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Slow Archaeology

William R. Caraher
University of North Dakota

The Origins of Slow Archaeology

The idea for slow archaeology came to me on my way to one of these regular archaeology and
technology conference that emerged as Mediterranean archaeologists come to terms with the rapid
introduction of high-tech tools to their discipline. The conference was at the University of
Massachusetts, Amherst in late February and my flights chased an early spring snowstorm across the
eastern United States. I suffered the expected travel delays before experiencing a harrowing ride
from Hartford airport to the UMass campus. As I wiled away the time in crowded airports and as a
sometimes terrified passenger, I worked hard to suppress my expectation that travel should be
seamless, instantaneous, and easy, and, instead, focused on experience of travel itself. The characters
present in airports, the sparkling blanket of wet snow, and the impressive driving skills of my
Australian colleague as he navigated the slippery roads of rural Massachusetts. It took a snow storm
for me to slow down and pay attention to my environment. During a normal trip in which
everything works smoothly our motions become mechanical complements to the requirements of
travel in the industrial age.

The paper that I planned to deliver at this conference was my standard faire. It focused on the
uneven impact of technology on archaeology by comparing the digital workflows employed by large
projects to those used by smaller, less wealthy project. Large projects could leverage human and
technical infrastructure to develop slick, bespoke applications designed to streamline in-field data
collection. These well-funded and well-resourced projects have pioneered the use of iPads, drones,
3D imaging technologies, and elaborately integrated databases and geographic information systems.
In most cases, these projects had the most to gain from the use of technology because they
generated the most archaeological data each season. To do so, these projects leveraged complex
organization and diverse personnel on the ground. Coordinating the various tasks taking place, the
people, and the data from the various aspects of these projects provides immediate benefits. An
increasingly digital workflow frees project directors or field directors to juggle the range of varied
tasks that managing a large archaeological project requires from basic logistics to personality
conflicts that regularly prevent them from understanding, supervising, and guiding teams in the field
or in the trench. The varied pressures and responsibilities associated with directing a modern
archaeological project places a greater premium on collecting standardized, high-resolution data
from each step in the excavation process so that the directors could understand a cohesive dataset
when the time for analysis begins in earnest, after the field seasons end. In other words, technology
benefits excavation practices that involve documenting space and activities through a series of
spatially and chronologically separate tasks.
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Smaller projects, in contrast, tend to enjoy a rather more integrated workflow as fewer people
attend to more of the tasks that take place during a project. As a result, they lack the economies of
scale enjoyed by technological development at larger projects, but at the same time are better suited
to allowing project directors day-to-day involvement in the archaeological processes. Smaller
projects often provide a more immediate and embodied connection between archaeological
fieldwork and archaeological knowledge because those responsible for interpreting the results of
fieldwork, in most cases the project directors, are intimately involved in fieldwork itself. Of course,
this approach has drawbacks in terms of efficiency as a smaller number of project participants often
wear many hats over the course of the field day, but at the same time, this approach to fieldwork
resists the impatient and fragmented practices of the 20th century industrial routine and replaces it
with the integrated life of craft. The loss of efficiency, however, like my weather disrupted travel,
served as a kind of break on the archaeological process. By having to personally engage in every
aspect of the archaeological process, small project directors interrupt efficiency and are drawn into
the relationship between field practice and knowledge production. This relationship represents the
heart of slow archaeology which draws attention to archaeological practice as an meticulous,
integrated craft that resists the mechanized pressure of the assembly line.

