Greece

The Archaeology of Food!

I’ve been a commercial archaeologist for 13 years and have worked in Ireland, Greece and Australia. My days once consisted of jumping into a muddy hole in the depths of winter to shovel out the sticky and waterlogged fills within and then trudge to the spoil-heap with heavy boots. My days also consisted of excavating beautiful wooden troughs in fulachta fiadh (burnt mounds) or excavating postholes of Bronze Age structures in the balmy summer sun. However, the recession in Ireland has led to a decline in commercial archaeological work and the absence of muddy viz-vest clad hordes of trowel-grasping excavators is the most visible proof of this!

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Museums and Archaeology

Hello, my name is Candace and I am an Archaeologist.

The University of Sydney, Main quadrangle

This is wheremy career in archaeology began, at the University of Sydney as an undergraduate in the archaeology Department. And is now where I work for Sydney University Museums.

 

My role at the Sydney University Museums varies from day to day. I work part time as a Collections Officer with the Collection Management team, as well as part time as a Curatorial Assistant for the Nicholson Museum.  These positions afford me the ability to work with the public and behind the scenes of three very different Musuems and Art Galleries! Today I will be working across all three galleries and in the stores photographing my day as I go. In addition to my daily tasks I will also hopefully find some down time to work on a conference paper I’m presenting in two short weeks on my own archaeological research in Northern Greece and the central Balkans. Follow the captions in the Photo Gallery to see where I am and what I am up to!

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Tracking Ice Age Mammoths

In my last post, I talked about the main project I’m currently working on, which is studying the stone tools made by the last Neanderthals at the site of La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey. This collapsed cave site is well-known not only for the richness of its deposits, but also for the famous ‘bone heaps’ of woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros remains found in the 1960s-70s excavations. These have been interpreted as the remains of a mass-kill by early Neanderthals driving herds off the cliffs into the ravine.

Standing below the site of La Cotte de St Brelade. The rock arch in shadow opens out into the ravine.

Another project I am working on today is aimed at testing this theory, as well as providing rare information about the migratory behaviour of ice age megafauna. These are the large, often formidable beasts that lived alongside the last Neanderthals: mammoth and woolly rhino, giant deer, horse, bison and the extinct ancestors of  today’s domesticated cows.

In 2010 I set up a project with Geoff Smith and Sarah Viner that uses isotopic analysis of ancient teeth to determine mobility of Pleistocene megafauna.  The Pleistocene covers roughly the million years before the end of the last ice age, but at the moment we are focusing on investigating sites during the time of the Neanderthals, which is mid-late Pleistocene. Our first site is La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey, which we are working on with the Quaternary Archaeology and Environments of Jersey project. We can use the Strontium isotopes present in an individuals’ teeth to determine their movements over different periods. Simply put, we can find out if an animal whose remains ended up at La Cotte had spent time in other regions of the landscape. Isotopic analysis works based on how different geology affects the levels of Strontium isotopes present in drinking water, which gets laid down in animals’ and peoples’ teeth.

This kind of direct measure of animal (and human) mobility is still quite rare for this period, although one Neanderthal from Lakonis in Greece has been published. We want to understand how animals that Neanderthals were hunting were moving around: for example, were mammoths great travellers as African elephants today can be? And were Pleistocene reindeer going on vast annual migrations as we can see in herds from Alaska in modern times? This information will help build models about how Neanderthals may have been following or intercepting megafauna at various points in the landscape. As Neanderthal fossils themselves are so precious, it’s unlikely we will be able to directly measure the mobility of many more individuals for some time. Until then, we can use animal movements to provide a framework alongside other measures for Neanderthal mobility such as transport of stone tools. At La Cotte, we may also be able to test whether the bone heaps are really mass-kills by determining if the bones represent  herds that had moved around together, and then were killed in one event.

With some of the La Cotte de St Brelade collections, Jersey Museum.

