site every other year for a decade and documented the changes to individual buildings at the site. Most of the buildings at Lakka Skoutara are abandoned or only kept up in a very superficial way, so documenting their deterioration or curation allows us to understand the processes that produced the archaeological landscape documented through intensive survey.
Finally, our team collected oral history interviews from people who used the Lakka in various ways. These interviews allowed us to put formation processes within a social context.
The goal of this approach is not to attempt to reconcile the interpretations or analysis produced by various methods, but rather to produce parallel narratives that are linked through their common reference to the landscape. The interplay of these references to the landscape (i.e. signifiers) is not meant to compile a "total history" of the landscape but to capture the dynamic nature of the landscape as a product of experience and methods.
The key to this approach is recognizing the modern period as an important lens for viewing the landscape. An older generation of archaeologists often tended to ignore the modern landscape as they sought to reconstruct the ancient one particularly for rural areas. One result of this approach was an understanding of the Greek countryside, both in antiquity and in modern times, as a static place. More recent work on the Greek landscape, however, has emphasized the dynamism of the 19th and 20th century Greek countryside. Using finer resolution documentary sources than are available to scholars of antiquity and observing more carefully the living archaeology of Greek village life, archaeologists of modern Greece have managed to uncover a vitality in the countryside that less critical observers missed. By ascribing this reality as much to a method uniquely applicable to the modern period (that is, interviews, easy examination of a whole range of ongoing formation processes, documentary evidence) as to the dynamic nature of the modern Greek landscape in particular, we argue that the archaeology of modern Greek landscape emerges as a vital interpretative lens for reconsidering ancient landscapes. This isn't to simply turn the traditional method for understanding landscapes on its head (or resort to a clumsy ethnoarchaeology) and argue that ancient landscape are similar as the modern landscape but for our ability to document the processes that created them. Instead, incorporating the modern landscape into our analysis of landscape more generally allows us to problematize the methods used to create archaeological landscapes and show that the idea of landscape requires reading methods across periods. Thus the landscape becomes a product of our knowledge as archaeologists and the tools that we have at our disposal to document the material culture present for any period.
Hopefully we'll have a draft of the paper posted by the weekend.
For more on our work at Lakka Skoutara see these posts:
Slopes and Terraces at Lakka Skoutara
Corinthian Infiltration: The Interior of Some Houses at Lakka Skoutara
Lakka Skoutara: The Survey
The Houses of Lakka Skoutara
Construction in the Corinthia