Slow archaeology emphasizes archaeology as a craft through an attentiveness to the entire
process of field work, and challenges the fragmented perspectives offered by archaeological
workflows influenced by our own efficient, industrialized age. While recognizing that craft and
industrial approaches to archaeology are not mutually exclusive in the dirty realities of fieldwork, the
last half-century or more has tended to emphasizes an industrial approach to archaeologic practice at
the expensive of a more holistic approach associated with pre-industrial production. As with the
slow movement elsewhere in contemporary society, the slow movement in archaeology seeks to
critically consider the impact of industrialized practices on how we produce knowledge about our

The influences on disciplinary archaeological practices are clear. The discipline developed at the
intersection of the longterm industrial influences that formed the modern American university and
was advanced by quantitative practices that encourage increasingly regularized dataset from field
work. These trends have benefited the field and the knowledge archaeologists produce by aligning it
with dominant scientific paradigms, but have side effects that run the risk of becoming only more
exaggerated as we leverage technology to increase our efficiency in the field in response to
limitations imposed by permitting agencies and funding. At risk is the human aspect of
archaeological fieldwork and the ability of an individual in the space of the field to scrutinize,
interpret, and document objects, places, and landscapes in a synthetic way.

The Speed of Disciplinary Knowledge Production

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The discipline of archaeology has looked to industrial practices and methods since the 19th
century. Heinrich Schliemann, for example, funded his work at Troy and Mycenae through his
former life as an industrialist and brought industrial organization to his excavations. Academic
archaeology, however, saw the full development of the professional discipline alongside the
emergence of industrialized academic disciplines in the modern university. In this context, industrial
practice and professional archaeology are inseparable both chronologically and institutionally. The
university developed systematic ways to educate young adults with courses arranged across
disciplines to build key skills, provide professional credentials, and produce productive contributors
to American society. While variation existed across universities, over the course of the late 19th and
early 20th century, many oriented their curriculum toward the challenge of providing credentials for
the growing body of professionals required by industry and our increasingly specialized society. This
desire for specialization found its most extreme manifestation in the logic of the assembly line which
assigned individuals to perform single, exceedingly limited tasks over and over. Through
coordinating the hyper-specialized actions of dozens of individuals, the assembly line produced a
single product as efficiently as possible. Higher education employed a similar approach to producing
educated individuals by dividing up the process of education among various specialized experts in
particular disciplines.

These historical industrial influences on higher education have incurred resistance, of course.
Disciplines like history, art history, literature, anthropology, and archaeology have periodically
articulated their work as craft undertakings in order to present a persistent countercurrent to
industrial models of education and knowledge production. In fact, the course I taught for years to
new history majors at the University of North Dakota was titled: "The Historians' Craft". Recent
resistance to the audit culture surrounding university education has pushed cultural
anthropologists to emphasized the holistic, embodied, and immersive experience of fieldwork.
Scholars of art and literature historians have championed the open-ended and contemplative process
of close reading or the patient, unhurried examination of a work of art. All these approaches to
disciplinary knowledge have a few things in common. They resists the fragmentation of tasks
common to industrial practices and ground disciplinary knowledge in the willingness to embrace the
slow process of experience. As a result, these disciplines have generally ignored calls for efficiency
and embraced practices and knowledge derived from careful examining, close reading, and

Archaeologists have looked beyond contemporary practice to emphasize the roots of their
discipline craft practices. Michael Shanks and Matthew Johnson, for example, have explored the
roots of archaeology in 18th century traditions of historical perambulations, landscape painting, and
literature. The historical English countryside came alive not through the systematic treatments by
specialist scholars, but through contemplative encounters mediated through art and literature as
much as efforts to describe monuments or historical landscapes. These pre-industrial approaches to
the landscape continued to cast a shadow across the discipline and serve as a counter weight to the
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influenced grounded in industrial practices. In a famous article from 1996, Shanks and Marxist
archaeologist Randall Maguire stress the latent significance of craft in the field of archaeology and
emphasize the creativity of the archaeologists work where hand, heart, and mind are combined.

