Scott Moore usually posts a pre-season countdown for various PKAP preparations (and has a handy countdown timer on his blog). As this year's season is shaping up to be more hectic than usual, there is a strange calm-before-the-storm feeling right now. Despite the lull, there are some interesting and exciting PKAP wrinkles this year:
1. A big group. This will be our biggest PKAP team ever. By all counts, it will number over 30 for most of the four week season. We'll not only have a while gaggle of undergraduate and graduate student volunteers from Messiah College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the University of North Dakota, but also a whole group mid-level staff from Ohio State, Penn State, and various other places. We'll also have a cook, a great group of area supervisors who will keep an eye on the trench supervisors, and several experts in ceramics, wall-painting, et c.
2. We will be joined this summer by a team from IUP who will conduct some subsurface prospecting using Ground Penetrating Radar. They'll arrive for about a week worth of work and will likely concentrate their efforts on the Koutsopetria plain. Over the past three years we've used electrical resistivity to map subsurface features. And we based our excavation strategy on the results of this technique. The advantage of resistivity is that it was relatively inexpensive and required relatively little post-processing work to produce results. GPR is a more expensive technique as the gear is more complex and larger and has to be brought onto the island from the US, but GPR will allow us to cover more area more quickly than resistivity. We still hope that a larger sample of the subsurface features from Pyla-Koutsopetria will help us understand the organization of space in the Late Roman settlement. If there was some formal organization -- say a grid pattern -- this would suggest that the coastal community had some form of urban planning and central organization. If it was less formally organized, it would suggest that we have basically a large, well-developed village.
3. Three excavation areas. One of the challenges that PKAP faces is that our excavations are designed primarily to ground truth our intensive pedestrian survey. Consequently, this season, we will have three distinct excavation areas. These areas are spread out over close to 2 sq kms. The topography of the site compounds the distance and makes it even more difficult to communicate between the areas being excavated. Fortunately each area will have an experienced area supervisor to coordinate the efforts of the trench supervisors and ensure that the data collected is consistent, robust, and high quality.
4. With more areas under excavation, more pottery being analyzed, and additional spatial data -- like our GPR results -- coming in from the field, we are going to have to streamline our data collection, storage, and verification methods. For one more year, I will likely be the only coordinator of digital data collection, and I think that this will be manageable. But the next step with the project is a more decentralized digital data collection process. The challenge with this, of course, it bringing all the data together, having multiple copies of (or server based) software applications, and making sure that teams have the training and understanding to enter data consistently and well.
5. An improved field school. We've always claimed to be a hybrid project -- part research excavation/survey and part field school. This year this will even be more true. We'll have our biggest group of students yet, but also our most well defined research goals. So we've put considerable effort into creating a cohesive student experience for our volunteers so that they'll learn both in the field, but also at the museum and at various sites across the island.
So, stay tuned for more PKAP news and notes here. We'll get the various PKAP blogs up and running in the next few weeks and try to capture some of the growing excitement around the 2009 PKAP season!