We received funding this year from the Societe Jersiaise, the island of Jersey’s learned society, to do pilot analysis on six samples of mammoth and horse teeth, which Sarah will be undertaking very soon. Today I am working on finding more funding to allow us to increase the number of samples from the site. This involves trawling various websites of funding bodies to see whether we are eligible or not for different grants. We’re in a difficult situation, as only one of us (Sarah) currently has a Postdoc, and is therefore affiliated to an Institution, which rules us out of a lot of grants. At the same time, current Postdocs are ineligible to apply for other kinds of funding, meaning that early career researchers in our position really struggle to get projects off the ground independently.

We are hopeful however that the pilot study will provide positive results which will allow us to apply for more extended funding from particular sources, and keep building up the project profile while I apply for Postdoc funding separately.

My last post for today will be a round-up of the other things I’ve been working on, including writing a funding application to work on a French project on Neanderthal landscape use.

So many sherds, so little time

The Cretan sun is shining, the olive trees are rustling in the breeze and the cicadas are chirruping incessantly. We, however, are sitting in the Stratigraphic Museum at Knossos looking at sherds. The Museum houses archaeological material excavated in the area by archaeologists working for the British School at Athens over the course of a century: from Sir Arthur Evans’s famous excavations at the Palace to material collected over the last few years. With its extensive comparative collection it makes it the perfect place to study pottery.

The Stratigraphic Museum at Knossos

The sherds we are looking at today were collected by the Knossos Urban Landscape Project in 2005-2008. The valley in which the Palace sits was divided into 20m grid squares and a collection taken from each one. This is how survey projects rather than excavations usually work: material is collected from the surface across a wide area. Rather than digging ourselves we rely on agricultural activities such as ploughing to bring material to the surface. Our job now is to make sense of what we have collected. After separating out the pottery and washing it we lay the sherds out on tables for a first look and divide them into periods spanning the settlement history of the valley (Prehistoric, Hellenic, Roman, Post-Roman).

Sherds laid out for sorting by Angeliki Karagianni (background)

The interesting sherds (relatively speaking – those with decoration or which are diagnostic of a particular type of vessel) are then scanned and given a unique number in a database.

Katy Soar scanning sherds

The specialists examine these sherds and enter more information about them. We are trying to establish what sort of vessels the sherds came from and whether they can be closely dated. We can then plot this information on the map of the survey area to add to the existing picture of how people occupied this valley for the last 5000 years and more: where were the central places, where did they bury their dead, did the settlement grow or shrink over time? I am looking at the Middle Minoan pottery; Antonis Kotsonas is in charge of the Iron Age sherds.

Andrew Shapland (foreground) and Antonis Kotsonas studying the survey material

Overseeing the project, and trying to keep track of over 400,000 sherds is one of the project directors, Prof. Todd Whitelaw.

Todd Whitelaw and his crystal ball

Today has been a normal day: sorting, scanning and studying sherds. The Stratigraphic Museum is part of the British School at Athens’s permanent base at Knossos, which also includes accommodation and a library. I’ll be off there shortly to work on my book and check my work emails. I’m on leave from the British Museum, where I’m Greek Bronze Age curator, and so this complements my day job perfectly. I’ve just finalised the programme for a Knossos Study Day at the Museum and will send that off for distribution today: ten archaeologists who have worked at Knossos will be describing their work; some of them are working on other projects here at the moment. No doubt the Cretan sunshine and food will seem far away on an inevitably rainy day in November but at least I won’t be surrounded by cicadas and scrappy survey sherds.

Archaeological Publishing

I’m an archaeologist, and I’m also a publisher. Many of my colleagues in the Publications Office of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA, founded in 1881) in Princeton, New Jersey, were archaeologists first, and edit, proofread, typeset, and manage the creation and production of our quarterly journal, Hesperia, as well as a wide variety of books. We work in the field when we can, but our primary job is to publish the work of the School: excavation reports and monographs of the Athenian Agora, of Corinth, and of affiliated excavations, as well as the publication of the work of our friends in the Gennadius Library, the Malcolm H. Wiener Laboratory, and the Archives, plus the research of scholars working within the broad field of Greek archaeology of all periods. The ASCSA is charged by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism with primary responsibility for all American archaeological research, and seeks to support the investigation, preservation, and presentation of Greece’s cultural heritage. ASCSA’s publications satisfy the last part of our mission.