The advent of stratigraphic excavation in the early 20th century played a key roll in rendering
craft a latent influence in the discipline. Statigraphic excavation provided a key opportunity to adapt
the discipline to industrial practices. The identification and removal of deposits - called strata - and
the systematic arrangement of these strata in relation to one another structured the archaeological
record in a way that allowed for chronological and spatial descriptions of past depositional events.
The work of dividing the excavated world into distinct strata paralleled the use of fragmentation as
a tool of efficiency in industrial practice. Working from strata to strata across a trench, stratigraphic
excavation collapsed the complexity of time and space into defined slices. Each strata received
careful documentation in notebooks including textual descriptions, illustration, and with the spread
of affordable photography, photographs. Just as the excavator parsed the stratigraphic record into
discrete parts, specialists studied artifacts located in each strata. These objects often help to assign
either relatively or, in best case scenario, absolute dates to each level, to associate a function with the
space, or to describe the event that created it. As archaeology and excavation has become more
complex, it has spawned and relied upon a greater group of specialists to assist in identifying and
analyzing the material present in each strata. The largest projects now rely on dozens of object
specialists who work in parallel with excavators, wheel-barrow men, trench supervisors, area
supervisors, field directors, ceramicists, bioarchaeologists, numismatists, to produce archaeological
knowledge. Both the assumptions surrounding stratigraphic excavation and the specialists who
support it encourages the maintenance of industrial discipline in order to a fragmented data set that
might be re-integrated at a later point.

If the principals of stratigraphic excavation and the nature of specialized disciplinary education
provided a methodological and institutional context for an industrial archaeology, the archaeological
interest in efficiency also derives from the more direct engagement with the fast pace of the late
capitalist economy. This is most apparent in the rise of post-war rise of cultural resource
management firms which conduct excavations and survey on contracts ahead of major construction
projects. They constantly negotiate the pressures of construction deadlines, their own need to
document archaeological deposits according to professional standards, and profitability. The
influence, in particular, of the British CRM industry on Mediterranean field practices cannot be
overstated as many Old World archaeologists have spent time working for firms in the U.K. while
pursuing academic degrees and careers. This productive cross pollination has infused Mediterranean
archaeology with more efficient practices at the very moment when the expense of doing field work
and increasingly limited permit restriction has reduced the amount of time archaeological research
teams have in the field. Just as the economic pressures on manufacturing and construction has
spurred innovation, these same pressures have produced a more efficient and streamlined
archaeological industry.
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The historic pressures on the discipline have exerted a consistent influence on field practices,
and the rise in CRM archaeology has brought archaeology even closer in line with pace of capitalism.
The remainder of this essay considers some of the specific ways that archaeology has begun to
change as fieldwork has become distributed among specialists and the workflow standardized and
streamlined. In particular, the shift toward industrialized, distributed, field work has changed how we
articulate embodied knowledge in our discipline. Fragmented and digitally mediated practices
contrast in many ways with a craft approach to archaeology mediated by forms of embodied
knowledge that forge a strong connection between the individual, the series of tasks necessary to
produce an object, and the results of this work. Among archaeologists, knowledge in this form
derives from physical contact with the soil, the landscape, and artifacts, and it resists the fragmentary
and systematized organization of contemporary fieldwork and its attendant methodologies.
Embodied knowledge eliminates the divisions between systematic data collection field and
disciplinary knowledge by privileging practices that make time for deliberate interpretation during
the encounter with artifacts, landscapes, and strata in an archaeological context.

Digital Practices in Archaeological Fieldwork

The connection between industrial efficiency and organization of academic knowledge
production does not, of course, preclude a slow and deliberate apprehension of the world. The
injection of technology into the equation, however, has served as a tool for accelerating the pace of
our increasingly limited time in the field. The increased efficiency introduced by digital technology
has become the most apparent over the past 30 years as the media, technology companies, and
archaeologists themselves tout the compelling juxtaposition of futuristic devices and ancient
artifacts. Despite the hype, archaeological use of high technology tools to increase field efficiency
has roots in the early 20th century, and the gradual encroachment of photography on illustration in
the field. By the late 20th century, microprocessors powered a new generation of technologies that
ranged from digital surveying tools to personal computers, digital cameras, and, most recently,
mobile devices that promised to streamline various aspects of the archaeological workflow. These
tools simplified the way that data could be collected in the field, but also contributed to the
continued fragmentation of data into standardized bits destined for reassembly by archaeologists
once the field season ended.

Archaeologists first introduced photography to excavation in the 1880s and by the early 20th
century photography was standard technique for documenting trenches. Photographys primary
benefit was that it allowed archaeologists to document their work more quickly because even the
complexity of producing early photographic prints presented a less onerous alternative to hand
illustration. Initial hopes that it would make obsolete all occasions for illustration soon proved
unfounded, and the two practices continued side-by-side throughout 20th-century fieldwork. Even
as inexpensive film cameras became more widespread and, over the last two decades, high-quality
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digital cameras, illustration retained a place within the archaeological process as archaeologists
sketched each stratigraphic context or professional illustrators and architects made scale drawings of
objects and detailed plans of architecture. The act of illustrating has represented a key moment when
the archaeological process slows down, careful observation prevails, and the body of the illustrator
interposes itself between the space of excavation and the space of documentation. In many projects
some of the responsibility for illustration falls on the trench supervisors, and by encouraging
excavators to illustrate the contexts that they dig, we locate part of the productive, interpretative
process at the trench side. Whenever excavators illustrate, they evoke craft production through their
deliberate pace and the integration of excavation, illustration, and the interpretative work of
producing archaeological knowledge.

Alongside illustrating, archaeologists traditionally recorded textual descriptions of their trenches
or areas in notebooks. Through much of the 20th century, notebooks were idiosyncratic to the
individual archaeologists and often became their personal property (or the property of the project).
Even today, archaeologists refer to particular notebooks by the name of the excavators: Blegens
Notebooks. Our understanding, then, of past excavations often relies on the ability and willingness
of an excavator to describe what they saw in their trench or across a landscape. The most elaborate
notebooks featured illustrations of objects, landscapes, and trenches as well as photographs and
lengthy and sometimes colorful descriptions. Like the act of illustration, the task of recording a
trench in a notebook requires the archaeologist to slow down and translate what he or she is seeing
into a deliberate description. These descriptions are necessarily interpretative as they mediate
between the process of excavating and the product of that process. The vivid descriptions left by
master excavators make clear the relationship between their own decision making and the
archaeological reality they uncover. The physical act of writing in a notebook parallels the act of
illustrating in that it slows the process of excavation down and forces the archaeologist to integrate
their observations on process and interpretation at trench side. As recent psychology has argued, the
very act of writing slows our mind to think through the information that we observe more carefully
and critically.

Illustration and notebook writing located the moment of archaeological knowledge production
at the edge of the trench, required a deliberate slowing of pace for interpretation, and reinforced the
integrated, craft approach to archaeological work. In the 1960s, however, the move toward
quantification across the humanities and social sciences spurred a greater interest in collecting data
in standardized, systematic, and finely-parsed ways. This finely parsed data could be then quantified
using the growing power of computers. This move toward grounding archaeology in quantitative
methods was part of a larger movement known as processual or new archaeology that looked to
draw the discipline closer to the scientific approaches favored by the social sciences. This shift
introduced a greater attention to methodology within the discipline and recognized that the methods
through which archaeologists produced data required more rigorous documentation if they are to
archaeological data are to provide a solid basis for scientific knowledge. As a result, archaeologists
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interested in these approaches engaged in vigorous debates focusing on not only the best
approaches to a new generation of quantifiable archaeological problems, but also the best field
practices for collecting data.

Intensive pedestrian survey, which is my archaeological specialty, grew to increased prominence
during the heyday of new processual archaeology. In the Mediterranean world, and particularly in
Greece and Cyprus, survey archaeologists developed more systematic approaches to the traditional
practice of landscape archaeology. Landscape archaeology is one of the oldest forms of
systematically understanding our historical environment. The Romantics of the 18th century
documented their world by walking the countryside with notebook in hand filling their landscape
with romantic ruins and bucolic scenes. Throughout the 20th century archaeologists followed in
their footsteps filling journal pages with descriptions of their perambulations across ancient
battlefield, discovering hilltop sanctuaries, and confirming ancient itineraries. By the final decades of
the 20th century intensive pedestrian survey archaeologists, inclined their head more sharply toward
the ground and began to count artifacts on the surface. This fixation on objects in the soil matrix led
us to divide the landscape into small plots and to produce meticulous counts and samples of the
material on the ground. These practices have produced millions of artifacts and nearly as many
articles describing methods, presenting descriptions, and offering analysis of these new artifactual
landscapes. By the 21
century, these practices covered the maps of Greece, Italy, and Cyprus with
computer generated dots, grids, and gradients.