The week leading up to the Day of Archaeology has been an extraordinary one for us in Publications. We just received our advance copies of Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia, by Betsey A. Robinson (Vanderbilt University). The creation of this interdisciplinary volume utilized, for the first time at the ASCSA, a dedicated project wiki, and favored the digital exchange of files and comments outside of email. Communication between project team members in several U.S. and in Greece was both constant and transparent making for quick turnaround. We used Google Sites for the wiki which was the project’s hub at host for files, Skype for voice/video communication, Adobe Creative Suite 5 for design. We also assigned digital object identifiers (DOIs) for the first time within an ASCSA book so that readers could view large, high-resolution plans online. Post-production, we’re using (also for the first time) Facebook and Twitter in conjunction with print media to promote and market the book, and are putting review copies into the hands of traditional reviewers like the Bryn Mawr Classical Review as well as into the in-boxes (and Dropboxes) of archaeologists in the blogosphere. Archaeological publication has to include ways of letting the world know new research has been published.

Other books in production for 2011 include volumes on Greek manuscripts, Bronze Age Tsoungiza, Sikyon, Athenian pottey, Byzantine graves and human remains at Isthmia, dedicatory monument inscriptions from the Athenian Agora, and a collection of articles on houses and households in ancient Crete. We split the editorial and proofreading duties between our full-time staff of editors and freelancers who have been trained in the ASCSA’s house style (modified Chicago style) as well as in archaeology and Classics.

Hesperia, the journal of the ASCSA, has recently undergone some changes to make it more contemporary, useful, and accessible to archaeologists and other scholars worldwide. On August 1st, the journal’s full run (80 volumes from 1932 until now), becomes available on JSTOR’s Current Scholarship Program. All issues of the journal have never been online in a single location before, so now readers can browse across all articles from the past 80 years.

With Hesperia appearing both in print and online, we wanted to be able to begin to take advantage of the Internet in allowing us to host digital editions of issues that contain full-color images, something that is prohibitively expensive to print. For issue 80.2 which will be released on August 1st, we’re including a free, LH IIA2 pottery catalogue from Tsoungiza both as a PDF file, but also as an HTML webpage for improved usability. For some archaeological publication of data, we need to think beyond what can be printed, and consider other ways of presenting archaeological data for the use of other scholars and researchers. We hope to host everything from color images to 3D reconstructions to entire data sets. The full-color article and online supplemental material are first-steps in that direction.

We are also venturing into open-access content for Hesperia, and have begun to post articles for free on our website. We expect this section to grow considerably over time.

Lest people think that archaeological publishing consists of musty-dusty tomes, we are currently embarking on a program of eBook creation, providing both print and digital editions of new titles to our readers, ultimately digging into our back-list to make older books available digitally, too, in a format that can be both searched and annotated and are not merely page-scans saved as PDFs.

Ultimately we hope to produce apps that will merge archaeological texts with multimedia, GPS functionality, data, and more, providing a reader full context. As all archaeologists know, context is key.

On July 29th, the Day of Archaeology, I will be meeting with editors and archaeologists both in person and via Skype as we plan a new way to manage our publishing projects with less paper, more speed, and better communication. We’ll also be reviewing the f&gs (folded & gathered sheets) for the print edition of Hesperia 80.2 prior to approving the issue for binding. I’ll assist our designer with typesetting our monograph on Greek manuscripts. I’ll be emailing several of our authors who are currently in the field in Greece and in Turkey about the status of their books and articles. I’ll look at a lot of digital images of pots. And I’ll probably take a break to go through the Publications archives to catalogue some correspondence from the 1930s and 1940s, finding delight in hand-written notes and typescript pages marked in pencil.

I was an archaeologist before I became a publisher. I excavated at Isthmia (Greece) and Poggio Civitate (Italy). I earned my MA in art history and archaeology at the University of Missouri – Columbia, and my BA in archaeology (double-major with writing) from the University of Evansville. I’m tickled that I am publishing an article by my undergraduate adviser this week. And I am honored to be publishing Agora “blue books”, Corinth “red books” as well as Hesperia (and Hesperia supplements), series that I used extensively during my student years. I love being a publisher, and I love publishing the work of my peers and of my heroes.