To generate this high-resolution, quantitative archaeological data, survey archaeologists worked
to make the archaeological process more efficient by streamline in field data collection. Survey
archaeologists introduced forms to replace free-form notebooks and to facilitate transferring the
granular data to computer spreadsheets and databases. Each survey was a little different, but in
general for each unit, there was a single form. On the form, the team leader described the location,
ground cover, vegetation, soil type, as well as the number of artifacts counted by the members of the
team. The team leader inclined his or her head toward a clipboard in the field as a team of field
walkers arranged at fixed intervals walked across the landscape counting and collecting objects from
the surface. These field walkers looked up at the end of their swaths to report their counts and finds
to a team leader who dutifully recorded them on the form before arranging for the walkers to set out
again on the next unit. This data eventually found its way into a computer under the supervision of a
data manager or a digital archaeology expert. Project directors analyze and project the data as
statistical tables or across a map with detailed methodological treatment providing contextual. The
perambulating landscape archaeologist has given way to carefully arranged data collectors who move
across the countryside with an eye toward efficiency and send their reports along the archaeological
production line to data managers and GIS specialists.

Over the last decade or so of excavation, the trench notebook has slowly disappeared to be
replaced first by forms and then by handheld computers and tablets. The empty space of the gridded
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excavation notebook page has given way to the orderly forms of the project database. This change
has standardized our understanding of each trench and facilitated comparison between excavation
areas. More importantly, these changes also increased efficiency throughout the system by
streamlining data collection at the edge of the trench and synthesize after the season ended. The
trench supervisor has, in turn, started to move from the position of synthetic analyst to a recorder of
observations in a form. The craft of trench supervision, grounded as it were on careful observation
and relatively free forms of writing and illustration that gave voice to his or her analysis, has given
way to a more systemized approach that moves discrete bits of excavation data along to project
directors. Just as the team leader on an intensive pedestrian survey has come to represent a cog in a
complex workflow that often ends on a laptop computer in the directors office, the trench
supervisors form or digital notebook allows for more efficient disaggregation of the excavation
process for study.

The art of illustration is likewise undergoing substantial changes. Even with the widespread and
inexpensive circulation of first film and then digital cameras, project directors and trench supervisors
continue to insist that the trenches and artifacts undergo regular illustration by hand. The substantial
expense and expertise required to operate digital surveying equipment and 3D laser imaging devices
in an efficient and consistent way ensured that these high-tech tools made only modest inroads to
archaeological projects in the Mediterranean. Low-cost, and even lower-skill 3D imaging tools based
on structure-from-motion digital photography, however, is poised to change this paradigm. Over
the last decade, archaeologists have become increasingly interested in software that can turn any
digital camera into a 3D imaging tool, and several projects, including mine on Cyprus, have used this
to reduce our dependence on the time-consuming process of illustration. The implications of this
change, however, are far from clear. As painstaking as illustration can be, it represented one of the
last activities that compelled the trench supervisor to slow down to observe the trench and to
integrate stratigraphy, architecture, and artifacts in the context of the excavated space. Taking a
series of digital photographs and subjecting them to an automated process at a later time and in a
different place, fragments archaeological knowledge spatially and temporally in the name of

Over time, the archaeologist has become less the interpreter of the trench or the landscape and
more the data collector. By collecting data in the field the archaeologist transfers the place of
analysis from the side of the trench or the landscape to the laptop computer, the laboratory, and the
office. Field work become more fragmented as stratigraphic levels and survey units increasingly
represent the primary level of analysis and the goal of fieldwork has become documenting these
fragments as thoroughly as possible for later study.

Toward a Slow Archaeology

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Archaeology as a discipline is both historically linked to industrial practices and continuing
toward an even more mechanized and technological future. The rapidly-vanishing elements of its
earlier craft roots, however, represent more than a nostalgic link to a romanticized past. The
preservation of craft practices in archaeology, like the academy at large, reflects our enduring
commitment to localized, embodied, humanized knowledge. When we reduce field archaeologists to
data collectors and the knowledge gleaned from the field to atomized data, we both temporally and
physically displace our encounter with archaeological landscapes from the field to to the lab or office
where the disparate parts are (re-)assembled into a new, systematically produced whole.

To some extent, this displacement is unavoidable in our modern age. The limits imposed by
governmental agencies, the pressures of reduced funding, and expectations of a discipline will
continue to privilege efficiency in the field. At the same time, our failure to engage the landscape
while in the field represents an equally egregious oversight. A close colleague recalled having to
return to the field for several additional seasons of work after completing a three year campaign of
intensive pedestrian survey because he needed to look up from his clipboard to experience the
landscape. His experiences are not unique. Recent work using least-cost-path computer models
produced by Geographic Information System software nevertheless require old-fashioned, boots on
the ground, truthing expeditions to see if the constellation of variables pushed through computer
algorithms resulted in routes consistent with human experience in the landscape. Nowhere is this
more eloquently expressed than in a recent volume by Michael Given and colleagues based on their
large-scale fieldwork in Cyprus. He reminds his readers that their systematic work to produce
landscapes is only one way to read archaeological space and that Cypriot farmers have walked the
very same fields and seen the same pot sherds for generations. The worlds created from the crunch
under foot and plough have an immediate relationship with out own conception of the
archaeological space only so far as we hope that archaeology can reconstruct a past filled with actual
individuals who make decisions based on their own experience with the material world.

One summer, my colleague and I spent two weeks painstaking illustrating a field stone
fortification in the Greek countryside. The site was on a small hill that provided views of the
coastline, narrow valleys, and neglected paths that marked out routes and arable land in a fractured
and arid landscape. Our work illustrating the site was painful. The site was hot, filled with bugs, and
we had both been sick with a dreaded summer cold. It did, however, force us to look carefully at the
walls for hours on end and to notice the subtle techniques that the builders used to promote both
stability and a pleasing appearance. Differences in construction style of the various walls helped us
to distinguish them chronologically from one another, and the presence a more carefully built and
monumental wall along the south side allowed us to argue that it faced the route of approach to the
building. These conclusions were not impossible without hand illustration, but producing a
measured illustration of unremarkable example of rural architecture from the Hellenistic period
slowed us down enough to see more of the human element in this building. In fact, the care we took
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in illustrating the building paralleled the care the builders took in arranging the stones with the more
deliberately constructed south wall attracting more careful attention in our efforts to illustrate.

I spent this past summer watching field teams march systematically across an inland valley in
southern Greece. Our efficiency in the field was remarkable, our field teams collected data at a level
of unprecedented intensity, and we produced an archaeological map of the area with remarkable
detail. At the same time, a project director and I wandered around the landscape. Perching ourselves
at prominent places and setting out across fields, streams, and roads we walked across the
countryside with our trusted notebooks and observed the relationship between various features
shifting kaleidoscopically on our route. Ridges that appeared prominent on our maps blended into
surrounding landscapes and low hills marked with whitewashed churches emerged from the tangled
lines of the topographic maps. Our walks were deliberate and slow, and constantly under pressure
from other responsibilities, but they produced results that were not easy to reconcile with the
dominant methods employed by the project. At the same time, these walks did as much to help us
understand our landscape as the intensive survey did to quantify it. The two methods reinforced the
disconnect between the landscape engaged by the project directors and that experiences by our field
teams. Our efforts to encourage field team leaders to look up from their clipboards and forms and
take time to understanding their surroundings soon succumbed to the pressures of the daily routine.
For our fieldwalkers, the team leaders dictated the pace of field work. The less distracted and more
efficient team leaders, the more focused and efficient their field walkers became.

The goal of slow archaeology is to find ways to resist productively the impulse toward efficiency,
standardization, and fragmentation in fieldwork by looking to integrated and personal approaches to
documenting our engagement with archaeological space and the landscape. In many ways, it follows
a larger critique of processual archaeology known unhelpfully as post-processualism. The emphasis
here, however, is on the pace of field work as much as its goals. By taking the time to walk, touch,
draw, and reflect on what we see while in the field, we take the time to place our own reading of
objects, architecture, and the landscape within archaeological space. This yields three main
advantages. It has practical advantages of allowing ideas and questions to develop in physical
proximity to the places and objects under study. Walking through the Greek countryside following
the contours of the ground led us to discover new sites and recognize significant places in the
landscape that maps and computer models overlooked. Drawing by hand on site, pushed us to
examine architecture (or features in a trench) more deliberately and to observe subtleties that we
might otherwise miss in our quest for efficient data collection. On a more theoretical level, slowing
down and starting the process of interpretation in the field encourages us to be mindful of the link
between our bodies and our understanding of the past. This mindfulness encourages us to recognize
our shared humanity with the people from the past who we study. More than that, it pushes back
against disciplinary deskilling in which field work becomes data collection and field work dominated
by the need for efficiency. By allowing time and space for individuals to understand the significance
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of their contributions to an archaeological project, we draw more voices to the work of
archaeological interpretation and make our discipline both more inclusive and humane.

This does not require that we return to a romantic view of the past or ruins or indulge in
idiosyncratic or particularized readings of the material world. After all, disciplinary training the field
of archaeology has already informs our practice. No amount of deliberate slowness is likely to
overwrite the intellectual or academic questions we bring to our field work, the influence of our
university training, the pace of development, and the availability of technology. At the same time, it
is worth noting that even these industrial pressures have not succeeded in producing an
archaeological universe bereft of individual character. Despite decades of standardized, digitized, and
normalized data, Mediterranean archaeologists still struggle to compare data produced by different
projects in the region. As a result, it is important to realize that slow practice and a quest for greater
efficiency are not fundamentally incompatible. Stratigraphic excavation, for example, has proven
optimal for linking archaeological remains to depositional events, and has allowed almost a century
of archaeologists to persuasively describe the natural and human processes that create archaeological
remains. Building time into field work to prioritize the production of the kind of embodied
knowledge that lingers at the fringes of all honest archaeological work provides an opportunity to
understand more clearly how we inhabit the worlds we seek to build.

Beyond a Slow Archaeology

This reflection on slow archaeology has relevance beyond practitioners of one particular
discipline. Like other facets of the slow movement, my goal has been to speak broadly to how we
engage our world by aiming to make space for coherent, deliberate thinking amidst the bustle of a
life dictated by efficiency, deadlines, and technological wonders. Like most academics, I reserve a
certain skepticism for most big-picture thinkers who look to understand how the world works as an
integrated whole. Moreover, I know that the lived world relies on the seamless functioning of many
living things, objects, and ideas. A simple trip from my North Dakota home to a conference in
Massachusetts represents the uninterrupted synchronization of myriad fast-moving parts from the
physical function of the airplane to the automated ticket counters. Only a late winter snowstorm
interrupted the seamlessness of everyday life and produce an enforced patience necessary to
recognize and comprehend the various flickering fragments that shape our fast-paced existence.

Academic knowledge is by definition specialized and limited. The institutional restraints
designed to limit what we can know at one given point is the product of a kind of a traditional of
intellectual Taylorism grounded today in the industrial university and reproduced in a curriculum
organized to disseminate specialized knowledge. Our view of the real world, however, is not bound
by such artificial limits and fragmented perspectives, and as archaeologists we hope to produce a
past that exists outside disciplinary knowledge. While the flickering fragments of our technologically
mediated world will continue to strobe impatiently before our eyes, we should also take time to
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maintain a quiet counterpoint by slowing ourselves down and crafting our place in to a cohesive